June 21, 2011

Cycles of Life.

Photo: Keith Cardwell

I’ll ride my bike to work in almost any weather. If the streets aren’t under ice or ankle-deep in snow, I’m out there. When fellow workers express surprise or congratulations I usually toss them something like, “There’s no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.”

It’s a wise-ass but true comment. No matter how cold or wet the weather is, it’s bone dry under my protective weather gear. And just under my skin the temperature is always north of 98 degrees.

Unfortunately I can’t say as much when nasty emotions blow in. Figuratively speaking, when my internal weather breaks, I can barely get my wheels to spin. Anger makes the tires pop, sadness makes my chain droop on the spoke.

I’m beginning to think handling internal storms is a lot like biking in awful weather.

It’s all about the gear.

Like weather, difficult emotions can’t be avoided. The right tools and habits – like good riding gear – are a necessity. It may even be possible to enjoy rough internal weather. Like Gene Kelly, I could be a singer in the rain.

This involves a twofold trick. First, identify the part of you that I want to keep “dry” when the emotions pour. When riding my bike in the rain I don’t mind if my face and hands get wet, but I want dry fabric against the rest of my skin – likewise in emotional weather. There’s no escaping it: part of me is going to get soaked.

Usually it’s my ego that’s doused, but most often getting it washed down is a good thing.

The second part of the trick is to have the right “foul-weather gear” – or, the techniques for handling difficult emotions. Once you identify the inner self you want to keep warm, you need gear to do the job.

For me, protective-emotion gear consists of specific patterns of behavior, communication and thinking. They acknowledge emotional tension in productive ways and then release it. Just like a good slicker it makes the rain bead up and stream away from me.

The Yoga Sutras – those bright and crinkly aphorisms – teach me the same thing as riding outdoors. They also say to pay attention to my essential self. And, just like ’emotion gear,’ they offer ways to keep my core warm. Observation about behaviors alone can keep the core warm. Though he’d never been on a bike, Patanjali knew all about riding in nasty weather.

So henceforth I’m rechristening my bike the “Cittacycle,” and my raingear the “Patanjalin Poncho.” You know, it’s from Yogear Outerwear. Keeps humans dry in any weather, every era.

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