Have you ever wanted something for a very long time? Perhaps nothing important or necessary, just a secret little dream that may or may not ever come true? Have you ever finally allowed it to come true – and then wondered, “What the hell am I doing?!” I have. In fact, it’s still happening.
I’ve harbored a secret desire since right around my 18th birthday. I had just met a sweet young man and he had a motorcycle, a beautiful Honda Silver Wing, and he took me out on it. There was a lot of stressful stuff going on at the time, but those motorcycle rides were pure joy for me. A few months later he sold his bike to pay for our wedding, and ever since I’ve wanted one of my very own. I’ve dreamed about it for years, imagining where I would ride, watching the many kinds of bikes on the road and envying the secret wave they use to greet each other. It was a world I wanted to be part of, but any time I’d consider it more seriously, there were too many reasons to tuck the dream back into hiding. “I have to be a responsible adult now. It’s just a waste of money. What if someone ran into me? Any mishap between car and motorcycle makes it clear who has the disadvantage.” Yes, plenty of reasons to keep the dream just that – a dream.
Then several years ago my brother showed up with a shiny new motorcycle. Not a Silver Wing, but a lovely little red thing called a Honda Rebel. I looked it over, grinning from ear to ear, and blurted out, “Hey, if you ever want to get rid of that bike, let me know!” Well, the topic came up recently. He was preparing for some big changes of his own and lightening his load; did I still want the bike? Yes, of course! Oh, wait… did I really? What would I do with such a foolish contraption here in the mountains? I’m not a kid anymore; is this really necessary? And the real question: am I ready to bring this dream out of the safety of my imagination into the harsh light of reality?
After way too much arguing with myself (and an invisible friend hollering something about “Just go for the experience, ferchrissakes!!”) I found myself the happy and slightly shocked owner of a real-life motorcycle; my 35-years-long dream finally come true! My son is envious; I told him to get his own. My daughter thinks I’m having a mid-life crisis; I told her my entire life has been a crisis, it’s time to have some fun!
Anyway, after taking a spin around my neighborhood, tipping the bike over on a gravel corner and getting bruised and just a little scared of it – not actually frightened, mind you, just a bit of healthy respect – I decided to sign up for a motorcycle safety course. All my life I’ve done things on my own, proud of being self-taught and figuring it out as I go. It’s a good way to learn resourcefulness, but also usually means a few dead ends and extra bumps and bruises along the way. However, self-learning at 65 mph with nothing between me and the pavement didn’t sound terribly appealing, so I decided to choose easy (and wise) and signed up for the class. After completing several hours of online assignments, the day came for the real thing.
Driving my trusty – and safe – SUV to the training ground, I cringed at the crappy weather. The middle of May in Colorado can bring anything from blazing hot sun to a couple feet of snow; this weekend was cold and rainy. Arriving at 7:15 in the morning, I glanced around at the other students, four men and another woman. I was surprised to see that most of them were around my age… perhaps gray hairs do bring wisdom! The woman seemed to be the youngest, a busy mom who desperately needed to do something for herself.
The instructors took us through some classroom work, then we all headed outside. The training area was a large empty parking lot with special lines and markings painted on the pavement along with the parking stripes. We were each assigned a motorcycle for the next two days, and the instructors made sure our safety gear was in place. Helmet, gloves, boots, long pants, long sleeves – “All the gear, all the time,” they reminded – and the fun began.
First, we learned about the clutch and – my personal nemesis – The Friction Zone. That’s where the engine is only partially engage with the rear wheel, with infinitely varying degrees, which allows one to move the bike along very slowly. This is a critical skill for safely slowing to a stop, starting up again, and especially going through tight sharp turns without falling over. I, however, tend to go through life “full speed ahead,” and found the subtle nuances of the friction zone particularly troublesome. But, with lots of practice and constant mumbling reminders to myself, I started getting a little better.
Then it was on to more challenges, most of which involved very tight turns. Figure eights, double U-turns, turning sharply from a stopped position, quick swerves, quick stops, and a bunch of other nerve-wracking skills that could potentially save my life out in traffic. We practiced every maneuver over and over and over again, wobbling, skidding, turning, stalling. A couple students even tipped their bikes over as we tried to find the right balance, speed and turning radius in situations of ever-increasing difficulty.
By the end of the first 9-hour day I was freezing, exhausted, sore – and very happy! I was doing something completely different than my usual activities and far outside my comfort zone. It was both challenging and marvelous! I was also learning some very important things such as following directions, really being in my body, trusting all four limbs to function together at the same time – clutch, throttle, brake, gearshift, blinker, mirrors – and hoping my brain wasn’t scrambled beyond repair with all this ascension stuff. But there was one skill that seemed to apply to every single activity, yet was the hardest to incorporate. The instructors repeated it over and over again, reminding us between practice runs, yelling it as we rumbled by, casually mentioning it during breaks. One thing that made all the difference.
“Look where you want to go!” they shouted over the engine noise as we passed. “Turn your head, look ALL the way through the turn!”
To guide us during the various training segments, they used a combination of plastic cones and painted lines. In the tight corners – and even the not-so-tight ones – our tendency was always to look at the lines and cones we were trying to avoid. But doing so had exactly the opposite effect! There’s apparently some kind of motorcycle physics law that says, “Your body, bike and ride precisely follow your attention.” And it happens without fail! The bike goes where you’re looking, utterly regardless of where you want it to go. Every single time someone had trouble, they were looking at what to avoid. When they fell, they were literally looking at the ground.
As I slowly began to absorb this ongoing lesson (and marvel at the instructors’ patience), I realized it’s a perfect example for how reality actually works. “Look where you want to end up!” they shouted. They may as well have said, “Your experience follows your attention!” or “Energy serves your consciousness!”
Perhaps it was hard to learn because, in a way, it feels unnatural. If I want to stay inside that line, I better keep an eye on it, right? If I’m having a problem here, won’t looking over there make it worse? But the remarkable thing was, when I did manage to tear my eyes away from the cones on the ground and look “way over there,” my body and the motorcycle magically ended up over there! Instead of tipping over as I feared, I pulled out of the wobble, came into balance and rode like a champ for at least 10 seconds!
It’s so much like life! We get all caught up in what’s happening “right here,” especially if we don’t like it – “Can’t hit that dreaded cone!” – and then get frustrated when it’s exactly what we experience. The amazing thing is, the whole entire field of potentials is open to us! What we want might appear to be in the future, but it’s really not. “Over there” is just as present as “right here”; the only difference is attention.
In all this, I’ve learned that dreams are way more fun – and more scary – when I let them become real. But really, am I here for the concept of life or the experience of it? By now, you can probably guess my answer. ;-)
I’ve also learned that if I’m facing a problem or feel stuck in a rut, the best thing is to stop looking at it, worrying over it, complaining about it, and put my attention on where I want to be. Then the actions to get me there just happen naturally. I do have to participate of course. My hands and feet have to cooperate, my body has to stay on the bike, I have to physically move the levers. But mostly I have to stop thinking about “how” to get there and just catch up with my self who’s already there! I found that putting my attention on something actually puts a part of me right there, right now. Then I simply allow the rest of me to catch up.
The challenge is that “here” is terribly seductive, constantly pulling at our attention. We look at the barriers to avoid, the problems to solve, the experiences we don’t want instead of looking toward what we do want. “Why hasn’t anything changed?” we ask, waiting for things to be different but not doing anything different. But if you keep looking where you want to go, not all the reasons you think it’s hard to get there, and then allow, it happens almost by magic! True, you might wobble a bit at first and be tempted to look back at the problem. But keep your attention on what you want, and it’ll become your experience.
And, be easy on yourself. It takes a little practice. I started out pretty awkward, not a smooth rider at all. But when I finally tore my gaze away from the ground, looked all the way over through the sharp turn, and felt the bike smooth out and take me there without effort, I really got it! Wherever I’m looking – around the corner or down on the ground, my mastery or my poverty, health and ease or effort and pain – that’s exactly where I’ll end up, because energies instantly realign with my attention. I just have to hang on and allow. That allowing is not passive though, not at all! I have to participate in my creation – ride the bike, shift the gears, type the words, make the phone call, do the things. Allowing means tossing my creation/attention out there, then catching up with myself to see how it happened. What fun!
I’ve been putting my attention on several wonderful things lately, and sometimes it’s a hoot to watch them unfold as I’m cruising in to meet them. I just have to remember to keep looking forward (way forward), use a gentle touch in the friction zone, sit back and enjoy ride!