Friday, June 25, 2010

A Cyclist's Holy Day

Last Wednesday (June 23) was Denver's Bike to Work Day. For a variety of reasons, it was the first opportunity I'd had to participate in the event since moving to Colorado three years ago. It was a regular observance for me in California; it happened there during national Bike to Work Week, the third week of May. Of course, it took a bit of getting used to, this change in time. But I reconciled myself to the fact that I'd changed calendars -- kind of like from the Julian to the Gregorian. The "festival" was the same, just on a different day.

The festival was the same: ensure that I have work clothes, but also cycling gear (distinctive garb: helmet, shoes, maybe spandex); find a breakfast station or two (and partake of the sacred meal -- bagel, burrito, whatever); wave at the other cycle-commuters (acknowledging our membership in a select community); arrive at work and re-enter the world of "regular" people. It is almost a religious rite! And, given that it occurs on the same day every year (even if the day is different in different locales), it takes on, somewhat, the nature of a holy day for those in the community. Those of us "devotees" are happy to support neophytes, offering suggestions and encouragement. A similar phenomenon occurs for many cyclists as they anticipate their favorite annual charity rides or races. We begin to pattern our lives a bit around these sacred times: we make arrangements to be away from home or job, we set aside time for training, etc. And the sacred times begin to form us: we become stronger, other activities (or some foods) no longer attract us, etc..

I'm sure the same is true for other athletes, or even spectators. We're surrounded by examples: the four-year cycles of World Cup, Olympics, Winter Olympics; the annual cycles of various sports championships and tournaments; Opening Day in baseball; gosh, even the Westminster Dog Show or the Western National Stock Show (the end of which signifies, in Denver, the time to take down Christmas lights, I'm told). And all of this is clearly generalizable. Time forms us all, provides structure and meaning (e.g., 7:00 am means breakfast; 9:00 pm means the kiddos go to bed; January 1st means we start over again; etc.). Sacred time forms us in a different way, providing opportunities for community-building, challenge, celebration, contemplation, and change.

What I've found is that my religious tradition's cycle of feasts and fasts, as well as my sport's training rides and centuries, help me remain grounded. They renew me; they help provide hope. I've found, too, that daily practice of both provides a foundation for those more widely-spaced events. No big surprise here; all of the world's religious traditions suggest some form of daily devotion. The message is the same all over: practice, practice, practice! And it becomes easier and more meaningful as time goes on.

Bike to Work Day is a festival. One that invites new people to experience the joy (and relative ease) of bicycle commuting. It encourages continual, daily, practice -- a practice that leads to health and well-being. It's a wonderful metaphor of other sacred practices. AND, they're good for you AND the planet!



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