The Spirituality of Cycling
Feel spiritual when you’re on a bike? Embrace that feeling and make a practice of the spirituality of cycling.
Set against the backdrop of nature, the back-and-forth motion of kayaking, the feel of waltzing I get when fly-casting, or the repetitive forward movement of cycling can put my mind into another place. Initially, I didn’t think of these outdoor sports as meditative practices. I’ve since come to realize how these activities serve as a kind of natural prayer for me.
In a conversation with Marianne Rudd, author of Pedal Pushers: Coast to Coast, I asked her about how she viewed cycling practice, and how her cross-country cycling informed her spirituality. Here are her reflections.
I hadn’t thought of cycling as a spiritual practice before, but I definitely regard it as a natural way to process my thoughts—and many times that processing leans towards the spiritual.
When bicycle touring, life gets distilled down to essentials: the saddlebags and gear that are carried on the bike, and the simplicity of daily goals, such as getting more food and finding a place to sleep. I like the simplicity of life on a bike: Get up, get on the bike, and cycle until it’s time to stop for the day. Go to sleep, get up, and do it again.
I see God in the simplicity of bike touring. Scenery goes by in slow motion, giving time to savor nature’s beauty, and to experience the natural world of sun, wind, and rain in ways not experienced when spending time indoors. When cycling for weeks at a time, I’m in tune with the cycle of the moon when I camp, watching the night sky brighten and darken as the moonlight slowly changes from one night to another. While bike touring, I’m very aware of the moon cycle; when at home, not so much.
The most significant aspect of the spirituality of cycling is the time for contemplation. What a gift to let one’s mind wander for hours. Many people listen to music when they cycle, and while I have nothing against that, I generally cycle without music. I like the emptiness; my mind isn’t funneled into a particular mood by music, but drifts on its own, guided by the sights and sounds of the scenery or whatever settles in my brain. Anything is fair game: thinking of people and experiences I’ve had, wrestling with problems in search of new approaches or acceptance, and letting my imagination wander, unobstructed.
Rudd offers some pointer for those wishing to develop a spiritual practice by cycling:
Leave the music in the saddlebags, or at home. I am very influenced by music; I love it, and a big part of my life is spent playing and listening to it. Music is powerful, and it easily takes you places. But where will your mind go if it’s not directed by the mood of the music? Who knows? You can find out: Get on your bike, start pedaling, and let your mind wander. Let it wander on the path of relationships—your relationship with yourself, your friends and family, your spiritual side. In my work as an oncology nurse, I frequently observed that the important things in people’s lives distilled to three relationships: their relationships with themselves, their friends and family, and their God.
Want to deepen those relationships? Your bicycle is the perfect venue for that. Hop on your bike and let your mind wander, and periodically nudge it in the direction of yourself, your friends and family, and your faith.
You’ll never run out of things to ponder as you push those pedals.
Continue finding spirituality in unconventional places: “Spirituality and Donuts.”
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