Derek Sivers wrote a great little blog post called "Relax for the same result" about riding his bike. He compares the time to complete a fifteen-mile loop while hustling ("full-on, 100 percent, head-down, red-faced sprinting") and relaxed ("[t]ake it easy, nice and slow"). The difference? Two minutes. He notices:
And what a difference in experience! To go the same distance, in about the same time, but one way leaves me exhausted, and the other way, rejuvenated.
I've seen something similar with my bike commute. The difference between pushing it through the four mile ride and just drifting through the journey can be about five minutes.
It's nice to move in a way that I arrive rejuvenated. Sometimes I'm so in tune with the current that my ride feels like an expression of the Taoist concept of wu wei, a kind of effortless flow. I think to myself, "Yes, this is what it feels like to be alive."
But I think there's value to remembering what it feels like to ride the edge, to see what's on the other side of that five minute difference. I don't mean a frustrated effort, but rather slipping into the current intentionally. Summiting a hill with vigor, expertly leaning into a turn, or racing through a straight stretch leaves me pulsing with energy. Here, too, I think to myself, "Yes, this is what it feels like to be alive."
Ebb and energy: two sides of the same coin; two journeys on the same river.