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.
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.
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.
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.
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.Just 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.