the jitensha metaphor

penny_farthing_bike_grand_bi-999pxPOSTCARD#75: Delhi: We bought an exercise bike from a Japanese lady who was leaving Delhi. It was a surprisingly large heavy thing with horns (NOVA fitness 700u). The delivery guys carried it into the spare room and that’s where it lives now. Jiab called it the jitensha – Japanese for bicycle:じてんしゃ remembering the bicycle she used to have when we lived in Japan. It got stolen – a sad story. So this big jitensha became the reincarnation of the one that was lost long ago. We started a routine of using the exercise bike and ‘jitensha’ became a verb, ‘to jitensha’, as in: are you going to jitensha? Jiab is Thai, and English is an improvisation, she speaks the language like playing a musical instrument. Everything is fun and it is such a lovely onomatopoeic word: ji-ten-sha… jitensha-jitensha-jitensha-jitensha, like the action of pedal crank, spinning chain wheel and everything about our jitensha is metaphorical; cycling through time in the present moment, situated firmly in the here-and-now, and the real sensation of going someplace but there are no wheels.

I get on the jitensha first thing in the morning. It’s the hot season, ceiling fan spinning, sleepy in the darkness and I wake up whizzing through streets and pathways of the mind, wind in my face and my eyes closed. Always downhill, no need to balance or steer or pay attention to where I’m going, there’s only this pleasing familiarity with the bicycle state of mind. Usually a four or five mile jaunt, not too hard, upper body swinging side to side with the pedaling movement, bare feet in pedal straps. Nothing else to do or worry about, thoughts arrive and depart, leaving fragments of things that form into something new, a memory of an event that happened long ago. Ah yes, I remember that… hold it for a moment then let it go. Now this, now that, things of no consequence. Focus on each one as it appears and disappears somewhere in these great landscapes seen rushing by.

Maybe it’s the blood circulation, a pleasing rush, and slight pressure behind the eyes seems to drive the thinking process. The intensity of making things into other things and the world out there is seen from the point of view of ‘me’ in here… the metaphorical self. I am on the receiving end of all this, I am the face in the mirror – look, that’s me. I think, therefore I am… a passing view of self and the hollowness of it all. Let it go and it’s gone, “the closer you look, the more it’s not there”. And then I’m inside a curious extended, freeze-framed thought moment, the all-inclusive presence of it and a sense of immensely distant things. No reference points and nothing left to think about. I’m not aware the thoughts have gone, just know they’re not there anymore. All that remains is the activity of Mind, not familiar with the ‘unthinking’ state and trying to fill the empty space with something, anything. Then that’s seen too, it falls away, and the jitensha spins off towards the horizon…

‘Wherever you go, you carry with you the sense of here and now. This is what distinguishes any present experience from memory. It reveals that space and time are in you and not the other way around. Most people are not acquainted with the sense of their being but only with the knowledge of their doing.’ [Wu Hsin]


The Wu Hsin quote comes from the superaalifragilistic blog/ Behind The Mind: The Lost Writings of Wu Hsin –   G   R   A   T   I   T   U   D   E   –


9 thoughts on “the jitensha metaphor

  1. We have a jitensha, too. Good for bad weather– heat, ice, etc. Good for cleaning the mind of intrusive thoughts. Giving them an audience and then letting them go, or listening to lectures. In the heat with a fan or AC. Husband finds it boring. But boring is soothing sometimes, when victim to overstimulation. Hope the heat is soon better there. And an early happy birthday!

    • It’s a new experience for me, having a jitensha in the house I can access any time. Something similar to meditation maybe (some folk would say that’s boring too). As you say, boring is soothing sometimes (and necessary) in a world of overstimulation. It’s about letting everything get left behind, somehow you have the sense of passing through it. Wonderful. Thanks for your comment and your birthday wishes…

  2. This post was filled with so many lovely reminders. I felt like I was walking through a national forest, reading those little wooden plaques that tell you what you are looking at, only in kind of an opposite sense, like I was taking a tour of space and time itself. At the park, those little wooden plaques tend to tell you what a particular phenomena is called, as if that about sums everything up. But \you gave a tour where each plaque was an opening into a much larger space, as if, in looking at the flower you’ve never seen before, you are reminded at once of “immensely distant things…” Thank you for the delightful walk in the park…


    • Thanks Michael, I really like the idea of these little wooden plaques that tell us what it could be that we are looking at – not what it ‘is’. The words say something about what it resembles, in a figure of speech. Convincing enough that we stop and read each one because it seems to provide some kind of an answer somehow, initiates a line of enquiry into the mystery of it all. Thus the walk in the park is more of a shared experience…

  3. I have a treadmill instead, and your description of such “active meditation” while pedaling remember me an old book, “Zen and running”, that described similar method using running instead cycling. Interesting quote from Wu Hsin, I will explore the blog you shared with us, thanks!

    • Two books on Amazon: ‘Zen and the Art of Running’ by Larry Shapiro and ‘The Zen of Running’ by Fred Rohe (1975). I think you mean the Fred Rohe? It’s the kind of thing I could easily read sometime, less than 80 pages. Thanks for the reference. I’ll think of you running on the spot, next time I’m cycling in the same place 🙂

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