Zen & The Art of Cycling

Santa Fe Trail
The Ups and Downs of the Santa Fe Trail

I have been living for the past couple of months in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with a daily cycle commute of 4 miles to Prajna Yoga School. Santa Fe, sits in the southern foothills of the Rockies and the topography is best described as hilly. In addition, Santa Fe is at an altitude of 2,300m, which I have discovered has considerable impact on breathing, especially when cycling up hill! I was to realise the impact of cycling at altitude when a few weeks ago, I met, an Uber driver who is an international Kenyan marathon runner, (marathon time 2 hours 13 minutes) here to specifically train at altitude, he explained to me, he was able to reduce his running times by 20 seconds / mile, when returning to run at sea level.

My cycle ride starts with a short down hill stretch , followed by a long slow up hill gradient, it then turns into a dozen short up hill and down hill sections, before I arrive at Prajna. The first couple of weeks were difficult, I wasn’t use to cycling and the temperatures were below freezing, and very quickly I grew to not like the uphill sections, just wanting them to be over as quickly as possible and looking forward to the next downhill. I came to a realisation  that my cycle ride is a bit like life in general, with it’s ups and downs and perhaps this 30 minute cycle ride could be a daily practice to help me deal with them. So I flipped the way in which I was looking at those uphill sections. A quote came to mind that I have often heard from my zen teacher, ‘become the other, go from there’. Becoming the other is something I try to take on when experiencing resistance with people, but my resistance was coming from the road and hill not another person!

So, as I approached my first hill of the morning, I became the road and merged with the tarmac. Instantly it came to me that the road had no problem with the hill and there it was just being road on the hill. As we became one, the road drew me in and although it sounds crazy, I could suddenly feel it propelling me up the hill, I was physically being pulled to the top, wow it felt good. As I went over the summit and began the decent it felt as if the hill was saying, there you go, I was here all the time, enjoy the road, both the ups and downs.

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