Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart


bicycles, Bodhi day, and possibility 101

Bodhi Day — or the celebration of the day the Buddha achieved enlightenment — is coming up. December 8th, FYI. And that’s important to me. Because Bodhi Day celebrates possibility.

That’s what Bodhi Day is all about, really — what we can & might become. Here’s this everyday guy — well, okay, so he’s a prince, but still — and he manages to renounce that (being a prince! Think about it!), leave his beloved family behind (spoiler alert: they show up later in the story), and go off to seek — and ultimately find — spiritual enlightenment.

I don’t have a princedom. Or even the princess or queen equivalent. But I do have a predilection for good coffee, expensive chocolate, China black teas, and other creature comforts not to be found at the Dollar Store. I like my Kindle, my iPad, and other tech tools. I do not like cheap ink pens. Or ill-made journals. So for a long time I’d pretty much given up the idea I could ever be a very good Buddhist. But my brand-new bicycle, a Handsome SheDevil, is helping. Seriously!

I used to ride bicycles like an obsessive when I was a kid. My mother & father would take the three — then four — of us girls out to the old JDP compound by Tan Son Nhut Airport. The grown-ups would play pinochle or canasta, drink cocktails, be grown-ups in pre-buildup Saigon, and I would ride my bike. For hours — around and around the compound, beside the marshy land on one side, down the streets lined with houses built on stilts over carports.

Some days my dad would pile my bike into the old Buick’s trunk and take me over to Tante Alma’s. Mother and the girls would also crowd in, but for me it was just me, the bike, and the promise of riding. Tante Alma lived with Oncle Emile just off the square by the Presidential Palace, which I would circle over and over again. There was an iron fence around the palace, and guards everywhere, but no one bothered the skinny blonde kid on the turquoise Schwinn, riding her heart out.

Presidential Palace, Saigon

So here’s how this connects: my bike makes me a beginner again. And a happy one,  at that. Yesterday, when I was unloading my guilty pleasure to my BFF, she reminded me: If I’m happy, I spread happiness. And certainly I try to. I listen to Keith the janitor on the 4th floor, make him laugh at the dance he does w/ a stuffy professorial type who’s trying to get off the elevator w/out brushing against Keith. Giggle with Soha over how our husbands do NOT like to eat fish, and share recipes on how to make tuna taste like not-the-fish. Linger over conversation w/ the woman at the department store, listening to her talk about her friend who’s considering a move to Portland.

I also try to let people know I’m in a HUGE learning curve — revisiting riding a bike, figuring out how to shift again, remembering what to wear when you’re biking against the wind at 35◦. It all makes me laugh out loud. And I can’t wait to get home, do my work tonight, and have tomorrow come — when I can ride!

I don’t ride long. And I look like a complete dork. But you know what? None of that is important. What’s important is the giving up of expectation and embracing possibility. Who knows how much longer I might ride tomorrow? Who cares what I wear, if I’m warm? And best of all, I can afford this wonderful bike my niece’s fiancé engineered :). I can afford a warm coat, gloves that work on bike handlebars, and time to enjoy it all. I love my happy life — and that’s a kind of awakening. Right now? It’s enough.



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