Here we are with only six weeks to blast off, and that feeling is hauntingly familiar. Gee, why would that be? It was just a year ago when we were getting ready to blast off into the life in which we currently occupy. That was huge, and so’s this latest effort. This is a considerably massive undertaking, but it isn’t. We make it so, as we make everything something in our mind’s eye. I’m once again finding, though now with a much clearer understanding, an identity crisis. Really, it’s an ego crisis. I’m fairly sure it’s not the ego that most of us talk about on a superficial level. It’s deeper than that.
Through our meditation program under the Self Realization Fellowship, we regularly receive a kind of self-study lesson. Through these and through various other books including Neale Donald Walsh’s Conversations with God, the ego is a great and integral point of discussion. Out of curiosity and for confirmation for what my brain is attempting to mash together, I looked up the definition of ego: a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance. In the modern world, self-esteem is thought to be important and good for one to have. Self-importance, on the other hand, slips into the realm of narcissism. Narcissism seems to be what most of us have adopted as a way of life, though we may not ever want to admit it.
For me personally, my circumstances growing up set the stage for me to become a people pleaser. This in turn evolved into an unconscious desire to seek acceptance. Being good at things, especially if they benefit others became the path to righteousness. Often times this lead to doing things that didn’t necessarily suit me, but seemed to please many others, so I did them because it “felt right”. In reality, if I “felt” anything at all, it was very faint. In fact, feeling things isn’t something I do, until it’s like a fire alarm. In reality, it had more to do with blindly following the grooves of the record that was recorded in earlier years of my life. In other words, I followed the path of least resistance. Anything I should have felt, good or bad, was tucked deep inside in my psyche to apparently be felt later as physical suffering of one type or another.
Last year, prior to setting off with the travel trailer, my identity was deeply rooted in my work. Much of this year was spent, and remains to be actively spent, coping with no longer appeasing clients and customers with quality work. My sense of self instead became giving others an opportunity to live vicariously through me. Sure, I’ve done considerably more for myself this year than possibly ever before, but it’s not easy climbing out of the grooves of the record and riding along the ridges. For some that have followed me, my Ohio cycling friends mainly, it has been about all the cool mountain bike trails I’ve ridden in so many different places. Sure, it’s been amazing. And, I won’t say the crap about “too much of anything can be bad…” because I don’t believe that about things that are really meant for us.
Instead it comes down to the question, “What does being a cyclist mean to me?”. But, I’ve been in the forest, both literally and figuratively, and so I can’t possibly see the trees. Does this mean I should give up cycling? No. But, given our plans to travel via plane and suitcase, dragging around a bike and all the clothes and gadgets that go with it, well, that’s just complicated. So, the battle ensues, ego versus spirit. Ego says, “You’re a cyclist through and through. Look at what you ride that others are afraid to. You’re a good climber. You will drag your bike up things few riders will. You will suffer like few will and just keep going (because I can’t feel anything, right!?). You are accepted and elevated by being a cyclist.”
Spirit says, “Let it go for now. You can always go back to it. See what it’s like to not be a cyclist, maybe you will find that it wasn’t you. Even deeper…it’s just a distraction from your soul seeking. Then I hear or remember the words of our spiritual guru continually reminding me that the ego has to be squashed before true happiness and spiritual bliss can be experienced. I then also realize how tough a customer our egos are, how deeply grooved our records are, and how each major aspect of ego is like losing a close friend or family member. No wonder we avoid change. It’s painful! We have to confront some harsh truths. And, I don’t think there’s any way around it. It has to be head-on. The only way to make it easier on ourselves is to face it with grace and acceptance, and more importantly, to have faith in the result.
Oh yeah, and it’s not just the activity of cycling that’s confronting me. God knows I’ve taken off months each year during winter facing similar demons. “Am I gonna lose fitness? What will I do for fun?” Bla, bla, bla. Yes, it hurt when I later started back up. But I did find myself doing things during that time that I’d never have gotten done if I’d kept pedaling. For one, I learned to love guitar during that time. I’d also been more inclined to stay on top of meditation. And what’s really funny about meditation is that it is very much like cycling in that the more regularly I do it (within reason), the more positive effects I experience. Unfortunately, though, I’m not quite at the point where I am doing meditation out of joy, so cycling has a strong foothold.
Anyway, I started to say it’s not just the activity of cycling…because I have two very high-end bikes that it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to hang onto. Sure, I could ask someone to store them for me “just in case”. But I really do intend for that side of me who clings to things “just in case” to take a hike. I rationally know and believe that thinking about things from a standpoint of scarcity only leads to more scarcity. But, fear kicks in, and so does the ego. Why? Because these bikes represent my concept of self! This understanding I believe directly relates to (at least one of…) the Bible’s true meaning of “worshipping false idols”. What was possibly meant is to stop obsessing about material things! Not because you’ll go to hell if you do, but rather you will create your own self-imposed hell by believing these material things and “sense pleasures” will bring happiness without suffering.
Well, myself like most other obsessive cyclists, do see serious aspects of artistic physical beauty and the spiritual nature of quality in our bikes. We see them as physical things of beauty, and can adorn them in various ways to make them “more attractive” to us. Not uncommon, though. Look at most men with their cars and trucks. Oh yeah, that brings me to another material idol that’s vexing me now. My truck.
Believe me when I say I am no different than most men in that I am a huge car and truck fanatic. I’ve never really been much of a hot rod fanatic, but I have spent more than my fair share of money and time on various cars and trucks. In particular, when in my early twenties, I was working at a ski resort in Ohio (yes, Ohio). I worked with a guy my age, Randy, who was from Southern California. He had a lifted Toyota truck that I thought was the coolest thing. An imprint was made in my mind that I must have one someday. My next truck was a Toyota like his…but it wasn’t lifted, and I was too cheap or practical to ever get it lifted. Soon, that truck was a thing of the past for me, passed on to the next owner.
Fast-forward fifteen years or so, and not only did I buy a brand-new Toyota truck, but I also later had it lifted and customized with wheels and other add-ons. Funny thing was, I wasn’t working at the time I had the $2,000 lift installed. I was going to school for my Energy Efficiency degree. Kind of ironic, huh? But, I really wanted it, so I got it. Throughout my time of owning this truck, there was always a nagging sense of self-gratification over it. I had a fairly efficient car before I bought it, and this thing was a gas hog. And, then I worked for three years helping others be more energy efficient, putting 70,000 miles on it, and guzzling lots of gas. I always felt at odds, but even now, I love this truck. It’s similar to the bikes in that it’s a thing of beauty to me. In design, in quality, in how tough it is, it’s been something to love. It’s also served us well towing the trailer and getting us around this year.
But, do I really need a truck? If and when we were to come back to live permanently in the US, would this be what would serve me the most? If it was completely self-serving, I would say maybe. It’s not the best vehicle I’ve ever had in a few ways, but it is probably the nicest…and the only one I’ve really done anything custom to, in order to make it my own. As I continue to do the spiritual work, I accept more and more that what I “have” is not mine. The things I “own” are only really in my possession for a very short time, then they get sold and go on to someone else, or they end up crushed and returned the earth via recycling or landfill.
But, the concept of ownership is one self-imposed on the masses by ourselves. And, too, this is something Emily and I are seeking to escape, or at least alter a bit. The millennials have brought to us the sharing economy, and it’s starting to make more and more sense to us. Ownership is ego attachment. It also adds numerous layers of complexity and expense to our lives. As we move to let go of our travel trailer and the truck, we also let go of license plate registration fees x 2, insurance x 2, and unending maintenance costs x 2. And living this way, these things are not only costs, but even more so just a bit more complicated to cope with while continually moving. Had we been living like the majority of Americans, we wouldn’t own these things, but rather the banks would. We would certainly still be committed to their ownership, but monthly payments would be our master.
As would be expected, many who have heard about our next feat have provided their advice about what to do or not to do regarding the various remaining material items of concern. In particular, the responses essentially lean towards retaining everything in one fashion or another. “Store the bikes. How can you be without them? You’ll regret it. Store the trailer. Where are you going to live when you come back? You may need it or want it. Keep the truck. You can store it. What are you going to drive when you come back? How will you get a loan on another car without a ‘real job’?” Keep, keep, keep. Accumulate, accumulate, accumulate. If they were thinking like the corporations, they’d say, “Hell ya, sell all of it! When you come back, you can be like real American consumers and buy, buy, buy!”
Our rational mind is meant to help us learn so we don’t make the same mistakes again, or is it? It’s meant to protect us somehow. But at some point, due to its nature as a recording device, it quite literally can become our enemy. Resistance to change. Resistance to risk. These create a resistance to becoming a different person from who we currently are. My rational mind is a fierce competitor, ready at a moment’s notice with countless reasons for not changing, or in the case of this writing, not letting go of something. The favorite arrow in the quiver is economic justification. You know, like “what would it cost to buy that bike or another bike like it new today?” When you know it’s $8 to $10k, and selling what I’ve got may only secure $1,500 to $2k, it’s an easy sell to NOT sell.
The problem with this thinking is that it’s one of scarcity and of holding tight. If you’ve ever read, heard, or watched The Secret or any of the other new age spiritual texts on materialism and money, you know the overriding belief about abundance lies in sharing, giving, and in faith that there is more than enough of ANYTHING for EVERYONE. One can believe many things, but actions speak louder than words. When faced with a real-life situation, and especially (let’s say) situations of this scale, it’s way easier to side with one’s rational mind than to “give” these things away. This is where one’s faith in whatever god, the universe, Mother Earth, or whatever you believe in has to flex its muscle. If you’re like me, this muscle has atrophied over the many years by trusting in the rational mind to protect me from the injury of lack rather than having faith in something greater. It needs to be awoken and forced into rigorous exercise.
So, why not now? Why not pull out all the stops? If you can look at this question from an elevated perspective, it’s not as scary. For me, this elevated perspective includes a true everlasting life that continues on and on beyond this one physical form known as “Jeff”. I believe I’ve lived many, many lives on Earth and on other planets even. I believe that my physical body is encompassed within my spiritual or “light body”, not the other way around. I believe that we are all one with each other and one with The Source, God, Allah, The Universe, or whatever. Armed with a reminder of this belief, if death is the worst that can happen, and from there we just make a choice to live again in the physical or to “hang out” in the ethereal, well then, I shouldn’t be afraid to risk anything to open the door for other potentially amazing experiences by letting go of a few things…
Things that can be used in the present by other beings like myself who would appreciate these physical things. Some things we let go of upon leaving a “fixed” house that went to others for free through donation centers and to those around us who were in need. If you can look at ownership differently, it can be a new sense of freedom to let go of things we have that can actually better serve another. Especially if you consider an item like the bike which would be stored in someone’s garage for months or years, and which over that time is inherently losing value not to just me, but anyone who could have been using it as it sat. Or the trailer, which would sit in storage, also losing value and purpose through natural degradation.
Ok, so I’ve been on one hell of a rant, and I apologize. As always, it has been a while since I last wrote. And, since as I’ve shown that I have a tendency to hold onto things, well, why not my words, too!? I’ll leave you all with one last kind of funny story. Emily and I went outside to go for a walk, and as I went to put on my sandals, something wasn’t quite right. A portion of the strap on one of them was gone. See photo below:
If you know anything about Chaco Sandals, you know these things are super rugged. In fact, the point of this little story is in part due to that fact. I’ve had these sandals for at least eight years. They sat for many years until I was really ready to abuse them, but even so, eight years, ok?! I was just thinking yesterday how I was amazed at how good they look and how they are one thing that will be making the transition to our next adventure. But, I also thought about how they aren’t perfect. The strap on them which secures them on my feet was always too long once secured over my skinny, or (as a foot “specialist” likes to say) “narrow” foot. The strap would inherently drag on the ground when I walked, but no big deal. In the last week or so, the strap began to curl under the sole as I walked, and therefore bugging me a bit more. My rational mind told me I should take them to a shoe repair place and have the straps shortened. Only weakly did another side of me pipe up to consider a new or different pair.
Back to the portion of missing strap. It seemed impossible. Missing?! It looks as if was cut (in two places, by the way) with a pair of dull scissors. Then it came to me right away. Emily had remarked about a fox that was poking around our patio mat last night after I went to bed. She had avoided scaring it away because we’ve learned to welcome nature and animals over the last year, in part because we believe they are all making themselves visible to us for a purpose. And, according to Emily, this guy wasn’t just poking around gingerly. He was noisy. She had seen him pee on one of our moving (AKA meditation) blankets. Ok, I would have scared him off! She did knock on the wall, and he sauntered under the trailer. Well evidently, he had a lesson to teach me, and not just some vague one that we had to interpret either. He was clear in his statement. “Get some new friggin’ sandals! Dude, they’re eight years old! I’m going to take the exact portion of strap that’s been bugging you this whole time! And, maybe also consider this for some of the other things you’ve been obsessing over. Get a grip, man, and have some faith! You are supported brother!”
Peace and love you to all in the everchanging insanities of life!
PS-We later found Mr Fox had also chewed of the lace of one of Emily’s shoes that she always hated…but had for years now! Glad it’s not just me who has to learn!