FPMT Around the World
By Steve Nicklas
Steve Nicklas, an FPMT student living in the U.K., decided to turn his cycling hobby into an opportunity to raise funds for Land of Joy, an FPMT-affiliated project which plans to create a retreat community in the U.K. countryside. Steve rode his bicycle across the North of England, from Morecambe to Bridlington, on the Way of the Roses cycle route and shares his story with Mandala.
In August 2012, I had the privilege of doing a sponsored bike ride to raise funds for the retreat center project Land of Joy. To many people the 170-mile distance from coast to coast seems like an epic journey. However, when you break it up into bite-size pieces, it isn’t really. In fact, when you cycle like this, you realize what a small place England is. You begin to wonder why we bother with all the cars, buses, trains and planes. Do we need to get anywhere that quickly? We take it for granted, but there is a certain joy in the natural wonder of cycling. The way the bike balances remaining upright when in motion is itself incredible!
I was away from all the noise, the distractions and the big machines, out there on the tops of those hills without anyone else in sight apart from the occasional sheep. I had attached a Tara mantra to my front wheel and a Chenrezig to my back wheel to transform my bike into a mobile makeshift prayer wheel. I have calculated that over a distance of 270 km (170 miles) with wheels the circumference of 0.7 m I would have said around 390,000 mantras on each wheel. I am not sure if this works, but nevertheless, seeing the mantra on the front wheel go round kept me mindful and focused on why I was there. It was like a retreat, except I swapped my meditation cushion for a bicycle seat and the gompa for a temple made of hills and valleys.
My retreat boundaries were quite clear – get up, have breakfast and cycle. I was in the “Land of Joy” the moment I set off, apart from the bike seat, which is not as comfortable as a cushion. I was on that machine for six hours a day with no one to talk to, so it was also partly a silent retreat. Put it this way, I did a lot of thinking and reflecting.
About three quarters of the way across I arranged to meet with three Buddhist friends and we went to the stupa at Harewood House. We said prayers and dedications for Land of Joy to come to fruition. It meant so much to share this aim with sangha friends as part of the journey.
When I arrived at the finish in Bridlington, I did feel a tremendous sense of achievement. The sun shone for a change, making it a beautiful evening by the sea. Complete strangers who happened to be standing by the finishing point came up to me and despite us not knowing each other, free of any indifference, they celebrated my achievement with me. I feel the sponsored bike ride has helped to bring people together a little bit more and that it was very worthwhile.
I’d like to try to build on this success. I would like to do it again next year. Perhaps others can join me next time. If there were three of us we could maybe raise three times as much. I found family and friends were willing to sponsor me even though they weren’t Buddhist. I intend to keep my personal Land of Joy Sponsored Bike Ride page on Facebook if you want to “like” it. Together we all managed to raise almost £900. Perhaps next year we could raise even more!
For more, you can contact Steve via email.
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