Over a Beer: How to Suffer Less

Photo: Marcel Slootheer
Photo: Marcel Slootheer

Editor’s Note: “Over a Beer” is a regular column written by Greg Heil. While Greg is the Editor in Chief for Singletracks.com, any opinions expressed in this column are his alone and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Singletracks.com.

Life takes effort. Sometimes it seems that every bit of forward movement in life is like pushing your bike up a steep mountainside. And just when you think it can’t get any more difficult, the trail turns so steep, so narrow, so treacherous, that you’re forced to throw your bike across your shoulders, adding an extra 30 pounds of awkward metal tubing and mud-covered rubber onto your shoulders.

In that moment, it can feel like the weight of the world has been made manifest and laid across your scrawny human back.

Whenever I reach this point in life, both literally and metaphorically, I have to ask myself how I move forward from here. Is the weight of the world really on my shoulders? How do I deal with what is at least a constant feeling of pressure?

Seneca has some wisdom to impart on this topic:

“. . .memory brings back the agony of fear while foresight brings it on prematurely. No one confines his unhappiness to the present.”

Now that’s what I call a hike-a-bike!

While yes, shouldering your mountain bike and carrying it up the hill can feel like agony, perhaps the bigger agony is not confining that unhappiness to that singular moment. If, through the entirety of the ride, you’re worrying about the impending doom of the hike-a-bike, how can you fully enjoy the swooping section of sweet singletrack before the massive climb?

Agonizing over what happened in the past also brings more unhappiness and agony into our lives: “Oh, I really should have mowed the lawn before I went out for my ride.” Or, “wow, what an abysmal week of work that was!”

Choosing not to rehash the past and not worry about the future allows us to both enjoy all the happiness that the current moment offers, and to also mitigate the amount that we suffer. By only experiencing the suffering of the present moment we drastically limit the amount of suffering that we experience within our beings. Our experience of suffering can be great or it can be little in any given moment, and that experience of suffering isn’t necessarily tied to what is currently taking place.

If you are carrying your mud-covered bike up a mountainside and are also rehashing your horrific work week while simultaneously worrying about the bills that need to be paid when you get home, you’re carrying the weight of the world times three!

Focus only on getting to the top of the mountain ridge and by so doing, the climb will be so much easier!