In my experience, mindfulness is more important than meditation. Meditation is just one practice to increase mindfulness. It is mindfulness in our mundane, daily lives that provides greater lessons for living well. Yesterday, I rode on the back of a bike for the first time in well over 20 years. It’s quite an experience for someone who’s not used to it. Here are the lessons I was reminded of.
On the back of a bike you are completely exposed. In a car, 40 miles an hour doesn’t feel like you’re going all that fast; on the back of a motorcycle, you feel it. I felt the loss of the security of a seatbelt. Images of splattering on the pavement filtered through my mind. I breathed slowly through my fear.
Lesson #1: Long slow breaths are they key to softening fear responses and helps me to make sane choices, rather than reactive choices.
Being on a motorcycle requires leaning into the curve. The biologically based impulse is to move away from that which frightens you…and there was no doubt that a part of me was a bit frightened. I had to consciously work to make my body yield into the curve. At some point I realized I had a backrest. Once I leaned into the backrest and followed that, it was much easier to follow the rhythm of the bike.
Lesson #2: Going with the flow is a lot easier when there’s support at your back.
My adrenaline and cortisol were pumping. My impulse was to hang on tightly to the driver. But, clenching made it harder for me to go with the flow. I intentionally softened my grip. Then we hit a bump in the road. I felt ungrounded, adrenaline pumped fast, and my heart raced, that is, until I finally found the right balance.
Lesson #3: Hardly grip, but be prepared to grip hard.
On a bike, you are not an observer to the environment; You are interacting with it. You are not in a box, looking outward at the environment, like watching TV. You are smelling it and tasting it. Your eyes might get dry. Your skin stimulated by wind, heat, and rain. You will smell smog, dampness of rain, manure, or even a lilac bush. The amount of stimulation was, at times, a little overwhelming. But I saw more and experienced much more than I ever would have in a car.
Lesson #4: Living in relationship to your environment will be smellier and more uncomfortable, but much more interesting.
My heart raced. My mind managed my reactions and the stimulation. I was a bit scared. The helmet made me claustrophobic and it was hot inside of it. So was the protective jacket I was wearing – especially when we weren’t going fast. My nose was on overdrive and I understood what it might be like to be a dog with its head out the window. My skin was on hyper-alert. But within 20 minutes, I was navigating the experience like a pro.
Lesson #5: It takes a lot less time to get comfortable with something new than you think it will.
I wanted to share my experience with the driver but we didn’t have microphones or speakers in the helmet. I’d catch myself trying to speak to him and getting no response. It didn’t take me much time to figure out
Lesson #6: When someone can’t hear you, talking is a pointless endeavor.
What lessons are ready for you today? If you are mindful to the minutia of daily life, what deep truth is available to you?
May you be mindful in your daily life and in that mindfulness, may you have a deeper and more interesting experience. May you live your life fully.
Sabrina Santa Clara