The Mindfulness of Motorcycling

motorcycling 3

I’m currently thinking a lot about my mindfulness practice as I prepare for a forthcoming silent retreat and mindfulness teacher training. I’ve been wondering about the old and common refrain “but I haven’t got enough time for practicing mindfulness…where will I fit it into my busy life?”. This was something that concerned me when I did my 8 week course and really threw myself into practicing on a daily basis. However, over the last couple of years I’ve been intentionally storing up all the opportunities I find in everyday life, no matter how frenetic it gets, to take a moment of peace and calm.

Recently I was riding my motorbike and enjoying the countryside with my husband and friend. I was struck by how peaceful and completely centred the experience of being on my bike is. Bikers often describe how they are “connected” to the bike or “part of” it. After over 20 years riding experience this suddenly became very real for me. You see, when you ride a motorbike, arguably you must focus and pay attention to the present moment even more so than in a car. I say this as someone who also loves driving – but I admit there are many times where I drift off mentally when driving, thinking about the past or the future, and often not 100% engaged with the current driving experience. However, with a motorbike it’s almost impossible to do that without serious consequences.

Whilst riding the bike I was acutely aware of the breeze passing my face under my visor, the smells of the trees and fields as I rode past, and the quality of the light as I went through tree canopies that crossed the roads I travelled on. The sounds of the engine and gear changes were distinct and gave me useful information. I could also feel, almost immediately, when my body tensed up, a sure sign that I was not paying adequate attention to the bends and sweeps ahead of me. An old motorcycle instructor of mine always used to say to keep your arms floppy when riding so you can feel tiny movements in the bike and appreciate the quality (or not!) of the road.  Having momentary awareness of stiffness in my arms allowed me to remedy this, almost subconsciously.

Mindfulness brings such clarity to experience. It’s almost like turning the tuning dial on a radio or turning up the volume. Suddenly we notice individual sounds, where previously there was simply a ‘sea’ of noise.

So next time you feel it is a chore to practice ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’ – consider the simple, everyday activities that can be done mindfully and give you that opportunity to connect. Perhaps your morning coffee brewing, feeling the breeze on your face as you cycle to work, noticing individual noises in the cacophony of sound on your commute, or perhaps paying extra attention to the body language of your colleagues as you wish them good morning. Perhaps you’re a biker like me and you can truly engage in your next journey. I’d love to hear about your daily mindfulness opportunities…