This meditation is similar to the Bicycling A Name of God one — it’s just using a different image and focus. Instead of pedaling out the word that is the name of God, you are turning the Wheel of the Dharma (dharmachakra). Wheels symbolize the Wheel of Buddhist Law, the endless cycle of birth and rebirth. They are round, with four spokes, symbolizing the Four Jinas or the four ‘moments’ in the life of the Buddha; or with eight spokes, or octagonal, symbolizing the Noble Eightfold Path. The wheel has three turnings: first, understanding; second, putting into practice one’s understanding; and third, accomplishing the results. Thus, the sequence is from understanding, to practice, to realization.
In Tibet, prayers are inserted into wheels. With each turn of the wheel, it is as if the prayer has been made. If a thousand prayers are inserted into one wheel, and the wheel is turned a thousand times, then it is as if the prayer has been made a million times.
As cyclists, we turn our wheels not thousands, but millions of times. Billions of prayers sent out into the world. We have a tremendous opportunity here, for us personally, and for the whole world.
On this page you will find several different ways to use your bicycling wheels as prayer wheels.
Before you begin your meditation, you need to decide what your prayer might be. The prayer should be one of healing, mercy, compassion, or purification.
A traditional prayer for a prayer wheel is Om Mani Padme Hung (or Om Mani Padme Hum, depending if you are using the Sanskrit or the Tibetan). A discussion of the meaning of this mantra is beyond the scope of this page — an excellent introduction may be found at dharma-haven.org.
If you don’t have a traditional prayer you want to use, from either the Tibetan tradition, or your own tradition, if different, then you could also use a personal prayer as the one you wanted to use for this ride.
You start off with getting yourself into a basic bicycling meditation. When your breathing is feeling like it is flowing naturally, and your body is relaxed and working smoothly on the bicycle, you can stay there as long as you like — and you can chose to begin the next part of any of the meditations below if and when you’re ready.
In your mind, see the prayer you have selected for this ride on each spoke of your bicycle wheel. If two wheels are too much to track, pick just your front or your back wheel. Imagine the prayers circulate with each turn of each of your wheel.
Now, you visualize light beams coming out of the prayers in your bicycle wheel, illuminating you and purifying you of any ill-health and the causes of ill-health, your negative thoughts and the imprints of these left on your being. Ride for this for a while — this is a good enough meditation for one ride as it is.
If you can, then visualize the light illuminating not just you, but everyone around you. It’s often easier to visualize the light to those you care about, so send it to your children, your spouse, your parents, to your friends — all those who you’d like to see be purified and healed. If you can, send out the light to all around you, to your community, and out to the world.
If your wheels can send out healing and purifying energy, it can also harmlessly absorb energies, too. Again, see those beams of light emitted from the prayers in your spokes. This time, like a vacuum sucking up dust, they suck up the disease, the cause of disease, and negative thoughts and their imprints. All these are absorbed into your bicycle wheel and purified there by your prayer. They take them out of you, they take them out of the ones you love, and they take them out of all of humankind.
This visualization of light from a prayer wheel is taught by the Tibetan Lama Zopa Rinpoche, and is described in much fuller detail at www.lamazopa.com. I have adapted here for cyclist use.
If you’d like, you can also repeat your prayer in your mind or out loud as you ride. If the prayer is an effective one for you, you could paint it on the rim or sidewall of your tire, so that which is in the mind is reinforced with that which is in the physical world.
Can you imagine each spoke of a prayer wheel with each of these words: Praise — Forgiveness — Confession — Petition — Intercession — Pray the Word — Meditation — Thanksgiving — Action — Song — Listening — Praise? Each line of scripture as described on the page for each word being spread out into the world with each turn of the wheel.
Various Native American tribes use the image of the Medicine Wheel. There’s a detailed set of instructions on how it can be used as a mediation at open-mind.org/Wheel.htm. A combination of the traditional Cherokee understanding of the Medicine Wheel with Christian thought is explored here: http://www.geocities.com/willow1d/medwheel.html.
No matter the tradition you draw from, the turning of the bicycle prayer wheel can be a powerful image to use.
When you get home, if you want, pull out the journal for the final time, read the previous entries, put down your focus phrase, and then write. Your mind again is working; your body is quiet and still. See if your perspective is the same, or has changed, over the miles.
Adding in seated meditation
If you also have a seated meditation practice, you can add that in. What works well for me is to have seated meditation follow bicycling, so the sequence would be: write, ride, sit; write, ride, sit; write. Other people might like to always have the seated meditation precede their writing — these people would probably order it this way: sit, write, ride; sit, write, ride; sit and then write. Play with it and see what works for you.
One of the problems for those who would mix seated meditation with bicycling is how to work it so you can sit in meditation in public. You may be undisturbed in a rural or unpopulated setting, but for those of us who live in urban areas, finding a place to sit may be difficult. You can write in a diner or coffeehouse, but it’s harder to meditate in these places. One possibility is using a public or university library — you probably won’t be disturbed in a quiet study carrel. Another possibility is using public transportation — you can load your bike in many North American cities on the bus, and sit quietly on board and be left alone.