April 23, 2014

Bike Touring & the Hunt for Personal Treasure: A Modern Day Pilgrimage for a Modern Day Soul. ~ Rasham Riely-Gibbons

Biking by Rasham Riely-Gibbons, author

Warning: f-bombs ahead!

I was straddling my bike, staring at the landscape of Slovenia and eyeing the Alps in the background.

It was one of those holy shit  moments when they first came into view, those Austrian-Swiss shark-toothed peaks with milk-white frosting on top. Like, am I really here? I‘ve pedaled my ass across 22 countries and over 10,000 miles; I’ve gone nowhere and everywhere and still, this crazy uphill-downhill relationship is the greatest love of my life. You’d think I’d have better words to say than fuck yeah! But it’s all just that damn beautiful.

And to think I used to argue with my husband about the value of travel. “I don’t need a vacation,” I’d sneer. “No martinis by the pool for you,”he’d sneer back. He means travel like a pilgrimage: A going into fresh territory with a mind to amend your ways. A quest in the realm of the physical that nourishes the greater journey of the soul. A hunt for personal treasure.

IMG_1493 (1)As a seeker, I began my journey within the containers of yoga classes, workshops, chanting tea parties, alternative healing therapies and group gatherings. Committed and pretty darn disciplined, I earned a decent amount of physical strength, clarity, friendship and self-love. But sometimes the spiritual thing becomes the habitual thing. I was drowning in aloe juice and Kombucha. I asana-ed my body out. I filled more notebooks in workshops than I did in college. I drained my bank account. Living each day within a spiritual safety bubble became the habit I needed to break.


Need I mention I was miserable? Rod Stryker blew my mind with this statement:

Your (yoga) practice might not work for you anymore. If that’s the case, if it no longer serves you, it’s time for change.

Touché, because I was absorbed in it and still felt that I needed to find my treasure (the Self, God, awakening, self-knowing, etc.). My mind was a confused consortium of teachings and concepts I adopted from various traditions. I was a divided piece of collected works, a library of knowledge, all if it spiritual, but none of it very deep.

Based purely on a hunch, I did something revolutionary: I meditated.

Yeah, you would think I would have done that in the four+ years I feasted on spiritual teachings. In my defense, I really did try. I think I made it five minutes once without moving. I lived each day with the unwavering intention of awakening my third eye. I regularly envisioned pools of love draining from my quivering heart. I dissolved my very own Dark Man of Sin over, and over, and over again. I even left my body in savasana once and flew around the room. IMG_1355

In the same training Rod Stryker said that if he could do it proper, he would have us in meditation to still the mind for two solid years before teaching us any of the tantra yoga stuff. He’d allow us enough time to calm and clear the mental atmosphere in order that we develop witness consciousness and grow our wisdom in still water. Clear the field of weeds before planting the garden, so to speak.

So it was no surprise that it wasn’t until I sat my first Vipassana course that my distracted mind, so inflated from gorging on spiritual treats, so overweight with wanting, shrunk in light of my growing self-control. I learned how to observe my mental field. The concept of equanimity became my daily bread. I saw that under all my assumptions about what a spiritual life should be was the truth: I need not try so hard to become spiritual as much as I need to shut up, stop doing so much and just listen. And after all, meditation is a great way to dig up clues.

Wisdom speaks. Mine said, “Hey girl, it was good while it lasted, but it’s time to move on.”

I also knew what I had to do to find my treasure (squeal!). I was ready to live true spirituality. I took my journey from the practice room and into the world, on a bike with my husband.


It was hunting season, and I was hungry for my treasure.

In the first few months of travel I looked back at my life and wondered why no one bothered to kick me out of my happy little yoga rut the way a parent gives the loving boot to their adult children, ready or not. I wished, somewhere near my 2,000th warrior pose and 57th hour in supported bridge, that someone had said, “Your place is no longer here but is waiting somewhere out there, and your job is to go find it.”

IMG_1909 (1)My wisdom laughs, “It was only I who could will you to act!” True, I couldn’t have made the leap until I got the go-ahead from my Self. Meditation is like a telephone line that reaches through the busy avenues of mind and straight to the soul. I finally closed my eyes and with the help of a single, concentrated technique, answered the call.

I used to want so badly to feel what others had been feeling, to experience myself as the rising snake, the laughing goddess, the raw ecstasy of God and the vastness of the ocean bundled up into one mind-blowing orgasmic series of psychic jolts that would transform me forever.

But it’s far more personal than that. It’s more like a jewelry box. You open it and stare at the beauty of your soul, or you close it and keep it safely in your pocket.

I‘m 10,000 miles from my comfort zone, far east of my home. I have a vague understanding that the greatest gifts in life are the ones you uncover within yourself. Staring jaw-dropped at the Alps, I know I’ve found my treasure. My husband is happy to hear that I no longer underestimate the value of travel (I’m not talking about beach clubs and snorkeling). In fact, I’m an advocate for popping comfort bubbles, shaking off the dust and seeking new challenges. IMG_1965

I‘m a living advertisement for the benefits of travel. As a bike tourist, I can personally attest that going places is a great way to expand and strengthen the most personal of all relationships; the one we have with ourselves. On the road, I’ve met hundreds of people who have made their pilgrimages by bike, foot, car, motorcycle, boat, airplane, dune-buggy, rollerblades, whatever.

Despite differences in religious perspectives and spiritual beliefs, this kind of journey is all about building upon self-trust and developing inner faith. It’s about recollecting it from where you’ve deposited it in outside things and reinvesting it in yourself. It’s about closing your spiritual books and living what it speaks. It’s the way of the warrior, not just the pose. It’s the great and noble quest for your personal treasure.

It’s all about your heart. Aim to crack it open and drink your love.

Some are already tapped in, creative consciousness endlessly aglow. But those of us who yearn for this must sometimes make a real journey to find it. It won’t just fall into your lap. Shed your robe of complacency, pick up your walking stick, and go.

If you want to meet your treasure, think yourself a warrior and go on a hunt.

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Apprentice Editor: Kathryn Rutz / Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photos: Author’s Own

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