Claudio from Chile, and Mark from the Netherlands, are challenging themselves into physical endurance, change and novelty. The experiment is a 6 month journey on and off a bicycle, into body and mind. It is a self-discovery adventure through Chile, Bolivia, Argentina and Brazil where they will test how to deal with new circumstances and how to improve their human abilities (science based). Subjects like awareness, dealing with fear, engineering biochemistry, focus, and the body-mind connection play an essential role in this experiment. The bicycle in this journey is an exceptional tool but also a symbol for freedom. Freedom from the mind.
Cycling for Stars is a Dutch foundation and the umbrella under which this initiative operates. Cycling for Stars uses the bicycle around the world to create awareness and it believes in collective change through individual growth. This project is about a new way of being, a new human, with thinking in a clear and focused mind that governs body, emotions and energy. The goal is to present concrete tools that resonate with people who are serious to take action towards their personal growth.
This physical and mental experiment—also in extreme circumstances—will show us what happens when we “radically” change our lives and make new habits that benefit body, but even more so, the mind. Nowadays people are bombarded with information while the mind needs clarity. Yuval Harari in his book Homo Deus said that “In ancient times having power meant having access to data, today having power means knowing what to ignore.”
Awareness and brain nourishment form the framework of this project. We will test how to use mindfulness techniques on and off the bicycle to train presence and focus. We practice skills how to deviate from daily distractions and the default mode network, also called the task negative network. This is the brain region that is responsible for mind chatter, known in Buddhist tradition as the monkey mind—an inside and restless voice that ruminates and worries about the past and future (or about what clothes to wear tomorrow).
Exercise & Experience
According to clinical psychologist and neuroscientist Steve Ilardi, we need to move to activate key circuits in the brain that enhance energy, mood, and motivation. “It’s the best antidepressant out there.” He says exercise also enhances our cognitive function, memory, and attention.
In addition, Professor Gerd Kempermann (M.D.) states that a new, enriching, and exciting environment brings about complex cognitive processes in the brain. It’s an insecure environment that needs cognitive flexibility. Combining these complex cognitive behaviors with exercise will result in the making of new nerve cells in the brain. “Specifically, new neurons are added to the network of the hippocampus, the ’gateway to memory,’ dependent on activity and experience.”
The relevance and message of cycling in a totally new environment, is that for new neural connections and cognitive growth people have to leave their comfort zone. We aim to demonstrate—in our results but also in real time—what processes are at play, how the central nervous system reacts to change and the adaptive powers of the brain. Not only for crazy cyclists but also for people in their daily lives who have innovative ideas, who want to start a business, a new relationship or who constantly delay going to the gym. Unfortunately many of us suffer from procrastination, rumination about “what might happen” or “what others might think.” In many cases it’s the monkey talk in their mind that is affecting their ability to change and act. These fixed patterns in our brain dictate our lives for over 50% according to a Harvard study and in order to change these patterns, people have to rewrite their program—exercise and new experience are tools to do just that.
Fundamental questions we will look to answer: what role does novelty and exercise play in enhancing focus and motivation? How can we un-stress ourselves? Why is change so difficult and what happens when we change our habits and environment? How to quiet and clear the mind through cycling and mindfulness?
Developments in neuroscience and the overall mind-body connection are going through the roof. An easy example are the countless scientifically proven meditation benefits. It can no longer be seen as hippie stuff, but still, many people look at it that way. This experiment is science based but we will have subjective parameters that we cannot avoid. We won’t be able to measure mood or motivation for example, or how the practice of “being present” translates into focus or reaching flow states.
Therefore, sharing—and letting people participate in the project—becomes important to increase the number of subjective measurements. Concretely, this means people can participate and for the long term we’ll present an open source initiative for sharing thoughts, ideas and experiences.
1st stage (Sept – December)
A cycling adventure is a compelling way to showcase the process of what we like to call reinventing or reprogramming. Hence, Mark will do a solo ride in the remote areas of Bolivia, Argentina and Chile to go into extreme exercise and novelty. The objective is how to train mind and perception. Like a muscle. What impact will lack of resources, pain, and insecurity have and how does this affect his brain-chemistry? In what ways can he reframe the negative towards a positive approach?
In this stage, Claudio is physically and mentally preparing for the cycling adventure with Mark in Patagonia and Brazil. He is working on the inner and is changing his fixed patterns—a journey in itself which takes courage! He practices in Santiago through new habits and mindfulness training and started in the second week of September carving a new habit with the morning routine. His days begin from a new biochemistry standpoint to influences his energy for the rest of the day.
2nd stage (Jan – March)
Mark and Claudio team up to cycle for 6-8 weeks through Patagonia and Brazil. In this phase the challenge will be taken to a higher level and more testing will be done as well physically as mentally. Putting practice in reality, Claudio will go deeper in the experiment, deeper in the changes made in his brain and routines. Can he already disconnect from the chatter in his mind and be more present? How will his body and mind respond leaving the comfort zone? And, what effects will the habits and mindfulness training have on somebody going on a cycling adventure for the first time?
People need inspiration and examples. They need something they can relate to—experience based—with the science to back it up. The art is to communicate it in a way that actually inspires towards taking action without telling “what people should do.” We translate our findings into concrete tools that can be implemented by people at home and in their daily lives. The bicycle is an excellent messenger but we are very conscious that not everybody has the ambition to go cycling in a desert at 4000 meter high.
All people from pre-order sales and those who are involved receive a practical e-book on subjects like: energy, discipline, motivation, cognition skills, neurochemistry, mindfulness and food with accompanying recipes. To appeal to a wide range of people, the book uses the cycling adventure with its stories to convey a message of personal growth.
What is the relation between the earlier mentioned default mode network in the brain and safety? What role can mindfulness play in traffic when people practice to be more present? These are questions we will look into and cyclists who buy the pre-order of the book can send us their safety tips for cycling in Santiago. The best tips—and in addition, the safe cycling experience of 3 world cyclists—will be combined and presented to the Comisión Nacional de Seguridad de Tránsito in Santiago.
How to prepare for a cycling holiday? How to promote the wonders of Patagonia to stimulate (sustainable) cycling tourism? Sebastian has worked 4 years(!) on making the first Patagonia by bike guide. He works on our team, offering a bicycletouring workshop and is involved in making the route we follow and the yearly cycling journey. The safety guidelines will be presented in his updated book version and we want to promote his work in the cycling community.
“Sometimes when I’m cycling, and I’m really into it, then after an hour or so, the good ideas just start flying in.” ~ Nelson, MFC, Santiago de Chile.
What does an empty cycling mind have in common with art? How to harness creativity? And, how to consciously reprogram our mind in favor of our goals? Through a different discipline we aim to show how that looks in practice. Concretely: art design for the e-book, a chapter on “the art of cycling” and an exhibition at the connecting minds meet-up.
Claudio’s 6 month program will be offered in a condensed 3 month version for the following years. People can follow the program, share their feedback and experience in the e-book updates. This is an open source approach to a better understanding of the self and how that relates to daily life. For 2021 we plan to offer the first journey.
Community building: connecting minds
All people involved can join for a meet-up event where we present the first results of the e-book. We will have speakers from different disciplines and have an auction for art objects that relate to this project. The meet-up emphasizes on networking, sharing ideas and connecting different minds.
The 5-hour workweek
According to the OECD, the output per worker in Chile is stuck at half the OECD average, with too many workers employed in activities that generate little added value per work hour. In the current discussion about going from 45 to a 40-hour workweek we present the 5-hour workweek. A guideline document that takes 5 hours a week to follow with the most concrete and practical tools we present. For us the new Chileno gains 5 hours a week to invest in mind nourishment. We propose that the new Chileno is more productive in 40 hours than in 45 because of the shift in energy, mood and clearance of possible brain fog.