Embrace Your Inner Biker

I had a nice surprise this evening to discover that a letter I sent to BIKE magazine, Britain’s best selling motorcycle mag that also goes out to the US,  made ‘Star Letter’ in the December issue.

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The original unedited version …

So here I am, back on a bike after 28 years and maybe I’m only back on it because I’m surfing a wave of resurgent motorbike consciousness that is sweeping the world.

My decision to get a bike again seemed to happen overnight though doubtless it’s been festering since I sold my last one, my KH triple for just £90 to buy my soon to be betrothed an engagement ring only for it to be lost a month later on a girls night out. I’m not bitter. I hardly recall it.

But look what’s happened. Bike magazine is rejigged, and wonderful I might add, and It’s lovely, though slightly disconcerting ‘at my age,’ to find oneself excited for the next issue, Marc Marquez storms in to Moto GP encouraging record crowds at Silverstone and even making my sister, persuaded to watch it on the tele, and who had never watched motorcycle racing before, to squeal and nearly spill her tea during a Marquez move. My sister doesn’t spill her tea for nobody, she’s a northerner you understand.

Scott Redding is doing, what no Brit has done since Sheene, Yamaha launch the MT-09, Royal Enfield launch worldwide and electric bikes start making their mark. I came back in the nik of time it seems.

I was thrilled once out on the road to find that head nodding is still part of biking and going strong though with a tad of snobbery it appears.

Motorcycling is without doubt a parallel universe, not quite as separate as the parallel universe of canals and inland waterways but more like a matrixian, intertwining parallel and its for sure that bikers, in most part, regard each other as one big family. It’s rare that one won’t stop for another if broken down for instance and what keeps this family together is ultimately the head nodding.

But there seem to be rules.

My rule is that I nod at everything on two wheels without pedals, be it scooters, hogs, learners and even BMW’s and Harleys. I’m not sure whether, when a group of six pass by, you nod at each one. I do, but worry that the car driver behind might assume I’m having a seizure or listening to in-helmet Metallica and ring ahead for assistance.

But it’s one of those things, it’s a hi. Hindu’s and new agers say ‘Namaste’ to each other when they meet which means ‘the being residing in me says hi to the being residing in you’ and head nodding is no different, it’s a biker saying ‘hi to the biker in you from the biker in me’ and not to nod, wave or acknowledge is a bit like letting someone through when in the car and they don’t wave a thanks. Pig ignorant.

Learners seem particularly shocked when a bigger bike nods as if they have to be test-passed to get a bow. Learners are the nodders of the future and should be nodded to without exception. But some bikers will simply ignore you, like a mate or an acquaintance who crossed the road to avoid you even though you know he’s bloody seen you and so the first thing you do when you get home is unfriend him on facebook.

It’s great to be back, right as things become very interesting.
December BIKE mag

Yoga Biking

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As I understand things, all spiritual teachings are taught, essentially, to allow one to strive for one thing, stillness of mind.  Yoga Asanas are there, as just one limb of eight, to prepare the body for meditation so that it can sit as still and as comfortably as possible without having ones legs turn blue so to be able to calm the mind, and along with the other seven limbs, to realise that all is just thought from which arise our attachments and aversions and ultimately the universe we individually live in.

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Television and the media has managed to shepherd us all into a similar pattern of thoughts and thinking and so we all seem to kind of agree on a similar ish universe.   Spiritual teachings however can, at least temporarily, have us experiencing other new and enticing universes, be it a Buddhist one or an Islamic one or Sufi, Hindu, Jesuit, Jain, and so on, until we are ready to drop that too and to simply be.  In the meantime whilst we are travelling on our own long yellow brick road to our inner wizard, terrible wars are being fought, insanely, because different collectives of people are holding on tightly, very tightly, to the universe that they think they live in, a universe based in religion, a religion that they insist is the only true one. The truth is that the world is squabbling and killing over who has the best imaginary friend.

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Meditation, I am told, is simply a way to let go, to not hold on to anything.

The Tibetan word for meditation “Gom” means “to become familiar with one’s Self” which is different, well slightly different to self familiarity that happens around puberty. The later more grown up familiarity is encouraged for training the mind to understand states that are rewarding such as concentration, compassion, correct understanding, patience, humility, perseverance, awareness and mindfulness.

This doesn’t necessarily have to be done sat in lotus imitating Buddha or Ramakrishna.  It is accepted nowadays that posture is not really that important. Buddha could just as well have sat on a chair and got boomshanka’d but, like most yogis of the day,  he was a wandering sadhu and chairs were not lying around in fields and under enlightening trees. Sitting in lotus is another case of us human types imitating. We no longer dress up as Batman or play air guitar – well not in public at least – but if Buddha got through by sitting cross legged then we seem to think that’s the way for us all, but where does this end?

If Christ had been hung from a gallows, rather than crucified on a cross, Christians would today undoubtedly be wearing nooses around their necks, albeit small ones on a pretty chain – but I digress.  So it’s surely not really about posture,  you can do walking meditation, standing meditation, kneeling meditation –  it’s about stillness  – specifically stillness of mind and recently I discovered a forced yoga if you will, about 3 minutes after driving off on a recently required, not been on one for 28 years, motorbike.

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Materially, It’s a great bike, the result, some say, well a lot say to be honest, of a ‘mid life crisis’ though I simply fail to see where there is any crisis happening, I’m having a great time – It does just under 80 to the gallon and it will hit 110 mph (apparently) with road tax at only £37 per year. So, by comparison to cars, it’s very ecological and economical and shockingly, to me, extremely meditative. (oh yeah and a lotta lotta fun)

From moving off you are forced into
1/ letting go of any fear immediately and
2/ having an instant and perpetual lesson in both awareness and mindfulness – and you can’t do any of these if you are not totally focused and full to the brim of concentration.

The roads are clogged nowadays more than ever and the Highways Department consider two-wheel riders approximately not at all. The manhole covers are very rarely level with the road surface, any utility works undertaken are then resurfaced by what can only be the local playgroup. Farmers, bless them, do try to help by adding a layer of mud wherever possible and councils love to decorate them with rumble strips and speed humps.  This is before you encounter any other actual road users , so from the off you are ‘in the zone’ and to understand or at least second guess other drivers you must have a full tankard of both empathy, and to discourage you from giving the finger, compassion.

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one must stay alert at all times

Distraction is limited, unlike being in a cocoon vehicle because it’s very difficult and extremely messy to eat or drink on a bike and you simply cannot hear a word on the mobile phone and texting is particularly trying and turning around to see what the kids are doing would be very illegal. You are simply there. On the bike, there is, no mortgage, no debt, not even a family,  just you and the space around you most commonly referred to as ‘the moment’ though you can never know that you’re in the moment because you’re in it.  I concur with film star and Ducati rider Ryan Reynolds who recently said, “I love the fact that on a motorcycle, riding is the only thing you’re doing”.  Although I’d add saying ‘yippee’ in quite a high voice within the confines of the helmet.
I imagine  surfers have the same feeling of oneness and yippee, except the only obstacles they have to look out for are passing turds. The organisation ‘Surfers Against Sewage’ isn’t in existence for nothing dude.

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And to yoga class – it’s the only way to travel.

And all the time the wheels are moving, you are naggingly, very wide awake aware of the biggest one of all – impermanence but all the time holding an inner smile and something that might be called loveOr maybe delusion