“Four wheels move the body. Two wheels move the soul.” – Unknown
What does “the freedom of the open road” mean to you? I’m not sure it meant much to me until I took my first long-distance motorcycle trip from Chicago to the Women & Motorcycling Conference in Athens, Georgia in 2006 with my dear friend, Sandra. We were somewhere in Tennessee, riding along on our motorbikes, and I felt so free. I thought to myself, “No one knows (other than Sandra) where I am, and it feels exhilarating. I guess this is what ‘they’ mean when ‘they’ say ‘ahhhhh, the freedom of the open road’.”
This was my first glimpse into the spirituality of motorcycling. “The spiritual of motorcycling?”, you might be thinking, “C’mon”. Yep, I mean it. Freedom is a word that I associate with Spirit/God/My Divine/What or Whomever you want to call it. Think about it. If we felt truly free, wouldn’t it make sense that we would feel more at one with the Universe? Freedom means we have no worries. It means we can do what we like. It can feel very exciting. Think about the times you truly felt freedom. Even getting out of a relationship that no longer works can feel freeing. A little scary, sure, but free. And that’s how motorcycling can be too. And a little scary. What will happen? Will I be safe? Where am I going? Who will I meet? But there is a sense of excitement too. These same questions can be fun to think about as well as unnerving. Both can exist.
When you are operating a motorcycle, you have to pay attention. You have to focus. If you don’t, you could end up exactly where you don’t want to be. Hello, tree. And that is what meditation and mindfulness are about. Being right here, right now. When I teach meditation classes, I often talk about engaging in a mind/body practice like yoga or Thai Chi. And I do consider motorcycle a practice as much as a past time. I focus. I feel free. I am in the moment.
Connection to Nature
On a bike vs being in a car, you can feel, smell, and hear the outdoors in a deeper way. I remember riding through northwest Wisconsin many years ago and caught the smell of lilacs. It made me smile and it opened my heart. Ha! Yes, I can smell the cows better too, but it’s all part of the package. I can see the brilliance of the sun unimpeded. I can see my surroundings in a deeper way.
How does it feel for you to be in a flow state? I experience it as being absorbed in the moment. Being at one with whatever I’m doing or who I am with. When we are in our flow state, we are tapped into our intuition. I’d even say that we are better connected to our Higher Self. It feels right and we don’t want to be anywhere else.
When you want to turn or go through a curve in the road in motorcycling, you have to lean into the turn. If you don’t lean, you won’t make the turn. Hello, tree. Or ditch. Or pavement. So, you have to trust the lean of the bike to pull you through. This takes faith, just like any risks we take in life. A nice journal prompt periodically is “Where I am afraid to take a risk for my own enjoyment, betterment, or achievement?” When you have an answer, weigh the pros and cons. If it feels right (and only you know that for yourself), go for it. Lean into it. Trust the lean, hit the throttle, and go.
When I was first learning to ride, it felt scary and stressful at times. I was lamenting to a friend that I didn’t think I could do it. The class was too hard. Maybe I wasn’t meant to do it. At the time, I was teaching an intense class with a steep learning curve at a large, international bank. To my worrying, my friend replied “well, now you know how your trainees feel in the class you teach. Don’t they make it through? Doesn’t it eventually click?” And from there, I found my resolve and went back to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation beginner class. And wouldn’t you know it? Half-way through class, it started to click. The turns weren’t so difficult. I wasn’t killing the engine anymore as I learned the friction zone between the throttle and the clutch. Whew! Sometimes you just have to have faith and perseverance.
The Spirituality of Motorcycling Through Expansion
There is an expansiveness in motorcycling. I now get the idea of thrill-seeking. Pushing ourselves beyond what we think we can do. For some thrill-seeking and taking risks can be riding a motorcycle or bungee jumping. For others, it may be asking someone on a date or going to a party without knowing anyone. It can cause fear, but it can also feel exhilarating if we let it. It can open our hearts and build faith in ourselves and the Universe. Find your flow and find your freedom. What is it you have been holding back from trying for fear of failure? What do you already do to find freedom, flow and faith?
“Sometimes it takes a whole tankful of fuel before you can think straight.” ― Anonymous