Sacred Space

I surpassed my mileage goal for the year on my bike today. It’s not unprecedented mileage–nothing I haven’t done in previous (though not all) years. Yet it feels deeply significant this year. It is a tiny bit of success in a year characterized by a sense of failure, disappointment, loss, sadness, fear and a host of other negative feelings.

Over the past several rides, I have pondered the concept of sacred space. I am keenly aware that the bike is that for me, and I have become more and more convinced that we all need our version of sacred space in our lives.

I believe that what constitutes sacred space is unique for each of us. For some it will be a traditional religious space, like a church or synagogue or mosque. For others it will be an object, like rosary beads, or a holy book. Nature is sacred space for some, and it certainly overlaps with the bike for me. Riding an indoor trainer doesn’t even come close to power of an outdoor ride to lift my spirits and touch my soul.

Regardless of the particular manifestation of sacred space for an individual, I think there are certain elements common to all such spaces:

  • Sacred space evokes a sense of awe—not necessarily every moment, but frequently. It provides an opportunity to connect to Something Greater than we are. At least at times when in our sacred space, we feel the presence of our Source Energy, protecting us and encouraging us to keep going, amid the inevitable challenges that life presents. We feel less alone, if only for fleeting moments. I feel this on my bike when the Kansas wind pushes me from one direction or another and when the sun warms me. I feel it when I can see for miles and am reminded of the vastness of the earth. I feel it in a sunrise, blossoming with possibility and in a sunset, bathing the landscape with beauty.
  • Sacred space immerses us in gratitude. Connected to the sense of awe we feel in our sacred space, gratitude emerges spontaneously as we experience the magic that happens there. We recognize that having sacred space and the freedom to be in it are gifts. I am fully aware of the privilege it is to be able to ride my bike. So many gifts are involved in creating that privilege—health, drive to ride, freedom to ride, a nice bike and good gear, reasonably safe roads. Sometimes I am overwhelmed with gratitude for all the gifts that coalesce to allow me to partake of the sacred space of a bike ride.
  • Sacred space gives us hope. It can help us peek out, even from dark holes, to see that there is still good around us. We are generally uplifted when we are in our sacred space, granted a much-needed break from drudgery and struggle. So many times, Kenny and I have said, “If life were just as simple as bike ride . . ..”  Some bike rides are hard! But they are usually (though not always) simple. We turn pedal stroke after pedal stroke, over and over again, grinding into a headwind, resisting the push of a crosswind or sailing gleefully with a tailwind. We know we will reach our destination if we just preserve.
  • Sacred space helps us to be better humans. This can happen in a lot of ways. In part, it is because of what sacred space helps us to release, and, in part, it is because of what sacred space gives us. When I got on the bike today, I was nearly nauseous with a swarm of anxious butterflies in my stomach. After about six miles, I noticed they were settling down. After a couple more, my stomach felt calm. Several miles later, feeling warmed by the sun and moving vigorously in the tailwind, I felt happy. I had released what I needed to release into my sacred space, and I was picking up inspiration and hope and the courage to persevere once I got off the bike.
  • Sacred space inspires us. This can happen in what feel like beneficent lightning bolts, or it can happen more subtly. It can feel exciting, moving us to create, to contribute, to give back to the world. I write in my head when I ride. I solve problems. Even if some solutions elude me, I get a little closer to finding answers, or at least I get off the bike more open to creative solutions than I was when I got on it.
  • Sacred space creates a sense of community, even when we are alone. I ride by myself almost all the time, just because that is what life offers me, but I still feel a sense of camaraderie and community with every cyclist I encounter. I met and briefly rode with another cyclist yesterday. I didn’t know him, and we only rode together for a mile or so before I turned south to head home, and he continued east to return to Wichita, but, in that brief span of time, it was clear that we understood each other, and it felt good. We both recognized what a gift it was to be riding in sunshine, with temperatures in the 60s, in late November. It was a brief, but powerful, exchange of positive energy.
  • Sacred space reminds us of who we are and what we can do. I think this has been the biggest key for me this year. I have felt like a failure in so many ways over the past many months, but I met my mileage goal for the year, and that feels good. Cycling has been one of the few arenas of life where I have experienced a sense of accomplishment this year. I knew I wanted to complete the century route on the BAK Bicycle Rally over Labor Day weekend. Even though neither Kenny nor any of my friends rode the long loop, I went by myself, without hesitation, (and met another cyclist in Sterling who finished the ride with me) and completed 104 miles. Like my mileage goal for the year, it was not the first time I had done that distance, but it felt sweeter than ever—probably than even my first century in 1999—this year because so much of life off the bike has felt so unsuccessful. When I get on my bike, I feel stronger and more powerful and more capable than in any other role or place in life. Cycling, although I have loved it for a long time, has become more crucial than ever for my mental health and overall sense of well-being. It is so much more than exercise or a hobby. When I face challenges in other areas of life, I can recall epic rides and remember what I can do, what I have already endured. I find comfort in my identity as an endurance athlete and carry that endurance mentality with me into the rest of life, drawing on it for confidence and courage.

Cycling checks all the above boxes for me. My bike is my most important sacred space. But your sacred space may look very different than two wheels on an open road. It doesn’t really matter what or where it is. What is important is how it makes us feel and who it helps us to be in the world. And I firmly believe that we all need some version of sacred space. I don’t know what I would do without mine. That said, I am poignantly reminded, just by looking around, that I could lose it in an instant. There are no guarantees in life. That makes each ride an even more valuable gift. It is more difficult to ride this time of year, with shorter days and colder temperatures, but I prioritize it as much as possible for all the above reasons. I encourage each of you to honor your own need for sacred space and to make room and time for it, as hard as it can be in a busy and unpredictable life. My meditation cushion and yoga mat are supplementary sacred spaces since I can’t ride every day at this point in life. I am grateful for them, too. My sense of accomplishment in those spaces is mostly about consistency. I have meditated every day for over four years, and I have done bedtime yoga (along with yoga at other times most weeks) every single night since April 1, 2021. Both are vital aspects of my self-care, and both meet the criteria I outlined above, although my bike is the ultimate sacred space for me.

A question I ask myself on the bike is, “How does this help me to make a positive contribution in the world?” The answer to that is still unfolding, and maybe it always will be. Besides helping me to function better and to be more stable, I decided that part of my current obligation to express gratitude for the gift of my sacred space of cycling is to share the insights I receive while inhabiting that space. I felt inspired to write this post, and I hope doing so will make a bit of difference to someone. It is really important to me to make a positive difference, and I feel constrained in my ability to do so under my present circumstances. So, I have a responsibility to use what I have. And, thankfully, my time on the bike is something I have right now.

I worry that this post may seem a little cryptic—alluding to a very difficult time of life, without elaborating or providing details. That is not my intent at all. The fact is that our stories often involve other people, so we have to be mindful of how much we share. I hope that by being vulnerable enough to share that I am struggling and finding life really hard right now, someone will read this and find strength in knowing she is not alone in feeling battered by the crosswinds of life. I hope that someone else will read it and know that, even if he has tried his very hardest to make good decisions, things still go wrong sometimes. It doesn’t mean he has made bad decisions. Maybe he can release a bit of shame and guilt and regret because he knows this happens to other people, too.

I’ll admit to picking up a heavy dose of cynicism over that past 18 months. I do not believe platitudes like, “Everything happens for a reason,” or “It’s God’s plan,” or “Everything is unfolding in perfect timing.” But I do believe that we all have a choice to grow through our tests and trials, and I am committed to doing that. Writing helps me process, and I hope it helps me give back to the Universe by supporting others on their journeys in some small way.

I am grateful for the sacred space of my bike. It is hard to get off of it and go back to the rest of life after a ride, where I can’t control other people’s actions or words, but I can look at the bracelet I wear with the link from a bicycle chain and remember again who I really am and what I can do. That helps me endure.

I have seen this Reno County road sign on dozens of rides this year alone, but it really spoke to me today.

Victory.”

I took the fact that it caught my attention today as a sign of hope from the Universe. I am not in victory yet, and I don’t know exactly what it will look like, but the idea of achieving some version of it spurs me forward and instills even more gratitude for my sacred space. I hope you know what your sacred space is (If you don’t, start paying attention to where you experience the characteristics I outline above.), and I hope you honor your need for going there. Doing so will be a gift to all of us because it will allow you to contribute to the greater good, to put positive energy into the world and recharge yourself to keep moving forward even when life is hard.

When we recognize the gift of sacred space in our lives, I believe we have a responsibility to go there as often as we can and use the growth we experience there to add value in the world.


An Unexpected Benefit of Acting on Curiosity

Pedaling in the strong, chilly wind this afternoon, I was rocked by the wake of a huge flatbed semi, hauling six or eight massive bales of cotton—fluffy, white centers in pink wrappers. No match for Kansas wind, the tightly-packed bales were shedding cotton balls as the truck barreled south. A curious thought crossed my mind: “I wonder if those cotton balls feel like the ones we buy in the store.” Spontaneously, I slowed to a stop, clipped out of my pedal and leaned over to collect one. It felt similar, but with a seed in it. I smiled at the softness, touched my cheek with it and then put it in the pocket of my windbreaker to bring home.

The cotton ball and the act of collecting it sparked an inspiration.

Prior to picking up the cotton ball, I had been battling the wind, riding more slowly and feeling colder than I wanted. I had also been thinking—one of my favorite of the countless benefits I find in cycling.

This year has been the hardest of my life. It’s not over, nor are the challenges, but I won’t dwell on that here. The inspiration of the cotton ball stirred a desire to write that has been absent for most of the last seven months. Before encountering the cotton truck, I had been asking myself versions of the question, “What do I want to do with my life moving forward?” Any kind of satisfying answer eluded me. The only thing that held any real interest once I really considered it was finding a way to get paid for reviewing cycling gear and adventures. That feels more like a fantasy than a possibility, but who knows?

Cycling, reading writing, vegan living. Those are the steadfast passions that have remained throughout this year of stress and loss and fear. Those are the pillars that have continued to sustain me and ground me.

But writing. That’s what was bothering me before I picked up the cotton. Writing felt too hard, too daunting, too overwhelming. One more thing. And I can’t handle one more thing.

But curiosity led me to pick up the cotton. What did it feel like? In the instant that I picked it up, I felt inspired by the idea of curiosity—both writing and living from a place of curiosity. I recognized that I had allowed curiosity to guide me yesterday when approaching a persistent challenge. It served our family in yesterday’s experiment, and I think it has potential as a guiding principle in other aspects of life.

When I acted on my curiosity and stopped to pick up the cotton, I suddenly felt like writing. So, I am. I promised myself on the bike that I could just write, publish the post to my blog and share it on Facebook—no pressure to send to my mailing list or worry about how many (if any) people would read it. I would just write and post and see what feels good from here. I would write with curiosity.

Since recognizing and honoring the need for a self-care break in April, I have put everything except the necessities on hold—writing a book, building a coaching business, publishing blog posts on a schedule, all the things I believed were goals for my future. I’m not ready to return to any of those things, and I’m not sure I will. I recently heard the term “The Great Reassessment” on a podcast. It was mentioned in reference to the global reassessment that all of us are experiencing to a greater or lesser extent, due to the changes the COVID-19 pandemic has imposed upon us. Certainly, that is part of my experience, too, but the upheaval in my personal life has generated an even greater reassessment for me. Everything I thought I wanted to build feels flat now. Daily life has been reduced to surviving and trying to make the best, healthiest decisions for myself and my family in each given moment. The calculated nature of these decisions is exhausting. There is little room for anything else besides that and a job that is requiring more hours and more energy than I really have to give. I don’t write those things in self-pity. They are just the facts of my current state, and it is from this place that I was thrilled to feel the spark of inspiration that acting on my curiosity about the cotton ignited in me.

Maybe I’ll write consistently again. Maybe I won’t or can’t. Either way, I am committing to myself that I will trust curiosity to lead me to the next thing. Whatever that is. The next step on my path. The next place to which I am called. The next action I should take.

I think I will try on “curiosity” as a mantra in tomorrow morning’s meditation. I’m not sure where it will lead me, but that is the point. Curiosity is about listening to the things that spark our interest and then acting on them to see what happens.

I don’t know if this post will resonate with or benefit anyone else, but it feels like self-care today, and I am trying to trust and follow my intuition and instincts about what I need. Toward that end, curiosity is an attribute worth cultivating.

Navigating life with curiosity requires an open mind and a willingness to be wrong. I think taking a chance to trust curiosity sometimes comes from a place of having little to lose by trying a different approach. That’s where it feels like I am right now. I put the cotton ball in a special dish on my dresser. I’m grateful to it and its wind-blown friends for making me feel like writing again. Even if it is just for today. It feels nurturing in this moment, and I am choosing to trust that. When I set out on this afternoon’s ride, I didn’t expect to find inspiration floating from a passing flatbed, but I am grateful that I was open to curiosity and to where acting on it might lead. The cotton ball on my dresser will remind me to remain curious. I believe it may be a key to moving through our challenges in a more creative way. The gift of writing helps me to process and understand, and just maybe sharing my story will inspire a reader to act on curiosity and benefit from the results.


Writing for the Love of It

It feels good to be writing a blog post again three months after taking a self-care pause from blogging, working on my book, striving to grow a platform for a book proposal and struggling to build my coaching practice. Although the stressors that precipitated the pause are still present, it has become clear to me that I need to start writing again.

Earlier this week, I finished reading Julia Cameron’s wonderful book, It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again: Discovering Creativity and Meaning at Midlife and Beyond. Its effect on me has been profound, and I believe that it is one of the most personally important books that I have ever read. I have known about Cameron’s classic book The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Creativity for years, and, although I skimmed it at some point in the past, I thought her recommendations weren’t really for me. Maybe the time just wasn’t right. I bought It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again about four years ago on Kindle. My reading list is (happily!) long, though, and I just got to it last week. Reading it in the middle of my crisis-induced self-care pause was a fortuitous blessing.

Despite the subtitle, the book is really about crafting a retirement of purpose and meaning. Retirement is still several years away for me, but I am looking toward it and thinking about what I want to create for my future—especially in light of pulling the plug on all my passion projects. Initially, I thought the book might be more applicable a few years down the road, but it is so beautifully written that I kept reading, still thinking that I would enjoy reading it now but would implement the tools in it later, closer to retirement.

While not quite ready for retirement, I recognize that I am at a different kind of crossroads.

Gradually, as I read, inspired by Cameron’s ideas on creativity as a life force, I began to see that I could make her tools my own and benefit from them immediately. On July 5 I began to incorporate my personalized version of her Morning Pages into my life as a writing meditation. Reading and reflecting on her words, I realized that, as a passion, writing is key to my self-care.

Reading It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again, doing my writing mediation and riding my bike over the past week and a half, I decided to resume writing my blog, but with no pressure to keep to an editorial calendar. I will write when I am moved to write. I will write for the sake of writing, because I love it, because it heals me—not to build an audience for a coaching practice or book proposal. I have been humbled by the helplessness I have felt in the face of the still-present issues that led me to the pause, so my writing will be introspective and descriptive, rather than prescriptive.

I will transition my website to a simple blog. My emotional energy for coaching or even for my book is depleted. Maybe I will return to the book at some point. Maybe I will use some of the nearly 60,000 words I have written in that manuscript for something else. Maybe it was just meant to move me part of the way down the road on my journey toward becoming the person I need to be to make the contribution I am charged with making in the world. I don’t really know, and I have decided that is okay.

As I return to my blog and reclaim the power of writing in my life, I plan to break all the rules around blogging and building an audience and internet marketing. I’m out of energy for all that. I will write for the sheer joy of writing. Hopefully, my words will bring some good to the world and will add value to people who read them.

Journalist Cyril Connolly said, “Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.”

That’s how I feel at this point. I will write because I need to write.

Reading Cameron’s compelling book helped me to see that the things that make me who I am—cycling, reading, writing, veganism, commitment to health, compassion—are my keys to serving the world. Maybe it is much simpler and much more joyful than I have been making it. I have decided to settle in, emphasize my passions and pay attention to ways that I can make a positive difference.

Julia Cameron conceptualizes God as “Good, Orderly Direction.” The more I sat with that description, the more I loved it. I think that is what I have been given toward the evolution of my blog—Good, Orderly Direction—and I am grateful. I have an idea for a way my blog may grow into something more someday (perhaps in retirement), allowing me to serve the needs of our world in a deeper way. But, again, no pressure. I am writing for joy and healing and hope right now.

Starting today, my website will transition to a simple blog. My new title is: It’s Just Wind: An occasional, evolving blog celebrating plant-based pedaling for health and compassion.

I will keep my current web address (https://justwindcoach.com/) at this time, even though it has the word “coach” in it, and I am no longer working to build a coaching practice. Keeping the same website is easier than changing it, and easy is what I need right now.

Gabby Bernstein says, “Obstacles are detours in the right direction.” Although I really, really want to be finished with the obstacles that are constantly looming in front of me at the moment, I can see that the pause they enforced positioned me to make decisions that leave me with a sense of peace.

In this new evolution of my blog, I will write and publish as frequently or infrequently as I feel inspired to do so. Julia Cameron has such a gentle, encouraging way of nudging her readers toward action. I intend to emulate her gentleness with myself.

I highly recommend It’s Never Too Late to Be a Beginner. For me, it is the right book at the right time, a much-needed spark of hope.

So, I initiate this new phase, trusting that I am guided by Good, Orderly Direction. I believe this blog will help me navigate the uncertain roads I am traveling in this season of life, and I hope sharing my thoughts and experiences will help others and add positive vibrations to the world.


Taking a Self-Care Break

I hope your week is going well!

You may or may not have noticed that I didn’t publish a blog post this past Sunday.

While I was on my bike on Sunday, it became clear to me that I needed to take some pressure off myself. This is proving to be a very challenging season of parenting. Between that and working way too many hours in my full-time job, I felt like I was reaching a breaking point.

There is so much I want to share about creating mind-body synergy in our lives and about living powerfully from that place, and writing has always been joyful and energizing for me. It still is, but everything else is just too much right now.

The saying that we teach what we need to learn probably applies here. Although the practices that I teach and use make a significant, positive difference for me—and, I believe, for others—the pressures of the rest of my life are wearing me down.

I have written nearly 60,000 words of my book, and I am teaching the final week of the Spring into Action Move for Your Mind class. There is so much more I want to share, but I recognize the need to give myself some grace right now.

So, I am taking a self-care break from blogging, coaching and pursuing a book deal. I’m not quitting those things. I’ll pick them up when the time feels right.

This was a choice that I didn’t want to make, but I felt a sense of peace on my bike on Sunday when I suddenly knew this was the right thing to do to take care of myself. My bike is where I have my best ideas and make my best decisions. I trust the insight and inspiration I receive there.

I don’t know how long this break will be. I sincerely hope that life feels better soon. I have some things to figure out and some decisions to make, but, for now, I will take this pause and try to keep listening for insight on my bike and in my meditation. Take care of yourselves! We have to do that before we can be of any useful service to our world.


5 Teas for Healthy Mind and Body

I drink water. Lots and lots of water.

However, around a decade ago, I read that echinacea was good for the immune system. I had been getting a lot of colds and laryngitis, so I added a daily cup of Traditional Medicinals Echinacea Plus tea to my regimen. I noticed a dramatic improvement in my immunity and became a believer. I have continued that practice every day, and I have recommended it to friends and family, who have also found it to be a beneficial addition to their self-care practices. To be fair, results are mixed in scientific trials of echinacea for immunity, but my experience has demonstrated that it makes a difference for me.

Over the years, the tea shelf in my cabinet has become fuller and fuller, as I have learned more about the potential uses of herbs and spices for health. I decided to share some of my current favorites here.

Traditional Medicinals has continued to be my brand of choice. I have no affiliation with that brand, but it is where I started, and years ago, I read about potential contamination risks with some tea brands. Traditional Medicinals got a clean report, and that stuck with me.

In additional to Echinacea Plus, other teas that have helped me with mind and body include:

  • Ginger Aid: Ginger is great for settling the stomach and for reducing inflammation. If I ever have digestion issues, I drink a cup of Ginger Aid, and it helps. I also use this tea to help with body aches or headaches. I have found it to be highly effective for these purposes.
  • Peppermint: Peppermint tea can also help with tummy troubles, in particular with bloating and intestinal discomfort. It is fragrant and soothing.
  • Cup of Sunshine: I have been needing a mood boost lately. My bike is the best boost, but I am working really long hours at the moment and can’t get out on my bike in the middle of a long, challenging day. Cup of Sunshine contains kanna and honeybush. I was familiar with neither when I purchased this tea, but the name gave me hope. It has proven to be a good choice. It’s a subtle lift, not agitating, but I notice that it does help to brighten my mood.
  • Stress Ease: This has also been a recent addition to my cabinet. Containing skullcap, cinnamon bark and licorice root, this does take the edge off anxiety for me. I can feel the butterflies in my stomach settle down with a cup of Stress Ease.

There are other teas I use on a regular basis, including assorted green tea blends. Green tea is loaded with antioxidants and is so good for us that Dr. Michael Greger recommends drinking three cups a day in How Not to Diet.

I hope this short post gives you some easy ways to enhance your well-being with tea. I am neither an expert nor a connoisseur, but Traditional Medicinals tea has helped me, and I wanted to share those benefits with you.

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