Friday, 5 February 2016

Thinking time

One things for sure, riding a bike certainly gives you a lot of time to think. 

People (well ok, 1 person, thank you Elliot) have asked what we think about whilst riding along for hours. Kate said "not sure, not much" whilst I, as you might expect, had rather more to say on the matter. I sometimes wish I was more like Kate and often attempt to adopt her calm and zen like demeanour.   I can't say that I succeed very often so may I, dear reader, indulge myself whilst I have an audience of at least 3 sorry souls that I know about who have nothing better to do than read this blog?

Just for fun I have a popular recurring old classic to while away the miles. I treat is as a bit of an 'ad break' or intermission between the more 'meaty' subjects. It's the one about a fly in a jet plane. The plane is flying at 500mph and the fly flies from the back of the plane to the pointy end at 5mph. Is the fly therefore flying at 505mph, 5mph or anything else? I can argue with myself all day over this one although I definitely know the answer. I think....

My second and rather more 'worthy' subject is a bit more deep and meaningful (ha funny, predictive text just wrote 'meaningless' - heckled by an iPhone during my opening gambit!). You may need to 'go with me' a bit on this one...

It started back at beachside yoga practice in El Salvador. Our fantastic teacher, Lewis ( ), opened the class by suggesting that we all spend a moment to thank ourselves for making the effort to be there. "Hmm, yeah right, so much effort seeing as I was sitting around on the beach doing nothing and the class is free" chirped my ever cynical self in my head. Lewis then suggested that we take the time to honour our bodies and our health that had allowed us to be taking part. Now this hit home, especially to Kate who felt a huge emotional wave run through her. I should imagine that most readers know enough or know of enough friends or family who've been affected by cancer, brain tumours, stomach ulcers etc, etc or even those who've suffered accidents that have left their lives permanently changed.

The fact that we were both there and just about able to bend and stretch ourselves into the various contorted positions is something that we are both truly grateful for.

After the class we got talking with Lewis and we collared him again later in the day as we all sat on the beach watching a beautiful sunset. He's a great guy with some interesting thoughts, some of which I've been pondering and chipping forward a bit.

He said that when he ate he tried to have no other distractions. He wanted to able able to think about the food, taste the food and honour the food. I didn't really know what that meant so have been taking some time to think it through.

How many things haven't been killed in order for us to eat them? Animals are obvious, but what about the vegetables or even the corn in your cornflakes? They were living weren't they? He was saying that when he ate he thought about and kind of 'thanked' all the living things (plant & animal) that had died in order for him to live.

I've taken this a bit further. What about the effort by people to get these things in front of you in order to eat them? The farmer who ploughed the field and sowed the corn. The harvester driving up and down to cut the corn after someone had watered it over a few months and nature had done its job. The truck driver who got out of bed to drive the truck to take the corn to the factory to make it into the corn flakes. The factory workers, the shelf stackers, the checkout person at the supermarket... Repeat the thought process with the spoon you're eating the cornflakes with. That started somewhere way back as iron ore that was dug from the ground and put into a smelter. The chair you're sat on, the glass in your window frame. Your boiler in the corner keeping you warm? Made in China? Some parts must be. How did that factory worker get to work? What is his/her house like? What is their life like?

I'm sure you get the concept by now. It's huge and just about never ending. What Lewis did was open my mind to thinking about and paying some kind of respect to the time, the effort and the energy put into everything we either eat, touch or sit on. 

So if you're reading this whilst sitting on a bus in a rush hour traffic jam, stop being frustrated and look around you for a moment, appreciating the time, energy, thought and effort put in by so many people you'll never know just so you can be there.

Another recent addition to while away the hours whilst admiring the view, dodging stray dogs and wiping sweat from my eyes is a thing we've both noticed about ourselves on this trip.  It's how judgemental we both are. Both (me more so but it's a habit I think I've unfortunately passed on to Kate) ready to put a person or place down just because of how it looks. We both do it almost involuntarily and we then need to work backwards to allow the place or person to become ok and often better than ok. It's like they have to 'pedal up hill' to prove to us in our minds that they're ok. Now, that's not right is it?  
Maybe it's because we're coming into contact with so many people from different cultures who wear different clothes or behave slightly differently to those we'd deem 'acceptable'. Some look too young, too old, too hippie, too stiff.... It's great to have a good sense of 'gut feeling' especially when you're out in a strange environment but when you use that ability to detrimentally judge someone or write someone off, it's gone too far. Why should a bloke not wear socks n sandals? (Well ok, that is pretty inexcusable) but when I see that I pigeon hole him into a 'gooney spud', boring, trainspotters type only then to discover that's he's actually a really nice & interesting guy who just happens to have bad taste in footwear.

We are trying to stop this behaviour and break a habit of a lifetime. Pre judging a person, a place or a situation is in my mind a pretty bad thing to do especially as my pre judging is usually negative.  Shouldn't everyone have the right to start with a neutral or even positive position? Most people turn out to be positive so why do I always start them in the negative?

So, what d'you reckon. Thought provoking stuff or has the sun gone to my head? All I know is that I'm glad there aren't too many road junctions out here to get wrong cos if there were, I'm often so 'away with the fairies' that we might well end up in Timbuktu!


  1. Mindfulness is what I think Lewis was trying to extol. It's something businesses and schools are actively pushing in an attempt to preserve our mental health. To actually taste our food, hear the rain, smell the cut grass and live in the moment. I'm trying but, well you know my temperament.
    As for the judgemental bit, I agree 100% and I'm very guilty of it to. But, I also have my company to thank for opening my eyes to the fact that I do it. Our workforce collectively wrote a set of behavioural standards that every single one of us had input into and has committed to. My experiences working in London have also helped open my eyes and to become tolerant and less judgemental. One of our key standards is to always assume positive intent.
    It's powerful stuff when you have the discipline to stick by it and I use it as much outside of work as I do in.
    It's funny - I can't relax. The closest I get is when I'm riding a bike (pedal or petrol). The only time I'm truly 'mindful' is when I'm riding.

    As always, you're both inspirational. Thank you for taking the time to share everything, I owe you a lot.

    1. Hey Lee your company sounds great! Got any jobs? Coming to London makes a person more tolerant? First time I've heard that! 😀
      Cheers mate

  2. Does this mean you'll get off my case regarding granny cardigans and daddy laptop bags?!?!?! ;)

  3. We don't see things as they are; we see things as we are.