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To Each His Own (full text)

The article “To Each His Own” by Bud Miller/Zen Motorcyclist was originally published on the “RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel” magazine website on 03/15/2016.

In life, one has a choice to take one of two paths: to wait for some special day—or to celebrate each special day.”

—Rasheed Ogunlaru

I’ll admit I was at a bit of a loss regarding this column. I had the “bones” (as I like to refer to the overall theme), but the structure was lost on me. Then, I visited my dentist, and by the time I left his office, I had the rest of the column in place in my mind. Today, for once, I was happy to have visited him.

3-16-zen-e1458047262598-772x472Sitting in the chair, our usual banter somehow turned to base jumping and paragliding while skiing. My dentist recalled a documentary about an athlete who had lost several friends to these same endeavors. Moments later, I’m shot up with Novocaine, and the ridiculous (and uncomfortable) plastic prop is placed in my mouth. It was then that my dentist and his assistant made the not so obvious, yet all so predictable, leap to discussing the danger of motorcycles. As if on cue, the obligatory statement comes out about how we have responsibilities to our loved ones to give up such dangerous pursuits. I couldn’t respond. And it irritated me how easily non-riders lump our two-wheeled activities into the category of “dangerous pursuits.”

In an age when we are constantly measured against others, the ride for me is a place to measure myself against that thin red line that only exists in my mind. Only I know how well I rode that last curve, how much more speed I might have been comfortable with, how much more lean angle I could have attempted.

It’s a lie that it can’t be done safely, that it’s inherently dangerous. It’s a lie that it’s a selfish pursuit. It’s a lie being told by people who don’t have a real sense of what riding gives back to the rider. These same individuals can’t seem to understand that such a hobby can give a rider his own life purpose, strength, and meaning.

 

It’s not that I want to invite tragedy, but I do sometimes want to be responsible for my own safety—have my skill, smarts, and gut carry me through and out the other side. There are no points to be scored or ground to gain other than the satisfaction that I didn’t turn around and go the other way—that I saw it through. The experience means something when you come back from it, applying the lessons learned on that ride to everyday life.

Zen-Motorcyclist_DSC_3658-772x625I’ll ride home this weekend to see my family. I’ll ride over the blue mountains up steep dirt roads with no guard rails. I’ll walk the line I have in my mind that tells me what adventure I’ll settle for and how much I’m willing to risk. I’ll make the rules as I seldom get to do in life. Ultimately, I want to see my family and make it home to my beloved dog, Spud, who I know is standing on his hind legs looking out the window, waiting and expecting my safe arrival. But I also want to live a little more—a little more on whatever edge will give me satisfaction. Sometimes it’s simple acceleration, other times it’s carrying more speed than I otherwise would through a corner. It’s that thin line between too much and not quite enough—and only I know the difference.

Hafiz said, “Stay close to anything that makes you glad you are alive.” I believe that, whether it is a person, an activity, a place, or a motorcycle. If you come back from it being better, more fulfilled, a better person with a better outlook, then it’s worth experiencing. Doing so gives you a little bit each day, each week, or even each weekend to define yourself on your own terms, to decide what benchmarks matter, and to say to yourself, This is what I’m about, for this ride on this day, for the next few minutes, hours, or days I’ll define myself.

We each get this one go-round at life (as far as we know), and mine is better and feels more lived when I find that comfort zone and peek, if only for a second, at what lies on the other side. I don’t need to go there; I just need to know that the choice not to was entirely mine. On every beautiful day, there are those who enjoy staring at it through a window. That is their choice. Others want to get in a car and drive through it. That is their choice. But if we choose to join it, get immersed in it, feel it, and be a part of it on a few small square inches of rubber—that, my friends, is our choice.

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Motorcycles: The Balancing Point

JOHN-G-YOGA-BIKE-1024x683Motorcycles: The Balancing Point

An exploration of how riding motorcycles is a form of meditation, by John G. (originally published for Burn Out Italy)

I saw my first motorcycle when I was four years old, and instantly knew that I was meant to be on two wheels.

Bruce Lee At the age of 14, I was very fortunate to meet and spend time with two of my older cousins who live in Greece. Both happen to be just about the coolest people I have ever known. They became my motorcycle gurus. They each had something different to teach me about life, meditation and how to ride.

Niko and I would pack a very small amount of clothing and camping gear onto his 1995 Yamaha DT 200 motorcycle and spend weeks on the road.

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Yamaha DT 200

Life was very simple: ride onto a ship, go to an island, ride off the ship and then follow the road around the perimeter of the island until it became a dirt road… keep going, find a deserted beach and set up camp for a few days. Maybe ride into the mountains. Repeat.

Niko was in the Greek Special Forces, trained as a paratrooper; he knows the land like the back of his hand. He taught me the art of shutting the fuck up and being content in the moment. He described meditation as becoming very still and just listening, allowing all thoughts to quietly pass by while merging with nature or whatever experience was at hand.

Letting go of fear and pride allows something much bigger to take over our limited sense of Self and all of a sudden, we are tapped into Life.

 

We no longer have to struggle against it because we ARE it. Using this philosophy, we would push our bodies to the extreme through long hikes and swims, rock climbing, and long durations on the open road; it wasn’t uncommon to go without food & water, or eating nothing but walnuts for a few days.

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Greece Forest

We would also spend hours sitting still, usually surrounded by heavenly views of the sea or crystal clear, star filled skies–always in the middle of nowhere. Regardless of the outward act, the inner attitude was always the same–get out of our own way, be at one with Life and the immense beauty that surrounded us. That DT took us everywhere we needed to be. Every time we got on that bike it was as if we flipped an inner switch that opened the floodgates of joy. Niko was one of the happiest, kindest people I’ve ever met and I’m convinced his happiness was the result of a deep, inner connection to his true self. He taught me how to laugh at myself, how to laugh at my small ego, and above all how to go beyond it to experience freedom.

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Baby Koundinyasana kawasaki 636

George is a big dude-both physically and energetically.

He grew up riding motocross, and has a background in heavy metal, lifting weights and karate–yet he’s also read every book under the sun when it comes to metaphysical and spiritual studies. He taught me about ‘the balancing point’, trust, and the art of ‘surrender’. Unlike the quiet, serene wilderness environments I spent time in with Niko on a dirt bike, the classrooms that George taught me in were in the city, and on a sport bike. Bars, clubs, highways, and perfectly paved roads filled with angry Greeks driving like maniacs, all the time.mykonos-clubs-03Just like Niko, George has an enormous energy field around him. He lives with purpose, confidence, and executes his movements with the grace and power of a true warrior, especially on his Kawasaki zx10r.

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G’s Kawasaki zx10r

It was George that introduced me to the beautiful world of Supersport motorcycles. Armed with absolute trust in him, and with death often lurking right around the corner, I was able to learn true surrender and experience the dissolution of time by maintaining the ‘balancing point’. Inner balance leads to outer balance. I’m talking about wheelies that lasted for what felt like forever, high-speed cornering at great lean angles and rides that blew my mind every single time. I allowed him to take me there, and it was epic.

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Greek Biker Sunset, Photo by Elric ©2016

Meditation (and riding motorcycles) is a way of living.

It is the most effective way of living in whatever situation you may find yourself in: especially in the face of death or danger, because in those moments we are forced to be in touch with all of our senses, to connect with our courage and deeper wisdom. It makes sense that the ancient warriors took this practice to heart; their life was constantly on the line, so they had no choice but to bring out their greatest abilities.

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The author in vasisthasana (side plank pose) and his Kawasaki 636

Meditation requires a steady stream of focused awareness moving toward a single point or a certain direction. The body merges with the mind, and the mind becomes one with the experience. Time collapses into the Now and something beyond the physical world is able to shine through your being. In the case of martial arts, the conscious mind moves out-of-the-way and the techniques happen automatically.

With riding, you become one with the road, the bike and the surrounding environment, including others you may be riding with. Another way of living is fear, or worry, or through a strong filter of past or future anxieties and expectations. This knocks us off our balancing point, and removes us from the present moment. It creates a struggle, an opposition.

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Eka hasta Bujasana (elephant trunk pose)

I’ve practiced dozens of meditation techniques, taken thousands of yoga classes and have often expanded through ‘sex, drugs and rock and roll,’ but let me assure you: I have not found a more effective way of quieting the mind and opening the heart other than riding a motorcycle.

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Greek Motorcycle Parked in Athens, photo by Elric ©2016

If you ride, you already know what I am talking about. You are already meditating, so keep it up. Put your mind and ego in check. Cast aside your fear, your doubts. Fire up that engine and merge with its sweet sound.

Your balancing point is the fire of your heart. The balancing point of all of humanity is not the mind; rather, it is the human heart, so ride with respect and awareness of others because we are all connected. Surrender and trust followed by healthy physical actions will take us back to that balancing point.

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Handstand variation Kawasaki 636

The undisciplined mind seeks to separate the self from the environment, whereas the heart always seeks unity. Meditate (on and off the motorcycle) to become the master of your mind so that you can free yourself and experience the nectar of life; the joy of right here and right now.

Keep on riding.

Keep on truly living.

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John G in lotus handstand, padma sirsasana

John G. is an energy healer trained at The Barbara Brennan School of Healing, a Certified Yoga Instructor and a Licensed, Certified Massage Therapist. He lives to ride.

Photographer Elric owns Nagual Photography in Athens, Greece and also lives to ride.

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The Best Lessons

“The Best Lessons”, Zen Motorcyclist’s latest column can be read in the July/August 2016 issue of RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel. Available now.

The full article is now available on my RoadRUNNER blog

The issue is available here in both print and digital versions. RoadRUNNER can also be purchased for Nook   Apple and Android devices and at Barnes & Noble and other bookstores. As always my Zen Motorcyclist blog for RoadRUNNER can be read here.

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SlimFold Wallet

waterproofThe people at SlimFold Wallet recently approached me about trying one of their products and I jumped at the chance. A week or so ago I took a ride with my friend Bob and, while riding, I realized I had forgotten to remove my wallet and put it in my tank bag. Ordinarily I like to keep it on me at all times but it was hot and it always feels better not sitting on a thick bump in my back pocket. I ended up removing it while I rode, not the safest idea. So the timing was perfect for me to try the SlimFold and I have to say, I’m quite pleased and impressed. color options

Made of Tyvek (which is printed in colors with a tactile feel somewhat like coated paper) or soft shell (the version I tested which has more of a wet-suit feel) from recycled material and nearly impossible to tear and waterproof the SlimFold is barely noticeable in my pocket. In fact the first few days I used it I kept thinking I had left my wallet behind somewhere.

Stitching along the fold allows the Slimfold to easily stay closed (unlike leather wallets) which contributes to its slim feel. I assumed I’d use the SlimFold only on the motorcycle but it’s quickly become my only wallet. I no longer need to find room in my minuscule bicycle bag and I can work all day with it in my pocket without ever noticing it. If you’re tired of lugging around a thick wallet do yourself a favor and checkout the offerings at SlimFold. You’ll be glad you did.

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Helmet Halo

Helmet Halo logo

My helmet at YogaNext to the cost of the motorcycle itself your biggest riding expense is most likely your helmet. If you’re anything like me you don’t like putting your costly lid on the ground or any other surface apt to be dirty, hot, wet or sticky; unfortunately there are times when I have little choice. When I get to the office and the forecast calls for rain and it’s time to put the cover on I’m forced to put my helmet on the hot asphalt. In my cubicle at the office my choices are the floor under my desk or on my desk where I have precious little room. The Scala Rider attached to my helmet is also a concern due to its position on the chin bar. I’ve broken a few brackets when setting my helmet down in the past.

Halo StackHelmet Halo was designed to be a compact motorcycle helmet holder that eliminates these worries. Helmet Halo is made of tough plastic designed to stand up to abuse (trust me I’ve abused it in testing). Helmet Halo is inexpensive, portable, comes in four colors and can be coiled up for transporting. If I could wear it as a bracelet when not in use it’d be perfect; but even as is it’s pretty close.

(Note: Helmet Halo does not attach to a helmet in any way, it is merely a stand to hold a helmet upright.)

Please visit Helmet Halo to order.Helmet Halo

To Feel Normal Again

May_June“To Feel Normal Again”, Zen Motorcyclist’s latest column can be read in the May/June 2016 issue of RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel. Available now.

The full article is now available on my RoadRUNNER blog

The issue is available here in both print and digital versions. RoadRUNNER can also be purchased for Nook   Apple and Android devices and at Barnes & Noble and other bookstores. As always my Zen Motorcyclist blog for RoadRUNNER can be read here.Normal

A Story Worth Living

A Story Worth LivingA Story Worth Living just isn’t worth seeing (and certainly not worth paying to see). I considered deleting this post but instead thought it a better use of my time to advise readers to avoid it.

Eight day camping trips do not equate to “Epic adventures”. Talking about story might be fine for a podcast but this movie was billed to the motorcycle community (including flyers I received in recent purchases from motorcycle parts distributors) as an adventure film (including enticing lines like “…can we get off this mountain…?”). What it amounts to is a disjointed, wordy mess that tells no story at all. I’m insulted as a motorcyclist that I was duped into paying $14 to see what I can see better versions of on youtube for free. The incessant talking about (rather than showing) the adventure had me squirming in my seat and wanting it to end. What little actual riding footage there is in the film seems to be the same repeated shots and totaling very little of the actual film, although if you like awkward cigar smoking shots there are plenty of those. Near what seemed like the end there is an interminable bull session in which the “actors” talk about the “adventure”, this went on so long I actually turned to a friend and said aloud “they have to stop talking now”.

I’m all for adventure but why do admittedly inexperienced beginner riders need heavy BMW800’s with fully loaded panniers if they have support vehicles following them for most of the trip? 1,000 miles in eight days (a lot of which was on pavement) just doesn’t qualify as epic. I’m at a loss to understand how this film was green-lighted for wide theatrical release by sponsors once they’d seen the final cut. This film felt forced, contrived, badly scripted and the religious overtones were uncomfortable and out of place; although it’s been admitted the deception was a deliberate attempt to dupe the riding community into hearing “the gospel”. I’ve never walked out on any film, let alone one about motorcycling; but this was very nearly my first.

In response to the growing criticism the producers are offering refunds here. (Note: I’ve received my $42 refund).

ADVrider or Long Way Round (the claimed inspiration for this film), Dream Racer or World On Wheels are better places to go for examples of motorcycle adventure.

 

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To Each His Own

March_April“To Each His Own”, Zen Motorcyclist’s latest column can be read in the March/April 2016 issue of RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel. Available now.

This article is now available on my RoadRUNNER blog

The issue is available here in both print and digital versions. RoadRUNNER can also be purchased for Nook   Apple and Android devices and at Barnes & Noble and other bookstores. As always my Zen Motorcyclist blog for RoadRUNNER can be read here.To Each His Own