Author Archives: James

The Art of Surrender

A Dharmic Number

In many of the Eastern traditions the number 108 has importance. Buddhists recite mantra 108 times, a mala has 108 beads and in yoga some postures are performed for 108 repetitions.

At the beginning of this year I set a strong intention to sit two hours daily. I was successful for 107 days.

Travelling in Georgia

On day 108 I was traveling in Georgia to meet old friends. Olga and I were taking the early morning train from Batumi to Tbilisi. A very beautiful journey which I highly recommend. Our 5am start meant that I had not the inclination to sit before we left the AirBnB to go to the station. Some other opportunity will present itself I thought.

The journey through the wide valley from the coast to the capital was stunning. The expansive view takes in plain, river and mountain all in a single frame. Truly wonderful in the early morning sunshine. The railway line follows the path of the river more or less to the principal city of Tbilisi.

Our arrival in Tbilisi was packed with typical traveller orientation; exchanging money, arranging times to meet hosts to collect keys, taking lunch with friends. By now it was early afternoon and no suitable circumstance had presented itself in which sit still doing nothing for an hour.

We made our way up to the highest point in the city to take tea, enjoy the view and wait for our friend Julia to come to meet us at the restaurant. During an extended lunch of local delicacies such as khinkali, lobepuri and kachepuri, the diners at the neighbouring table became increasingly loud and animated. The two guys worked for a Georgian mining company and they had apparently struck gold. Understandably, spirits were high.

Letting Go

At this point I realised that the opportunity to sit to meditate was passing. I looked out over the Caucasus mountains, their rugged beauty glimmering in the late afternoon sunshine, observed the increasingly wild scene unfolding in the restaurant (by now Olga was having a heated conversation in Russian with one of the drunk mining guys, voices raising by the minute), and I let it go.

I surrendered to the situation. Attachment causes suffering, to let go is liberation. What did it matter that I would break the unbroken chain of consecutive days? It didn’t. The lesson was to let go. To surrender.

After 107 days of strong determination, successfully maintaining my practice, I received an unexpected lesson.

Next day I sat to meditate with a smile, to start again.

Surrender

If we’re too attached to an idea, a belief or an object we suffer. Right, ritual and dogma are obstacles to true freedom. When we surrender we open up to the infinite possibility of the universe.

Surrender does not mean giving up, it means letting go.

Surrender is the wisdom to know when to go with the flow.

Surrender is accepting things as they are.

Surrender is trusting that things will work out.

There’s magic in surrender.

India for Winter

Why I’m spending this winter in India

I’m sat here in the local all day brunch place in the centre of Stafford, making use of the free WiFi, enjoying the pleasant ambient temperature and listening to the perfectly acceptable playlist (currently beyond recognition above the half term lunch rush).

There’s a good reason for this decampment to the cafe in the town centre; I’ve cancelled my broadband, given up my van and locked up the house. On Sunday evening I fly to Delhi. I’m spending this winter in India.

Why India?

When I first visited India two years ago I discovered a meditation technique called Vipassana. Since I returned home in the November of 2017 I’ve sat daily to meditate and attended a further five courses to both sit (2) and serve (3) . I’m somewhere north of 1,500 hours into this practice, not that I’m counting…

India is the spiritual home of Vipassana having been preserved in Burma for centuries since the Buddha first taught pure Dhamma, 2,500 years ago. As I progress along the path I feel drawn back to India.

The book and the blog

While I’m away I’ll complete the book about my bike trip. The time abroad will afford the luxury of concentrated effort to get the thing complete.

Taking inspiration from Seth’s blog, I’m also here and now committing to a daily post. I want to develop Really Big Bike Ride in such a way that you, my loyal readers, grow in number and are sufficiently engaged as to help as needed when the time comes to launch the book – you’re my super-fans that will buy the book and tell all your friends about it!

Daily blogging steers effort towards clear thoughts, concise words and conscious actions. This is an extroverted manifestation of the personal work undertaken in meditation.

Come along for the ride, it’ll be fun!

With all my metta xx

 

 

Last week I climbed Snowdon with my old man. We started out up the Llanberis path, the longest, easiest trail by dint of parking in Llanberis and not having much more of a plan than to start early and to get to the top. Dad spent half the time complaining it was too easy and that he wanted a more rugged, challenging terrain. Just about halfway Dad was content that this trail was actually challenge enough and was in fact more difficult than the Pyg trail that he’d climbed a few months earlier. After the summit and a sandwich we began our descent. “I fancy a go at that ridge” says the old bean. So we follow the path up on to Crib Goch. A couple of young lads scramble down smiling. “You going back this way? It’s a bit dicey… good luck!” Two and a half hours later we’re safely down at Pen-Y-Pass, congratulating each other on a great adventure. We’d certainly tested our mettle clambering over the two intense ridges of Crib Goch. Lesson: respect the mountain. Easy is a relative statement. #fathersonbonding #qualitytimeinnature #cribgoch #llanberispath #walkingwitholdbean #climbsnowdon #neverjudgeaclimbbyitswellmarkedpath #scrambledownthemountain #bigtimebouldering #exploresnowdonia #lovewales #respectthemountain #getoutdoors #easyisarelativestatement #enjoyeverymoment #blesstheweather

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The Energy Of Joy

I sat this morning for my usual hour of Vipassana meditation with a feeling of slight annoyance. I’d snoozed for an hour and that had started the cycle of mind chatter that says ‘you’re late!’. That fraction of a thought that says: ‘you have so much to do today; there’s the swim you’ve planned, the yoga you love, there’s work and then the gardening you said you’d do. And this! Sitting still doing nothing for a whole hour! This is INSANE!’ 

I sat with these thoughts, watching them rise up, taking a moment to really see them and to acknowledge them before allowing them to simply float away. In that moment I saw that there was no sense in spending the entire day in the cat-and-mouse of chasing endless to-do lists and tasks for the sake of it. Where was the sense in that?

What happened next was simply wonderful. The awareness that if there was to be any pleasure in this day then it was in the actions themselves, not in the tail-chasing-frustation of ‘achievement’, came to me with the clarity of a bright blue sky on a clear sunny morning. It was a beautiful moment. 

I rose from my daily practice with a spring in my step and a smile on my face and toddled off for a swim. Every stroke cut the water with precision and ease. I was a fish. You know what? I did the yoga too. Every breath drew deep into my body soothing the intensity of the stretch, pushing the muscles further into each posture. Every movement full of joy. 

There’s energy in joy. Whatever you do today, do it with joy – feel the energy flow through you and into the action – and breeze through the day with a sense of purpose. Forget about the clock and step into the NOW!

Thank you for your continued support. 

With all my metta xx

Croatia ?? not a bad spot for a bit of sunbathing. The coastal road, the Adriatic Highway(E65), is a stunning route. Easy navigation (keep the sea on your right), beautiful scenery and easy camping (a free standing tent will be advantageous ⛺️ on the flat rocky areas). The chance to swim each morning, lunch and evening was a big draw when choosing a route towards Istanbul. Having cycled a more northerly path previously, this choice was a happy one. #adriaticcoast #adriatichighway #easymiles #sunseacycling #adventure #getoutdoors #europebybike #rideoftenridefar #cyclecroatia #e65 #kickbackandrelax

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I loved cycling with this guy. Alan runs ultra-marathons. He taught me a lot about nutrition and refuelling on the bike. I shared with him the joy of cake and ice cream. We had a lot of fun racing along the Dalmatian Coast. Thank you, Alan, my brother. #racethedalmatian #cyclingcroatia #cakeandicecream #nutsandseeds #beardbrothers #biketravel #cyclebuddys #adventuretravel #rideoftenridefar

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The Austrian Alps ?? sometimes it snows… I met Kyle in Saltzburg through the @warmshowers cycling hospitality website. We decided to ride together for a while. We came up through these snowy mountains after days of heavy rain in Bavaria. At a couple thousand metres altitude Obertraun was the first of three back to back climbs to put us into Slovenia ?? #threeyearsagotoday #saturdaysarefortheboys #snowcycling #biketravel #europebybike #austria #adventuretravel #rideoftenridefar #getoutdoors

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Two years ago today I was having a delicious lunch with these lovelies… I’d just left Kathmandu by air because of the difficulty in obtaining a visa for Pakistan in India. I’d arrived in Almaty to a completely new environment – vastly different – to the chaos of Nepal and India. Kazakhstan was a whole new place in every way. The roads were massive, wide paved and organised in a grid system (a bit like USA). The food was quite a change too. From dhaal baat to manty in one sweet move. In this photo I’m traveling from Almaty towards Bishkek. I’d pulled up for a bite to eat and crossed path with these ladies that lunch. We shared some epic pantomime and I put to good use my newly inked magic letter. A beautiful moment and a very warm welcome to Central Asia. This day is my sister birthday too – happy birthday sis! #happybirthdaytoluce #almaty_insta #biketravel #womenofcentralasia #mantyforlunch #mantyforsupper #mantyforlife #mymainmanty #kazakhstanbybike #throwbackthursday #tbt #rideoftenridefar #freerideonthefreedomhighway

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