Author Archive: Henry Yampolsky

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.

Under Asian Skies – The World is Colorful, Complex and Beautiful

Under Asian SkiesIf you had spent any time lately watching any of the mainstream news, it is easy to begin viewing the world as a diabolical, scary place, occupied by either victims or perpetrators.

However, not everyone ascribes to the mainstream media’s view. The recently released audio version of Sam Manicom’s Under Asian Skies provides one of the best alternatives.

The book is a sequence to Manicom’s debut travelogue, Into Africa, and picks up right where Into Africa left off. After spending a year as a relatively new motorcyclist touring the African continent, Manicom and his trusted companion, BMW R80GS motorcycle, known as Libby, take a cargo ship to Australia and then travel together from Asia to Europe. It would be an understatement to say that a lifetime worth of adventures and a few misadventures ensue. To name a few, there is an encounter with an Australian Hells’ Angel; a no less scary run-in with maddening Indian bureaucracy; smuggling of tractor parts into Iran on an ancient Setra bus; rides through world’s most breathtaking and most dangerous roads (with little distinction between the two); and sharing harrowing train rides with hundreds of strangers, crammed by a stroke of fate into the same rail car. There is even a love story to boot and many encounters with generosity, kindness and raw beauty of the universe.

Through his adventures Manicom does not wear paisley colored lenses. Far from it! Whether he chronicles back-breaking work of fruit IMG_0020 psrpicking in Australia or relays the frustration of dealing with the Indian port officials, who work with all the efficiency, enthusiasm and philosophical detachment of a turtle out in a mid-day sun, Manicom spares no color in painting a real picture of what he sees. Yet, he is also careful to place the picture in a proper historical, social and cultural context, thus removing the gaudy frame of judgment and arrogance so prevalent in the reporting of many of the “traditional” information sources.

What distinguishes Under Asian Skies from myriad of other travelogues is the sense of compassion towards all living beings; acceptance of the world without a grain of self-righteousness; and deep gratitude for the opportunity to experience the universe just the way it is. These qualities are especially evident in the audio version of the book, read by the author, where Manicom’s enthusiasm, sense of wonder, and basic humanity really shine through. In fact, while Manicom is clearly not a voice actor, it is impossible to imagine anyone but the author reading this book.

And, because Manicom not only describes what he sees, but makes an attempt to understand it, what emerges is a narrative of a world far different from the one seen on the evening news. The World according to Sam Maincom is colorful, complex and beautiful. Like his book, it is a multidimensional and rich tapestry, woven together by the experiences, joys, sorrows and extraordinary adventures of ordinary folk. What a joy it is to be a part of this World!Crating psr

Ride Through the Twisties and Bhagavad Gita

DSC_0571As I twisted the throttle rounding a particularly exhilarating curve along my favorite twisty road and heard the satisfying exhaust burble of my Teutonic sport tourer, I thought of the first chapter of Bhagavad Gita.  Bhagavad Gita is one of the most sacred Hindu texts and a literary masterpiece that served as the source of inspiration for among others, Einstein, Thoreau and Emerson.  The epic poem traces the dialog between Arjuna, a decorated warrior, and Lord Krishna, the Divine who presents Itself to Arjuna as his charioteer.  The topic of the dialog between Arjuna and Lord Krishna is the life in Yoga.  As I strengthened my bike I saw the smiling face of my Guru.  A profound truth was about to be revealed to me.

I took no hallucinogens before my ride and have not been diagnosed with any condition of the body or mind associated with randomly appearing visions.  It is just when I am on a motorcycle alone with the wind and fully present in the experience, things, important, often deep things, come to me.

Nearly three months ago I got back from India after spending three-and-a-half weeks studying yoga and meditation and absorbing the wisdom of the Himalayas with my youthful Master, extraordinary Yogi, and a fellow motorcyclist, Anand Mehrotra.    My experience in Rishikesh, a small Indian town on the banks of the Ganges River, at the foothills of the Himalayas was beyond powerful.

Yet, upon returning I had no idea what happened to me.  Sure, I felt uplifted and inspired and to anyone who would DSC_0515listen I would tell how trans-formative my journey was.  Inside though I felt more dissatisfied than ever with nearly every aspect of my life.  As the pressures of everyday routines began to mount, I quickly fell into the same destructive patterns I thought I had left behind long before.  Even though I maintained a daily yoga and meditation practice and even taught these powerful disciplines to others, the disconnect within seemed as deep as ever.  I often wondered if I felt into the trap Anand warned so much about – acquiring a new vocabulary and a few ideas, but no depth beneath.

Then, on that motorcycle ride I thought of the first chapter of Bhagavad Gita.  In it, as Arjuna surveys the two armies about to engage in a bloody battle with each other, he tells the Great Lord that he does not want to fight; that he finds the bloody battle he is about to engage in utterly pointless; and that he likes the great men on both sides of the battlefield and feels sorry that they will lay their lives down in a useless feat.   Krishna, the Almighty Presence, the God of Yoga, tells Arjuna to fight indeed and do so fully without caring the slightest bit about the results.  And only then, Krishna begins to tell Arjuna about life in Yoga.

You see, what I got on that ride is that true change begins with awareness which then turns into presence with whatever is.  It is only after awareness and then presence that we can even begin the teachings of Yoga.

As my iron stead settled into the rhythm of a serpentine road – I understood.  After three and a half weeks in the Himalayas I simply began experiencing awareness, not yet presence.  But, I was transformed indeed, as I took the first tiny step towards life in Yoga.

Interview with Grant and Susan Johnson

 

Several months ago we reviewed the Achievable Dream DVD Series, produced by Horizons Unlimited, a worldwide portal, resource and meeting spot for motorcycle travelers. Recently, Zen Motorcyclist.com contributor, Henry Yampolsky, spoke with Grant and Susan Johnson, who after spending ten years traveling around the world on their modified BMW F80GS, founded Horizons Unlimited, which now has members in over 160 countries, hosts travelers meetings worldwide and provides one of the most comprehensive resources for motorcycle travel.

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Into Africa – Just Listen to the Voice

Into Africa Front Cover JPG 237kbRecently, I went on a harrowing train ride across the Sahara;   rode through the dusty back roads of Ethiopia; experienced unconditional generosity of a Zulu man and even got to spend some quality time in a Tanzanian jail.  I also felt the breathtaking majesty of Victoria Falls; bargained for papaya at a Kenyan roadside market and drove through South African villages, still reeling from the effects of the years of Apartheid.  My guides were adventurer, Sam Manicom, and his trusty companion, Libby, a BMW R80GS motorcycle which took Manicom on a year-long journey across Africa.

Actually, I experienced Africa while never leaving Philadelphia which went through a blustery and snowy winter of historical proportions.  But, for about ten days, as I drove my car to work over pothole, gravel and ice-covered roads, I was almost expecting to encounter the searing desert oasis of flowering shrubs, palm trees and green grass.  During my commute I was listening to Sam Manicom’s Into Africa, read by the author.   

I have read Into Africa before and really enjoyed it.  However, listening to Manicom tell the story of his journey was an experience unlike any other.

Into Africa is an extraordinary adventure by a relatively ordinary bloke who one-day, almost on a whim, decides to learn to ride motorcycles, and then quits his job as a shoe store manager, and takes a year to ride Libby, the motorcycle, through Africa.  As we learn from the book, aside from riding a motorcycle, painting is one of Manicom’s favorite pastimes.  And, the man can paint a museum-worthy piece with just a few words.  The image that emerges from Into Africa is that of a diverse, complex and awe-inspiring continent with many colors, shades and shadows, whose people face every-day adversity with grace, ingenuity, unconditional kindness and a great sense of humor.

Yet, it is not just Manicom’s ability to paint a picture with words that make this book so moving.  Rather, it is Sam Manicom’s voice.  It is a voice of zen-like acceptance, compassion and gratitude that deeply permeates his narrative.  Thus, Manicom manages to treat even the worst moments of his trip and tackle some of Africa’s well-known ills with humility, humor and even a sense of appreciation.  Manicom’s voice makes it clear that he takes to heart the key lesson that Africa and its people have taught him – “remember your yesterdays and dream of your tomorrows, but live the day!”

It is in the audio version of the book that the true voice of the author who relieves his adventure in every chapter comes alive.  It is this voice that makes reading Into Africa a great experience and listening to it a truly special one.   It is listening to Sam Manicom read his book that could transport you into Africa.Zambezi-Sunset

Achievable Dream DVD Series

achievabledream-boxI am now convinced there are aliens living among us.  I became so convinced after watching the Achievable Dream DVD Series produced and hosted by Grant and Susan Johnson, the founders of the Horizons Unlimited web portal.

This five-DVD disc set features interviews and presentations from ordinary individuals (I could have sworn that I saw at least a few of them in my local supermarket) who are living the dream of traveling the world on two wheels.  It is when I looked into the passion-lit eyes of these seemingly ordinary people, that I became convinced that they are aliens indeed.

My conviction became a certainty when (more…)

Where I am Meant to Be

Lonely ST2No matter what the weather is like, for the next ninety days I will not be riding my motorcycle.  That is by choice.  By choice of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation which sternly demanded my license plate due to my failure to pay $8.  In demanding my license plate the Department of Transportation suspended my registration for the next 90 days.

I failed to pay $8 to my motorcycle insurance carrier. $8 was the increase in my premium when I lost the multi-vehicle discount on my policy.  I lost the multi-vehicle (more…)

Why We Ride – Film Review

7-BonnevilleThe film Why We Ride is like an extended and illustrated version of the motorcycle handshake – that momentary gesture of camaraderie that every rider on the road experiences when he or she extends a hand to greet a two-wheeled comrade.

Director Bryan H. Carrol and cinematographers Andrew Waruszewski and Douglas Cheney extend their hand to (more…)

Back to the Present

2013-09-14 14.49.22As a boy I had a fascination with time machines.  Many a night I would fall asleep to a dream of a time machine transporting me to a mysterious and exotic epoch or place.  Little did I know that in my 30s I would acquire something superior to even the modified DeLorean DMC-12 which sent Marty McFly back to 1955.  I am talking about a motorcycle.  At this time of the year when we thank and reflect coincides with the end of (more…)