July 8, 2015
Some folks think North Dakota is boring. The roads run straight for miles, with few bends or dips to vary the line of sight. Cycling here is a different kind of dramatic from the mountains, the coastline, or even neighboring Minnesota.
It’s a little bit like seated meditation. In the Zen Buddhist practice of “sitting zazen,” students are sometimes placed in front of a blank wall for their sitting practice in order to force the mind to confront its surface hyperactivity.
The apparent monotony of the North Dakota landscape demands a similar discipline. It doesn’t engage or entertain us as we ride, nor does it offer wows around the few turns in the road.
But it teaches us to be present, to breathe in and breathe out this moment, mile after mile. And when we do that, we see subtle variations, quiet beauties, and longstanding drama.
This is the land of the Land, the flesh and sinew of the continent. And if it isn’t interested in entertaining us, it gives us an unparalleled opportunity to bear witness to its Presence and sometimes, its place in making us who we are as a nation, a community, and even as individuals. For we are children of the earth. We share the same elements, the same atoms, the same stardust.
Sitting North Dakota is a lot like sitting zazen. They are both journeys that present challenges, and that also offer extraordinary rewards if we wait, watch, listen, and open to receive—not necessarily what we expect or would choose, but gifts with the power to transform, nonetheless…