22 May 2012

Stillness in Motion

Tim Kreider wrote about biking through city streets in the New York Times earlier this month:
If you’re anything like me, you probably spend the majority of your time either second-guessing the past or dreading the future, neither of which actually exists; having to navigate those teeming streets narrows the beam of my consciousness to the laser’s width of the instant I actually inhabit.
In the same article, he referred to "blue-toothed doofuses" who walk willy-nilly into crosswalks and bike paths without paying any attention to their surroundings. That part made me laugh.

The part about biking focusing the mind is what caught my attention, though. Last month, a long conversation over lunch with a friend made me realize how much I need to take time to slow down.

If I take the time to pay attention while I'm cycling -- not in traffic, but along the East River, where I regularly ride -- I can find stillness in motion. If I stop letting myself get irritated at the antics of my fellow human beings and their furred friends, I notice the water.

It's not river, but ocean, and it's appropriately Protean. Sometimes surprisingly calm, but usually rolling or choppy from wind, from passing ferries, from the tides washing in from both New York Harbor and Long Island Sound. The surface glints, reflecting sky during the day, lights from bridges and buildings at night, obscuring all that swims in it or rests on its bottom.

And giving my attention to that glinting surface allows me to still my own mind, stop plumbing the depths, just be.