Zen Motorcyclist: Coming Alive

Oct 04, 2015 View Comments by

Zen Motorcyclist: Coming AliveMotorcycle Meditation –

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” —Harold Thurman

I like the mental exercise of thinking and writing about the ways in which motorcycling has made me come alive. Riding started for me as an exercise in redirecting pain from a loss. It has become so much more and has been a conduit of change that has allowed me to become more rounded and open—and to seek challenge rather than retreat from it.

On a thousand mile solo roundtrip to visit my sister, something changed in me; and when I got back, I wasn’t the same person I was when I left. I came back feeling I had something to say that wouldn’t be contained. I didn’t know how, but I knew I’d start giving it voice in one way or another; and just a few short years later, I find myself writing this column for my favorite riding magazine. I always think of this quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.”

I think a lot of us, maybe all of us, go through a similar experience. Sometimes it’s the first ride, other times it’s a long, solo ride; but in either case, being alone inside your own head (I’ve referred to it as a meditation of sorts) has a tendency to allow things to settle, for priorities to realign, and for true desire to manifest.

Paulo Coelho’s boy in The Alchemist says, “My heart is afraid that it will have to suffer.” The Alchemist responds, “Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams …” I am still (by no means) an extrovert, but the on-going process of learning to ride proficiently has spilled over into other areas of my life in positive and profound ways. I now find it easier to see, and seek, dreams that I never realized were within reach.

To me, it has something to do with having to pay attention to so many continuously changing variables on the road. Each moment on the motorcycle has to be of the utmost importance. Focus has to be on the here and now, so we riders are in a perpetual state of mastering throttle, brakes, balance, coordination, road surface, traffic, weather, wind, and a million other variables. It can’t help but make you feel alive and inspire confidence in someone who does it well and knows it. Once that seed of confidence is planted and nurtured with increasing experience, knowledge, and skill, it grows deep roots and branches that reach out into work, relationships, and life in general.

The fact that the learning process continues for as many years as you ride means we can constantly strive to be better, yet we never attain perfection. There will always be adjustments to make, unique situations and scenarios to consider, and obstacles to overcome. That means we’re always striving for improvement, growth, and new experiences. When are we more alive than when we’re feeling those things?

In my case, I’m not sure if riding was a byproduct of reaching the point in life where I was ready for something to make me come alive or if it was the cause of that feeling. I don’t stop to question it very often. I do know for certain that there is no other place that affects those parts of me that motorcycling does—the places that make me feel most alive. When I’m riding, I’m acutely aware of the desire to move ahead, to get somewhere in the distance, or around the next bend and as good as the last moment felt. I can’t wait for the next one and the one after that.

Some people never take to riding. It doesn’t appeal to everyone, and for them there are other ways to find that life spark that riding provides; but I’ve been fortunate to meet many motorcyclists whose infectious love of life and uplifted spirit have been an inspiration. You can see that they have come alive. They can’t hide it, and as Mr. Thurman said, the world needs more people living their passions and serving as examples to others to live theirs in turn.


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About the author

I have been motorcycle commuting since 1998. I created Zen Motorcyclist (formerly Commuting Motorcyclist) in 2011 and work as a motojournalist, software developer, CAD designer and IT/CAD manager in the Surveying and Civil Engineering field.