My roommate Taylor posed in front of this shelter on the Clear Creek Trail on our ride from Denver to Golden. On the way back, I took another picture of the shelter in the pouring rain. A lot of times, changing conditions can make the same places feel dramatically different.

I began cycling the Denver-area bike trails in the summer of 2020 when my roommate, Mandi, offered to let me ride an extra bike that she had at the house. Over the course of the rest of the year, I began exploring the trails.

I was in a personal place where a lot of the relationships in my life were in flux, and so as I watched the change of seasons occur around the trails my mind often visited the concept of change and adapting to change.

Morning light washes over the Clear Creek Trail in late Summer

My mind was focused on the subject of change as I followed a guided meditation on change. As I thought about it, I realized that I didn’t have a relationship that hadn’t changed a lot over time.

Sometimes those changes can be painful. There are times when we lose a sense of comfort or closeness with someone who we wanted to be there for us.

But just as Summer turns into Fall, which brings us through Winter and back to Spring, again, we must allow these changes to occur and adapt with a focus on mental flexibility.

Mandi takes a picture on a chilly Fall ride on the Clear Creek Trail

My own relationship to riding changed over the course of the year, as the seasons transitioned. Early in the fall, I rode with my roommate, Mandi, on a cold day as I was processing some painful changes in my personal life.

We set out talking about riding to Golden, but we ended up turning back about halfway there. We capitulated to the cold!

During the ride, Mandi and I discussed gear that would help with tolerating the cold. Moving forward, I began adapting to cold weather riding. Before this ride, I had just assumed I wouldn’t be able to ride all Winter without really thinking about it.

My cycling friend harasses the Boulder geese

Fortunately for me, at this time I met a much more advanced rider who lived in Boulder. We started getting together for rides as the cold Fall weather really set it.

I was able to learn more techniques and gear options from her that would allow me to adapt to the changing conditions and continue to ride throughout much of the Winter.

As influential as anything was being exposed to someone who was doing things that I wouldn’t have even considered. Because she was willing to ride in 40-degree weather, I was willing to give it a shot. Then once I’d done that, something that I previously would have considered a prohibitive obstacle almost without thinking of it became a non-factor.

The view from midway up Flagstaff Mountain in Boulder, CO

She also exposed me to the idea of road biking. Previously, I had only ridden on the Denver-area bike trails. I might not have been willing to try riding on a road by myself. But following her, I began riding on roads, even climbing up canyons on steep mountain roads!

Throughout the Winter, I expanded my sense of where I could ride, when I could ride, and how far I could go on a ride! This ultimately culminated in my first ever cycling road trip, from which I’ve recently returned!

My friend stops to adjust her gear along the La Poudre in Ft. Collins

As I contemplate change, and the importance of mental flexibility in adapting to change, I have to acknowledge the importance of the painful personal changes that took place before the Fall/Winter season.

Without those changes, I would never have followed this course of growth. I would never have expanded my sense of possibilities. I would not have realized that I could ride in the cold, that I could ride on the road, that I could travel to other cities and ride.

Change is often painful. But when we allow ourselves to be mentally flexible, we can find growth through the changes.

A ride on a cold, rainy day along the rim of the Grand Canyon

Finding growth in my life as a response to these changes has helped focus my mind on accepting the changing nature of the many relationships in my life. I am presently focusing on compassion and empathy in my meditation practices, as I seek to be more connected to the people in my life and less focused on myself.

I am guided in this direction by a return and rededication to mindfulness practices that occurred at the same time I was expanding my riding. The idea of focusing on empathy and moving away from self-centered consciousness was largely informed by reading “The Book of Joy” around the new year.

In the book, a conversation between Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama, the two discuss many aspects of joy and suffering. One of the overarching themes is how suffering derives from a focus on self.

Looking inward, I accepted that I had always acted from a sense that my suffering was special. I wanted to focus on opening to other people’s experience.

I have been following this guided meditation on compassion

To the end of expanding my qualities of compassion, I have been following a guided meditation on compassion.

I have also been contemplating “the gap vs. the gain” concept, stemming from the theory of growth mentality, after reading “Personality Isn’t Permanent.” In assessing myself, I realized that I am focused on the flaws of the people in my life.

It’s much to my shame and chagrin that, despite wanting to be a really positive person and uplift the people in my life, I find myself tearing them to bits in my head!

I decided I want to do my best to shift my focus on “the gain,” in order to see what is good or what could be enhanced rather than to focus on what is lacking or at fault. To that end, I have set out to adopt a new practice in which I write about “the gain” for several people in my life every day.

All in all, life will always continue to change. I am doing my best to adapt and to find practices to help me turn change into opportunities for growth.

How about you? What changes are you responding to? How are you adapting to change?

I invite you to reflect on how these themes affect your own life.

Published by Miles of Mindfulness

My name is Mike Bragg. I'm a Denver-based cycling enthusiast and a big advocate of mindfulness. I enjoy the outdoors, and I use mindfulness practices to help myself be more present with my adventures. I like to read challenging material, and I have a keen interest in ancient history and natural sciences.

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