I am a regular contributor to the Danbury News Times Forum on Faith column, which is also picked up by the Connecticut Post and the Stamford Advocate. Here is today’s article:
Life Lessons are Everywhere, if You’re Watching
How is your summer going? Aside from a few blistering days, we’ve had some great weather. I’ve been particularly enjoying bike riding this season.
One of the advantages of living a spiritual life is that you are alert to getting inspiration from anywhere at any time. Nothing is mundane when it is approached as a symbol of some larger lesson.
“Metaphysics resolves things into thoughts, and exchanges the objects of sense for the ideas of Soul,” says Christian Science founder, Mary Baker Eddy, in her classic Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.
I find this a joy to do. We are surrounded by metaphors. They are not only fun to discern, but are also enormously beneficial when applied to daily life. One of my most recent insights came while bike riding.
I love coasting downhill on my bike. I feel euphoric with the wind gushing in my face. Climbing hills is a necessary price I pay to acquire that magnificent downhill rush. I would just exhilarate on the downhill stretches as a welcome relief, and put off dealing with the bleak strain of those upcoming hills until they were upon me.
One day this summer while biking, it occurred to me that coasting at every opportunity was not mirroring the idea of working six days and resting on the Sabbath as outlined in the Ten Commandments. I realized I should be only coasting 1/7th of the time. With that little thought, I started pedaling downhill.
Well, this tiny modification in behavior totally revolutionized my bike riding, and much more besides. When you pedal hard downhill, when it is easy to do, the momentum generated brings you much further up the next hill, requiring far less effort overall. Not only do you go faster, the whole time is much more enjoyable, because the work is more evenly distributed, and that dreaded excruciating effort is rarely required.
“Pedaling downhill” was what I needed to be doing all summer in most of my activities, instead of looking at summertime as just one big, slow coast downhill. If I work hard six days a week this summer, on those endless projects that never seem to get done, how much easier will it be during the fall and winter when things get busier and more demanding!
Often in relationships we coast when there are no challenges, not working on building those strong foundations that will serve us well when challenges arise. By consciously choosing to work on relationships when it is easy to do so, we no longer miss so many opportunities to grow together and share present joy. Then these relationships become a deeper source of strength for us to tap into in the future.
When creative people coast, they are not taking advantage of fresh possibilities that could help them achieve those surging breakthroughs they hope for. When they are not being forced to produce, that is the time for them to try something different. This is will eventually yield the uncommon results they desire.
This idea of pedaling downhill also had obvious carry over into my spiritual practice. We often pray harder when facing immediate challenges, and then fall into a coasting mode between crisis points. When I coast on my previous spiritual understanding, I am much more sluggish at responding to sudden, urgent needs. The energy it takes to gear back up loses precious time.
Instead, I’ve been trying out my “pedaling downhill” metaphor by praying harder when life is easy. It feels indulgent to focus on God when there is no pressing requirement to do so. However, I’m finding that it’s much more effective, since by doing this, I am more prepared and connected when a need does come along. This way, I’ve got the inspiration, clarity, and momentum already generated to tackle whatever problems arise, with a greater sense of dominion. Overall, this approach is a lot more enjoyable and takes much less effort.
There are lots of things we can do when the going is easy that will reduce our stress at some time in the near future. I encourage you to try pedaling downhill in life, if you don’t already. Pedaling downhill, your potential will burst through in ways beyond what you thought possible. You’ll make quicker, more effortless progress. You will find that what was formerly arduous, will be accomplished like a breeze.
Yes, there are life lessons to be had everywhere. Even out on a summer bike ride.
By Polly Castor, a Christian Science Practitioner and member of First Church of Christ, Scientist, Ridgefield. She can be reached at PollyCastor@gmail.com