I’ve found that it can be really difficult to write about something that is important to me without sounding preachy, judgmental, political, or just plain old nagging. That’s because as soon as I step out of my own primary area of responsibility in this world, my own behavior, and begin to talk about the behavior of other people I AM being preachy, judgmental, political, or just plain old nagging. I’m pretty good at telling others how to live while totally glossing over my own inadequacies and issues.

I’m in a 12 step program for the terminally smug and preachy with remedial lessons for biting humor and sarcasm.

A real Preacher, the Pastor of our Methodist church, gave a Father’s Day sermon that touched my heart yesterday; he talked about the parable of the Good Samaritan, in which we are called to love everyone, not just those who agree with us, not just those who vote the same, not just those who march under the same flag. Everyone. And it brought to mind another Biblical quote, the one that reminds us that those of us without sin should cast the first stone. Yea, I’m not gonna be throwing any stones and I’m going to strive to bring peace to everyone I meet. I’ll fail, I know, but I’m going to try. I’m starting with me.

Lao Tse, said this about peace, thousands of years ago:

“If there is to be peace in the world,
There must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbors.
If there is to be peace between neighbors,
There must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.”

In other words, is your own home in order? Mine is not, I need to work on that. And before I can work on my home, I need to work on me. My latest effort to find peace revolves around the care of my body, I believe that before I have the right to tell anyone else how to live that I must be a better steward of my own heart and mind. In pursuit of this, I’ve taken up road cycling, a demanding sport that seems to come naturally to me, I have recently remembered the childhood joys of riding a bike, only now I am doing it with an obsessive desire to become stronger and healthier.

I found a community to help me with this effort, a group of like minded individuals who ride together on weekends and support each other through social networking during the week. It’s amazing how a diverse group of people can bond over something as esoteric as riding their bicycles really fast: the spirit of support and brotherhood among this group is like nothing I’ve felt in years, communities can do that. Since it is so easy to feel isolated and alone in this world, the peace I have found in this group is something that has been sorely lacking in my life; a group that understands the challenge of deciding to make a conscious effort to be healthy and strong, a group who has decided that there is strength in numbers.

 When you go through a few years of supporting a cancer patient, your worldview changes, you can’t help but evolve after spending hours in a chemo therapy clinic surrounded by people who have bravely decided to carry on, and as I watched my wife Teresa defeat her breast cancer I also came to understand that we all have the option to make our own health a priority. My new cycling group, not surprisingly, was founded by health care professionals, people who understand that it takes action to become healthy.
Action… there’s a concept.
Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me. In every choice we make, beginning with the most basic choice of choosing to take another breath, we are choosing not only for ourselves, we are stating what we think is the correct choice for those around us. We can choose to influence and lead with every choice we make. The people who love us are watching us and when we choose to be healthy and loving, we are teaching… When we choose to be nagging and critical, they are watching that too. Being a member of a community, whether it is a bike group, a family, or a church, comes with a responsibility to know that others are watching you while you are watching them. This knowledge can be powerful or it can be destructive, it depends how you choose to use it.
Oooops! I’m preaching again, aren’t I?
My 18 year old son was captivated by my new passion and bought himself a road bike this weekend. We ride together now, iron sharpening iron. Of course, by ride together, I mean that we begin together, the young bull leaves the old bull in the dust and nothing makes my prouder than to see him race away from his soft old man, the stack of muscles that he is. We have committed to riding our first “century” together, a 100 mile event in September, a goal that will give us a reason to train together (and take action together) all summer.
The Good Samaritan didn’t preach to the poor victim on the roadside, he took action, he must have had his own house in order because he had the heart and the resources to pay an inn keeper to care for the stricken stranger. By beginning with my own body I am laying the foundation for leaving my part of the world better. Cycling implies that I have a spiritual commitment to nature and the planet, and so I quite literally tend my own garden, taking action to make sure that my little part of the planet is happy and healthy. Taking care of your self, your garden, and the people around you is a pretty big order, it doesn’t leave a lot of time for gossip, complaints about politics, or criticism of those who think differently than you. You can’t complain about someone else’s weeds until you have pulled all of your own. By tending my garden I am bringing peace to my heart, to my home, to my neighborhood, and to my city: a pretty powerful statement about the way I’d like to see the world.

 

Peace is elusive and as we watch in horror and disgust as parts of the world descend into madness, I believe the most powerful statement we can make is to love those around us and to take good care of ourselves first, for it is from a peaceful heart that peace will evolve. Will riding a bike or planting a few flowers bring peace to the Middle East, or Africa, or solve all of the problems around the world? No, but peaceful people will, when we answer every challenge with a loving call to peace we will find it easier to get beyond ego, bickering, and anger.

Please, let their be peace on earth and let it begin with me.

Namaste,

Rick

 

 

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