The beautiful, large, brown eyes, which I fell in love with ten years earlier, gave me an inquisitive and sad look. After being together for so long words were unnecessary. I could see the question in her eyes. And, I wish the answer was simple, or even something I could verbalize.
I did not grow up around motorcycles and came from a culture (former Soviet Union) where occasional Ural, Jawa or Dnepr were low frills transportation appliances, puttering along at the fringes of acceptable and far outside of the realm of desirable. In a society that placed very little emphasis on personal joy (just check with Dostoyevsky or Tolstoy), riding a crude two-wheeled machine just for pure pleasure of it was unfathomable.
Through the first 31 years of my life I had at most a passing curiosity about motorcycles. To me they were like exotic dancers – interesting to sneak a glance at and excite the fantasy, but completely unattainable.
A conversation with a rider friend – the only person in my surrounding who had any connection to motorcycles – changed everything. The unattainable dancer became like a teenage obsession. Suddenly, I had to know everything about motorcycles. The Zen and the Art, Jupiter’s Travels, the Long Way Round, countless blogs, podcasts, magazines – if it had motorized two wheels in it somewhere – I stood ready to devour it.
I developed interest in riding during a turbulent time in my life. For nearly three decades, I did, said and thought exactly what was expected of me, and I got excellent at meeting expectations. I became a successful lawyer and worked at a wonderful downtown firm; I married a woman of my dreams and was living in a beautiful suburban neighborhood, and our talks about starting a family began to take a more serious tone. Yet, behind the emerald green facade, something was missing.
That something was a sense of connection with that part of me that makes me tick. Call it passion, inner purpose or just the ability to be completely present in every moment, it seemed as though that quality, whatever it is, was locked somewhere deep within. Like a Stepford wife I was happy on the outside, in a mechanical sort of way, but empty within.
It was this yearning for connection with my purpose that drew me to learn transcendental meditation – the most important skill I have ever acquired in my life. The experience of going within took me to highs and lows I could never have imagined existed. It was from this depth that the desire to ride arose. And, no one, including the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, which rightfully failed me at my first Basic Rider Course, was going to stop me! If I had to take the “basic” course three times just to pass the test – I was thrilled to oblige!
As I began to slowly hone my riding skills, I often stopped in my tracks asking myself the same question that I saw in my lover’s eyes. The answer always seemed elusive and unsatisfactory because I was trying to justify a course of actions with logic, even though I chose it despite of it, not because of it.
How could I explain that riding was an extension of my meditation – a time of total awareness, when I felt one with the machine underneath and the sights, sounds and smells of the world around me? How could I tell anyone that motorcycle was the key to a locked treasure chest, which I did not even know existed, yet which reveals its endless treasures to me one at a time on every ride?
I did not have to utter a single word to her. As our eyes met, so did our souls. She was not thrilled about it and did not want to ride herself. Yet, she understood … because she IS my meditation partner, my soul mate, and My Wife.
About the author: Henry Yampolsky is a new rider and writer who finds motorcycling to be an extension of his meditation. When not riding, writing, meditating or contemplating doing one of the three, Henry spends time with his wife, Juliya, and works as a lawyer in Philadelphia.