Monday, April 26, 2010

A Bicycling Metaphor for Your Next Challenge

The cyclist next to me faltered. “I can’t go any farther,” she gasped.A 30-mph headwind and 94-degree temperatures had turned our 76-mile hilly ride into the ride from hell.

It was the fourth day of RAGBRAI, the annual 500-mile bicycle ride across Iowa, which attracts nearly 10,000 bicyclists from around the world in July. It still surprised me to be there. But the break-up of my 20-year-marriage had surprised me too.

Divorce is so common these days that it’s easy to forget how devastating it feels to go through one. To cheer me up, a friend had encouraged me to join a cycling group that met every Saturday.

I found two-dozen cyclists hunched over skinny-tired road bikes, wearing black spandex bike shorts and helmets with miniature mirrors attached. Their shoes clipped onto their pedals. Whoa, I thought, these are serious cyclists. Sure enough, the leader said they planned to ride 40 miles that day.

I had to quit after ten.

But I liked bicycling. So I bought a used road bike and showed up the next Saturday. My bicycle buddies became a supportive community, and bicycling, with its physical demands, helped me cope with the pain of divorce.  But could I manage a 7-day, 500-mile ride across Iowa?

At first—no problem. The air was rich with the fragrance of sweat, manure, hogs, flowers and barbecue. There was a visceral sense of being in the moment. Then came that awful day of headwinds, heat, and hills.

When I finally staggered off my bike, after 12 hours, another cyclist, who had ridden ten times across Iowa, said, “Man, today was the toughest day I’ve ever had.”

The toughest day? My shoulders straightened.

My divorce had just become final. And suddenly it hit me: If could cycle Iowa on the toughest day, why, I could re-cycle my life after divorce.

That’s what is special about athletic endeavors. Indeed, about any activity that takes us out of our familiar comfort zone. They help us realize --”Wow, if I can do this (you fill in the blank), why, I can do that. (your next challenge).”

Remind yourself now: What tough thing have you accomplished? Whatever it was, it means you can successfully face your next challenge. Count on it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Death and Taxes? How about Prayer and Taxes?

If "April is the cruelest month" as the poet said, then April 15 can seem like the cruelest day. It's the day we pony up and pay our taxes.  I had a throwback moment myself--a moment of acknowledging some financial truths. Even a moment of scarcity thinking.

And then I reminded myself of the truth I wrote about in my book, Prayer to Ease Money Worries.

"True prosperity is not about money or things. It's a way of living and thinking, of noticing the wealth we already have that goes way beyond money." So as I send off my tax form, I  smile and say thanks: thanks for health and loved ones and friendships, and daffodils--and also...

...thanks for roads and bridges and schools and all the things my taxes pay for that I am blessed to have and sometimes take for granted.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Discovering "sermons on the mat"

My friend Tom Jacobs likes to end the yoga classes he teaches by having his students lay in a circle on their mats while he dims the lights. Then Tom, too, lies down, and as music plays softly behind him, he speaks quietly for several minutes about the connection between yoga and the rest of life.
One of his students, with tongue in cheek, dubbed these talks SERMONS ON THE MAT.
Tom laughed as he told me that, and his eyes crinkled in smile lines. Tom teaches yoga six nights a week, and to him, it is “prayer of the body.”

The word yoga means union, and for Tom, that ‘s what life is about: finding union with God, whatever way that union expresses itself to individuals. As the son of a Jewish father and Catholic mother, he early accepted the idea that God is larger than any doctrine.
I agree.

With a yoga instructor like Tom Jacobs, we do more than stretch our bodies: we stretch our souls. I salute Tom. He is in the Kansas City area. Go to this website.