“Compassion is knowing our darkness well enough that we can sit with others in the dark (without trying to flip on the light).” ~Brené Brown
I was asked by a journalist the other day why we were doing the Axel Project Bicycle Classic. The simple answer is that we love cycling, we live in a beautiful place for a ride, and we need a major fundraiser. What I didn’t explain (but maybe should have) is that cycling is an outlet for compassion and learning to live with suffering.
Cyclists know darkness well. To sit in silence with only your breath as you ascend a climb or to ride beside your teammate or friend in silence as they suffer. Sometimes it’s knowing when to stay silent so that you both can soak up the moment or just be okay with the major pain occurring. Not trying to deny it, not ruining it with small talk, just being.
This summer I had a chance to ride behind George Hincapie while my son road next to him for 12 miles and about 1,000 feet of climbing. It took about an hour and there was little chit chat. Kalden was focused, serious and he knew this was a rare opportunity. While I’m not certain what George was thinking I know he didn’t try to lighten up the mood with fake small talk and he never tried to drop back and talk with the adults. He rode next to Kalden in complete solidarity and support offering tips and encouragement when needed.
As cyclists we know that to get better we need to do the hard work, step into the pain cave, ride with the ‘darkness.’
The same goes with grief, we can’t flip on the light for ourselves or others too quick. We need people that will just sit next to us during our pain and know when to be silent. To be present without trying to take away, numb, or fix anything.
So don’t be afraid to go along on the ride with others. It’s hard to step into someone else’s grief, suffering, or pain but you are certain to find your own resilience there.