When I started riding my motorcycle I became easily frustrated at having to get ready for the ride. Not only did I have to get dressed with heavy protective clothing, the hot weather would leave me feeling uncomfortable within minutes until I got riding and the wind cooled me off. To make matters worse, I learned the order that I did things mattered. The gloves interfered with closing snaps and pressing buttons, so if I didn’t put them on last, and in a specific order, I would have to take them off to close some snap or touch a screen button on the Nano to start the music. What a hassle, I thought. I tried to do it all quickly to get it over and just ended mixing things up even worse. But then one day I said ….
Wait. I’m missing the point. This is my pre-ride ritual. I’m thinking about this backward. Don’t get frustrated at the time it takes. Don’t try to get it over. S l o w I t D o w n. We seem to either have forgotten that in this society and now find it an annoyance to do these things. I had no place to be, and even if I did, why is it that getting ready to do something has become less important than doing it? We have forgotten the value of preparatory rituals. We have let it slip away within this modern madness, telling ourselves that every second is precious. And it is. Except we tell ourselves that precious applies only to the doing, not getting ready to do. Perhaps it is time we remind ourselves how central preparatory rituals are to what we want to accomplish.
This morning I once again practiced my now pre-ride ritual: I put on my jeans and T-shit; I got my wallet and put in my back right jean pocket; I went into the garage and opened the outside door; I put on my jacket and placed my house keys in the left front pocket of the jacket; I unplugged the helmet speaker from the charger and turned it on; I took the motorcycle key next to the helmet and inserted it into the ignition lock; I got my helmet and gloves, walked out of the garage and placed them on the car hood outside in the driveway; I went back to the motorcycle in the garage, straddled it and slowly rolled it backward into the street; I dropped the kickstand leaning it to the side, and turned the ignition key to start up the bike; I got off the idling bike and went back into the garage; I realized I forgot my Nano and iPhone, an error in the ritual. I went back inside the house to get them and came back to the driveway: I put on my helmet and right glove; I slipped on my Nano, which I wear with a strap on my left arm, and put my phone in my left jacket pocket; I strapped my helmet on, snapping it shut, and turned on the speaker system and starting playing the music; I straddled the still idling motorcycle and finally put on my right glove, the final step in the ritual. From putting on my jeans to my right glove, about 15 minutes have passed. At each step I concentrated on what I was doing and why it was relevant to the ride. I do my best to compulsively repeat every detail each time. Forgetting my music player and cell phone was an error to hopefully avoid next time. Mastering every detail of a ritual takes time. It requires concentration and purpose. I am almost there.
What exactly is a ritual and why does it matter in the first place? It is, as Wikipedia reminds us, “a stereotyped sequence of activities involving gestures, words, and objects, performed in a sequestered place.” It is meant to be a solemn ceremony, in some cases to influence preternatural forces on behalf of the person carrying it out. So what forces am I trying to influence? The forces that will bring forth the spirit of eudaimonia for the upcoming ride. By methodically carrying out my pre-ride ritual, I am reminding myself every step of the way what I am seeking and why each thing I am doing contributes to achieving it. By the time I am pulling away from my house, I am in a state of mediation in action. I am calm yet highly focused. I am in a state of mind I hope most likely to be visited by my muse. No guarantees but I have set the table the best possible way to entice her to come and sit by my side. I never know what will happen on each ride, if she will come or not. It seems to depend on so many details, many of which I don’t seem to have control over. But during each pre-ride ritual, I clear away the debris that gets in the way and am hopeful that this time she will come. And more often than not, I am rewarded. I certainly was for this ride. My muse did indeed visit me on this 90-mile ride. My experience took shape into an essay that was mostly written during the ride. I will be putting it to paper later today and you will be able to read it in a few days.
What I can tell you for now is that during one section of the ride I found myself on a country road, 75 degrees and clear blue skies with wind rushing over me and violently ruffling my jean pant legs. There I was flying at 70 mph and taking turns at 30 degree leans with a warm vibrating 900 cc engine between my legs, purring in a deep guttural voice. That’s when I realized my whole experience, from the pre-ride ritual to that very moment, had been purring all along and I was just now realizing it. Your experience is always purring — it’s just a matter of if and when you will notice.
May You Always Enjoy The Ride