Home' Teacher : December 2010 Contents Every morning I like to ride between 30 and 45 kilometres on my bike. This
means getting up at around 5.15am in order to fit a ride in before going to
work. Sometimes it can be hard to struggle out of bed, particularly du ring
the middle of winter, and especially over the last few weeks when the north-
westerly winds have been so strong and unremitting. By the time I return home
after an hour and a half of exercise, though, I feel awake and ready for the day.
This routine has been part of my life for so long now, that if I don't exercise
first thing in the morning, I find it takes me a while to get into gear -- my mind
is not as clear as it should be and the decisions don't flow as easily. I'm sure
that in part it's just that the exercise triggers a sense of physical wellbeing,
and an endorphin rush that is particularly addictive, but I think there's more
to the morning ride than this.
Even in su mmer at 5.15 in the morning it's dark and, invariably, quiet.
My ride normally takes me down Beach Road along the south- eastern side
of Melbourne's Port Phillip Bay, either north or south, and there's rarely any
traffic -- a few early morning commuters, some equally obsessive individuals
on foot or on bike, an occasional fox.
I'm still waking up for the first 15 minutes, but then the rhythm of riding
kicks in, my heart rate goes up, and I start to enjoy the ride and the uninter-
rupted mental space, with no noise or disturbance to intervene. All I need do
is concentrate on the road ahead -- a lesson I learned the hard way. A broken
collarbone in 2002 taught me the dangers of losing concentration.
Nonetheless, the ride still provides me with plenty of time to think and to
Unfortunately, contemporary life provide us with few opportunities for
quiet reflection and thought, and too often these moments are intruded upon
by other noise, from the ringtone of our mobile phones to elevator muzak.
Indeed, if we experience silence and quiet, most of us seek to replace it with
noise and distraction. It's as if, as a society, we're increasingly uncomfortable
unless we're surrounded by sound -- the ubiquitous iPod is an iconic symbol
of this societal need.
It's in the quiet time on my bike each morning, though, that I rehearse my
day, reflect on decisions I may need to make or have made, compose a newsletter
article, write a speech or simply de-clutter my mind. We all need quiet time and
we should all find quiet time. It's important that we find space in which we just
think, preferably at a time or in an environment where there are few distrac-
tions, and where we can find the opportunity to quieten our minds a little.
Earlier this year, I heard an Indian academic, Professor Debashis Chatterjee,
speak on what he termed timeless leadership. Fusing Western traditions of
thought with Indian, Chatterjee believes that effective leadership requires
reflective silence, a discipline which contemporary society has lost. He sug-
gests that creativity occurs when there's an opportunity to find the calm eye
in the centre of the storm of activity that is the brain. Finding this calm eye
comes through quiet and reflection.
For me, the calm eye comes during exercise, and it's during this time that
I also feel at my most creative. I'd recommend the early morning to anyone
seeking quiet time and creative inspiration!
Maybe I'll see you on Beach Road. T
Simon Gipson is the Head of St Michael's Grammar School, Melbourne.
FOR SIMON GIPSON, AN EARLY
MORNING BIKE RIDE ISN'T SIMPLY
A WAY OF GETTING HIS MIND
INTO GEAR, IT'S THE KEY TO
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