Sunday, November 15, 2009

Bike Dharma

As a few of you know, I am an avid bicyclist. In fact, I do not own a car, and use public transit when biking isn't feasible. It's a benefit of living in the city, and an opportunity to stay healthy and support planetary health as well.

This weekend has been filled with odd bike mishaps and shenanigans. Saturday morning, I started down a bumpy alley I often ride, only to hit a hole too hard. The back tire was already weakened from an early run-in with a pothole, so this time, it didn't take much to blow both the tire and tube. It sounds more dramatic than it was. I knew almost right away it was happening, slowed down and got off to the sound of a hissing tube. Those in the area might have made a double take, wondering where the snake had come from, but I was just fine.

The interesting thing is what happened next. I just turned the bike around, and walked it home. No fussing about it. No worrying that I was going to waste my day away. Nothing.

Once home, I decided to try and patch both this tube and another tube that I had in the closet. Some might say "Great job reusing and recycling!," but mostly this was an example of me being cheap. As I patched the first tube, I also got the bright idea I could speed up the process by blow-drying the glue around the patch. Impatience in full bloom you might say. After a few minutes of that, I got the air pump and fit the tube into the tire, then around the rim. It held for about 10 minutes before the air emptied out again. At this point, I decided to patch the other tube and let it dry. In the meantime, I'd use the slower, but very dependable mountain bike for the rest of the day.

All was well until I came out of the coffee shop I was studying in last night, hopped on the bicycle, and nearly fell over as the seat slammed down. Someone had stolen the bolt that held up the seat. I just stood there for a moment, wondering why in the hell anyone would steal a bolt. "Why not take the seat, too?" I thought. And then I just laughed at the silliness of it all.

Getting back home, I got the tube for the other bike, the patch now well dried, and fixed the tire. Good to go. The air held and everything. After an hour, I checked again. Still holding. So, I put it back on the bike, chanted the HsinHsinMing and Formless Atonement, then went to bed.

In the morning, I had about twenty-five minutes down to the zen center for morning meditation. Plenty of time usually. Heading down the back alleys on the way to the hill that goes down into downtown St. Paul, I felt the fresh, crisp mid-November air on my face. It's been warmer than usual here in Minnesota, a treat after a very wet and cold October.

Turning the corner and onto the hill, I began to sense something was wrong. I looked down, and listened. It wasn't as loud as the day before, but my new best friend the tire snake had returned. I immediately realized that if I got off, and the air pump didn't work, I'd miss the morning sit. In the past, I would have been pissed, very pissed that my tire was going flat in a situation like this. In fact, not only that, but I would have carried that energy through the day, and probably would have told everyone I met about my misfortune. However, this morning, I simply got off the bike, tried to pump the tire back up, and then walked the rest of the way. It was a beautiful morning, and there was no need to hurry, not even to try and get to meditation before it was over.

For the weekend, my dharma teachers came in the form of two bicycles, and some anonymous person who, for some reason, wanted an old bolt. We're given these kinds of opportunities all the time, but if you're like me, you miss a lot of them. Luckily, they keep coming and coming, the 84,000 gates of practice.


Richard Harrold said...

Very cool. I wish I had that kind of equanimity! I'll get there. That's what I like about Chicago too, when in town I don't need to drive as much because I don't mind using the public transportation.

ZenDotStudio said...

very nice. thank-you. destined to become a zen story like the 2 monks who carry the woman across the stream!

hadv said...

That's a funny bike story. And you handles it well. So I'm guessing you passed the lesson for the day?

In situations like that where all I can do is do what I can and no more, I just think: "This must be karma, payment for an evil thing I did in the past. And I'm paying for it now. Good, at least, that's one debt paid." It's easier to accept the situation with equanimity when I see the situation that way. No fuss, just acceptance and understanding.