Thursday, July 31, 2014

Did I tell you? I can fly

I felt a fleeting sensation of flying the other day. I was riding my DRZ in total anger and I was admittedly, riding a bit hard and in the right gear at the right time as I hit that hump in the road and popped the front wheel right up and almost 12 o’clocked it down the road - and there it was - weightless, balance, harmony.

It felt like I was flying.
Have you ever had that feeling in a dream where you feel as light as a feather? A temporary weightlessness and it is as if you can fly, or more like float. In real life a long-jump can sometimes give it to you, trampolining does, I’m sure sky diving does too but I’m yet to do that.

I've experienced it in life-like dreams before, where I can literally bounce up off the ground and into the sky, no superman arms or pretend wings or anything like that, just a focus of mental and physical intensity, and a light step off the ground and I bounce/float up and away into the sky, my breath in can lift me higher and a gentle breath out, or a sigh, can lower me. I swear, I can fly.

 I’ve reached a version of this 'state' by meditating before, but can rarely reproduce it and, apart from motorcycling, it is the best feeling in the world. I believe it is called Astral Travelling and despite any scientific proof of it actually being real, I reckon I can do it. That might make you laugh like some sort of joke, however I’m quite serious.

Zen Do Kai

Meditation is something I learnt when I was 12 or 13 during Freestyle Martial Arts called 'Zen Do Kai’. Meditation quickly became my favourite part of karate. That, and kata, which was more graceful, thoughtful and difficult than just flat out kicking and punching the crap each other, I’m too laid back for all that agro.

It's also where I first experienced a full astral flight during a deep relaxation session taught by one of our Senseis, and I’d like to share that story with you, stay with me, I’ll bring you back to riding I promise.

The first time I astral travelled

After an intense hour long session of freestyle spa-ing (non-stop, one-on-one semi-contact fighting in the round with no age or gender restriction, boys against girls, boys men and women), as we prepared for gradings, completely physically exhausted, he made us lay on our backs in Shavasana (corpse pose in Yoga - flat on our back, eyes closed, hands at the side palms facing up, legs resting comfortably) and focus on our breathing, and the colour white.

His voice was gentle but strict: "Lay flat on your back and breath. Close your mind down, stop thinking, stop the internal chatter and focus so intensely on absolutely nothing but the colour white. Let it fill the space behind your eyelids and use it to stop any random thoughts, calm yourself with it, breath it in and out deeply, slowly, pure white, ‘be’ with purpose and be completely still. Not even a fly crawling across your lips can break this intense state of focus and relaxation.” It’s actually really damn hard to do, but if flying was that easy everyone would be doing it. Sensei (gee I wish I could remember his name) was a brute of a man.

Built like a tank, thick legs, massive barrel chest, hairy like a gorilla and tall as a giant he was in complete command; and yet it was strange succumbing like this, Shavasana (or corpse pose as it is known) is the most exposed position for human beings to lie in - we are completely vulnerable laying flat on the ground with our hands by our side). And yet this giant bear of a man who could send me flying across the room with a roundhouse, was being so gentle, so reassuring and safe, using nothing but his voice calming the fifty odd exhausted martial artists lying on their backs in surrender.

He took us on a journey with a ball of white light that he described travelling up through the soles of our feet that gently, worked its way up each toe, carefully navigating every single inch of your entire foot, little tiny fractions at a time completing a full lap of every synapse and vein in every part of us. It was warming, it felt incredibly good. His voice guided the white ball of light upwards and described the anatomy of a human physiological makeup on its journey.

He moved around the gymnasium without making a sound, like a freaking ninja his feet didn't make a sound as he moved around the room taking us deeper and deeper into a trance, nothing but his voice and our imagination guided the white light up through the knees gently erasing any bruises and pains; soreness disappeared after the light travelled through each body part, it kept going and travelling up through your fingers and forearms, all those blocks and punches that left you hurting almost vanishing as the white light weaved its magic healing power over us. Powerful stuff, the mind. We were all in some sore of magical Sensei astral travel journey to enlightenment. It was totally awesome.

Up and on it travelled until it reached our necks and chins. It tickled and felt exhilarating. Now, as it made it’s way into our skulls it started to gently build momentum and spiral around inside - building speed, filling the space between your ears with this incredible imaginary pure white light, ricocheting back and forth with so much purpose. I felt my head my explode and Sensei was about to let rip with his master stroke.

Astral Traveling

He was still speaking gently and guiding the white light to the top of our heads and without explanation he spoke with more force and sent the light bursting out through the centre of the top of our heads! Rocketing up and out of the top of your head breaking free from your physical being and ascending into the sky and joining the stars. There was a collective sigh and general overall sense of PHWOAAARRR.

What I experienced was out of this world, as my body, my astral body, exploded out of what I would call my third eye (yeah I know this shit sounds crazy, right?). That space just above the bridge of your nose in between your eyes, the white light burst upwards and out through this new peephole and kind of took me with it up into the air - up into the rafters of the massive lofty gymnasium below me, and I turned around and looked back down on us all laying there sighing in a state of bliss.

It was the most peculiar and exhilarating moment of my childhood - a total head rush generated by my mind and vivid imagination guided by his story. I had astral travelled, I am sure of it. My brother who is three years older than me, was also in the room, and later described something similar only with less intensity, and over the years we talked about it, and read up on it in any books we could find, even talking about the idea of trying to do it together, find each other in the astral plane and see what we could see together.

We never really got there but both had other experiences through trialling the technique of deep relaxation and meditation that the Sensei had taught us.

Fiero

I have read different interpretations of this over the years, that you can find this state of ‘flow’ by achieving things that provide an intense level of satisfaction, Jane McGonigal calls it ‘fiero’ in her book ‘Reality is Broken’ and I recognise it as a similar state of mind to what I find astral travelling. She explains "..that Gamers experience fiero when they triumph over adversity.

You know it when you feel it, and when you see it, because we all express fiero in exactly the same way: we throw our arms up over our head and yell.” That’s what I felt liked doing that night in the dojo. When I try and meditate these days, that’s what I’m chasing. To ‘fly’ and that’s what I experience and what I seek when I ride motorcycles. Fiero. Triumph over adversity. Utter exhilaration, adrenalin pumping I want to shout out and pump both fists in the air ‘yahooooo!’.

That weightless, balance the other day on the DRZ was the same feeling of harmony.

Fiero. Flow. I was flying.

Flow

And there is the revelation. Wheelies provide fiero! Or more accurately, fiero can be achieved on a motorcycle. Flow on motorcycling is that moment that you find complete harmony with the motorcycle, if you ride I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.

It’s when the bike seems to be going harder than normal, operating at full power, it’s intake and exhaust howling in harmony and you feel like part of the bike; sweepers, highways, tight bits, everything feels fucking amazing and you couldn’t be happier at the moment. Fiero is achieved when you go right past Flow and do something you didn’t think you could.

A jump, making that corner lower than you’ve ever made it before, backing it in, sliding the back wheel. It feels like flying. I’m sure pilots know exactly what it is when flying planes. Really high percentages of pilots are also motorcyclists I remember reading somewhere. Little wonder. The mind is an incredible thing eh?

Riding motorcycles as a form of transport we all need to be on high alert, completely sober, well rested and with a positive state of mind and a calm sense of self preservation, otherwise we can get hurt. I try not to ride angry or upset for those self preservation reasons; I believe we can’t let our emotions get the better of us when riding, that’s when things get dangerous.

But, as McGonigal further explains ‘when engaged in dance or sports, we release oxytocin into our bloodstream, a neurochemical that makes us feel blessed out and ecstatic’. Of course it’s easy for that oxytocin to take over and make us do silly and even dangerous things.

As for reality, our different states of ‘being’ or mind and fiero, it might all sound like mumbo jumbo to you, but I’m okay with that. All I have to do is jump on my bike and go for a ride, and nothing else matters.

Related Links