It started out as a typical dawn walk with Oz the poodle stopping at least twice every block to snuffle. We reached the crest of a hill and approaching from the west was “the man on the bicycle with the colored box”. My breath flew away! I was filled by childlike glee! Sunlight beamed from my heart.
In order to fully appreciate this moment, here is some background. Fourteen years ago, Jeff and I moved to this town. I would get up before dawn to hike our dog before meditation. Often I would see this man on a bicycle, dressed in a black trench coat, black gloves, a black porkpie hat, sunglasses, black jeans, leather oxford shoes and a hand-painted wooden box mounted over the rear tire. Only his chin and cheeks exposed. Even in the heat of a summer morning, he was completely covered, riding with fierce attention in an eastern direction. At dusk, he would ride west, completely covered, colored wooden box, steady pace, single focused. Every time, the box was painted a different color; brilliant yellow, spring green, sky blue, rich cabernet, purple… Soon, I began to notice him pedaling in the background of my daily life. As I left the grocery store, he would be across the busy street riding intently west. As I got into my car, there in the distance he cycled, clothed in black, colored box, pinpointed focus, riding east. Each time, in the surprise, every concern flew away & joy soared. After two years of this, we moved out of the state.
Three years later, Jeff and I returned to town for a few months. Going about my business, surprise became delight when the black clothed bicycle man pedalled through the background of my view, sky blue box, heading west. No matter where I was, there he appeared; in black with yellow box riding east, in black with black box riding west… This forgotten character from a fairytale kept appearing when I was distracted, placing me outside of my limited view, waking me up, like from a dream. Such open delight; no questions, no concerns. After a few months, we moved on and again I forgot the experiences of this man intently cycling in eastern or western directions.
There is a Mind Training teaching: Regard Everything as a Dream. It can get you all confused, thinking that life IS a dream, rather than life IS LIKE a dream. People can get lost thinking this instruction means that Life has personal meaning, that the experiences of life are special for just ME to know. This confusion makes ME very Important & everyone else an ignorant fool. This confusion can result in separating ME from experience, separating ME from Them… We all know how this false sense of power can poison our mind and lead us to behave unethically, unkindly and eventually dangerously.
But this is not how the Mind Training instruction, Regard Everything as a Dream, is meant to be practiced. It says, look at experience, see how it comes/goes, see how it is like a dream. When we look at the experiencing, what do we see? What do we know?
This is not a beginner’s practice. However, it is one that can bring life into practice. Experiences have consequences, they have causes and effects. And they last only in this moment, they are ephemeral. Connect to the experiencing, not the stories and ideas of where it came from, what caused it, or what it means.
It has been five years since being back in this area. Last summer, he cycled steadily in the background, dropped from a fantasy, unaffected by the oppressive heat, with directed focus, spring green box, shaking up my world of concerns. Released from whatever problem or rumination that was consuming energy, all of my distracted thoughts disappeared. Freed from the belief that experience is dull, patterned, and predictable, in that moment, butterflies pour out of my skin.
So, today on the morning walk, as Oz the poodle and I approached the corner curb, there was the man on the bicycle heading east – completely covered, gloves, sunglasses, porkpie hat, oxford shoes… I slowed my pace, so as not to cross the curb before he arrived and miss the opportunity. What that opportunity was, I had no idea, but it was welling up: fear, joy, tears, shaky hands, gratitude. After 14 years of being awakened into experience, what would happen when our paths actually crossed?
He was wearing an old black leather jacket, no trench coat. Change! My concerns & worries? Poof! Keeping a steady pace, he removed his sunglasses and smiled. Eyes gleaming, meeting, sparkling, filled with mischievous joy. He passed, steady pace, yellow box, hand-painted owl with spread wings on the back of his jacket. Everything changed. Nothing changed. Complete. Oz the poodle finished investigating the shrub and we returned home in the full dawn.