Sunday, February 13, 2011

Pain and Suffering

I think I am starting to understand why our cat, Havi, repeatedly eats the handles off plastic grocery bags and curling ribbons even though she always hacks it up moments later. Why (when I use to drink) we swear never to drink again after a night of binging only to turn back to the bottle a week later...or even the very same day. The reason behind pushing ourselves on the bike beyond our lungs burning and legs screaming for relief.

(pausing at Blue Diamond for refreshments)
Do we do it for the end result of pain and suffering or is it because we desire to be our best, the pleasure from alcohol, or chewiness of plastic bags and curling ribbons that lead us to this end? Havi might say pleasure before pain and I would say pain before pleasure (a tough bike ride is always fun after it's over). Especially after the ride I went on last weekend, Sufferfest, where I wanted to turn back before it even started.

(descending from Mountain Springs and view of the Strip)
The ride was something like two loops around the Red Rock Scenic route, up to the peak of Mountain Springs (Potosi Pines) and back to do one or two more loops around the Red Rock Scenic loop, totaling 92 miles. The first group left from Starbucks on Charleston. I joined the second group leaving from Dunkin' Donuts. We took the Red Rock Loop, stopped at Blue Diamond, and then headed up towards Potosi.

I struggled the entire time and despite the helpful pushes I was given, I kept falling behind. I watched the group slowly pedal away from me; I couldn't keep up with the pace but I didn't want them to slow down for me either. My legs couldn't pedal faster, my lungs couldn't take in any more air. At one point, I was ready to crack. If I stopped I was too far away from the car. If I rode back I would battle the windy day alone. A knot formed in my throat...I had nothing left to do but cry from the pressure mounting inside and feel sorry for myself. The week of disappointments had taken its toll on me.

Then my friend Kaelin must have read my mind. She soft pedaled and slowed down from the group until I caught up with her. She also wanted to stop and I was relieved to hear I was not alone. Whether she truly wanted to stop or not, I felt encouraged to have her to ride alongside so we continued on, climbing slowly up Route 160 to Potosi Pines. We chatted along the way during which she shared one of the basics of Buddhism - the cause of suffering.

(view of Red Rock area during the long descent from Potosi Pines)
She reminded me of when I first started riding, every increase in the road's grade was "a hill" to me, and I desired to be where I was at...riding over them like it was nothing. I am that person I wanted to be and I had forgotten how far I have come. But most of us always want more and desire more even after we've achieved our goals, and in doing so leads to suffering. We can stop the pain, even if for a moment, by recognizing and rewarding ourselves for what we have accomplished. Until the next time we are out there pushing ourselves again or eating plastic bags until we upchuck.

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