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40k for 40 days

February 18: Day 33

Day 33 - What's Emotional Awareness to Me and How Does it Relate to Peace?

Today was quite possibly, the longest, fastest, and most interesting day on in motion since this challenge began 33 days ago for me and I'm still attempting to fully digest why.

Emotional Awareness practice on wheels for more than three hours and not far off 100 kilometers of reflection and moment-to-moment exploration of the topic.

Building on the last two days of looking at Calming Body and Mind and then Ethical Mindfulness, with today's topic I was attempting to bring them both together and rediscover on a very fundamental level, what emotional awareness means to me and how I use it.

Being able to simply observe the thoughts that entered my mind during this cycle and not attempt to process, reject, attach/grip or do anything at all with them, just treat them like I would a fellow cyclist passing me by, the clouds, birds, planes in the sky as I glimpse, recognize they are there and real but that's it.

Because I was moving and my breath and body play a huge role in enabling me to move at a constant and decent pace, I felt that I was able to focus on my breath and body sensations even more when I did feel my mind attaching itself to a thought and going on a journey with it. I found this very helpful to just let it go, breathe, body, and continue to just observe the thoughts again without allowing them to become anything else.

I am aware of just how quickly a potentially harmful thought can dramatically lead to a mental state, can spark a series of other not-so-useful thoughts and before I know it, I'm catastrophizing and creating forest fires in my mind that affect my body's stress levels and in turn my physical form. I know I can allow this to happen quite regularly during my day, one thought like a spark if not managed in a beneficial way can become a fire and the fire can quickly generate more capacity to affect and afflict myself and others around me. If I'm able to just let the spark be and not fuel it, it goes out and passes by and this was my goal on my saddle today, and off the saddle in my life.

Practicing emotional awareness and taking agency and control of my thoughts as they come and go by creating some space or breath in between them, by allowing my mind to rest in its natural state as often as I can. This can also be looked at as creating a sense of balance or equilibrium.

Like in so many of the previous 32 posts, I now know my breathing, and focusing on the breath allows me to do this and feel in control. Other folks may use other tools or techniques like the grounding, tracking, and resourcing, that I mentioned a couple of days ago and I know that they work for me too but while in motion today, breath was my anchor and access to balance when I recognized that I needed it. It also works as positive fuel, almost like the opposite of a forest fire that can become a raging inferno out of control, damaging everything and everyone in its way. 

By breathing well and efficiently, I move well and efficiently and think well and efficiently and have a greater feeling of balance.

Thoughts and mental states can work very much in the same way. Beneficial or useful mental states like gratitude, compassion, pride, etc. can lead to more useful mental states, more genuine and productive interactions, and more chances of having joy and appreciation in your day. This does not mean for a second, that I'm talking about being false, fake, or unrealistic but just being aware that beneficial mental states lead to more of the same and harmful or afflictive mental states lead to more of the same too. I'll say it again, we do have agency and choices to intervene and pause when we feel harmful mental states taking control of us.

A prime example of this today which probably lead to my opening line of this cycle being so interesting for me.

Although I was focusing on emotional awareness and how it may relate to peace in my life and the lives of others, (external and internal peace) I realized that my reflection and daily movement had been going so well that I had completely forgotten about the time and with that, my responsibilities off the saddle (so much for heedfulness, mindfulness and awareness on my part!). 

I was due to pick up my children to spend the afternoon and evening with them while my partner went to her work, and I needed to be back within 3 hours. I had been on the road for an hour and 45 min and had the same distance to cover to get back on time and so the mental proliferation began... I am stupid, I am selfish, I don't care enough about the most important thing in my life (my family), I feel guilty, will be ashamed when I get home, I'm going to create extra tension for my partner, I promised I would be back on time... And the afflictive internal dialogue continued. My mind was racing, my body was racing, I started to sweat more, and breathe heavier and forest fire mode was in full flow.

Suddenly, to add to this flurry of harmful thoughts, I had a bike malfunction and had to get off to fix it. At that moment, I observed my body language, breathing, etc, and realized how connected the second half of my cycle was with the very topic for reflection and decided to pause in the midst of it all, focus on my breath, calm my body and mind, create a sense of space and reload the thoughts that I had so quickly been gripped to, that were clearly doing me no good.

I was late, I needed to get home but I needed to be in one piece for starters, I needed not to put anyone else in danger either with my crazy cycling and I realized that if anything, I was going to take much longer to get home as I would not have been able to keep the pace up for much longer, I would have burned out, emptied the tank and probably have hit a wall which would only exacerbate the whole situation.

I started from scratch again, breath, movement, thoughts coming and going, and repeat. I soon got into a better system, and I was feeling lighter, smoother, and more efficient in a matter of minutes. It was no coincidence or religious miracle that very soon after I had regained control of my mental state and movement, a group of good cyclists passed me by. They were going at a great speed but because I was now feeling in a good state myself, I was able to hang tight, tucked in behind them and making my journey home so much quicker, with gratitude for the folks who I was able to get a dig out from, safer, and even a lot more fun.

I arrived at our home, just as my understanding partner was leaving for work and I had a smile inside and out but that could have easily been a guilty frown or even me, making up some silly excuses that would only lead to more 'unuseful' emotions.

My lesson in emotional awareness felt real today and I was so bloody happy and appreciative that I could rely on tools that genuinely worked in action and not just on paper for a blog!!!


Shane O'Connor



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