How to Practice Mindfulness on the Bike

The next time you go for a ride on an empty stretch, notice what you observe. Maybe you hear the sound of your wheels crunching over dry, fallen leaves. Or maybe you find yourself inhaling the sweet scent of oranges that lingers in the air.
Art by Cate Clark
Art by Cate Clark

On a looped lane near my home, I pass neighborhoods and houses. The sidewalks are lined with beautiful dogwood trees with large ashy trunks and delicate pink blossoms. A woman walks a cocker spaniel on the sidewalk next to me, his curly ears flop as he regally stomps over the fallen petals from the trees. I suspect the dog would trample a dogwood if he could. I turn right on a shady corner and smell a barbecue and hear children laughing. It’s the weekend and I’m on my bike…

Riding a bike provides me a great opportunity to practice being mindful of my surroundings. When I am on a long stretch of empty trail, I try to get into a type of meditative state by paying close attention to everything I observe. I take long, deep breaths and absorb my environment.

Sometimes my route choices are dictated by the destinations’ location, and sometimes it’s based on how that particular environment will affect the focus of my day. If I have a long day ahead of me, I pick a trail that is winding and challenging so that I am more energized and ready for anything. I concentrate more on how my body is feeling and improving my athleticism. If I am mentally drained from staring at a computer, I’ll pick a trail with lots of plants and wildlife. During these rides I feel at peace and connected to the natural world.

When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking – Arthur Conan Doyle

After the first six months of getting used to a road bike and improving my fitness, I became more relaxed and confident on my bike. I also became more familiar with the particulars of the various trails I ride along. The first trail that I rode on is straight and smooth, surrounded by long stretches of grassy patches and elm trees. When I pass grassy knolls, I look for ground squirrels that pop up through the dirt. They twist their heads around searching for movement until their eyes meet mine, and then they retreat back into their dirt sanctuaries. In these moments, I simply observe and enjoy nature without any interruptions.

I think that we all gravitate towards a favorite riding experience based on how we like to interact with our environment on the various trails and roads available to us. The next time you go for a ride on an empty stretch, notice what you observe. Maybe you hear the sound of your wheels crunching over dry, fallen leaves. Or maybe you find yourself inhaling the sweet scent of oranges that lingers in the air. Feel how the wind blows on your cheeks and listen to the birds chirp. In such moments you should find yourself refreshed and relaxed. In times of stress, some might say, “I need to clear my mind and go to my happy place.” You can make your ‘happy place’ a reality by getting on your bike.

As seen in Issue #130. 

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