Every vision born of earth is fleeting
Every vision born of heaven is a blessing
For people, the sight of spring warms their hearts
For fish, the rhythm of the ocean is a blessing
The brilliant sun that shines in every heart.
For the heaven’s earth and all creatures.
What a blessing!…
The heart can’t wait to speak of this ecstasy.
The soul is kissing he earth, saying
Oh God, what a blessing…
You’re riding along and you’ve hit that groove where you’re not tired, not straining, just very comfortable, cruising along, and you forget that you’re you, sitting there, cycling, because you are just perfectly in the moment of the wheel turning and the pedals making their circle.
You’re riding along and you see something of the natural world — the sun coming up over the city skyline, a mountain newly dusted with snow, an eagle flying overhead — and you are so taken in that you forget you are the one who is cycling along, seeing these things. These things just are.
These are times to make a blessing.
Blessings can play the role of an acknowledgement that for a moment, we are not an ego, separate from the world, but beings integrated into it. Blessings can also be an expression of gratitude. If we get in the habit of recognizing and being thankful for opportunities in our lives to return to who we truly are, we find more and more of those moments in our lives.
Blessings also help make the bridge between being truly in the moment, and the immediate roar of one’s usual stream of consciousness re—invading one’s head as soon as that moment is lost.
The pattern then becomes:
- Being completely in the moment
- Return to ordinary consciousness
- Making the blessing
- Brain starts doing its thing again
The incessant monkey—chatter in one’s head is silenced just a little longer, while the blessing is made.
Blessings don’t require theism. You can address them to a god or God if you’d like, or you can address them to the universe in general, or a part of yourself that is ready to hear blessings.
Making a Blessing in normal consciousness
You also may find it helpful to adopt a practice of making a blessing to help remind you to be in the present moment. Think about your regular bicycling routes, and what might make a good reminder for you. You are on a bicycle out in the world, not on a trainer trapped indoors. Recognize and join the world around you. My reminder is the mountains — when the weather is clear enough, I can see the Cascade and Olympic ranges on the way to work, as well as the magnificent volcanic cone of Mount Rainier. You might use catching a glimpse of a river, or the sight of people’s flower gardens as reminders for you.
This is how this practice of blessing works:
- Being in ordinary consciousness
- Making the blessing
- Being in the present moment
- Return to ordinary consciousness
Thich Nhat Hanh, in his wonderful book, Peace is Every Step, has suggestions about how to go into the present moment. All it takes is to breathe in and relax, and breathe out, and smile. He suggests making an acknowledgement of these actions, by saying, “Breathing in, I relax; breathing out, I smile.” He also suggests that with the in—breath, you can say, “Present moment”, and on the out—breath, “Wonderful moment”. This is such a simple practice, but its rewards are broad and deep.
So here is it how it might work. You are riding along on a hot day, brain churning along as usual, and then you hit a shady street. The shade of the trees is your reminder bell. You take the opportunity to make your blessing, you breathe in and out, relaxing and smiling, and before you know it, you’re at the intersection, and the shade is over and you’ve got to attend to the stop sign and traffic.
You think — that was all over in a flash — is it even worth trying? Take it up for a few days, and then see!
One day, I was riding to work, and I was on a street bridging over a busy interstate. As I looked to my right, I could see the sun rising over the Olympic Mountains, which were white with new snow. I glanced the other way, and I could see the colors of the sunrise reflected in the new snow on the Cascades to my left. It was easy to make a blessing. Only many months later, did I think about the eight lanes of gray concrete and cars in shadow below me.
It’s easy to make blessings when we are surrounded by that which is think is good or beautiful. But all that is, past and present, is what was needed to bring us to this, our perfect present moment. It all can be blessed.
If you are quite comfortable with making blessings at what you might judge to be “good”, then the next step is to make blessings without any judgment. I know a cyclist who quit smoking, and reported being thrilled to be able to smell the clover and honeysuckle again, as he rode along the countryside. You know, when I asked him about it, he said he was thrilled to smell the other countryside smells too, like cow manure and fermenting silage.
All of it can be blessed — the shit and the honeysuckle. It takes a lot of miles in the saddle, consciously breathing in and out; before we can let go of all the judgments we have about every aspect of our existence, and be able to say “amen” to it all.
The importance of using ritualized language in blessing
If you’d like to follow the Bicycle Path of Blessing, I think it is very helpful to have a formula for your blessing. If the idea is to stretch out the time between a return to ordinary consciousness, and the brain’s monkey—chatter, you don’t want to spend a lot of time mentating on exactly which words you are going to use to make your blessing. You want to go directly to making the blessing.
In the Jewish tradition, there is a traditional formula for blessing, which in Hebrew is: “Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheynu Melech Ha-Olam”. An interpretative translation of the Hebrew that is useful for many is, “Blessed is the Source of Life, the Fountain of Being.” Here are some nice blessings to tuck in your metaphorical bike bag based on this formula that you may encounter while cycling:
Blessed is the Source of Life, the Fountain of Being…
…that creates fragrant trees
…that creates fragrant flowers
…that does the workings of Creation
…that has such as this in the Universe
…that has created the great seas
…that makes varied creatures
…whose strength and power fill the Universe
Here’s one for doing things for the first time —
…who grants life, supports our unique unfolding, and has brought us to this very moment for blessing.
If you would like to explore these sorts of blessings further, I recommend Marcia Prager’s The Path of Blessing: Experiencing the Energy and Abundance of the Divine.
If these formulas don’t work for you, spend some time finding a formula that does. Memorize it, and then use it.