Image Credit: Upsplash
Since mid-October, I have challenged myself to bike to work a few days a week. As darkness descends earlier, and coldness clamps down, biking has sustained some moments of wonder.
One scenario plays out daily:
A portion of my bike home is along two city blocks lined by bars, restaurants, and a theater. Inevitably, I’ll be pedaling my twenty-three-year-old bike with squeaky wheels, headlight shining forward, and be within five feet of folks walking out of a venue towards their car. “Oh my gosh, I didn’t see you!” is the universal exclaim.
This always shocks me too. Despite the sound, lights, and proximity of my bike I do not register in their present awareness. Often, folks drift, dully, unconscious of their surroundings.
This is not an uncommon experience. We tend to live a lot of life unconscious as a species.
Living unconscious affects our thinking, feeling, seeing, and being. We must digest life in the same way we digest our food for absorption and integration. When we eat mindlessly, we tend to choose or consume our food in a manner where it cannot be properly absorbed and integrated to our organs and tissues. When we live unconsciously, our thoughts, feelings, and experiences cannot be absorbed and integrated into our wisdom. Instead, they are left unprocessed, constipating our spirit.
This season in the Northern Hemisphere offers the elixir of cold to provoke consciousness of life.
My time biking has sustained some moments of wonder. While biking outside in the dark and cold, one must keep gaze outwards, upwards, and open to watch surroundings. Chilly air grips the chin and urges one to take in the environment instead of ruminating on clutter in the mind. I am amazed at variations in color that still exist. Also, it is a marvel how far you can see this season. Don’t get me wrong, I miss the lush, green foliage of other seasons. But line of sight becomes clearer in this dormant season. This invites us to have clearer inner vision as well. If we are following nature’s cue, we will use this time of dormancy to slow down and self-reflect. It can also be remarkable to consider how the body works to maintain warmth out in the cold. The body adapts by increasing blood flow and metabolic activity. Cold invites us to assimilate warmth to our core. We can complement that by allowing wonder and gratitude to reach our hearts. There is something about the cold that can make one feel awake and alive.
There is a poem by Alberto Rios, “December Morning in the Desert.” Rios beautifully describes vast galaxies, as well as birds and other flying things with a sense of wonder and aliveness. This is contrasted by the subject who is unconscious to it all. I encourage you to listen to this poem read and reviewed on this episode of Poetry Unbound. But here is a snippet:
“This universe—we humans oblivious,
Drinking coffee, not quite awake…
Shivering because, we think,
It’s a little cold out there.”
This poem illustrates our tendency to contract and withdraw. And in doing so, we remove ourselves from presence and wonder right before our eyes.
Instead of contracting into unconsciousness, use the cold of this season as a gift to watch with and sustain wonder.
The next time you are outside:
Let cold air wash over face.
Let cold air wash away tarnish on awareness.
Notice what you touch, see, smell, taste, hear.
Breathe them in with wonder.
Exhale gratitude to your heart.
“Our aliveness depends on our ability to sustain wonder.” – Mark Nepo