This week, I'm focusing on the concept of Inner strength. It's the letter "I" in BIKE. For the purposes of discussion, I'll define that with this question:
What fuels your mind, body and soul to commit to a specific action?
I think the answer, or answers, are probably different for each and every one of us. But I believe you have to know that it exists before you can use it. In other words, the use of your Inner strength requires awareness. So back to the question...
Let's start with the first part:
What fuels your mind? For me, that's knowledge. Once I have knowledge, I can have awareness. I've opened the door to understanding.
What fuels your body? For me, that's healthy nutrition, taking vitamins, exercising--the basics. It's also an ability to trust that I can do something physical or mental that might seem difficult at first.
What fuels your soul? For me, that's my faith. Initially, that came from church, then the Bible, then discovery and discussion about other religions. Ultimately, that led to an absolute belief in a power greater than myself. When I am down, I know I have it within me to do what it takes to lift myself back up, and if I need assistance, I know where to go, I know who to call, I know I can pray for guidance and it will come.
So what does this mean in real life? To me, it means that the three go hand-in-hand. The body, mind and soul work together to create an overall ability to do that which we may think impossible, given certain circumstances that may threaten our core values or beliefs.
Our Inner strength is what allows us to return to our true self, to be the person we know we can be, to not let circumstances dictate who we are. By that, I mean, when you acknowledge the truth that you are capable, when you treat your body in such a way that it can be reliable, and when you let faith guide you, you will be able to respond to difficult circumstances in a healthy way, both physically and mentally.
The best proof I have of this assertion is what happened to me on the bike while I was going through my divorce. Initially, I felt alone, unloved, and unwanted. My husband of 10 years had lied to me. He'd been living a secret life that involved other women. And he'd left me for one of them. But even then, he was being sneaky about it, and manipulative, and untruthful. I did not know what to believe.
I did not see a way out of my pain. And I certainly didn't understand his behavior. I didn't want to believe his words. Yet, everything he told me made sense. Even his lies made sense. He explained a lot about himself without even trying. On some level, I think I must have been relieved, because, I would soon learn, his behavior explained a lot about mine. But I wasn't able to see that then. All I saw was pain. And I didn't know how I was going to get past that...until I saw that bike sitting in my garage.
When I started riding, I could barely ride a mile. I was out of shape, my eating habits were nonexistent, and I just didn't care about anything. I was numb. But, for whatever reason, I kept riding. Every single day, I got on that bike and rode. It's what got me up in the morning. I looked forward to the rides. I trusted in those rides.
And soon, my worries started to dissipate. With each mile I added, I watched my own physical strength reappear. I watched a rolly-polly belly become flatter. I began to believe there would be another life after divorce, and I started to call friends again. In fact, I needed them. I set up lunch dates with them so I could eat, because I could not eat alone.
For whatever reason, and I believe it was divine intervention, I had faith in this bike. After all, it appeared at exactly the moment when I needed it most (It had been sitting in my garage unused for eight years. Why had I ignored it till then?). And I let it guide me where I needed to go. I'm not just talking about bike trails. I'm talking about other means of a healthy return--to therapy, to church, to improv classes, to a lawyer, and on and on.
On the bike, literally, I soon noticed that I could ride 5 miles, then 10 then 20, and I could ride uphill, over and over again. Before, I might have looked ahead, seen a hill, and turned back around. I might have thought--and believed--it would have been too hard. I would have turned away. I'll never forget the day I noticed I wasn't doing that anymore. I smiled at the thought and kept riding ahead. I was very happy with myself, more than any other time in my life!
That moment symbolized for me the ability to think ahead and see progress. If you can't see progress, if you don't have hope, you won't continue to move forward. And there I was, looking ahead and seeing ability...a new life. I was recognizing my Inner strength. I had arrived at the ability to recognize my own personal power again.
Aha! I could achieve whatever it was I set my mind to achieve because I was really believing in the Bible phrase I had taped up in the kitchen near the phone:
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
My story is a real-life example of a person who hit bottom and was able to get back up again--only stronger. But this is not a story about what I've done alone. If it were, I wouldn't be here. The reason I'm here is because my special brand of BIKE is about what we can do together.
We all have amazing stories like this one. We just don't all recognize the power behind them. So, this week, in your free time, when you are in the doctor's waiting room, or waiting for dinner to be served, or waiting for your children after school, wherever you have a few moments to spare, consider what your amazing story is. What is that one thing you overcame that really seemed beyond difficult at the time? Write it down.
Then think about the steps you took to overcome it. Do you recall the moment you realized you were going to move past it? Write down what that felt like. Write down what you did to make that happen. What was it that you relied on most? Use these thoughts and feelings to reconnect with your own inner strength. You have it within you to repeat that success whenever you are in need. The BIKE Lessons you learn here are meant partly to remind you of this and also to help you develop your own.
So, c'mon, pick up your bike. Let's ride this thing together!