A few weeks ago we interviewed author Annette Birkmann. Her interview with Zen Motorcyclist contributor, Henry Yampolsky, can be found here. Henry’s review of Annette Birkmann’s book, The Road to Getting Yourself Out of the Way, a Journey to Effortless Living follows:
Annette Birkmann begins her book with a quote from Eckhart Tolle: “Knowing yourself is to be rooted in Being instead of lost in your mind.” This quote provides the perfect introduction for this coming-of-age story because The Road to Getting Yourself Out of the Way, a Journey to Effortless Living is a narrative of one woman’s inner quest from being lost in her mind to faith, effortlessness and freedom.
The backdrop for Birkmann’s inner odyssey is her solo motorcycle trip which takes her over 30,000 miles from Southernmost tip of Argentina in Ushuaia, to New York. Birkmann decides to undertake her journey when her well-planned, seemingly perfect life in Denmark hits a snag. She is a successful thirty year-old lawyer in Copenhagen when after a painful divorce she follows a childhood dream and obtains her motorcycle license. Then, almost on a whim, Annette Birkmann exchanges her legal job in Europe for an apprenticeship at a motorcycle shop in Argentina. Although she changes nearly everything there is to change about her life, Birkmann’s baggage in the form of fears, expectations and judgments comes with her. It takes her thousands of lonely miles through some of the world’s most breathtaking landscapes to shed this baggage and to realize that the joy, fulfillment and effortlessness she was seeking – she had all along within.
If there is one characteristic that permeates this book it is Birkmann’s complete honesty about every aspect of both her inner and physical journeys. It is this honesty that often borders on rawness that brings The Road to Getting Yourself Out of the Way its immense humanity and makes Birkmann’s experience relatable to anyone who has tried to get anywhere in his or her life, on a motorcycle or not. The irony of Birkmann’s message is that no matter where we are trying to get, we are already there. All we need we already have within.
As a book The Road to Getting Yourself Out of the Way is difficult to classify. Is it an adventure story? A diary? A self-help manual? A treatise on metaphysics? It could be all those things or none of them. Whatever this book is classified or misclassified as, it is an excellent read that raises and attempts to answer some of life’s most profound questions, like what does it mean to live an effortless life and to be truly free. Birkmann’s words resonate with me long after I finished reading and re-reading her book:
“I now see that when I stop trying to cling to pleasure or escape pain in whatever form it takes, effortlessness is what remains. It’s what’s always the case. I’m free. Not free as a person but free as the aware presence to experience whatever life brings – both joy and sorrow. If freedom doesn’t include the possibility of feeling sadness, anger or fear, is it real freedom? No. It’s living in fear that “bad” stuff might happen to me. But if there’s no escape from the “bad” stuff, if the “bad” stuff is allowed, what can then truly hurt me? Am I not free? Yes, indeed I am.”