I breathe in deeply. I drink in the eucaliptus smell, the fresh early morning air. My eyes drink in the lush green of the tree canopy above, the true blue of the early morning sky, my shadow riding the shadow of my bicycle next to me.
This is my work commute, from the Mission to South San Francisco. On this stretch of San Jose Ave, there is a jersey barrier between me and the cars swishing by, so I can relax and even speed up safely. Several weeks ago I decided this would be my default route to work, and it continues to be delightful. Even when there is no jersey barrier, there is a bike lane most of the route, and the traffic is relatively calm despite the rush hour.
My route runs through a few small streets, continues for about a mile on San Jose Avenue. Get over to Alemany by Glen Park – about 2.5 miles there; turn onto Hillside Blvd – 3.5 miles there; turn on Chestnut, another 2.5 miles through South City and I am at the office. Just over 10 miles total one way.
I pass rows of bright little houses, I pass tall trees, I pass cemeteries, I pass the mountainside with bright spring flowers blooming. The road rolls uphill (good for training!) and downhill (scary!) I spot the Ocean from the top of one hill and downtown San Francisco skyline from the top of another.
It smells like a small town, it smells like eucalypti, it smells like cut grass. I don’t believe I get to do this! Rather than being stuck inside of a dirty BART train, here I am, smelling, seeing, rolling over the glorious Northern California Spring outside! I love this!
You know what else I love? That for the entire hour I am unplugged. Apart from pressing a button on the handlebar mounted camera a few times: 3 seconds on for time laps, one for off, I am all here. For the entire hour I am free to feel what is actually happening: all the smells, all the sounds, all the greens and all the blues. I am free to feel my body move strongly through the space, I am free to feel my aches, my fears, my joy. I am free to think my own thoughts; there is no external content to drown them out. No screens, no headphones, no background music. For the entire hour.
Last year, I got first unplugged for hours at a time, even a couple of days in a row once on a yoga retreat in Mexico with my yoga teacher Estee. This ride to work and back, a couple of weeks ago, is dedicated to Estee. Estee: thank you for sponsoring my participation in AIDS LifeCycle and thank you for your support and encouragement over the years!
That trip to Mexico last year was early in my 9 months sabbatical. I just began getting comfortable with nothingness, with being unplugged. Hours, days without screens: what an incredible luxury! Waking up in the dark (there was no electricity in our dorm, by design), quietly dressing up, finding my way up the hill to the restaurant with just a flashlight to get coffee, then further uphill for the sunrise practice. The rest of the day proceeds slowly. Nothing much happens except moments of connection and moments of beauty.
The nothingness brought forth the feeling of deep rest and of being untangled from what I “do”. The knowledge that I don’t have to do something all the time, and I’ll be ok. That I am ok. There were several stretches of unpluggendess later in my sabbatical. They brought forth waves of creativity I didn’t know I had, and lots of peace and quiet. They also brought forth all-enveloping detachment; that’s the path I am yet to master.
Now that I am back and dived back in: a full time job, a side gig, more yoga teacher training, training for AIDS LifeCycle, that other thing, this one hour of being outside and moving is a stark contrast to everything else, and I am suddenly aware how insidious the busyness has been, how I all swamped with content. I get up and plug my ears with podcasts while I make coffee and maybe check the phone. Quiet forty minutes to an hour of practice after coffee, and then back to content.
Podcasts, books, work related content, training related content, random checking of the phone, random clicking on articles. Some of it may be compelling and thought provoking, except there is no time for thoughts among all that. Except now or when I practice. So for now, I’ll take another deep breath and take in the air and the sights, and I think my own thoughts and feel grateful for my opportunity to be in this beauty, grateful for even noticing, grateful for all the people there who teach me and support me. Thank you, Estee, in particular, for your sponsorship, and for creating spaces where we can be ourselves and deepen our practice and our presence!
There will be more training rides for the AIDS LIfeCycle, a 545 mile ride from SF to LA June 2-8 2019. By now I am putting more time into riding than writing about it. I still love sharing my experiences with you; if any of my readers would like a dedicated ride, please support me by donating to my fundraising campaign here.