Thursday, March 8, 2012

Biking is meditating

What’s the craze between a guy and his motorcycle? 
Now that the simple answer, “Biking is an attitude and a way of life” wouldn’t suffice, let’s complicate …




Don't get shocked. This is a democratic land (some are trying to privatize internet though) and we are all entitled to our opinions. Yes, I  believe that biking has the meditating effect. Before I can connect biking with meditation, allow me to break down the meditative state of mind for you. 

The human mind, with all its complexities still retains the beauty of holding just one thought at a time. Let us take an example for clarity. Suppose you are in the middle of a road and all of a sudden u hear the sound of a speeding truck. Now, the following things simultaneously happen.
  • You feel a shock wave running down your spine alerting all your senses
  • Your eyes tries to confirm the if the truck will indeed hit you or miss you
  • Your ears complement your eyes in ascertaining the time to collision
In the end it is left to the brain to assess the situation, revisit previous such encounters, evaluate options and take a decision. The drill is pretty much the same for most circumstances. It really doesn't take a speeding train or a truck to experience this. The falling glass of water, stumbling over a stone, catching a ball or even something as subtle a beautiful girl walking past you.

If you carefully observe, there are always three distinct forces at work determining our actions; our senses, sub-conscious self and the conscious mind. It would do good to draw comparison with the computing world to understand the role of each one of the forces. 

Your 5 senses are like the peripheral data gathering I/O devices. They are in the business of sensing the external environment. Every waking milli-second of our lives, the senses are seeing things, capturing noises, smelling the surrounding and feeling the air. They are constantly capturing raw data and passing it on to the next stage. Raw data includes everything from the sound of the truck to unpleasant odor to sighting of a beautiful girl.

The sub-conscious self is into the business of conducting sophisticated big data analysis over the  information passed on by the senses. Our sub-conscious self specializes in finding patterns and trends in random data. For example, a shrill sound with a rapidly increasingly intensity could mean oncoming truck; your left foot not finding ground in time can mean that you've tripped and about to fall; a sudden burst of blinding light can either mean someone is flashing a torch at your face or you could be witnessing an atomic explosion. If you've been reading the newspapers, you'd know that IBM Watson does this very well. It literally read through (almost) all the digital garbage of the world (at least America) and posed meaningful and grammatically correct questions to random sentences on a TV show. Congrats Watson. Now that you have championed English grammar, I dare you with table manners !!

let's get back. The mind is your the ultra complex and turbo cooled processor (unfortunately single-core). It reads the information from the peripheral devices, evaluates possibilities and takes all decision. In the laymen lingo, mind is the king who collects intelligence from the pawns (read senses), gets counseled by the ministers (read sub-conscious self) and eventually takes a decision on what needs to be done. If it's bad odor, try not to breathe for a while. And if it's the hot chick in the red dress, forget everything and thou' shalt stare (Yea, this brain is definitely male).

Now to the question big question. Are the meditating and dreaming states very different from each other ?

Lets see. The eyes are usually closed in both cases. The heartbeat is steady. The subject (saint/dreamer) is relaxed and is in deep thinking mode. On a serious note, both the states demand suspension of senses and sub conscious self. Take a minute to mull over it.

In deep sleep, you don't feel your surroundings so you can dream for long durations. The moment there is a loud noise (alarm) or somebody alerts your senses (mom trying to wake you), dream is gone. Same goes with meditation, you will either have to suppress your senses or find a quiet place so that you can concentrate on one thing only.

As in dreaming so with meditation; the senses distract your concentration and the sub-conscious tends to bias the direction of thought. More you control the two forces, better can you meditate; delve into a singular thought. You know why day-dreaming was not as effective at the college. Your senses were constantly looking out for that possible chalk-piece thrown at your face.

Silence and a serene environment will reduce distractions and help dream/meditate better. That explains why the saints prefer to sit down at ashramas or mountain tops for meditation than at Bangalore International Airport or Kempegowda bus stand.

So, the point I am stressing on is that the deep meditative state is characterized by two things - lack of distraction from senses and interference into the thought process by the sub-conscious. Now munch over it for some time.

What happens with biking
Please note that commuting between work and home on a two wheeler does not qualify as biking. More so, if you are in Bangalore. Our senses are most active when navigating within heavy traffic. When I say biking here, I mean riding on a two wheeler for long distances.

Long distance riding is like playing a cricket test match. You can afford to forget for a long time where you are, how many runs to score and just play for beauty of the game. The first 25 kms of a bike ride is most painful. All your senses are strained, with constant interruptions to the brain. After about 50 kms, the traffic is sparse and you pick up speed. Your senses still has to be at their peak (making up for the speed), but the number of interruptions are less and far between. After 75 kms, your sub-conscious and and the five senses find an equilibrium. Even though there are no interruptions, your five senses are fully alert and transfixed on the road as you are cruising at high speeds. 

Voila! Your mind is now in the test match mode.

There are hardly any interruptions on the road; so senses aren't alarmed and hence your thought train goes on uninterrupted. It is as though your mind is detached from your body; inert to interruptions and prejudices (sub-conscious self throwing its weight around).

Now, lets compare the state of mind while biking and meditating

State of Mind: Senses do not interrupt/interfere the mind
Meditation: Saints either suppress their senses or find a calm place wherein senses do not get alarmed.
Biking: All senses are too busy monitoring the road and hence do not interfere in the thoughts in the brain

When I ride my Royal Enfield Thunderbird for few hundred kilometers without much interruptions; I find myself in this meditative state. I am sure most riders feel this way too. While others believe in rolling out their yoga mats in the morning, I prefer to taking out my blackbird (RE TBTS) on a long ride. Long distance riding has often helped me delve deep into a thought without interruptions. Given the time in this state, mind has almost always found its answers and resolved the conflicts.



In the end, but for a sore ass; long distance biking is a rejuvenating experience for both the mind and the body.



Meditation gurus, Fellow bikers, Yoga practitioners, Cricket fans and Dreamers at large... Please let me know your thoughts/gyaan in the comments section. 

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7 comments :

  1. Good one...I'm relating this to ZATAOMM (Zen and the art...)
    I haven't really gone 'biking' in the conventional sense of the term. But I am intrigued now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Check EETS..
      Oh boy, did I love that book :D. ZAMM is a masterpiece of many genres.

      U shld try biking. But, I must warn you; its addictive.

      Delete
  2. well, I'm on long way with my Honda CBR250R, and yeah thanks for the nice interpretive post on BIKING :)

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  3. Heyy jay.. interesting light....very much of the same opinion as yours, but there is a spot i find intriguing, meditation in its true sense is to find stability, now, this could be possible ( as i see it) either my hosting yourself in an environment with minimalistic stimuli or by extreme immunity to any such stimuli ( its only then that a TRUE level of stability can be experienced). The former is not an option we have while riding and the latter is something we cannot afford to develop, for, any such immunity to stimuli (such as a speeding truck or a pedastrian or an oncoming vehicle ) will lead to nothing but destruction of some sort and thereby result in prolonged distraction or SHOCK from which the brain may find it hard to recover, in a short period of time. That's one way of looking at it, However in agreement with your opinion, most riders do experience a sense of calmness and peace whilst on their machines and on the tarmac, i think that comes more from a deep sense of satisfaction that one gets when one does the things they like the most :) than from their brain reaching a meditative state, and yes calmness does help a lot in contemplation.... Morover a bulleteer might never derive that satisfaction from any other motorcycle even if they have been there on the road for prolonged durations of calm riding... its only a BULLET that satisfies him... in a nutshell i opine that, its more about the bond between the man n machine... and their existence on the sphere of tarmac that brings about peace..... :) It does .. to me.. riding will forever remain to be an integral part of my relaxation/fun/enjoyment..
    Keep thumping...
    happy beats..
    Sagar N.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Sagar..
      That is my personal opinion too. The relationship between the man and machine determines the level of joy.

      Thanks for dropping by and sharing your thoughts ;-).

      Delete