Riding in airplane mode: Adventure as antidote

Mimi Mather: Mountain biking as meditation in Boulder

By Mimi Mather May 11 2018

Why sit when you can play outdoors?

This is my retort to the relentless mindfulness prescriptions I’ve encountered lately as the media, practitioners, family and friends all push me to devote time to meditation.

Boulder’s been home for 14 years, so I’m well aware of the town’s many meditation haunts. It’s real easy to find a meditation cushion around here, but it’s equally convenient to venture into the open space that surrounds our community.

I prefer the latter, nature, for calming the mind, rather than sitting cross-legged. Especially this time of year, when our arid landscape sprouts and the open spaces’ fleeting spring greens beckon.

I like to think of this as less an act of resistance to seated meditation and more of an acceptance of a primal urge to connect with and seek solace in nature.

Boulder’s open spaces provide an antidote to our modern lifestyle and a weekly Dawn Patrol ride at Betasso Preserve a group of my girlfriends and I do ensure a routine dose of outdoor salvation. Every Thursday, we meet at Eben G. Fine Park and start riding up Boulder Canyon before the sun crests the horizon. The Creek Path and the climb up Four Mile Canyon are the chit-chat portions of the Dawn Patrol.

The easy spinning on the path and pavement permits catching up on the usual — work, relationships, gear, upcoming adventures. Once we duck onto the trail at the Four Mile trailhead, things get more mindful.

Left: Evening riding at Betasso. Right: Morning at Betasso. Credits: Mimi Mather

As humans we evolved as outdoor creatures, yet we find ourselves confined to cubicles, coworking, and other indoor spaces for much of the day. I spend countless hours pecking at a laptop in ergonomically challenged positions.

On the trail, we counter this evolutionary mismatch and return to a natural environment more in keeping with our ancient genomes.

Along the descent to Four Mile Creek and the climb out of the drainage, we settle into our own rhythms. The body parts know what to do and operate subconsciously — eyes scout the line, while thumbs work the gears and seat post, and index fingers remain poised to tap the breaks if needed.

Chalky white legs, newly freed from winter wears, are eager to pedal or pounce depending on the terrain. We roll the familiar arc of each climbing turn to gain the ridge where we meet the sun. No longer talking, now we’re breathing and awakening.

On Dawn Patrol, we ride in airplane mode. For a couple hours we are untethered. No longer wired into the media hive and on edge waiting to learn what chalkboard the Trump administration has scraped its nails down next.

Our awareness shifts to the hyperlocal, to nature unfolding in our path. The rocks entombed in the tred. The moss growing in the shady spots. The spacing between the ponderosas as we dart around Benjamin Loop.

With thousands of acres of open space in Boulder County, our enclave in the booming Front Range provides many salves to our modern lifestyle (and alternatives to the meditation cushion) and for that I am very grateful.

As our small lady posse regroups on Canyon after careening down the Link Trail, that gratitude manifests in big grins and knowing nods. Once again, that fast, flowy rocky descent provided the rejuvenation we crave to start another day.

Mimi on the trail near Fruita, Colorado’s mountain bike mecca. Credit: Mimi Mather.

Feature image: Mimi Mather barrelling down a Betasso trail this spring. Credit: Mimi Mather.