Post #3010: In which I ride a bicycle while saying a zen chant…..


(Feature photo today is not mine – I swiped it off the VanCityBuzz post about cherry blossoms from a couple of years ago – but this is pretty much what Vancouver looks like at the moment.)

Yesterday was an okay day at work. In fact, this whole week has been okkkkkaaaay…. but on the other hand I’ve been feeling old/fat/tired-looking and everything else that comes to mind when I look in the mirror. Everything in my life is just *fine* but sometimes I feel bad about things anyways.

Anyhow, as I was saying – yesterday was an okay day, except at the end of it, I went to get my bike out and because our bike lock-up is full on sunny days in the spring, someone had locked their bike in a way that made mine almost impossible to unlock. It was almost as though this person had intentionally locked their bike in such a way as to impede me from removing mine – so ridiculously intertwined were the pedals/spokes and the handlebars – not to mention that their wheel blocked my u-lock in such a way that I had to wedge my arm into a two inch space while holding the key to get it out.

Okay – so fine. I wrestled the bike out and only said fsck once (though it was in front of a somewhat gentle and conservative co-worker so that wasn’t so great).

Got on the bike, rode through a crosswalk which is not a spot where bikes are required to stop, but is a yield to pedestrians spot. A woman crossing, who was about ten feet away from me said “you have a red light” as I crossed – which was not in fact true, and if she had been any closer to me – I would have yielded but there was no danger of running into anyone. Trust me, I cycle slow (downtown especially) *and* I follow all the road rules. Basically, this person was angry that I cycled near her (and was likely also grumpy from something that had happened in her day).

So then I was cycling home, and I was fuming – about the bike lockup and the crabby woman, and how I’m old/fat/tired these days and blah blah blah. It’s of course the most beautiful day in the world, and the cherry blossoms in East Van make riding the most glorious experience right now (I mean, this is hella good riding time, you almost cry from the beauty of the dark clouds and the pink blossoms sometimes, not to mention the view of Mount Baker through the condos on the clear days and, and, and)…. but instead of taking it all in, I’m in a mad loop about all the things that are wrong.

Somewhere around Clark and Adanac the phrase “all my twisted karma” popped into my head. Which is a zen phrase that is used to think about difficulties and our response to difficulties – that our lives are the result of all our ancient, twisted karma. This sound superstitious and magical – but really, it’s a way of saying that we inherit a lot of things that become ours to work with. Perhaps we inherit crappy (fat) genes, or we are descendants of colonial settlers, or we have a history of mental illness in our family that impacted our upbringing – all of these things are the karma into which we are born, and thus must address in our lifetime (and even if we can’t fix or change them, we might atone for or repent them in various ways by doing good).

That phrase itself is chanted as part of the Zen Buddhist Repentance chant which goes:

“All my ancient, twisted karma
from beginningless greed, hate, and delusion
borne of body, speech, and mind
I now fully avow.”

As soon as the first phrase of the repentance popped into my head, so too did the lines that followed – and I found myself crossing Clark on the light with the beginning of the chant building in me. By the time I was one block towards the big hill, I  was whispering the chant to myself in time with my pedaling, and by the time the hill began to build I was chanting these lines outloud to myself over and over (though lowering my voice when I got close to anyone else). As I crossed Commercial Drive (where the hill starts to get steep) and slowed down, so I also slowed down the chanting – allowing the words and the remembering of them to in some way “power” me into joy. I was both pushing myself physically and laughing at the ridiculousness of chanting the repentance outloud while cycling uphill, and the sun was shining, and I had released the negativity from the first half of my ride, and by the time I crested the steepest part of Adanac Hill I realized that I had gone all the way up in nothing less than third gear (until yesterday I have granny geared near the top to make it through).

And from there I sailed home, chanting under my breath the whole way – and came into the house laughing, transformed.

Which is all to say that so much of what we think matters doesn’t, and it’s just a matter of remembering that.

One thought on “Post #3010: In which I ride a bicycle while saying a zen chant…..

  1. betcha if you chant enmei juku kanon gyo, with a really hearty emphasis on the butsu-YO!, you can make it to the top of adanac hill in 2nd.

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