Vision Quests, Sweat Lodges, Sesshins, and Long Bicycle and Harley Rides: A Common Denominator?

Just a short post here. For three decades plusI have been doing the above. Sunday, after I got back from my nearly 27 mile bike ride, exhaust, dripping sweat, etc., I asked myself as I have done many times, “Why am I doing this?” Or more generally, “Why do I do these intense things?”

Later that day as I was working on dinner and my ex, Tricia, was over to join me. I brought this topic up to her, “Why do I do such things?” Tricia can be very insightful. She said, “Your bicycling takes the place of your vision quests, sweat lodges, and Zen sesshins.” I was caught off guard, stopped cold, while I her insight sunk into me. One of those, Aha moments.

Later, as I thought about her insight, I added to her list, the long Harley rides that I wrote about in WindWalker, which also talked about the sesshins and sweat lodges. My newest book, The Guru on the Mountain, focused mainly as it is on the Native American vision quest I took in 2004, also addressed this issue: Why do I undertake these intense experiences?

As it turns out, such experiences, which push us outside of our comfort zone and are novel, especially, help to stimulate neurogenesis, that is, brain growth. Such experiences can lead to experiences of the numinous and enlightenment, or at least deep insights.

As it turns out, exercise also stimulates brain growth. I am not out there trying to get enlightened, even insights. Although, insights, ideas, and mind-clearing does happen as I ride. Overall, if I don’t get wiped out or have an accident, bicycling is incredibly healthy– physically, mentally, and emotionally. So, I reckoned, I’ll keep on doing it till I can’t. Gassho.

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