Ten Zen Seconds on the Bike

Yesterday, the new bike came home. It’s been on order since March 3–almost three months. The odd thing is that this is a standard Honda motorcycle, not some incredible custom piece. It just wasn’t available in plain black. I could have had it a lot sooner had I wanted it in red, white, black with red flames or black with silver frames. But I wanted it plain black. I’m a minimalist.Honda Shadow Spirit

I’ve been keeping notes about what I learn from the bike. I’ve written about the basics of creativity Rhonda (my previous bike) taught me. The same bike taught me about staying in the moment, important for both motorcycles and creativity. But I was surprised when Suzie Lightning taught me a Zen lesson within the first 15 minutes. (The new bike is named after a line in the Warren Zevon song. ) I drove the bike off the lot and noticed it was a lot heavier than Rhonda. Braking at a stoplight requires that you shift into first gear. I could do this really well on Rhonda. I’d come to a stop, snick the bike into first gear and accelerate away without ever taking my feet off the footpegs. Balancing on Rhonda was an acquired talent, one that Suzie Lightning didn’t allow me. I wiggled back and forth and, to use a bike rider’s phrase, in order to keep the rubber side down, I had to plant both feet on the ground to steady myself.

A few weeks ago, I interviewed Eric Maisel for my blog. He was on his blog tour for his book, Ten Zen Seconds. One of the incantations Eric talks about is “I am completely stopping.” I’ve been using the incantations since I read the book, and I automatically thought, “I am completely stopping,” as I put both feet on the ground to steady the heavier bike.

And there was the lesson–in meditation you completely stop planning, thinking, listening–you come to a complete stop. The image of stopping the bike, and planting both feet on the ground does the same–it helps you stop, and it reminds you to stay grounded. In fact, the best meditation stopping is done exactly so you can be grounded and centered. And for that matter, like on the bike–balanced.

–(c) 2007 Quinn McDonald. All rights reserved. Ask if you want to use it. See the rest of my work on my website, QuinnCreative.com

5 thoughts on “Ten Zen Seconds on the Bike

  1. I’ve had about 10 different bikes and they differ a lot in the way they balance at slow and no speed. I had a Vulcan 500; little two-cylinder very low to the ground and very light. Never could ride it in a straight line below about 20mph. Then I got a BMW 1150; very heavy, not low at all — and it was perfectly stable all the way down to a complete stop. A couple of times I even was able to really take my time about putting my foot down, and one time I came to a stop, light turned green right away, and I started up again without touching at all (and nobody was around to see it, dammit!). I don’t know what it is, but some bikes seem to want to balance and some want to tip over.

  2. Dave–Heavy bikes are weird when they slow down. Isn’t Newton’s Third Law, “A bike in motion stays upright, but a bike stopped wants to crush you.”?

    Michael–I love this story. I’m stealing it for the book. I’ll work out the details with you later.

  3. I became acquainted with the concept of “completely stopping” while riding in a 1960 Chevrolet Corvair station wagon in Bamberg, SC. The driver was an elderly Baptist pastor making his regular visitations to church members who were “shut in” at home due to age or illness. Bamberg at the time had one traffic light, and the long straight stretches of farm road outside of town were fairly desolate of travelers. None the less, when the pastor would come to a stop sign he would follow a process of completely stopping which seemed so totally unnecessary to this suburban kid. He would slow down, come to a complete stop and move the column shifter to neutral. Only then would he look both ways (I mean I could see that the road was empty a hundred yards before we got there). Finally sure that all was well, he would put the transmission into first gear and slowly proceed. The experience has remained with me through the years as a powerful image of what it means to come to a complete stop.

  4. After riding my old KZ400 for a year or two, a friend let me take a spin on his Goldwing (1200). When I came to a stop, the weight of the bike almost took me to the ground. In motion, it was like a feather – at stand-still, she was a battleship! Even though “I had completely stopped”, I couldn’t wait to get going again! I failed Zen 101 that day. 😦

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