Over the past several weeks, I have made many attempts to write a review of “The Highest Pass”, a motorcycle documentary, featuring 27 year-old modern-Indian mystic and yogi, Anand Mehrotra. Despite having seen the film three times and even having spent time with Anand during a three-day retreat in Madison, Virginia, I could not put my experiences with this transformational leader into words or even fully comprehend what transpired. All I knew is that I changed, changed in ways that I myself could not even describe.
Then it hit me! My inability to review the Highest Pass or to verbalize my experiences with Anand struck at the very heart of his teachings – to find true freedom, we must transcend the limitations, fears and doubts of the mind, and live with our hearts. So, learning from Anand, both through the film and in-person, was an experience that moved me on the heart level, in a way that my mind still cannot fully pronounce.
You see, purely as a story, the Highest Pass brakes no new ground. The idea of a journey which tests, challenges and changes one’s character has been told many times by the likes of Ernesto “Che” Guevara in Motorcycle Diaries, Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love and even Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman in their infamous Long Way Round and Long Way Down series.
Yet, there is earnestness and depth to this documentary that takes it far beyond prime time India special on Travel or National Geographic channels or a feel-good Netflix flick. This excellent film provides a glimpse into the possibility of living a faithful and fearless life. Hence, what may seem like recklessness to the mind – leading a group of relatively inexperienced riders on antiquated, single cylinder Royal Enfields, while dodging the onslaught of chaotic traffic; navigating dirt, gravel and flooded roads; facing altitude sickness at over 17,000 feet above sea level; and riding along the sheer icy edges of the highest motor-able road on Earth – is a young teacher leading by example of living through the heart, taking his students on a journey so harrowing and challenging that it transcends all notions of what human mind can conceive is possible and what only the heart could have the absolute faith in achieving.
I know that the Highest Pass is not for everyone. Some may find the film to be yet another West meets East “feel-good” truism. I myself had wished the movie delved more into the stories, both before and after the trip, of Adam Schomer, the faithful student, and the six riders who joined him and Anand on their life-changing trip. Even a brief glimpse into their lives that the film provides reveals individuals no less remarkable than the feat they accomplished. I wish we knew more of their personal stories so that their transformational experience with Anand would have more of a context.
Still, watching the film and later meeting with Anand were transformational experiences for me because they allowed me to “go beyond mind.” In going beyond my mind and feeling the experiences with my heart, I know I made yet another small step in reaching my own personal highest pass.
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.