Further: Live For Today - The Secret Benefit of Riding
Ultimate MotorCycling’s Jonathan Handler

Further Motorcycle Column V

Why do we ride? Countless discussions, articles and films try to distill our passion for climbing aboard a two-wheeled conveyance and going around the block or around the world.

Against all arguments for safety and comfort, we venture out to fulfill a multitude of individual dreams we have of what the ride will provide us. Most are well known.

Whether it is the common declaration of freedom, competition, exhilaration, exploration, transportation or idolization, we all have our needs and motivations. You might like polishing and posing or riding and sliding, but there is something deep within the activity that makes you feel good. In the physical act of riding, even more can be achieved.

And, whether you know it or not, motorcycling is a pastime that makes it possible to attain a degree of enlightenment without trying very hard. The application to one’s life of what is learned during riding can be rewarding — so much more than simply being in the wind.

We rarely think about the profound positive psychological benefit that comes to us as a natural side-effect, and that is because we almost always concentrate on the ride and nothing else. This is the key.

Rare is the activity that causes people to be isolated in the endeavor at which they purge themselves of anything that is not happening right now. Hobbies and activities requiring extreme focus can give you this, but few can deliver an experience like motorcycle riding.

Our world is complex, and so are most of our lives. We think about the past and plan for the future, often at the price of missing out on the present. We work and our heads are filled with the job. We drive and listen to music or the news, daydream about things to do, and pay scant attention to the surroundings as we roll on toward our destination and the continuation of life.

We arrive at home and are bombarded by an infinite number of distractions, all of which have us working or thinking toward a goal, be it dinner, family matters, bills, or the TV show that can’t be missed. We go on vacation, and can’t stay off the smartphone.

A goal can be the enemy if it detracts from the present. Hope is suffering, according to certain Eastern teachings, because hope can make it harder to live right now without thinking too much about other, distracting things. Let me explain.

“Live for Today” (and don’t worry about tomorrow) is not only an anthem of the 1970s by The Grass Roots, it is a way of life recommended over millennia by teachers, religions, gurus, psychologists, and big-money life coaches. You can pay a fortune to learn to be in the moment and happy. You can do yoga and meditate. You can spend a lifetime learning to control your mind so that you are “in the now”, with its reward of a deeper enjoyment of life and less worry.

Or you can ride a motorcycle.

Piloting a bike invariably requires one’s full and undivided attention. There is no past and no future. There is only the road ahead (and the occasional smell of BBQ, and thought of gas, food, and lodging). There is only right now, which is a shortcut to happiness by breaking the yoke of thoughts that serve no purpose and worries about things beyond our own control.

As the 2014 riding season slips into the sunset and plans for school, work, holidays, winter projects, and next riding season swirl through our heads, I suggest you take quiet moments, almost any time and any place, and recall the feeling you had and mental state you were in while riding this past year. Not the ride itself, but the clarity of the moment. Slip into the bliss, live for today, and learn to stay in this headspace. There will always be later.

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