Buddha Bike Update: Vulnerability

I’ve been biking it entirely now for two weeks as of Tuesday. How is that going?

The biking part per se is going fine. It is one thing to do the planning in your head, finding solutions on how to get places, what to do when this or that happens, etc. Reality hits when you are actually doing it! The two things that are really troublesome are my increased feelings of anxiety-driven vulnerability and the challenging reality of trying to do this in rural, small town South Carolina when you don’t have a backup car or truck. The latter is also an aspect of vulnerability. On the positive side, I am doing it, which is commendable.

Early Sunday morning I took an exploratory ride into Easley, only some seven miles northeast of here down SC Hwy 93. Thanks to Google Maps’ bicycle app I discovered a back road way into Easley that starts just down the street from me. I had never been down the street, as in my truck I usually turned off before I got to it or shot right past it to pick up Hwy 93 to go into Easley in my truck. The back country road was a wonderful winding, scenic country road that ends just where Hwy 93 comes into Easely. It was Sunday morning and so the traffic on Hwy 93 once I got to Easley was minimal. There no good way to get around getting on 93 once you’re in Easley unless you go over to Hwy 123, which is four lane but heavy traffic. Hwy 123 is the main thoroughfare between Clemson and Greenville. Not to be attempted on a bike except as a suicide mission. It’s 65 mph, heavy traffic, and no shoulders.

Early that morning I had had a strange dream that was in part in anticipation of this planned bike ride. In the dream I was standing atop a high dam over a lake below. I was much younger, a kid, say junior high. There was several kids my own age on the dam with me. I watched as several of them jumped off the high dam into the crystal clear lake water below. The water looked very peaceful and calm. It was like being in the clear waters of the tropics or Florida Keys. I watched as the boys who jumped came back up to the surface and excitedly begin clambering back up to the top of the dam. I wanted to make the jump and was trying to gather my courage to do so when I awoke. I love dreams. Dreams can tell you so much about what’s going on in your subconscious.

Like my dream and trying to gather my courage, that is what I had been trying subconsciously to do about my upcoming bike ride–trying to gather my courage. It was 3:00 in the morning and I decided to get up and go do a sitting (Zen sitting meditation, zazen). In my sitting the dream came back up and suddenly I realized what the dream was about. In meditation subconscious stuff from your right brain (cerebral hemisphere) can more easily come into your consciousness and left brain side. The left brain, which houses your language abilities, can then translate this into words. Why was this exploratory ride, this adventure, bringing up so much anxiety that I had to “gather my courage?” This is where the anxiety-driven vulnerability comes back into our story. The key was in my earlier post on Psychological Ambush.

I have high anxiety genes anyway. A lot of my interest in mediation was prompted initially by my efforts to develop better coping skills for ithe anxiety. I had started out as a sophomore in high school finding a book on self-hypnosis in our library. I had checked it out to try to learn how to self-hypnotize myself to lower my anxiety, although I didn’t know it was called anxiety at that stage in my life. As it turned out, I couldn’t self-hypnotize myself very well, but I could hypnotize others quite well. At one time in our journalism class my junior year, one of the girls in the class asked me to hypnotize her. I did, but the girl sitting right next to her also went under. I was initially in a bit of a panic when I realized I had both of them hypnotized! The short of it is, I have done a lot of work on developing coping skills through the years. Now I quickly recognize it–usually. Sometimes though it still manages to sneak up on me. This is what was happening about my bike ride.

Whenever something triggers one of your key issues such as my anxiety, it resonates with other times that emotion has come up. I is like having a room full of tuning forks all tuned to the same note. You can strike one and start it vibrating and the other tuning forks will also vibrate. Emotions are like that. What does this mean?

Right now I am a period of high anxiety, so my threshold is very low. It doesn’t take much to bring it up into consciousness. The heightened anxiety is sort of like a crocodile laying submerged just below the water line in the swamp that is my subconscious. It doesn’t take much to get its attention and up it comes, mouth agape, ready to chomp and eat. Yummy! When some trigger activates the anxiety about one thing, all those other anxieties jump right in, and come on up to surface themselves. It can be a fun party.

Once I realize what is going on, I can begin to take steps to work with it, such as my getting up that morning at 3:00 to do a sitting. As I sat there, the dream came right up into my consciousness, and I began applying my Zen teachings and cognitive psychology to bring its anxiety down to a more tolerable level. In general I am asking myself in all of this, how can I use this anxiety to work on my spiritual journey, incorporating it in a positive way to help me in my spiritual practice? The calm, clear lake’s water of the dream was another component, a metaphor, that had to do with my spiritual practice and my current efforts to deepen it. Dreams often have multiple levels of meaning.