Motorcycling as a meditation

Discussion in 'The Perfect Line and Other Riding Myths' started by newride, Apr 11, 2010.

  1. newride

    newride Been here awhile

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    Hope this is the right place to put this: I am sure this has been talked about before.
    I am studying mindfullness and forms of meditation in one of my classes and really loving it. I have always found riding a motorcycling as a form of mindfullness and meditation. By mindfulness here I mean "Moment to moment, non-judgemental awareness, the direct, non-conceptual knowing of experience as it unfolds.......(John Kabat Zinn) Basically, just observing life as it happens and not get wrapped up in it.
    So, ADV riders, I need your help writing a grad level paper. I am looking for feed back from folks on their experience of riding. My question is: What is it about riding that brings you peace?
    If I can use your words and translate them in my paper (I will absolutley PM you for your persmission) in a line or two, I would be greatful.

    I also plan to create or link to the region I am in (boston) to see if folks in my area would be willing to go out for drink to chat about the subject. A kind of laid back interview. :1drink Beers on me of course. :D

    I am not soliticing, making any money, or publishing a paper........maybe lol.
    I love this subject and look forward to writing about it!

    Thank you all for any words of wisdom.
    Jeremy
    PS-mods let me know if this at all is inappropriate.
    #1
  2. pegrider

    pegrider Bluegrass Outlaw

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    Riding a motorcycle a speed, especially on a curvy road, is a very focused experience.

    There can only be three components in the mind: You, the motorcycle, and the riding line.

    The process is quite simple: Become one with the motorcycle -- Ride the line.
    #2
  3. vermin

    vermin unrepentant thinner

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    i have tried it but everytime i get my legs folded up just right i come to a corner and go shooting off into a cornfield

    me a jackass,

    vermin
    #3
  4. R-A-M-O-N

    R-A-M-O-N Been here awhile

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    First things i can think about:

    The need of focus your mind and thoughts on the process of riding

    Specially in long rides i love the continuous sound of the engine or the wind if the bike is silent, that really makes me calm, from time to time i like to sing in those moments and it makes look like everything is perfect.
    #4
  5. Reg Kittrelle

    Reg Kittrelle Rider

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    Fascinating subject, Jeremy.

    Focus is the key component in riding successfully.
    Risk exercise puts the body at an alert stage, which causes certain physiological changes. The positive part of this is that it focuses the mind. On the negative side, it can disrupt a normal breathing pattern and cause an adrenal and endorphin surges which impedes smooth operation.

    For me, to attain the necessary mental state, I need to consciously relax and control my breathing. Now here's the controversial part. I find that I am the most focused and the most relaxed when traveling at a high rate of speed.

    At lower speeds my mind tends to wander, and is easily distracted by non-essentials, e.g. scenery, people, etc. To ride safely at these speeds I need to discipline myself on a regular basis.

    As my speed increases (relative to the road ridden) my 'focus cone' narrows to the pointy end. Visual acuity increases and distractions fade away. I've noted several times that when I'm riding a winding road at high speeds my heart rate and breathing are in a seemingly relaxed state. I say "seemingly" because it is actually an altered state which can change instantly if the situation warrants, such as gravel in a turn, a deer jumping out, etc. It is a conundrum of sorts in that at my most relaxed state I am but an instant from full alert.

    It's also important to note that this status develops as a result of many years of riding experience. That is, just going fast on a mountain road does not lead to a beatific smile and a just-barely pulse rate.

    A side benefit to this is that (for me) this focused status clears all of my mind, not just the portions required to ride. I then find that solutions to issues that had been bothering me often readily surface at the ride's end.

    Recall one of the early Star wars movies... there's a scene wherein Luke is threading his fighter through a maze on the surface of the Death Star. He's nervous until the voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi focuses him with, "Let the force be with you, Luke."

    For a rider, that "force" is his skill and experience. Acknowledge it and use it, and the ride becomes a form of meditation.
    #5
  6. Blue&Yellow

    Blue&Yellow but orange inside...

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    I've said it before but I'll say it again: as humans we're always planning ahead, thinking about the future. However when I ride my motorcycle I exist only in the now. I guess that the psychologically best way to describe it is that we enter a flow like state where not much more exists than the road, the motorcycle and us. It's a common conception that mediation is to occupy your frontal lobes with a task so that the rest of the brain can find peace, I find that this very much holds true for riding a motorcycle.

    I also find that taking a ride helps keep my mental sanity in check, the woes of everyday life go away and I feel liberated from any pressing needs. Not seldom I also find that I have some solutions to some of my problems at the end of a ride even though I haven't been actively thinking about finding such solutions.

    Oh - and except all this mumbo jumbo it's also pretty fun :D

    No need to ask permission, steal as much as you like.
    #6
  7. Oilybimmer

    Oilybimmer Long timer

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    I suffer from PTSD and have found riding to be a marvellous escape, the focus needed excludes just about all other thought, my bike is a two wheeled therapist in a way that a car just can never be.

    Stewart
    #7
  8. Navy Chief

    Navy Chief Long timer

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    Definitely an interesting subject..

    For me it is the concentration that is necessary to process everything that is going on around me seems to focus me in on what is happening in that particular moment in time, to the exclusion of all of the extraneous thoughts that normally float through my mind. The sounds of the engine and the wind seem to help also.
    I find this to the extremely peaceful, relaxing and liberating.
    #8
  9. Reg Kittrelle

    Reg Kittrelle Rider

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    Interesting thing for me is that I can only rarely achieve this level of serenity without there being risk involved.
    #9
  10. RudyBoy

    RudyBoy Been here awhile

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    Personally, I wouldn't say motorcycling brings me peace. Track down a copy of Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi's book "Flow" and give that a study. A sample sentence:

    "After an enjoyable event we know that we have changed, that our self has grown: in some respect, we have become more complex as a result of it."

    With that as a preface, rather than peace, I instead find satisfaction in riding as it requires me to develop and then implement a specialized set of skills. It allows me to confront something that is potentially dangerous and learn how to make it safe(er). While challenging routes do force me to focus my attention (some would call this meditation, but I do not), other sections of the road find my mind wandering, daydreaming. Being somewhat ADD, I do enjoy the sections that require great focus - such rides require what I call a "fighter pilot" like awareness, constantly monitoring everything around me, anticipating what might or will happen around the next corner.

    I practice meditation, and I have read many of the books on the subject of mindfulness. But I don't find a meditative state while riding a motorcycle. After a good ride I return home somewhat fatigued, but fully satisfied. Perhaps it is a matter of definition, and maybe for some it is one and the same, but for me riding is more of a "flow" experience as described by Csíkszentmihályi, and not so much a "peace" experience as described by Kabat-Zinn.

    Peace,

    Scott
    #10
  11. Motopapillon

    Motopapillon Eppur si muove

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    Interesting topic, Jeremy. As you can see, you are not the only motorcyclist to think of riding as a meditation exercise. Riding fast and well necessarily puts you in the present moment utterly focused on the task at hand. I remember when I got my first fast (to me) road bike, quite a few years ago, I would come up to the stop sign at an intersection and for a moment or two have no idea where I was. Everything looked new and strange. This in my own neighborhood, where I had lived for years, on roads I had driven hundreds of times. I had been so caught up in the moment I forgot where I was. It was a little embarrassing sometimes.

    I think that it is true that, as Reg mentioned, you have to be going at speed at close to your limit to reach this state. Just putting along you have time to think about where you'll turn at the next intersection and what you'd like to do this evening. But putting is still good--it's more the style you adopt when touring--more serenity, not quite so much exhilaration.

    Ride joyously.

    M-P
    #11
  12. chazbird

    chazbird Long timer

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    A few years ago in wide open country I rode 130 mph for 15-20 minutes. When I stopped the sensation was very much the same as after 40-60 minutes of meditation/yoga. Perception, attention, & focus with a neuro-chemical result. One of the two is obviously more convienant and safer, too.
    #12
  13. RudyBoy

    RudyBoy Been here awhile

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    ?????? To each their own I suppose. "Overly complicated?" Compared to what book on this and similar topics? In any event, I obviously had the opposite reaction - interesting, and worth going through to find those ideas that sync with what's going on in your world at that time.
    #13
  14. DAKEZ

    DAKEZ Long timer

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    Don't mind me and please don't take my critique personal. I am glad you enjoyed his writing even if I did not care for it (or some of his other works).

    The word "Flow" is a good word for describing a good ride.

    Thus the term: "Smooth is Fast"
    #14
  15. fancyindigo

    fancyindigo schmancy...fancy

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    I have enjoyed all I have read so far - and can relate! I especially relate to the "cone of focus". When I am riding slower, I too find that my mind wanders and I am still "in my head" - still thinking about the comment so and so made, what I want for dinner, a different technique to try with a patient next time, or...so on and so on. However, when I am riding hard, that all disappears. I no longer delineate the difference between myself and the bike. My focus is sharp and clear and singularly minded - experiencing what unfolds before me. When I am riding trails - I don't notice how focused I have been until I get to the top of the mountain and THEN realize how hard I am breathing and sweating. When I am riding street I feel what I can only describe as a quiet exhiliaration - calm yet hyper-alert; muscles relaxed but expectant.

    I do find it to be a form of meditation, and it definitely brings me joy and peace. (I am sure all the neurochemical changes help out a bit, too.)

    I have also shared the experience of riding with something pressing on my mind/heart. And, somehow, by riding hard and NOT thinking about it - the answer appears...

    Really interesting question...:ear Looking forward to other's responses.
    #15
  16. slartidbartfast

    slartidbartfast Love those blue pipes

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    On a long ride with a lot of 'easy' stuff, like boring interstate, I find I can often get a lot of things straight in my mind because I am without distractions and have a lot of time to think. The word I use is therapeutic. However, I don't think that's what you're after - It's the complete focus and attention you give when carving up a curvy road that is also therapeutic because it takes your mind completely off other things, rather than allowing you to focus on them.

    I tend to find mowing the grass to be very similar - Keeping focused on maintaining straight lines, optimizing the cut speed and height, not running over anything that shouldn't be mowed, etc., takes me to a completely different mental place. Like being on the bike you are also cut off from distractions.
    #16
  17. fancyindigo

    fancyindigo schmancy...fancy

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    So, newride, what are you studying? I am about to graduate from a professional graduate program in Physical Therapy(it has been a long three years)...WhoooT!:clap . I am interested in your subject area and/or concentration.
    #17
  18. thestickman

    thestickman Long timer

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    Riding is the best, cheapest therapy I've ever experienced.

    In addition to enjoying the scenery along the SC/NC line, I find myself praying a lot as well as planning for future rides & musical projects.
    #18
  19. Wadester

    Wadester Rides a dirty bike

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    As many have said already, the easiest way to get to "Moment to moment, non-judgemental awareness, the direct, non-conceptual knowing of experience as it unfolds" is to push your limits at speed - dirt or paved.

    The value of doing this, for me, is that it has given me a happy place (many happy places, actually) to use as a focus to get that state of mind without applying the physical constraints. If I'm having a bad day/hard time, I can always fly my bike thru a canyon in my mind and put things into a proper perspective. Some days take more curves to iron out than others.

    You must also remember that the only proper conscious thoughts while riding are about farkles and sex.
    #19
  20. Sideout

    Sideout Noob Adventurer

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    The only time I meditate is when I split lanes. Meditation ends when I see a police bike. Makes me think about slowing down :D.
    #20