That Place

I couldn’t begin to explain to someone who hasn’t been there, what is good about that place. It’s a benighted place, but a simpler one as well. When you’re there, maybe you begin to understand who and what you really are. Maybe it’s the only place you can go to get better at being yourself.

OK, let me not be so cryptic.

You’re on the side of a hill. The hill can be a hill, or it can be a mountain. A false flat often also works. Based on your fitness level, some amount of time passes while you are there, and you become uncomfortable. The first dawning awareness of discomfort is like the beaded curtain entrance to the place. You have a vague idea of what’s on the other side, light and shapes, but you don’t really know until you’ve passed through.

My maximum heart rate, by the standard calculation, is 169bpm (220 – my age (51)). The place exists in a theoretical space somewhere between 145 and 155bpm, give or take. It’s not the red zone, where you burn out fairly quickly, but just below it. There is a whole fitness chain, called Orange Theory, dedicated to the idea that this is fertile territory for training, but what they’re referring to is a clinical conception of the ‘orange zone.’ They’re talking about inputs (work) and outcomes (fitness).

That’s not what I’m looking for in that place, or at least not all I find.

It’s peace. Ok, it begins with a struggle, with some suffering. But, let this not be an ode to suffering. Suffering is an essential ingredient in the recipe unfortunately, but what I want, where I’m desperate to be, is on the other side of the suffering. I can’t get there without my body and my mind (which are one thing in reality) settling. Accepting.

There in the orange, you make peace with struggle. THAT. That is what I’m looking for when I go there. I want to make peace with the struggle inside my body and mind. I want to hover there, in that peace, as long as I can. It’s an elevated, meditative place where body and mind are merged and no longer fighting each other for control. They come together because they have to, because you’ve made them, a pair of young siblings on a long road trip.

It’s not an easy place to get to. Like Platform 9 3/4 from the Harry Potter books, you have to go through a wall to gain access, and the only way to go through the wall is to believe truly there is a destination on the other side.

Anyway, when I’m tired and restless at home and dreaming about riding my bike, that’s the place I think of going. That’s the mind state I’m trying to access, and the place I’m trying to stay, even after I stop turning the pedals.

Join the conversation
  1. khal spencer says

    That heart rate “red zone” is a wonderful, ethereal place. The nice thing about having mountains in these parts is if I want to, I get rev up the heart rate to pretty close to my max and keep it there for a while and get into this zone where I seem a little detached from myself but still in myself. It is a cool feeling, irregardless of whether one does it for fitness or just shits and giggles.

    1. Emlyn Lewis says

      Khal – As you know, I am a BIG fan of both shits and giggles. Fitness is an interesting side benefit.

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