I rode my bike home from work twice last week. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for several years, but was afraid to try. The route home includes driving alongside very busy traffic and crossing two freeway ramps. But I (finally) conquered my fears and did it!
While riding, I couldn’t help but see how riding a bike home was analogous to life: there are choices you make that send you off (literally) on a different path. Every bit of the way, you make choices:
- smile or don’t smile at those you encounter;
- appreciate nature (or don’t);
- follow the rules/laws (or take dangerous risks);
- breathe and enjoy the journey OR stress and rush to get to your destination
All journeys (literal and figurative) share a common theme: It’s beneficial to look ahead and do a little planning (to be prepared), but most pleasant and constructive to be fully present.
It is rarely helpful to look back.
There is a lot of action being taken nowadays: marches, boycotts, and lawsuits. People are unhappy and want to take action. Action can be good. It sounds better than just sitting on your tush, complaining. Complaining is definitely not productive.
In your own life, you might be pondering an action to take: to breakup with a lover, to make a career change, or to move out of the country. You ask yourself, is it the right thing to do?
In Buddhism, there is a saying, “Make right action.” By “right,” it is meant ideal or wise. It is not meant to be taken as the opposite of the Western concept of “wrong.” It means your decision comes from a place of calm, peace and compassion. And by action, it is all action, not just major decisions.
When you make dinner, serve it lovingly. When you drive, do it compassionately. When you work, do it mindfully. This will add up to a good life for you.
A hint: your action does not have its roots in anger or sadness.
So. Think about your choices. Which action is right action?
Madonna, at the height of her career, would famously reject promotional photos with “Ew! Groi!” When asked what that meant, she answered, “Get Rid of It.”
To GROI is oddly empowering.
The only things I have ever collected are books. I have many, many books. They overcrowd my large bookcase and two closets in my house.
Yesterday, I decided to start the groi process with my prized collection. I am keeping my Sherman Alexie and Natalie Goldberg books. I’m sentimental about each since they were the writers who gave me the first sparks to write. Listening to Alexie in A Clean, Well-Lighted Place in San Francisco, I thought, Wow, stories about struggle, poverty and education CAN BE interesting! And I used to write for hours in a coffee/doughnut shop on 9th and Irving, taking Natalie’s advice to heart.
As I place books in my “Bookman’s pile,” I console myself with the thought that the public library is just blocks away. I can always check them out again later. Also, Bookman’s will give me store credit for the books they accept and if I choose to do so (and I do), they will donate the rest to a prison for inmates to read.
Already, the increased space on my bookshelf and closets bring a sense of calm, peace and freedom. I also found a gift card to See’s Candies a former student of mine gave me two years ago. I was using it as a bookmark.