I like to say that I was raised on the back of a Harley Davidson.
With that said, my first experience with meditation was on the back of a motorcycle.
I only just realized the connection between the two last fall when I began to establish my own meditation practice and deepen my yoga practice through the Ashtanga lineage; the discipline required for this practice opened up new possibilities and insights that I had never experienced before.
I had asked a friend to pick me up on his motorcycle during an exceptionally sunny warm day in November. I was craving that connection to my early childhood roots that only being on the back of a bike could offer me. I was nervous and excited with the anticipation of a long awaited ride.
As we navigated the back roads of New Hampshire the scenery captivated me and the vibration of the motorcycle began lull me into a meditative state as I began my journey down memory lane.
I was remembering a time when my life was simply simple. I did not worry or fear anything. I felt free and happy. Sometimes all four of us would pile onto the bike, my baby brother on the gas tank and me in between my Mom and Dad, as we went to town for pizza. My favorite times were when it was just me and my Dad. My father would reach around and squeeze my leg to make sure I was doing okay. This always made me smile and warmed my heart. Inevitably, the hum of the bike would lull me into sleep. My Dad would have to pull over to wake me and transfer me to the car. Usually my Mother was following close behind in the car with my little brother for this very reason. I always fell asleep on the back of the bike.
As my friend and I continued on our ride, I began to feel a sense of peace and calm surround me. I was able to surrender completely to all of the sensations of the moment. I closed my eyes and tuned in to the wind as it caressed my body pressing on my leather coverings and cooling my skin and lips. This made me feel so alive and aware. The hum of the wind and the vibrations of the bike completely subdued my thoughts so that I felt spacious and void of all thinking.
While this feeling of complete surrender took hold of me I suddenly realized how much this was like meditation. I marveled at the ease and comfort I felt as I went within myself and found no thoughts and no feelings and discovered pure being. I suddenly realized that, as a child of seven or eight, I had my first experiences with meditation on the back of a motorcycle!
At this moment of realization I felt pure ecstasy and bliss; I began to weep tears of joy as my spirit soared with me. The incredible lightness of being had overwhelmed my entire body. I felt deep gratitude for the moment, the vision and the realization that I was more familiar with meditation than I realized.
As our joy ride came to an end back at my house where we began, I found our little journey pleasantly symbolic of life’s circles.
“And the seasons they go ’round and ’round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came,
And go round and round and round
In the circle game”
~ Joni Mitchell
Since this awakening on the back of the motorcycle, I have been remaining open to other areas in my life that are similar to meditation.
Like the Zen proverb says, “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment chop wood, carry water.”I have been trying to break life down into the simplicity of the present moment rather than carrying the past forward with me or yearning for something in the future while missing what is in front of me.
Meditation can go beyond the cushion and can be found in the most unexpected places.
The key is to stay open and present to those moments as they present themselves, or they could fly right past you on the wind.
Nichole Gould is the founder of Barefoot Warrior Yoga in The White Mountains of New Hampshire. As a Student of life, yogini, yoga teacher, landscape gardener, single mother, organic pizza waitress and lover of all board sports, she considers herself a jack of much and a master of none. She can also be found dabbling with guitar playing, singing off key, reading from her many stacks of books or writing poetry. Feel feel to peruse her Facebook page or contact her via her website for more insight into her ever curious mind.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise