3 Days before Leaving; Do You Believe in Fate? Destiny?

3 Days before Leaving; Do You Believe in Fate? Destiny?

In 3 days I’ll hit the road again. I kind of know where I’m going and I kinda don’t. I’m hoping to stop in Lindsborg, Kansas to see an old friend of mine that I hadn’t seen in over twenty years. Lindsborg’s nickname is Little Sweden USA because it was founded by Swedish Immigrants and the language and traditions continue there to this day. It also was also the location of my first college teaching post at Bethany College and I really enjoyed it. My second stop will be in Peoria to visit with a woman Facebook friend that I had met, in person, at the beginning of my trip. Some mysteries need to be cleared up there. When I left Georgia on May 9th I hadn’t planned to stop at either of these places on the way back. That’s the way I think fate/destiny works. But you have to trust it, go with it.

What do you think about fate or destiny? Call it whatever you want to – God’s will, the Tao, the Universe, Synchronicity, Yuanfen? Have things happened in your life that seem as though they were meant to have happened? People you met, maybe married. Schools you went to. Books that came to you at certain times of your life? Events that somehow changed the trajectory of your life?

Were these just coincidences? And are coincidences, as some would say, just God’s way of remaining anonymous.

And where does free will fit into all of this? What does it mean to “follow your heart”? What does it mean to “trust”? To let go? We worry so much about what the future might bring; which path we should take.

Tough questions. Some Christians believe that all will be well if we seek first the Kingdom. Taoist, Buddhist and Stoic suggest “going with the flow” but not in some apathetic, hippy way. The poet Rilke has this advice for us who are struggling with our innermost questions.  Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.

Where will I ride? What roads will I take? Will I make it to these destinations or will others suddenly appear and beckon me? And what about you?

Some Concluding Thoughts, for Now. What I learned from the Ride.

Some Concluding Thoughts, for Now. What I learned from the Ride.

“The real cycle you’re working on is a cycle called yourself.”

Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

 In Tao of the Ride, Garri Garripoli writes: The Ride is the metaphor I use in this book for how we move through our life…For me, the Ride is best played out on a motorcycle. It speaks to every aspect of how I see life in that poetic way – the need for balance, confronting your mortality, accelerating, breaking, refueling, tune-ups, repairs, accidents, accepting passengers and so forth. The bike becomes a mirror that reflects the whole of my life.

I like Garripoli’s quote (and his book). Here are some  of my conclusions about my ride.

Look where you want to go. When you’re are on a motorcycle you need to be focusing not immediately in front of you, but instead looking in the direction you want the bike to go. The bike will go where you’re looking. If you get fixated on some hazard in the road, or that your bike is heading off the road and you are worried about a wall or a ditch and you stare at them, that’s called object fixation. Staring at them you’re more likely to hit them. As in life, you have to not get too hung up on difficulties in your path, but instead, have a vision of where you want to go. Proverbs says: “Where there is no vision the people perish.” Lots of times in life we get stuck focusing on the problem that is making us unhappy and forget about the things that do make us happy. Let’s head toward them.

Don’t worry about what you’ve already driven through, or become preoccupied with what’s coming up that you can’t yet see. This is part of staying in the present. Having an awareness and mindfulness of what’s happening around you, what your senses are telling you. If we focus too much on the past, which we can’t change, we’re daydreaming and not paying attention. Similarly, if we worry about the future too much we can miss important things that are happening in this moment. And this moment, this day, is the only one we have. We have to present to win. This links in with the Zen concept of mushin no shin which means “the mind without mind”. Jeff said a similar thing to me when he mentioned that when he was riding it was like he had no mind. Mushin happens when the mind is not preoccupied with thoughts or emotions and thus is open to the present, to what is happening now. It’s similar to the flow that artists experience in very creative moments. You don’t rely on your thinking but on your training and intuition.

Stay calm and breathe. It’s so important not to over-anticipate and overreact to things. I’m still working on this as I tend to tense up a lot, with a rough road or wild winds. If I see a bump ahead, or debris in the road I would often tense up in anticipation. Instead, I need to look and see what my options are. This illustrates the constant lane awareness you have to have. If I can shift in my lane or change lanes to miss the obstacle then I need to stay calm, look where I want to go and make the subtle movements to go there.  The last two days of my ride I felt this happening more with me. I wasn’t always trying to plan my lane position for curves, I would catch myself tensing up and I’d relax. Toward the end of the ride I was feeling more and more the flow and energy of the bike and the Ride.

The Taoists have a useful concept called wu wei. Essentially it translates as effortless action. It means to flow with the situation rather than trying to force things. Resistance is futile! Find the energy and go with it. This works effectively with difficult Harley Davidson service managers or challenging folks at work. And the principle can be seen in the actions of dancers, artists, musicians who have relaxed into their artistry, trust it and follow it. You can also see this with motorcyclists in how they manage a curve in the road. They might manhandle the bike, bank it with force, grip the handlebars extremely tightly (like I have so often done) or they relax into the curve, sense the bike and the road, look where they want to go, feel the flow and balance, and manage it all gracefully with wu wei, effortless effort.

This leads into the next bit of knowledge I gleaned: Lean into the Curve. I’ve written about this already. I even bought a Harley shirt in Victorville, California, where I was getting my Harley repaired, and the shirt says: “When Life Throws you a Curve, Lean into it.” Don’t fight it, or become fixated on it, or try to overpower it; just trust that you can go into it, through it and survive. You will make it through it and come out safely the other side.

Silence is healing and holy. We are bombarded with noise all the time. The radio, the television, music we listen to. When do we actively engage with silence? Elijah, Jesus and Mohammed journeyed into the desert so they could more clearly hear the voice of God. Buddhist, Christians and others meditate in silence.  Quakers worship in silence. Psalm 46 says: Be still and know that I am God. When are we ever “still”?

Even with the loud hum of the V-Twin Harley engine on my Road King, most of the time I felt as if I was in silence. The sound was a hymn that was being written as I rode.

Love the Ride. Be grateful. This was my ride but we’re all on the Ride, our life’s journey.

The eighteenth-century Christian writer Jean-Pierre De Caussade wrote “The present moment holds infinite riches beyond your wildest dreams …The will of God is manifest in each moment, an immense ocean which only the heart fathoms insofar as it overflows with faith, trust and love.”

I know my life works better when I express gratitude for what I have and show loving kindness and compassion towards others, beginning with myself. I tried to do this as much as possible on the the ride.

I hope you enjoyed riding along. Thanks for reading and following us.

I’ll conclude with a quote from one of my favorite writers.

Homecoming is the goal, but our home is not out there, a geographic place, the protective other, or a comforting theology or psychology. Homecoming means returning to a relationship with the Self, a relationship that was there in the beginning, but from which we necessarily strayed in our obligatory adaptations to the explicit and implicit demands of family, tribe and culture. Homecoming means healing, means integration of the split off parts of the soul, means redeeming the dignity and high purpose of our soul’s journey. When we are here to live our soul’s journey, we can spontaneously be generous to others, for we have much to give from our inner abundance; we can draw and maintain boundaries, for we have learned the difference between their journey and ours; and we can sort through different value clashes because we have found a personal authority that helps us discern what is authentic for us. In short, we have recovered a relationship to the soul (psyche) from which we lost contact, but that nonetheless continues to hum beneath the surface of our lives and never, ever loses contact with us.”

James Hollis, What Matters Most

Day 16: Henderson to Holbrook; Random and Unruly Thoughts I have while Riding

Day 16: Henderson to Holbrook; Random and Unruly Thoughts I have while Riding

Today I decided that I’d take out my laptop when I took a break and write down the thoughts I’d been having during the ride. After all, the subtitle of the blog is: Motorcycles and Mindfulness; Two Wheels Move the Soul. While riding, I find that I can balance focusing on the present-what my senses are telling me while I ride, e.g. sounds, smells, feel of the bike, reacting to the wind, reading the road ahead- with being mindful-thinking about issues, as long as they are in the present, and not the past or future. If I get into memories or thinking about what I’m going to do I get distracted and lose awareness.  That’s never good.

You will probably conclude that I’m pretty weird (if you haven’t already!) but welcome to my world! Here’s what I recorded at my breaks. I did edit it when I got to the hotel!

Break 1: After 100 miles. Kingman.

Whoo wee! That was a windy ride. I left Henderson, skirted around Lake Mead and Hoover Dam and was met with signs saying: gusty winds next 2 miles”. I tensed up; even though that’s the worst thing you can do on a bike. Winds are definitely a flow you’ve got to go with and you have to trust your experience and the bike. Though I did wish the highway people would start out with more gentle warning signs such as: “Not sure, but it could be a little windier than usual up ahead”, next sign: “We’re pretty sure now it’s going to be fairly windy”, “Okay, we were wrong it’s going to be gusty up ahead. Sorry.” I could then ease into it. Otherwise, I start to get anxious and tense. I look around.  Okay, where are those pesky winds hiding?

I spent two hours in the traffic and the gusts, did 100 miles and made it to Kingman, where I am now having some iced tea and relaxing. The winds were bad, but I’ve been through worse. Hurricane Point above Big Sur will now be my standard measurement. But now, the tea is cold, sweet and great. I’m happy as Larry, as they say in Ireland, though I never had a clue who this Larry was.

I was thinking about how I love how most bikers (90+ %) will give a little salute to other bikers as they pass. Normally, it’s the left hand down, extended outward but sometimes it’s a wave. It’s like we’re saying: He there buddy! Ride safe! I remember how when I was younger, out in different parts of Georgia car drivers would give a little wave. More recently, I remember driving in the Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland where passing motorists will still wave to each other. It was quaint and I liked it.

Break 2: Williams Arizona for Lunch

Magnificent clouds met me when I left McDonalds. Huge feather clouds taking up half the sky, scudded by fleecy clouds underneath. Wow.  

Awareness and going with the flow to me means being patient, not in a hurry, enjoying the ride, recognizing that on the bike or off, our life is a ride. What applies on the road applies in life.

What gets in the way of our enjoying life are our expectations of things. We think things should be a certain way and they’re not and we get frustrated and angry. In restaurants we don’t like waiting. We get angry at the waiter. There’s some guy driving slow in front of us; another guy hogging the passing lane and we get angry, ride on their tails. It reminded me of a poem I wrote last year about geese. When I get to the hotel I’ll find it and stick it in here.

 (Here’s the poem!)

An Alternative Theory on Flying Geese and War

There’s a charming and inspiring story

About geese flying in a V formation,

Taking turns to lead

And honking to make contact

To support and encourage each other.

You’ve probably heard it.

Or you can Google it.

Personally, I don’t believe it.

Apply Ockam’s Razor,

The simplest explanation is often the best,

And you’ll see that they honk,

Like we do

When others get in our way.

Sky rage, road rage,

Sidewalk rage, rage between countries

What’s the difference?

For heaven’s sake the honking

Is not a “contact call”.

It’s not saying:

“I’m right here behind you!”

Geese aren’t stupid.

We know, they know

When some other goose

Is flying close behind our tail.

I don’t know about you but

No one ever encouraged me

With a honk.

We’re like the geese

Always in motion,

Heading in some direction which

To us feels sacred and inviolate

Wanting others

To hurry up

And get out of our way.

Think about it:

Hasn’t all our heartache,

Violence and war come from

Our desires to

Be some where

(Where is this where?)

Or be some one

(Special, acclaimed?)

Or have some thing?

(A person, fame, wealth, property?)

And damn it if other geese,

People, countries

Just won’t get the hell out of our way. 

They honk.

We honk.

 

Ha ha! That was fun.

 We’re in such a hurry. To where? In a car I’m thinking how this place is boring and how fast can I get across this bareness? I listen to the radio, keep changing stations, listen to a cd etc. On a motorcycle I’m immersed in this barrenness. The Buddhist might say that I am at one with the barrenness, and that maybe the barrenness isn’t really barren at all.

I see a bike ahead and can tell from the outline it’s an Electra Glide like Jeff’s. I can’t make up the color but no way I’ve caught up with him. I get closer and see it’s white, the guy has no helmet on, bless Arizona. I pass him and wave and he smiles and waves back, He has a bandana on and a long smoky grey beard that flops, doubling, as he waves. He’s cruising at 65 and enjoying every minute of it.

It is at this point that a wind zaps me into awareness again. Damn wind! I start thinking about it and wonder if any biker has compiled a typology of winds. Well, I’ll do my own.

  1. Zephyr. A gentle breeze.
  2. Directional wind. Wind coming from one direction.
  3. Cross winds. Winds sometimes from the left alternating with winds from the right.
  4. Buffeting winds. Winds created by large trucks when you are following them.
  5. Truck passing winds. Winds created when you’ve decided you’ve had enough and you’re damn well going to pass that truck. With these situations you have to factor in the Bernoulli Effect –which I won’t describe now but involves differences in air pressure which actually suck you towards the truck as you pass. (A whole independent treatise could be written on the crazy dynamics of these kinds of winds! Maybe I will.)
  6. Reappearing winds. They hide when you are passing the truck but when you reemerge they’re back with a vengeance.
  7. Wacky winds. Impatient, unhappy winds. They think the wind is greener on the other side. They dart through you, decide they don’t like it on the other side and quickly dart back. And they keep doing this like a kid changing channels on his TV.  
  8. Whacking winds. These appear out of nowhere and just whack you. The universal response is almost always something like: Where the hell did that come from! They remind me of what some Zen monks do to students who are meditating. If the student looks like they are drifting off into daydreaming then the monk will whack them on the shoulder with a stick. It’s for the student’s own good. Yeah right. Whacking winds can be helpful if you’ve lost awareness and focus, but I still hate them.  

 Then I’m back to thinking about the Geese poem again. Don’t all religions preach love, kindness and compassion? So my goal is to love the person in front of me, as Kierkegaard would say, not as I want them to be, wish they could be, but as they are, without any judgement, expectation, or demand that they be different. But our beliefs and ideas of right and wrong get in the way. (Where did they come from? What we think about our country, our rights, our religious beliefs? Are we sure about them?)  

We have so many beliefs about what we think is right and wrong and we never question them. We listen to other people and news sources which only serve to confirm our beliefs. We make fun of other groups. I’ll confess that I used to have a rough time with rich people and assumed all sorts of things about them. I didn’t like them. I also used to think bad things about overly demonstrative religious people. (And I would use parts of the Bible to justify these e.g. pray in quiet. But haven’t people always used the Bible this way? Look how many southerners used the Bible to justify slavery.)

I started thinking about the 16 years I lived in Northern Ireland. Now the people there were wonderful. And I’m not going to then say: “But bless their hearts!” and lay into them. They ones I met were and are wonderful. And I met some “chancers” as they would say over there!

But I remember once going on a cross cultural peace retreat at a peace center called Corrymeela. They had some great speakers and facilitators that tried to get you to look at things differently, to understand better where you and others were coming from.  I remember a leader saying: To Jesus right or wrong wasn’t the most important thing. It didn’t matter if the person was a prostitute, leper, tax collector, a beggar, or a rich man, it was the relationship that he had with that person that was of utmost importance. He put aside His judgements. He saw the person and he loved them. That stuck in my head. Ideas can get in our way and we don’t even know it. Catholic or Protestant? Years ago, before they had the long time now peace process the old joke used to go: A car gets stopped at a paramilitary road block in Belfast and a man with a gun asks the driver. “Are you a Catholic or a Protestant?  In those days, depending on where you were in Belfast the answer to that question can make a huge difference as to whether you continue to drive in your car. Anyway, the man says: “I’m a Buddhist.” The paramilitary man thinks for a moment and then replies: “Yeah, but are you a Catholic Buddhist or a Protestant Buddhist?”

I figure my job is to let go of labels and judgements. If I’m busy criticizing or making fun of others, be it Republicans, liberals, Democrats, rednecks, immigrants, gay people, people from other countries, whoever, then I’m digging a hole for myself. Besides, I love what Anne Lamotte said: The surest sign that you’ve created God in your own image is when it turns out He hates the same people you do. My goal is to love others. Judging gets in the way of that.  I need to watch out for this. I can slip into judgements and expectations of others in the blink of an eye.

I’m writing this down (most of it-edited later) while sitting out in the sun having lunch, a beer and listening to a well-travelled, folk and blues player.  This man has paid his dues. He seems to be happy in the moment. He jokes, shares stories, plays requests and pets his dog during the break.  

I look over at a gabled wall and read: Williams- Last Route 66 town bypassed by 1-40 on October 13th 1984. 

It feels great to be off the bike, to sit in the sun, to watch the families, the children goofing around and to listen to the music.

The food comes. The cole slaw is better than good, even has some walnuts in it. The fries are very good. The amber ale is excellent but I don’t like the barbecue sandwich. I am disappointed but not upset. I could get mad but what will getting mad do for me? For anyone else? I’m happy. Maybe it’s a different style of barbecue? Arizona style, where apparently they don’t know how to make real barbecue! I don’t eat it. I let it go and enjoy everything else.

I’m rewarded brilliantly when the musician plays two tunes I love and hardly ever hear. “Looking for the Heart of Saturday night.” By Tom Waits and a real obscure song called:   

“1952 Vincent Black Lightning.” By Richard Thompson. Wow.

 I figure I’ve got about 130 miles to go. It’s 3:15 pm. An easy two hours with more stuff to think about.

 Break 3: in Holbrook, Arizona.

Jeff’s already here and we chat. It’s good to see him again. He tells of his adventures and I tell mine. I hope he’ll blog them because the man can tell a story and he’s funny as all get out.

I collapsed on the bed. I was exhausted. My head hurt and I fell asleep.

Later, when I woke up we talked some more. I asked him if he’d seen the man on the yellow Victory. He hadn’t. So I told him the story.

When I was leaving Williams and topping up the gas tank I ran into another biker doing the same thing. He was on a yellow Victory motorcycle. He came hobbling over to talk.

“You hurt yourself?” I asked.

“Yep, I’ve dropped the bike 5 times. Last time was up at the Grand Canyon. Slipped on some gravel. bike fell on my foot. I’m not used to the roads.”

“Dang!” I replied. I walked over to his bike. It looked nice but dirty and a bit dented.

“You been on the road long?” I asked.

“Just 10 days. Had a fog light here.” He said pointing to where there were only two wires sticking out. “Knocked it off when I dropped her. Other one still works.”

“You been riding motorcycles for long?” I had to ask.

“Yep. This bike has 35,000 miles on it. But these roads are different than the ones back in Tennessee.”

We talked for a while longer. I was going East and he West.  I wished him well as we said goodbye.  “And no more dropping your bike!” I said.

When I left I gave thanks for not having had his experiences. And I said a prayer for him.  

 

Jeff and I chatted off and on. He wrote, I wrote, he called his wife. We discussed things. He’s a witty and clever and fun traveling companion. I’m lucky. He, not so much.

Before he headed off to bed he said: “Lookie here, ain’t that nice they put a special pad under my sheet. I guess it’s in case I pee during the night.” He laughed.

I said: “Well Jeff I gave them those special instructions  because I’m not going to pay those motel surcharges for you any more.”

He laughed: “Yep, I bet you’ve already forked out $200 in paying for new mattresses!”

“Yep, and I ain’t gonna do it any more.”