I have a Triumph Bonneville that I love to ride. Some people love bikes for the way they sound or look, but I love mine for the state of mind I’m in when I ride.
I’ve always been skeptical of meditation, purely out of ignorance. I suppose that as you get older you start to consider the things that are truly important to you more carefully. The frivolous distractions of what people think or what others are doing give way to finding true meaning in your real relationships, and what you hope to achieve with your life.
When you ride a motorcycle you’re forced to stay present. There are, of course, times when the mind wanders in its random way, but it quickly returns to the present as you’re constantly reminded that you’re utterly exposed. To stay aware is to stay safe, and so the mind remains focused. After riding for a few hours I’m always surprised at how refreshed my perspective feels. This is what meditation is to me – the ability to stay present.
I’ve been practicing more traditional mediation lately, and while helping me a great deal it has also got me thinking about other times in life when the mind is forced to remain in the present.
One of the most common things I hear from those who train – not just at Roark – is that exercise clears the mind. At the start of an exercise session one can be filled with stress and anxiety, and yet afterwards feel as though things are suddenly not as bad as they seemed.
I believe that this is because the mind is present during exercise. Whether you’re running or lifting weights, there’s an absolute need to be present for the sake of safety and intensity. The avenues of worry that the mind wanders down become less appealing as the mind surges ahead on a straighter path.
The sensory experience as I ride my Triumph is also very real. Sometimes I smell freshly cut grass and sometimes I smell day old rubbish. At times the temperature feels perfect and just as quickly it can change to bone achingly cold. But I feel it. I smell it. I’m not spoilt by the good nor am I sheltered from the bad, and therein lies the joy of the experience.
I feel the same way about training at Roark. It’s real. The steel against your hands, the uneven rhythm of your breathing, the way the weight fights against your muscles – that’s the joy of the experience. That some days it feels easy and some it feels impossible. Some sessions you can see where you’re heading and others the mist is too thick to see the end.
The beauty is in the real simplicity of it all. It’s not comfortable or fun all of the time, but it does provide your character with perspective. The perspective that you can’t understand bumpy without smooth, or heavy without light. That things truly have value when you have worked for them. That discomfort is real and necessary, but it’s only temporary.