In India, during important festivities, extravagantly adorned elephants are paraded through narrow streets with deity on their backs. The streets are lined with vendors displaying delicious smelling treats and shiny jewelry. The elephants, by nature, are very curious and playful. In an attempt to capture the sparkle and delight they become very distracted and swing their large trunks from side to side. You can imagine the destruction and chaos this causes. In an attempt to stay the elephants curiosity and the turmoil it creates, their trainers coax them into wrapping their trunks around a bamboo stick, giving them something to focus on, as to not be distracted by everything around them.
I explained the elephants and the bamboo sticks while teaching a cycle class today and asked each participant to identify what their “bamboo stick” was. What is that something in their life that is constant, immoveable, trustworthy, something that offers hope and motivates them to want to keep going? Is there anything so all encompassing for us to focus on that successfully assists us in surpassing the distractions, hurt, pain, and struggle, that will help us reach our goals and cross the finish line? I explained that truly there are only two forces, love and fear. I then asked from which place their source originated.
If you’ve ever cycled, especially in a class setting, you know that often times, staying on the bike and enduring through the hills, resistance or sprints can be daunting to say the least, as is life, when faced with those challenges which are seemingly impossible to endure.
I’m convinced my brain does not work like most others. Generally in cycle class, as my heart is pounding, my legs are screaming and sweat is dripping from my face, I’m thinking about how much this reminds me of life, rather than the fact I’m even on a bike. I don’t know if this is true for others but often, when trying to stay focused and get through something hard, whether in the gym or elsewhere, I become so overwhelmed with distractions and the weight of life, that the task at hand gets heavier and heavier until my body weakens and I begin to feel like I can’t go on.
Having identified their focus or “bamboo stick”, I then asked the participants to identify the distractions that may keep them from reaching their goal on this ride. What are the things, either mentally, physically, or outside of them selves that may hinder them and keep them from staying, rather than climbing off the bike and running.
Of course my mind was far from cycle class as I was thinking about my bamboo stick and distractions…. I was looking at things on a much larger scale.
My bamboo stick is most definitely The Savior. Having experienced some things in my life that no man, substance or scientist can fix, I can assure you I have searched high, low, and under every rock twice looking for a way to control my life and the circumstances it has presented. After countless and tireless episodes of repeatedly banging my head against the wall only to find again and again that I am not in charge, I can confidently say that the only reliable and effective “bamboo stick” is The Savior.
Distractions. What are my distractions? I took some notes…. What others think of me and the way I handle my challenges. The constant chatter in my head about my body not looking the way I want it to. My relationship with my spouse and children. What the people at church think. What the people in my classes think. My past that I so faithfully drag around with me. Comparing myself to others. The hurt I watch others suffer and internalize. Daily mistakes I beat myself up for. Along with my phone, checking social media, and worrying that my home and yard are not what they should be.
I frequently see a popular picture of Christ that has disturbed me at times. He is in a red robe with a white undergarment and the background is some shade of brown. When I look at Christ’s eyes in this painting I am unsure of what I see. Most often when I glance at this picture of Him I assume He is disappointed in me and is telling me to get my crap together. Recently, after a long desperate look into those eyes my opinion changed. I see unconditional love first, followed by concern for me, compassion and understanding, but also an earnest pleading for me to stay close to Him and to trust Him. I see understanding in His eyes and sense Him telling me He knows how I feel. He knows my pain, my fear, my worry and my hurt. I feel Him looking into the very depth of my soul and lovingly reassuring me that in the end it will all be okay. There will be peace, joy and love for all.
As my mind came back to cycle class and I felt my glutes burning, I thought, “thank heavens for good music and friends who surround me or I’d never finish this ride.” Without thinking twice I asked the participants in class, “can you imagine doing this class alone in here with no music?” We have tools, we have gifts and blessings we’ve been given to get us through this life, this journey that at times can be way too much to do alone. We have family, friends, loving strangers who follow the Savior’s example and love unconditionally, comforting those in need of comfort. We have scriptures, prophets and yoga. We have a Savior.
As we continually increased the resistance on the bike during our “endurance push”, I noticed my legs pushing hard against the resistance of the pedals. It’s common in cycling to primarily engage our quads and focus only on pushing. Seasoned riders realize the importance of engaging their hamstrings to pull, as well as their inner thighs to connect the push and the pull, creating smooth continuous circles, and becoming one with the bike, thus working with the bike rather than fighting against it.
This is exactly what I need to do… stop fighting against the Savior and trying to convince myself I can do this alone. I need to become one with Him and allow Him to ease my burdens. I need to let go of doubt and stop questioning Him when He tells me that the gift of His Atonement is for me. I need to trust and believe Him when He repeatedly lets me know He is there and always will be and that I can feel peace if I will just lay my burdens at His feet and walk with Him.
It was at about this time when a song came on, the words went something like this, “it’s good to be alive right about now”. Immediately I felt a weight lifted and realized, it is only with and through the Savior I will ever feel joy in each moment regardless of my circumstances. It IS good to be alive right about now, and we will always be alive because of our Savior and His gift and resurrection.
As I have pondered over the life of the Savior and whether or not He truly is the Son of our living God and Savior, I have compared Him to Gandhi or Buddha and all the other great men who lived and served. I realized there is one major difference that reassures me that He is in fact who He says He is. He died, He was resurrected, and He lives. There were multiple witnesses of this. He lives. He is my Savior and Redeemer, my focus, and He lives.