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Meditation on Two Wheels

December 29, 2009

Riding around the Abert Rim in Oregon

My dear friend, Susan, has made an interesting comment on my “About Me” page.

She wonders if somehow my blog is connected to the Robert Pirsig classic book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Honestly, the book never occurred to me when I was conceiving and designing this blog, so perhaps an explanation of the words in my banner’s subtitle are needed, especially for readers who do not also ride.

I have been a student and practitioner of Buddhism for nearly ten years, in spirit if not always in form. I am well versed in the precepts of Buddhism and have practiced a contemporized form of Zen as taught by Vietnamese monk and teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh. At some point, I slipped out of formal practice, which meant daily meditation and attending a weekly sangha (a meditation group that disbanded when our teacher moved away). When I started riding a motorcycle, I found that it became a different form of practice for me.

Riding a motorcycle is entirely a Zen experience, though perhaps not all riders understand that, or can put words to the experience. I have only read a few pages of Pirsig’s book, but in what I did read, I can say that he captured exactly what I feel when I ride, which is also the experience that some people have of Zen meditation.

If a motorcyclist is to survive in the wacky world of four-wheeled vehicles, piloted by people ensconced in their own comfort and sometimes doing the very things they do in their own homes (talk on the phone, read, do their nails, brush their hari) rather than paying attention to the world outside their two- or four doors, the rider must be fully present in each and every moment while riding—an essential element of Zen practice.

There is a quality of being in the moment, each moment, that riding on two wheels demands. I am more fully present and awake to myself and the world while riding my motorcycle than at all the other moments in my day. This “meditation on two wheels” brings me back to myself in a way that not even sitting or walking meditation, or practicing savasana at the end of a yoga class, can do. It is truly a practice of being present, and of contemplation. Riding grounds me, moves my spirit, and makes me feel more alive than at any other time.

My blog was conceived with the idea that I would share my experience of motorcycling, my “Zen practice”, while also writing about topics that would interest and inform other motorcyclists. If anyone else who happens to find my blog takes away wisdom or gains a new perspective, in order to find the Zen in their own lives, that is a very good thing.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 31, 2009 7:54 am

    I agree about the zen. I get it particularly with long distance rides. The zen of the yellow line.
    Also I have never been able to finish the book Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

  2. rooneycycle permalink
    January 20, 2012 10:14 am

    Roberts book definitely gets more complex as it delves into concepts of quality, and looses the sense of adventure it begins with. Funny, I found Tich at a time when I was without a bike. His book ‘True Love’ remains a tool for reminding me of the pleasure of washing the dishes!

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