Thursday, March 8, 2012

Headwinds and Tailwinds

As I've started riding my bike to work in recent months, I have learned a great deal about the importance of wind. The wind blows most every day across the fields and desert around my home and along the four-mile stretch of road to the building where I work. Unseen and usually unheard, the strength and direction of the wind can be the difference between riding to work in record time and arriving exhausted from a hard-fought commute.

Most often my ride to work begins with the hope for a tailwind. I want to be as Nephi, "driven forth before the wind towards the promise land". I want to go fast without as much effort and be able to share with those around me when I arrive just how fast I can go on my bike.

That's not usually how it goes, however.

Eighty percent of the time, there is a headwind. It bursts and blows and opposes my progress. Pedaling becomes more difficult, level road feels like an uphill climb and progress toward my destination seems unbearably slow. I can see reality on my speedometer-- it's not as grim as it feels-- but burning leg muscles and a pounding heart believe I'm in the mountain-splitting winds experienced by Elijah.

I'm grateful for the lessons the wind has taught me the last few months on my brief trek to work. In my own mind, the wind has served as a strong metaphor for life. The headwinds are hard to face, but riding in headwinds has improved my strength and ability more rapidly than riding in tailwinds, which I usually take for granted. Somehow the push of a tailwind is harder to notice and the resulting successes easier to attribute to my own strength and effort.

I've also learned that there are places I can look for help riding in the wind. From the main road I can see a large flag marking a new housing development about halfway down the road. The flag flies high above the houses and shows the strength and direction the wind is blowing. My cyclocomputer keeps reality and view, showing my speed, distance and how much time I have left to be at work. In a strong wind, shifting gears makes pedaling easier. In the dark of night, a headlight keeps my path lit and helps passing traffic to know that I am there. And when I am exhausted at the end of a long day or a long week, willing friends can load my bike into their pickup trucks and drive me home.

The same aids are available in life. Prophets and apostles share with us each conference and in the Ensign the way the storms of life will blow on the road ahead. Scriptures keep our minds filled with truth and free from the mental and spiritual traps in the philosophies of men. Frequent and faithful prayer keeps our paths lit and our spirits in tune with the still, small voice that will guide and protect us from danger.

And when we are exhausted, we can remember the words of Amos:

For, lo, he that formeth the mountains, and createth the wind, and declareth unto man what is his thought, that maketh the morning darkness, and treadeth upon the high places of the earth, The Lord, The God of hosts, is his name.

One night near the beginning of the ministry of Christ, a "great storm of wind" began to fill his ship with water. Christ's disciples awoke him from his sleep, panicked at the possibility of drowning in the storm-tossed sea. Christ arose, "and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm".

Just as Christ can calm the winds, he can lift the burdens in our lives. Through Christ, we can feel the relief of forgiveness, the strength to endure and the great calm of the Holy Ghost. As we put our trust in Christ, our friend, we will be able to exclaim:

Master, the terror is over.
The elements sweetly rest.
Earth's sun in the calm lake is mirrored, 
And heaven's within my breast.

Linger, O blessed Redeemer!
Leave me alone no more,
And with joy I shall make the blest harbor
And rest on the blissful shore.

1 comment:

  1. Another metaphor I remembered during a particularly hard ride this week is the role our mind plays with our performance. On my bike, I've found that focusing my thoughts on the obstacles of the ride-- the stiff wind or sore muscles, etc.-- only impedes my progress. These are thoughts that tempt a person to make excuses, to justify less-than-extraordinary effort, to doubt and to accept failure.

    Two alternatives work much better. First, focusing my thoughts outside the ride delegates the ride itself to the dictates of my underlying character. In "autopilot", I often look up to notice I've made significant progress without dwelling on the struggle involved with getting there.

    Second, there is great utility in the concentrated mental focus on an objective. The acknowledgement of difficulty offset by the sincere belief in victory can summon extraordinary accomplishment. On these rides, when intense focus is given to a solution, together with a tailwind, I often find myself setting new personal records or reaching speeds sometimes in excess of 10 mph above my normal pace. In headwinds the end accomplishment may not seems as significant, but I am more appreciative of the battle and the strength gained.

    So again-- mental attention matters.