Sundays are Spirituality Day here at Taking it to the Streets
If you read my previous post, you know I have embarked on a new adventure – becoming a motorcycle rider. Here’s my version of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” – the spiritual lessons I’ve already from this motorcycle adventure:
1. The Middle Way is good. I’m usually very frugal and sensible about money. I can’t think of me ever impulsively spending more than $200 (bookstores) in my life. The bike was a lot more than $200. And I’m glad I stepped out of my usual way of being to buy it.
2. Humility. I normally am at the top end on most tests I take (college Botany being a MAJOR exception…). I feel calm and confident taking tests even when I know there’s no way I’ll ace it. I felt panicky on my DMV test and indeed failed it. Wow. This is giving me enormous empathy towards the many people who have test anxiety. Now I get it!
3. My ego is bigger than I thought. I didn’t want to tell anyone (other than a small group) about the bike til I passed the test and had my license. By letting you know I got a bike, took and passed the class and didn’t ace the DMV test on the first round I’m feeling vulnerable. Ego likes to be #1! to be RIGHT! to be THE BEST!
4. Patience! Omigosh, I think I shall be learning LOTS about patience. The state test is all about going V E R Y S L O W….. That’s the problem – being able to execute precise maneuvers on a large machine whilst going very slowly is hard! And the way to learn to do this task is to do it over and over and over and over again. In Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell, he talks about needing 10,000 hours of practice to get really good at something. I personally think this is particularly true of physical tasks in which ‘muscle memory’ plays a part. I’ve driven a stick shift car since my 20s and I never think about shifting gears – up or down – it’s what my body does in response to the road. I want to get like that on my bike – but not over the course of many decades. Oh! that’s that patience thing again….
5. Having fellow travelers makes it better. I have a few friends who are bikers (makes me smile to write that – most of them SO don’t fit the stereotype…). Friday night my friend Candace and her husband Jim came over and Candace got me on to my own bike and up down the street for the first time. My 1200 cc Harley is a bit more bike than the 500 cc Buells we rode in class – so I felt nervous. But I did it! Up and down my street. Then yesterday, my friend Kim came over and we went around the block to the schoolyard, where I spent 2 hours under her tutelage working on turns and cones and turns and cones and turns and cones. Then we went to the Harley dealer to pick up my license plates (in the car!) and ran into our friend Rae Ann who had just bought a bike. So next week we’ll go out for a little ride (I’m hoping to squeeze in some more blasted cones too…)
6. There’s joy in newness. Yes, it’s hard in some ways to be a beginner – there’s the acceptance and patience and humility about it all. But there’s lots of joy too! Learning something new – anything – awakens one’s entire being. When I bought the bike, Brian, my sales guy, told me “Now you’re gonna start seeing motorcycles EVERYWHERE”, and boy was he right. And I daydream about how fun it will be to actually get out on the open road and ride. I look at Kim’s fancy tricked out bike and think “I want one!”. And I take pride in my sore-cause-they-haven’t-been-used-much muscles after a few hours of riding. It’s very fun to learn a new skill.
7. Creativity begets creativity. Have you noticed how many musicians also paint? That makes sense to me – that being in the creative zone opens up that neural pathway. I’ve found that since I got my bike I am also eager to get back to last year’s new hobby – photography. I’m thinking it will be fun to combine them down the road – throw my camera into my backpack and go looking for beauty. Can’t WAIT to ride on Country Club Road!
8. Respect power but don’t be afraid of it. This is a great lesson for me, the perpetual rebel. It’s an area where the Middle Way is much needed – and I think not just by me. We tend to overemphasize power (thus we’re surprised by pictures of Osama bin Laden with a grey beard and a blanket on his shoulder watching TV – forgetting, one supposes, that “we’re all Bozos on this bus” – ie, we are all just walking-around-humans at some level). Or we flaunt it and ignore it. I told Kim I was nervous because of the power of my bike. I LOVED her answer – “Diane, 40 mph is still 40 mph, whatever bike you’re on. Don’t be afraid of your bike’s power – just respect it.”
9. There are principles at work – it goes easier if you know them. I wouldn’t call myself an innately visual, spatially intelligent person. One time my friend Pat was over and I was saying that the artwork in my living room didn’t seem correctly placed to me – something felt off. She said to me, “Great big picture – little tiny wall. Little tiny picture – great big wall. There’s your problem. Diane, there are PRINCIPLES of decorating – it’s good to know the basics.” So too with riding a motorcycle. “Where you look, you turn”; “Don’t put on the brakes in a turn”; “Slow down before a curve, then hold your speed or accelerate through it.” Combining my “book learning” of the principles with my muscle memory is my current task!
10. Smile, have fun and enjoy the ride! I bought the bike as a response to all the death in my life. My nod to the truth “life is short.” During the class my teacher said – “Hey! don’t forget to smile!” Whilst I’m learning and practicing and wishing I was already a “10,000 hours expert” (ala Malcolm Gladwell) I can enjoy This Ride, Right Now. The whole “be here now” thing that is why I meditate.
How about you? What do your hobbies teach you spiritually? What new challenge have you undertaken of late? I really want to know!