Tenzin "Nam" Namdolis the co-owner of RonsBikes and a founding member of Radical Adventure Riders. Nam has extensively bicycle toured Turtle Island as well a handful of tours overseas. Nam is an India-born, Tibetan immigrant currently tending land on traditional Wangunks and Nehantick territory. She finds strength in Spirit and learns how to live tenderly in her soft-animal-body by bicycling, making campfires, and obsessing over a Just world for all sentient beings. You can follow her internal/external journeys into these themes on her Instagram @goodolenam.
Do you know the parable of the blind men and the elephant? The story goes that several humans who do not possess sight are all trying to identify an elephant based on touch only. Each human touches a different part of the elephant and comes to a conclusion on what the animal is based on their individual direct sensory perception; missing the mark on accurately identifying the massive animal in its complete form. Instead, coming up with colorful ideas on new kinds of animals of fantasy.
I’ve heard this story told a number of ways as I’ve reaped the inheritance of Buddhist teachings since childhood.
Recognizing the uncomfortably ableist elements of the story, it’s one I’ve been coming to recently as we collectively feel different parts of the elephant.
The tricky part is that our elephant doesn’t sit still. The world continues to churn new realities for us seemingly every week, so the elephant we are feeling keeps changing, creating further distortions. As we are all swept up in the currents of movement toward justice and dignity in defense of precious life, it’s been comforting to turn to the things that stay constant.
I’ve been finding the steadiness I seek through a ritual one hundred mile full moon bike ride on these Hammonasset Lands that nurtured me in my youth. I can feel the celestial body watching over us, beaming as a balm to so many deep wounds we are witnessing.
I’ve been observing this ritual since the full Pink moon of April. The Buddha reached enlightenment under the watchful gaze of a full moon, so as I ride these alone and often just with my thoughts, spinning my legs in repetitive, transic motion, I can feel the tensions I’ve been holding transform into something else entirely. Tara Brach, Buddhist psychologist and author, may call this “the sacred pause”, where we create moments of pause to counter an overwhelmingly compulsive need to react. Choosing instead to create silence and space for something else to bloom. Something softer, maybe kinder, but certainly something good and true. Maybe even the space big enough to comprehend the entire elephant.
In the five (seven by the time you read this) observations of the full moon century, she has taken many forms- sometimes arriving with deep clay colorings, big and low in the sky. Other times she’s completely hidden by clouds that threaten thunder and rain. On two occasions, she couldn’t be seen easily as the sun still asserted his dominance on the land. Regardless of the eye’s ability to take in her glow, she’s been there shining her brightness; representing Truth in a way that would blush the cheeks of Bertand Russell.
Seeing these different expressions of the moon has taught me that I have been approaching my centuries, a hundred mile ride, in a way that reinforces the lessons of the blind men and the elephant. Let me explain: I have never met more opinionated people than cyclists and I, without hesitation, include myself in this generalization. It’s as if each canon of the cyclo-sphere has touched a different part of the cycling elephant and falsely concluded, as the blind men had, on the shape and scale of the animal overall.
The conventional wisdom of doing a century in a day meant a few things: 1) it’s a road ride 2) must wear bibs/jersey and most importantly 3) you must be clipped in. These three things, I would learn, are based on the supremacy of speed for the experience and do not capture holistic benefits to be reaped from such an experience. These day rides have shown me how much we as individuals have the power to decide what is possible for us without input and judgment from others. From the small scale to elephant scale. The full moon has served as the constant I need to keep myself steady as the earth falls below my feet, each one has brought different lessons, realizations, and blessings.
I offer you the quick and dirty details of each ride thus far as I prepare for the Corn moon:
Pink Moon of April
- Be grateful and express thanks for the blessings of a home, love, and working bicycle
- Bring a slice of pie and spork to eat that pie on every major ride. Pie becomes a must-have for all future moon rides.
- Befriend birds and other wild animals since all your human friends are in quarantine. Wearing a merino wool kit because it’s still pretty chilly outside.
Flower Moon of May
- OMG FLOWERS ARE SO PRETTY while listening to Parable of the Sower audiobook- finding truth in fiction for a future I do not wish to nurture but profoundly comforted by the notion that God is Change
- As I accept the big Changes happening all around me, I find an appreciation for things that are comfortable and familiar. Brought about this realization because I cross paths with two good friends I haven’t seen in a long time on the ride. Home game advantage.
- Say prayers in three languages for all the turtles who didn’t make it to the other side of the road
Strawberry Moon of June
- Mostly spent thinking about local action for Black Lives while listening to “How to Be An Anti Racist” on my headphones
- Treated to the sweet scent of the fragrant rose bushes and notice all the snakes which symbolize transformation and death
- It’s getting really hot and humid out so I begin to question the kits I’ve been riding in these last three centuries; I begin to wonder other possibilities, breaking from a convention of cycling canon
Thunder Moon of July
- I’m smiling a lot because my friend Sam is observing this one with me, all the way in another state. We both listen to N.K. Jemisin’s “The City We Became” to deepen our bond
- Learn that the opposite of depression is not happiness but playfulness and remind myself to be a little more playful
- Decided on wearing a linen cycling jumpsuit which allowed for airflow and a breeze all day (and I thought I looked really cute) but still wearing clipless cycling shoes and suffered pruned up, soggy feet at the end of the day
Sturgeon Moon of August
- Happens the day before a major storm leaves hundreds of thousands of homes without power for days, I can feel the storm energy building as I have my first tele-therapy session
- Wearing Bedrocks for the first time and choosing to listen to music that makes me dance on the bike all day honoring my wish for more playfulness. Turns out, I can ride just as fast in the bedrocks as I had wearing cycling shoes
- Breaking all three rules of cycling centuries (wore a skort and cute crop top) and not feeling any less of a “real” cyclist
I thank you for your attention in reading these words and invite you to challenge any conventional wisdom that doesn’t match your truth. I’ll leave you with wishes and a quote from D.H. Lawrence.
May the comfort of a constant keep you sure footed as you traverse big changes.
May you always know the way home to yourself.
May the conditions that harm be transformed into conditions of care.
“[People] are not free when they are doing just what they like. [They] are only free when they are doing what the deepest self likes. And there is getting down to the deepest self! It takes some diving.”