Waking Up

Paradise Lake Road

I was riding my bike the other day along an empty country road. Several miles out, I found myself wondering what it would feel like to have someone suddenly ride up behind me.

Looking into my helmet mirror, there he was—a cyclist coming up behind me.

At the start of another ride, I had just turned onto the road when I suddenly thought, “I’m about to see a deer.” My wife and I live in a suburban condominium complex. In more than 20 years, I had only seen deer in the neighborhood once. But that morning, as I came around the first bend, a young four-point buck came out of the canyon to my right, leaped over the guard rail, trotted across the four-lane road and disappeared into the woods on the other side.

Why do premonitions happen? I don’t just mean the really dramatic ones that give us intimations of coming danger or celebration. I mean, in particular, the quiet ones like the momentary foreshadowing of a fellow cyclist on an empty road, a deer emerging from the woods in front of us, or the phone call that turns out to be the friend you were thinking of just seconds before the phone rang.

I don’t believe these are random events. They’re hints, not just of what’s about to happen, but of what’s possible if we wake up. I think our movements, including our thoughts, create waves. And sometimes, when we aren’t distracted or the waves are strong enough, we register their approach—with a thought, a feeling, or a sensation.

But more often than not, we are distracted, caught in a kind of sleep walking that leaves our senses muted and our receptors lulled by noise or silence or habit. It’s only when, by chance or choice, our mind is engaged but not committed—awake—that we can feel the subtle waves of life’s undercurrents. There are activities that cultivate this mindfulness, and they vary depending on a person’s interests and proclivities.

For me, they include cycling, taijiquan, and writing because they involve both stillness and motion. There’s something about that pairing that creates a kind of meditative state, a heightened awareness and a willingness to simply listen.

I think that’s why, if I go for a period of time without riding my bike or practicing taiji or writing, I start to stiffen and harden around the edges. I feel duller, less resilient and more reactive. I’m more impatient.

And I see fewer deer.

So, when I have a premonition, I try to remember to appreciate the gift of this particular wave. And I try to make a note to myself to keep my receptors clear, my heart open, and my mind awake.

You never know what’s coming next. Until you do.

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