As I cycled on The Katy Trail in Missouri, approximately two thirds of the way into the charity challenge of riding across America and Ireland; a new mantra came to mind: See the good in everyone – especially yourself. Thinking about that sentence, and all that it entails, gave me increased awareness of my motivation. From that point onwards, I picked up the pace and put myself in a position where I was able to reach New York City on my target date of August 14th 2016.
Later that same day, I crossed the great Missouri River. I stopped and stared in awe at the amazing sunset. That led to several minutes of beautiful quiet time, reflection and meditation. When eating my supper later still, I wondered if I would have even noticed that sunset and had that peaceful spiritual moment on the bridge, had I not been thinking about my new mantra. Having the conviction to hold true to a genuine motivation cuts out a lot of stressful and unnecessary thoughts, and opens the door for newer, more beautiful emotions and experiences. You can be self confident without being cocky. When you are sure of your motivation, you can see the world from a different perspective.
When I announced that I was doing Trans Atlantic Cycle to raise funds and awareness for The Irish Cancer Society, I didn’t give too much background, or explain my motivation for doing such an epic challenge. Despite some people telling me that I wouldn’t do it, I shouldn’t do it or that I couldn’t do it; I am doing it. My motivation is strong – because it came from within. I knew that I could do it – one day at a time.
For a long number of years, I bent over backwards to seek approval from others; probably because I doubted myself so much. Sometimes we are our own worst critics. Self doubt is a ball and chain that we must cast off. I was once dependent upon others to grant me happiness and contentment. I was willing to do things that were detrimental to my own wellbeing and peace of mind, in the pursuit of winning approval from others. I now see that for the folly that it was.
Two years ago I fell from an electric bicycle. The injuries were very painful, and the trauma was a heavy burden to bear. I slipped into self-pity which compounded things. It took a long time to find treatment, but I was eventually referred to Philip O’Rourke. During my sessions with Philip, I realized that I had to face my fear and get back on a bicycle. To do this, I had to look deep within myself, and start to build from the bottom up. When I eventually felt better, we discussed the possibility of doing a cycle to celebrate the fact that I was well again. A case of, “hair of the dog that bit you”. I started to think about doing a charity fundraiser. Philip is a cancer survivor, and had been given invaluable help by The Irish Cancer Society during his recovery. It seemed fitting that I should help the charity that helped the man who helped me. It completes a nice little circle of giving.
Cycling alone across America is by no means a decision that you come to lightly. I weighed it up. And then it occurred to me: there are thousands of poor souls in Ireland who are fighting cancer, or grieving a loved one, who would jump on a bike in a heart beat if only it would make things better. The realization that I was blessed and fortunate enough to have recovered from my accident was enough to inspire me to take on Trans Atlantic Cycle. It is a tiny challenge compared to what many others have to face.
When I realized that I could experience peace and serenity by counting the blessings that I have instead of lamenting the things that I don’t have, my view of life changed. Isn’t it funny that when we pledge to help others (instead of trying to impress them), that we actually find peace and contentment ourselves? And when we concentrate only on our own material needs, we oft times encounter discontent and unhappiness? And so, armed with this attitude and motivation, on June 14th 2016, against all the odds, I was standing at the pier in San Francisco with my trusteed Peggy, about to set off alone across the United States of America. I was happy, at peace with what lay ahead, and confident that I would have the conviction to complete what I set out to do.
I meditate every day while cycling. And afterwards I make a point of counting my blessings. Most days, the first blessing that comes to mind is that I have my health, and that I was able to get up out of bed and face another day. In the past, I focused on negatives. Now I count my blessings, and the gratitude that this brings always gives me a good head start to the day.
I have faced many obstacles during Trans Atlantic Cycle. The Sierra Nevada’s came very early and were too much for my legs. It took three attempts to make it over Echo Summit. I was exhausted and had to rest for two days at South Lake Tahoe. The heat in Nevada caused all sorts of issues. I was dehydrated and had diarrhea in Utah. I was gasping in the thin air near the top of Monarch Pass, the 11,300 foot summit where I scaled The Rockies. I fell coming out of The Rockies. I was faced off by a mountain lion in Montrose, Colorado. I had to ask the police for assistance when it looked like I couldn’t find a place to stay late in the evening in Sacramento. I have had countless tough days. But one thing has been constant: my motivation to do this.
I believe that Trans Atlantic Cycle is 75% mental and 25% physical. I believe that if your mental attitude and motivation are right, you can overcome any obstacle to achieve your goal. There is always a way.
I am writing this as I rest up in New York City, before moving on to Ireland, where I will ride from Letterkenny to Dublin, to the offices of The Irish Cancer Society. I am thinking about a few lines from Rudyard Kipling’s poem ‘IF’:
If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
Regardless of whether or not I complete Trans Atlantic Cycle, I hope that I am showing that even from the darkest place, you can find the light of hope. When I was asked to dig deep to find the will to face my fears and get back on a bicycle, I inadvertently found so much more, locked away inside. I am so much stronger than I thought I was. I have goodness within me. I discovered those things by finding silence and calmness through meditation. I learned to be able to give myself a pat on the back instead of flailing myself for no good reason based on what other people might think of me.
Trans Atlantic Cycle has been an amazing journey and adventure. It has been the most spiritual time in my life. I have seen the world from many different perspectives. Perspective is my favorite word. It is the first step in The Paris Method. Getting grounded and finding out about yourself in an unbiased way is a complete revelation.
No matter how fragile you may feel initially, you can build strong motivation to achieve your goals by using fundamental positives as the first building blocks. Rock bottom is the best place from which to build any strong foundation. A little over a year ago, I barely had the motivation to go out to the local shop. Now, I have cycled over three and a half thousand miles across America on my own.
I am not too sure what lies ahead – although I have an idea of what my future will be like. For now, I am returning to that silent, spiritual place which I get to by practicing The Paris Method, and whatever I discover about myself there, I know that it will be genuine, true and in my own best interests regardless of how others see it. I have learned to see the good in people – especially myself. I have been turning a negative experience (my bicycle fall) in to a positive outcome (raising funds and awareness for The Irish Cancer Society). But most of all, I have learned how to find peace. For years I searched frantically for it. I looked for it in other people, through vacations, in material possessions, inside bottles (thats a whole other story), and in many more ways and places. And all the while, it was there with me all the time, deep inside of me. I just had to figure out how to find it, and believe in it.
People have asked me if I prayed during my journey. I most certainly did. But I wasn’t praying for my needs, I was saying wordless prayers of gratitude for being given the time, the health and the energy to do what I am doing. I can honestly say that I breathed in every last drop of what my journey across the United States of America had to offer me. It was and is, a life-changing experience.
Thanks for reading. I hope that Trans Atlantic Cycle is the start of a spiritual adventure of continued personal growth, and I hope that I can continue to do a little bit to help others – instead of trying to impress them. That is my motivation going forward.