I love mountain biking. I feel strong, capable and even graceful. I often have the sensation that I’m dancing with my bike and the terrain. Alert. Fluid. Light. Mountain biking, more than any other sport I do, is metaphor made real. This is where all that talk about having the skill and trust to let go into flow becomes real for me. Of course, the sport is incredibly effortful, both physically and in terms of mental focus. And, it simultaneously demands a level of relaxation to be able to glide through the obstacles. Even when I get home from a ride where I’ve had to get off my bike and walk through the toughest sections, I feel pretty good about myself. Proud even.
Then, recently, I was provoked to wonder if I was fooling myself into thinking that I was capable rider and, in reality, I sucked and had no right to be on a mountain bike, never mind write blog posts about it (such as here and here).
What happened was this. I connected with a friend of a friend out here in California (where I am for at least a month every summer). She suggested we mountain bike together. Oh no. Now someone was going to witness my dance on the bike and I was suddenly self-conscious that I would look unskilled or ridiculous. Worst of all, I would learn how deluded I was about my talent.
I know. Compare and despair. A lesson I need to learn and re-learn over and over.
The moment of reckoning coincided with a personal exploration I’ve embarked on to notice where and when I don’t feel like I belong and bring more compassion to the parts of me who feel outsider (and not in a good way). A part of me that I think of as my Self-Belonging Part has shown up recently. She’s the part of me who is bold and comfortable in herself. She believes that she belongs anywhere she wants to belong, so long as she arrives with humility, respect, openness and love. She is getting more air time in my internal thoughts than she used to, but that’s not saying much.
She was quiet as I started out on the ride with my new mountain bike acquaintance. Instead, I felt anxious and off-balance. We started out with me ahead, because I knew the trails. It became apparent that she was stronger physically and her technical skills were a notch up from mine. When we got to the longest stretch of the trail that had no forks or decision points, I asked if she wanted to ride ahead. She hesitated. We had already been having a conversation about the different voices in our heads; so, I took a risk and…