10 Tools for Improving Balance

by Liz Jansen

Take it from the voice of experience. It’s easier to maintain balance on a motorcycle than try and recover it once you’ve lost it. It’s no different than life. Staying in balance is a whole different experience than the chaos that comes with imbalance. Use these tools for improving balance to help you. 

Excerpt from Life Lessons from Motorcycles; 75 Tips for Being in Balance

tools to improve balance

Aside from proficient technical skills, riding a motorcycle requires the rider to prioritize, focus, and pay attention to detail. The rider who has long-term success in arriving safely prepares for the ride, and then, while in the saddle, takes in only what is needed for the present.

In our daily lives, we are overloaded with sensory inputs, receiving many more signals at one time than we can process. It’s easy to get distracted. Whether your mind worries about something down the road that will likely never materialize or gets caught up in painful memories, that clutter clouds thought processes and usurps precious energy.

The vulnerability of a motorcyclist makes prioritization and focus an absolute necessity. These same skills benefit non-riding activities.

  1. Confirm your goal. As the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland said, if you don’t know or care where you’re going, “then it doesn’t matter which way you go.” Sometimes when you go for a ride, you just want to follow the sun without a definitive route, but even that’s a goal. Clear, realistic goals are the essential first step on which to base priorities.
  2. Make a list. When setting out on a road trip, write down the places that are most important to visit—the ones you don’t want to miss. For any undertaking, write down your overall goal, then the sub-goals that fall under it. These will be holistic, including time for body, mind, and spirit. It clarifies that what’s on your list aligns with your goals. If something is out of scope, then nix it. Ironically, when you write it down, it becomes much clearer, and there’s often not as much to do as your overloaded mind leads you to believe.
  3. Assess risks and consequences. During a recent long-distance trip, I kept a closer-than-usual eye on my tire tread. I wanted to cover 4,600 km (3,000 miles) in a given time period, and hoped I wouldn’t have to replace the tires along the way. I was quite confident that they’d last, but the potential consequences of riding on worn-out tires meant more frequent checks.
  4. Be realistic. Be honest with what you can get done in a day, considering your skills, time constraints, and inevitable unplanned events. I know that, if all I want to do is cover distance, I can easily cover 1,000 km (625 miles) in a day. But if I want to ride only in daylight, stop at points of interest, take scenic back roads, and arrive still energized, traveling that distance is out of the question.
  5. Plan and prepare. Any ride takes at least a minimum amount of preparation, even if it’s just checking your bike before you leave. Be proactive rather than reactive, without over-planning. Cover the priorities—i.e., tentative route, maintenance, points of interest, and gas stops—but leave room for serendipity. Being prepared gives you peace of mind, saves a lot of time, and makes whatever you’re doing more enjoyable.
  6. Be organized. Before you start your day, establish that you’ve got the resources necessary to achieve your goals for the day. Beginning your day with a full tank of gas and checking your tires for wear and air pressure allows you to put those things out of your mind and leaves room to focus on other things—like road conditions and scenery.
  7. Be flexible. There’s a saying that there are two plans for every day—your plan and Spirit’s plan for you. Substitute whatever you call your higher power for Spirit. Sometimes they’re the same, but often they’re not. How often have you come across a “Construction” or “Detour” sign when you’re riding? When things don’t go as planned, roll with it. Reassess the situation, and move off from where you are.
  8. Ask for help. Motorcyclists are widely recognized as charitable to others, but sometimes it’s hard to ask for help for yourself. If you’ve pared everything down and still have too much coming at you, ask for help. You weren’t put on this earth to be chronically exhausted from taking on too much. Others are standing by ready to help, waiting to be asked.
  9. Say no. There are so many things you could enjoy doing, but you can’t do them all. Sometimes you have to say no and catch them the next time around.
  10. LL_BalanceLearn from the past. Don’t repeat patterns where you’ve made poor decisions that compromised your safety. Learn the lessons from the past, and use them to build a safe and enjoyable present.

Prioritizing your inputs helps you stay focused, promotes safety, and frees up time, not only to complete tasks but also to enjoy the journey. Taking these steps before setting out frees your mind of clutter and worry. There’ll be enough inputs to process while you’re on the Road

Purchase the entire ebook Life Lessons from Motorcycles; 75 Tips for Being in Balance available for any e-reader. $2.99.

photo credit: Pebble Balancing 11 via photopin (license)

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5 Blogs with Cross Country Travel Tips

cross-country travel tipsby Liz Jansen
With the arrival of spring comes thoughts of riding—lots of riding. Many Canadian and American motorcyclists dream of riding right across their country. Even if you live in warmer climates, it’s usually not feasible,  practical, or safe to be doing this during the first few months of the calendar year. But it’s a perfect time for planning that ride.
I’ve gathered a collection of tips from the experts that offer everything you need to know to have a fantastic and safe adventure. Even if you’re not crossing the country this year, these tips will get you ready for your best season of riding yet!

Tracy Staedter on Discovery

“Last week, I saw a map going around Facebook claiming to be a car route across the United States that hit all of the country’s major landmarks. I thought, Hey, neat. But when I looked more closely, I saw quite a few states obviously missing, and I when I did a quick search on Snopes.com, I found that in fact the map was of a route taken in 2001 by photographer Brian DeFrees, who wasn’t driving to every major landmark in every state.

But wouldn’t it be nice to have a map that hit landmarks in every state and not only that, wouldn’t it be great if the map represented the optimal, most efficient route across the country?”

Jim McDermott on Motorcycle.com
“Riding across America is the dream of many motorcyclists. The notion of traversing the U.S.A. on two wheels has a certain romantic aspect; 4000 miles unspooling before you like reels of an old, epic film. A lone rider and his/her machine, dusty and stoic, sharing tales of the road with strangers at every stop but never lingering in one place for more than a meal or a night’s sleep.”

American Motorcyclist Association

“There’s nothing like the feeling of loading up and heading out on a big motorcycle trip. And there’s nothing like the security of knowing you’re prepared for life on the road.

It can take years to develop that knowledge through trial and error. So we’ve devised a shortcut. We’ve asked AMA staff members to share with you the experience they’ve accumulated over decades on the road.

What you’ll find here isn’t a comprehensive collection of touring knowledge. Instead, here are 33 insider tips—useful suggestions that have made our tours more organized and more fun. We guarantee you’ll learn something.”


Jim Parks on RoadRUNNER
“An enduring dream of many touring motorcyclists is to ride their mount all the way from one coast to the other, or ride between the Canadian and Mexican borders, or at least to venture across many state lines on an extended excursion. Obviously, riding thousands of miles across plains and mountains through varying temperatures and changing weather patterns, spending many days and hours in the saddle, and navigating unfamiliar territory is not your typical Saturday morning breakfast ride or even a multi-day tour over a long weekend—riding cross country may be a whole different ballgame from your previous riding experiences.”

Gary McKechnie on Rand McNally Blog

“At a service station in Kanab, Utah, I met a group of riders that seemed just like most groups. There were dressed in sleeveless T-shirts, bandanas, and jeans, and they were doing what many American motorcyclists, myself included, do all the time—ride across the country. The twist was that these riders were from France.

Like most motorcyclists, these French riders were independent spirits. But they were also wise enough not to confuse independence with indifference. They understood that heading out without a good touring plan could result in groaning across hundreds of miles anesthetizing asphalt. With a plan, they knew they’d experience the trip of a lifetime and create great motorcycling memories. Here are some tips to help you do the same.”


photo credit: via photopin (license)

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5 Reasons to Let Go and Practice Openness

by Liz Jansen

practice opennessThis winter of intentional hibernation, reflection, and allowing my heart to lead the way has brought tremendous lessons, challenges, and gifts. Quelling my ego’s drive to “make things happen” has been at the forefront. In its place, is growing an openness and trust that answers, gifts, and lessons will appear with impeccable timing, often in the most unexpected circumstances.

These five experiences that have occurred in the past two weeks show what can happen when we let go and open our eyes.

  1. Opportunities for spontaneous kindness. While waiting in line for the bank teller, a genial elderly gentleman insisted I go ahead of him. “Ladies first,” he said. Then holding open his bankbook, he asked me if I’d like some money—$500, or $1,000? He had more than he knew what to do with. I declined but must admit that for a fleeting moment, I wondered if I was declining an answer to prayer. With sadness and weariness, he conveyed that he was the caregiver for his wife who has dementia and no amount of money could change that. It reminded me so much of my dad and mom.

    About that time it was my turn for the teller and I walked away. When I was done he was still at the counter so I touched his shoulder on my way by and wished him a good day. Grabbing my arm he asked, “Are you sure?” I know he would have given it to me had I said yes. And then with tears, he said, “All I really want is a hug,” which I happily gave him. At that moment, time stopped and it was like there was no one else in the bank. Maybe that encounter made his day, but he sure made mine.

  2. Reflections from others. Prioritizing and actively simplifying spurs decluttering and so I found myself hauling a two-foot stack of paper to Staples for shredding. The young customer service rep at the Copy Center counter answered my queries perfunctorily, giving the impression she would rather have been somewhere else. When she addressed me as “dear” I bristled but remained silent. But my body language gave me away when she called me “love”. So much so that the woman beside me glanced over and queried, “Love?” The girl got the message, and later, so did I.

    After all the effort I’ve made to embody love and joy rather than fear and worry, I like to think this girl, who seemed to need loving, had recognized a thinly disguised loving nature. And I had embarrassed her. She wasn’t there the next day when I went back to apologize but I’ll check in again. Next time I’ll handle the situation differently.

  3. Cultural lessons. This Wheels to Wisdom quest I’m on is one of understanding how culture shapes us, and who we are before we’re told who we are. Born into a Mennonite family, I know it shaped my values and worldview, but I remember so few of the stories, customs, and rituals. My cousin Judy Willems and I were like sisters growing up and shared many childhood experiences. Last week we talked about exploring memories, rationalizing that between the two of us we’ll recall more.

    Little did we know that sadness was just around the corner with the passing of our uncle, our mothers’ brother, last Sunday. As sorrowful as it is, funerals cut to the core of culture, beliefs, and customs and are full of family. Mennonites. I’ll not only have an opportunity to pay my respects, but will also reconnect with family and observe traditions and beliefs I’ve long forgotten.

  4. Efficiency. Before I knew I was going to a funeral this weekend, I’d rented a car so I’d have a way to get to my motorcycle instructor recertification on Saturday and Sunday at Humber College–an hour drive each way. Enterprise Car Rental has great 3-day weekend rates so I chose the unlimited mileage option and planned errands (including bike shopping) and a visit with family in Niagara for Friday—a two hour drive.

    Had the funeral (also in Niagara) been earlier in the week, it would have meant an additional rental, driving time, and fuel consumption. I would gladly have done it without thinking twice, but the visitation lined up for a time I was planning to be there. More importantly, it allows me to be present and direct energy to family, rather than expending it in traffic.

  5. Synchronicity. Events such as I’ve mentioned above happen all the time but can be difficult to call to mind when intentionally trying. The first four examples above came spontaneously but I was having trouble with the fifth so I shot up a quick prayer asking for help. Last evening I had an email issue that Nick from GoDaddy resolved in no time. During our chat, he asked what my website was about and excitedly recommended I read Sacred Hoops, by Phil Jackson, coach to the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers – and motorcycle rider.The description in Amazon includes:

“He recounts his fundamentalist upbringing, his forays into Zen Buddhism and Lakota spirituality, and his efforts to bring ideas of oneness and attunement and selfless play into an NBA dominated by ego, money, cynicism, and media hype.”

While our applications are different, he too has explored his fundamentalist upbringing, indigenous wisdom and a desire to convey that practically. Needless to say, I downloaded the book immediately to use as a resource.

Slowing down and allowing things unfold naturally has answered my needs in ways I could never have imagined. I wouldn’t have asked for any of these events, yet each one has carried profound teachings. That some are joyful while others are sad is immaterial. The Universe is benign, and events are neither good or bad. They just are. And if we remain open and accepting, we’ll witness amazing miracles. Every day.


 

photo credit: Down the hill via photopin (license)

 

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10 Ways to Set Priorities

by Liz Jansen

There’s little room for error when you’re riding a motorcycle. Riding skills are only the beginning. You need to set priorities and make decisions with confidence in order for others on the road to take you seriously. Sound familiar?  They’re the same skills you need to be successful at anything, so take a lesson from your motorcycle. 

Excerpt from Life Lessons from Motorcycles; 75 Tips for Connecting Through Communication

11235419075_5ac050a013_n

Aside from proficient technical skills, riding a motorcycle requires the rider to prioritize, focus, and pay attention to detail. The rider who has long-term success in arriving safely prepares for the ride, and then, while in the saddle, takes in only what is needed for the present.

In our daily lives, we are overloaded with sensory inputs, receiving many more signals at one time than we can process. It’s easy to get distracted. Whether your mind worries about something down the road that will likely never materialize or gets caught up in painful memories, that clutter clouds thought processes and usurps precious energy.

The vulnerability of a motorcyclist makes prioritization and focus an absolute necessity. These same skills benefit non-riding activities.

  1. Confirm your goal. As the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland said, if you don’t know or care where you’re going, “then it doesn’t matter which way you go.” Sometimes when you go for a ride, you just want to follow the sun without a definitive route, but even that’s a goal. Clear, realistic goals are the essential first step on which to base priorities.
  2. Make a list. When setting out on a road trip, write down the places that are most important to visit—the ones you don’t want to miss. For any undertaking, write down your overall goal, then the sub-goals that fall under it. These will be holistic, including time for body, mind, and spirit. It clarifies that what’s on your list aligns with your goals. If something is out of scope, then nix it. Ironically, when you write it down, it becomes much clearer, and there’s often not as much to do as your overloaded mind leads you to believe.
  3. Assess risks and consequences. During a recent long-distance trip, I kept a closer-than-usual eye on my tire tread. I wanted to cover 4,600 km (3,000 miles) in a given time period, and hoped I wouldn’t have to replace the tires along the way. I was quite confident that they’d last, but the potential consequences of riding on worn-out tires meant more frequent checks.
  4. Be realistic. Be honest with what you can get done in a day, considering your skills, time constraints, and inevitable unplanned events. I know that, if all I want to do is cover distance, I can easily cover 1,000 km (625 miles) in a day. But if I want to ride only in daylight, stop at points of interest, take scenic back roads, and arrive still energized, traveling that distance is out of the question.
  5. Plan and prepare. Any ride takes at least a minimum amount of preparation, even if it’s just checking your bike before you leave. Be proactive rather than reactive, without over-planning. Cover the priorities—i.e., tentative route, maintenance, points of interest, and gas stops—but leave room for serendipity. Being prepared gives you peace of mind, saves a lot of time, and makes whatever you’re doing more enjoyable.
  6. Be organized. Before you start your day, establish that you’ve got the resources necessary to achieve your goals for the day. Beginning your day with a full tank of gas and checking your tires for wear and air pressure allows you to put those things out of your mind and leaves room to focus on other things—like road conditions and scenery.
  7. Be flexible. There’s a saying that there are two plans for every day—your plan and Spirit’s plan for you. Substitute whatever you call your higher power for Spirit. Sometimes they’re the same, but often they’re not. How often have you come across a “Construction” or “Detour” sign when you’re riding? When things don’t go as planned, roll with it. Reassess the situation, and move off from where you are.
  8. Ask for help. Motorcyclists are widely recognized as charitable to others, but sometimes it’s hard to ask for help for yourself. If you’ve pared everything down and still have too much coming at you, ask for help. You weren’t put on this earth to be chronically exhausted from taking on too much. Others are standing by ready to help, waiting to be asked.
  9. Say no. There are so many things you could enjoy doing, but you can’t do them all. Sometimes you have to say no and catch them the next time around.
  10. LL_CommLearn from the past. Don’t repeat patterns where you’ve made poor decisions that compromised your safety. Learn the lessons from the past, and use them to build a safe and enjoyable present.

Prioritizing your inputs helps you stay focused, promotes safety, and frees up time, not only to complete tasks but also to enjoy the journey. Taking these steps before setting out frees your mind of clutter and worry. There’ll be enough inputs to process while you’re on the Road

Purchase the entire ebook Life Lessons from Motorcycles; 75 Tips for Connecting Through Communication available for any e-reader. $2.99.
photo credit: Prioritize via photopin (license)

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5 Articles with Spring Motorcycle Safety Tips

spring motorcycle safety tips

Given the high rate of accidents at this time of year, I’ve gathered articles with content on spring motorcycle riding tips. I think you’ll find them informative and at least, a valuable reminder. Have a read and let me know your thoughts and other tips below in the comments.


Wes Siler on RideApart
“As we hope to emerge soon from the Polar Vortex, it’s nearing the time to put your bike back on the road. But, when you do, that first ride of the year can be one of the most dangerous. This is what to watch out for on your first spring motorcycle ride.”

Ultimate Motorcycling
“Save for a few hardy souls, motorcycling in the UK and the United States is a largely seasonal activity. As the nights draw in and the days get colder, so it is that many bikes get laid up for the winter months. But before you hit the road, here are a few recommendations from UK bike insurance providers Bennetts to make sure the wheels keep turning on your awakened steed.”

Victory Motorcycles
Before you take your Victory out of winter hibernation, make sure your bike and all your protective gear are street-ready. We’ve put together a list of things you’ll want to do to make your first spring ride a successful and safe one.”

Liz Jansen
“Spring weather is bringing motorcycles out of hibernation. That doesn’t mean people will notice you, or that you’re ready to ride. Be alert to these unique hazards, especially during those first rides of the season.”

Nick Lenatsch on Cycle World
“Each street-riding priority moves to the front of the list as your circumstances change, but this single priority should always be first: mastering your bike-control skills. When the worst happens and you need to get your bike stopped, or change your line, or hit that narrow gap, what you do behind the handlebar must be correct. And correct action depends upon correct practice. You must train your mind, eyes, and muscles to do the right thing at the limit of whatever traction you have. So let’s talk about what you should practice on every ride and bike you own.”

photo credit: PRN-40 via photopin (license)


LL_Where_Road_Meets_SpiritLooking for some thought-provoking, insightful, and practical tips that will enrich your life?

Life Lessons from Motorcycles: Where the Road Meets Spirit, is a compilation of the 12 books on various aspects of motorcycle life. Altogether there are 900 tips—enough to start each day with a shot of inspiration every day for two and a half years. Learn more.

 


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10 Ways to Make Better Decisions

by Liz Jansen

While you don’t come with throttle, clutch, or brakes, there are direct parallels and lessons on how to manage your power and learn to make better decisions through motorcycle riding. 

Apply the symbolism from motorcycle controls to understanding what controls your thoughts, emotions, and actions and use to it become happier, healthier, and more successful.

Excerpt from Life Lessons from Motorcycles—75 Tips for Mastering Your  Controls.

make better decisionsA motorcycle responds to direction based on fact. It doesn’t interpret, inject emotion, or argue. Inputs that affect performance come not only from the operator but also from the road and the immediate environment.

Consequently, when all inputs have been considered, the operator can make the best decision on how best to apply throttle, brakes, clutch, and gears.

Apply the same principles to your life.

  1. Do your homework. Even the decision to learn how to ride is best made when you’re clear on skill requirements, appropriate riding gear, how to purchase your first motorcycle, motorcycle upkeep, and, of course, the risk. The more prepared you are in any situation, the greater the likelihood of making a wise decision.
  2. Life-long learning. Take a skills course every season, ideally at the beginning of the season. Skills get rusty if they’re not used, and there’s always something new to learn that can make you a better rider, colleague, or partner.
  3. Surround yourself with the right people. While you must always ride your own ride, you’ll increase your own skills by riding with others who are more proficient than you are. Hang around with people who will inspire you to grow, learn, and embrace life.
  4. Heed road conditions. Like the physical road you travel, your life Road can be smooth and paved, full of twists and turns, strewn with potholes, or even under construction. You navigate safely by responding appropriately to conditions. While conditions are out of your control, how you interpret and respond to them is up to you.
  5. Observe signs. Posted signs tell you to slow down, speed up, merge, and detour. You stay safe by adjusting your speed and direction accordingly. Life signs can be less obvious, but they’re there and they guide you in making choices. Intuition is always there and always right.
  6. Adjust to traffic. Whatever situation you find yourself in, whether it’s at work or at home, it has to be a fit for you. Is it casual and stable or fast-paced and rapidly changing? You shouldn’t be on a road where the traffic is traveling in a way you’re not happy with. Before you put yourself in a place where you know you’re not going to be happy, assess whether you have the skills, motivation, and energy to go there. More importantly, ask why you’d even go there. You might find yourself picking a different route.
  7. Deal with congestion. You share the highway with other vehicles, and you share your life with other people. They’re always coming and going. While their actions are outside of your control, they influence the situation you’re riding or living in and the choices you make. You can still stay focused on your own destination, but the journey there can be different than you expected.
  8. Mind the weather. Weather is another input you can’t control. You can, however, choose how you prepare for it and what responses you make to it. Sunshine and blue skies mean good visibility and clear sailing. If a storm blows up or darkness falls, you adjust your momentum. The environment around you is dynamic and unpredictable. Enjoy the blue skies and know how to deal with storms.
  9. Stay healthy. Regular inspections and preventative maintenance keep your bike in top shape. They boost confidence that it will respond as you expect it to. You owe yourself the same respect by honoring who you are and caring for your body, mind, and spirit.
  10. LL_ControlsPay attention. In the end, if you’re not aware of what’s going on around you, you’re not making the best choices. You can easily be sidetracked into peril by emotions, thoughts, fear, or worry.

While these don’t ever go away completely, you can control how you respond to them. Stay focused on what you can do. That’s how you’ll make a difference.

Review this list in the context of your own life’s journey. As you do, identify the inputs in your environment and reflect on how you’re responding to them. It may be time to pay more attention to them and adjust your direction accordingly.

Purchase the entire ebook Life Lessons from Motorcycles—75 Tips for Mastering Your  Controls available for any e-reader. $2.99.

photo credit: A crossroad via photopin (license)

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5 Blogs to Get Your Bike Ready for Spring

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Daylight Savings Time arrives this weekend—a sure sign of spring, despite the frigid temperatures and blanket of white many of us still see outside. That first beautiful day that calls you to ride will be here soon. Prepare now and avoid the temptation to go for even a quick spin before your bike has been throughly readied for riding. I’ve rounded up some great articles from the blogs that you may find helpful in getting ready, whether you do it yourself or take it to a shop.

Dan Moyle on Olympia Gloves
7 Tips and Tricks to Get Ready to Ride this Spring Motorcycle Season
“Whether your motorcycle is sitting in a garage all winter or you’re just riding fewer miles, the spring riding season is like a new beginning. In some states, bikers can’t ride at all in the winter. Other motorcycle enthusiasts get to log a few miles in the winter months. Either way, spring, summer and fall riding is still prime-time.”

Jim Parks on RoadRunner Travel
Touring Tip: Spring Training for Riders
“Spring has finally arrived and it’s time to get back out on the road and enjoy the visual feast that is America. But, just like professional baseball players, you may need some spring training before venturing out. Here are a few things to consider before heading for distant destinations.”

RidersPlus Insurance
Spring Bike Preparation
“Getting your bike road ready in the spring is one of the most time honoured rituals in the life of a motorcycle enthusiast. It’s all about fresh starts. Your ride can be at its cleanest, its shiniest, its peak. It purrs or roars at a perfect pitch when you’ve got it at the gates and ready for the first ride of the season on roads that have been washed clean of salt and sand. It’s time to spring free of winter’s constraints…”

Aaron Cortez on BikeBandit.com
How to Prepare Your Motorcycle for Spring
“Spring is here, the sun’s hanging around longer, and we know you’re itching to get riding! But don’t hit the road just yet – there’s a few things you need to do to get your bike back in shape after hibernating all winter. Read our guide, and make sure your bike is as ready to hit the road as you are!”

Kiona Smith-Strickland on Popular Mechanics
Get Your Motorcycle Ready for Riding Season
“The beginning of spring marks the first time in a few months that many motorcycles have been out of the garage. Before you ride, take a close look at your ride from the ground up.”

BONUS: from Liz Jansen
10 Ways to Get Ready for Motorcycle Riding
“Riding season can seem so far away. Especially when many of us have experienced winter storms lately, possibly with more to come. Yet every year spring arrives without fail, and it’s not far off.

Use these dark days of winter to prepare for your best season yet! Here’s an updated list of what to do now to get ready for spring riding.”
photo credit: last day of March via photopin (license)


Looking for some thought-provoking, insightful, and practical tips that will enrich your life? Life Lessons from Motorcycles: Where the Road Meets Spirit, is a compilation of the 12 books on various aspects of motorcycle life. Altogether there are 900 tips—enough to start each day with a shot of inspiration every day for two and a half years. Learn more.

LL_Where_Road_Meets_Spirit

 


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10 Ways Mirrors Shape Your Point of View

by Liz Jansen

Over the past few years, I’ve been fascinated to understand how culture and environment shape our point of view. How they’re applied in our early years both enhances and distances us from the essence of who we are. Mirrors help us see what’s there, and then it’s up to us to use the reflection for our own best interests and personal growth. 

Excerpt from Life Lessons from Motorcycles—75 Tips for the Face in the Mirror.

55172741_1628b7e3df_nThrough the experiences of your past, mirrors teach life lessons and shape your point of view. But focus on them too much and you miss the present and risk the future.

Without saying anything, mirrors convey a loud message. Without doing anything, they help keep you safe from harm, as long as you’re open to their message. They shape your point of view in ten important ways.

  1. Add perspective. A motorcycle has two mirrors to capture images from both sides. Both mirrors are necessary to get enough information on which to make a decision. You need to view things from more than one perspective to get the most accurate picture in life as well. Although reality is always changing, you make the best decisions when you can get as many facts as practically possible.
  2. Affect perception. The image you see in the mirror is not the actual size. It’s the same when you look back on life experiences. Time has a way of embellishing events. Your mind makes them smaller, larger, more painful, or more difficult than they really were. A quick reality check can correct that.
  3. Teach change management. Each view in the mirror is but a single snapshot, and it’s dynamic. Experiences and people come and go. Time flies. New inputs take priority over older ones. Mirrors teach you how to be flexible and manage change.
  4. Create distortion. Dirty, foggy, or sooty mirrors distort what you see, preventing a clear picture from forming. This is akin to negative thoughts and emotions that drag you down, usurp your energy, and jeopardize your progress. Stop and clean them. It’s amazing how things change.
  5. Aid hazard recognition. Mirrors show you hazards that are approaching from behind. Presumably, you recognize them and can take corrective action before harm occurs. In life, ideally you only need a particular lesson once, and you recognize it if it happens again. Learn from the mistakes of the past so that they don’t need to be repeated. There’s too much else to do.
  6. Require repetition. It’s not sufficient to check your mirrors at the beginning of your journey and then not again until the end. Because of the ever-changing nature of our past, checking them frequently keeps us sharp and ready to take appropriate action.
  7. Offer limited usefulness. Mirrors reflect only what they’re focused on. Much of what’s going on around you isn’t captured and can potentially influence your life. Likewise, if you focus only on one aspect of your past at the expense of a much larger experience, you act on incomplete information. And that leads to trouble.
  8. Reward mindfulness. A cursory glance in the mirror does very little. Although you’re going through the motions, you’re not seeing what’s there. Mindfulness keeps you receptive and safe.
  9. Balance needs. Motorcycle mirrors must be large enough to capture as much information as possible but small enough to be aerodynamic, light, and practical. You’ll never understand everything that happens. Realize that there’s too much to comprehend, take what is practical, and then respect and park the rest. You’re not meant to understand everything, and trying only keeps you in the past.
  10. LL_MirrorIncrease accuracy. With technology and enhanced manufacturing processes, mirrors are increasingly perceptive. Often, as people get to know you, they become more astute, and the messages they send back become more valuable to you.

Mirrors help shape your point of view. Life gives you all kinds of experiences—many pleasant and joyful, others you’d rather forget. They all serve a purpose on your journey. But if you get embroiled in the past, you miss the opportunities and gifts of present moment and risk your future.

Mirrors teach you how to honor the past, learn from it, and carry its lessons into your future.

Purchase the entire ebook Life Lessons from Motorcycles—75 Tips for the Face in the Mirror available for any e-reader. $2.99.

photo credit: Reiger/Heron via photopin (license)

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Six Months Later

by Liz Jansen

six months later

RIP

It’s now exactly six months since I began the unplanned portion of my motorcycle quest. Although my trajectory was generally west before turning south, that day I headed east from Arrowwood, Alberta, headed for two destinations in close proximity to each other: Blackfoot Crossing, an interpretive center, and the farm where my dad spent seven years until age 11. Instead, that road led right back to me, to months of introspection and getting to know myself and understanding the journey I’d set out on.

Lest you think I’ve now got it all figured out, it’s more of a mystery to me now than ever. Last August, I knew I’d be off the road for a while recuperating for an indefinite period of time and would then be able to resume my travels, albeit in a modified format. It was simple. Take time to heal and get back on the road. Other than knowing it’s going to take longer than I imagined, I have no idea of how long that will be or what getting back on the road will look like.

It’s hard to figure these things out alone so I’ve sought the counsel of wise teachers who can help me gain perspective and navigate through this change and uncertainty. This week I was dumbfounded when I was shown that one of the patterns that I’m trying to break was the same behavior that led to my accident. I’ve often spoken of my tendency to overwork and get the job done, even when I overcommit. That was exactly what happened with my bike. I overcommitted my riding abilities and rather than recognize and listen to the fear that was trying to protect me, I decided to hunker down and get the job done. We all know how that ended up. Thankfully that hasn’t happened in other parts of my life but it’s vividly symbolic of the need for a change in approach.

Then there’s the physical part. This week I had a follow-up visit with my surgeon in Toronto and got news I hadn’t expected. These types of injuries are often treated with two-stage surgery. The first to secure the bone while it heals—which has happened beautifully. Beyond that is the soft-tissue healing and regaining movement – which pretty much maxes out at six to nine months.

Although I’m cleared to ride but my range of motion is still significantly limited. (I can’t raise my arms very far but any bike I have won’t have ape-hangers.) If I’m driving a car, I have to reach over with my right hand to grab the door and close it. I can’t reach the top of my head with my left hand, or put lotion on my right shoulder. Deodorant has to be applied under my right arm with my right hand, and reminds me of a monkey maneuver every time.

Now that the hardware has done its job, the surgeon feels that I could gain almost full movement if it’s removed. While there, he’ll clean out the adhesions and scar tissue from the injury and aftermath. Then with more aggressive physiotherapy, I should have more movement.

The plan is to continue with another three months of physio then reassess. If surgery’s warranted, I’ll book it for late fall so I can enjoy the riding season and recuperate during the winter. Again.

In the mean time, I’ll continue with intentional stillness, in fact stepping up the intensity. It’s hard work and it’s paying off. More on that another time.

Thank you for your continued support and words of encouragement. They help a lot, and mean more than you’ll ever know.

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10 Techniques for Staying Grounded

by Liz Jansen

A motorcycle’s engine holds a tremendous amount of power—more than most of us come close to using. However, just because it’s capable of performing at a certain level doesn’t mean it always will. And it’s not affected by external decorations. 
We too have more power than we ever use. Using that power means trusting that it’s there, caring holistically for our being, making wise choices, understanding what blocks our power, and discovering how we can best access it. 

Excerpt from Life Lessons from Motorcycles—75 Techniques for Staying Grounded.

techniques for staying groundedKnowing how to stay grounded is the foundation on which all other experiences evolve—riding or otherwise. Just as it’s essential for your safe motorcycle travel to stay in contact with the ground, so is it essential to keep body, mind, and spirit grounded and balanced. Your physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing relies on it, especially during times of change.

Difficulty concentrating, losing track of time, and constant worrying are signs that you’re losing your connection to who you are. When that happens, it’s time to re-establish your connection to the ground and restore your grounding.

  1. Breathe. Notice your breathing. Use a pause in your day as an opportunity to take a deep, relaxing breath. Roll your shoulders slowly in both directions, noticing as the tension leaves your body.
  2. Pay attention to what your body tells you. Ignoring unusual behavior from your bike would be foolhardy. You need to stop, figure out what’s going on, and fix the problem. The same applies when your body acts in an usual way.
  3. Go solo. Even if your preference is to ride with others, make going for a solo ride a regular habit. Time alone eliminates distractions and forces you to get to know yourself better.
  4. See things as they are. It’s easier to see things as you want them to be, rather than as they are. This could prove fatal on a motorcycle. Apply the same observation skills that alert you to hazards on the road to staying grounded on your life’s path. Slow down enough to see them.
  5. Accept support. A motorcycle is not self-sufficient. It takes energy beyond its own to keep it rolling down the road. Left to its own devices (without a side-stand), it would fall over. You’re not meant to always go it alone. Ask for help when you need it. You’ll be surprised at the gifts Spirit delivers.
  6. Express gratitude. It keeps you and your role in the grand scheme of things in perspective. It shows you’ve noticed the gifts you’ve been given, develops awareness, and extends kindness.
  7. Take action. A motorcycle doesn’t get anywhere unless you apply the throttle. Neither do you. Once you’ve set your eyes on your goal, direct your energy on traveling there, staying connected with who you are, and listening to your inner guidance.
  8. Remain unattached to the outcome. If things don’t work out as you planned, pick yourself up, figure out what went wrong, and learn the lesson. Take action to achieve your goals, while realizing you are not in complete control. Do the work you need to do without trying to manipulate the situation just to make yourself look good.
  9. Get off the beaten track. Get off your bike. Take a break to sit or walk and commune in nature. I look forward to interstate rest stops because they give me a chance to lie on the ground, watch the clouds, and have a nap. There are many roadside parks, overlooks, and scenic areas to walk in and have a picnic lunch. Or just stop at a place of beauty that calls to you.
  10. Act with intention. This requires nurturing a sense of mindfulness and being deliberate with your thoughts and behaviors.

Use these techniques to stay grounded and receptive to insights, creativity, and the gifts from Spirit that surround you. Substitute “God,” “the Universe,” or whatever works best for you. Having a healthy outlook prepares you for safe and enjoyable travels on both your earth road and your spiritual journey.

Purchase the entire ebook Life Lessons from Motorcycles—75 Techniques for Staying Grounded available for any e-reader. $2.99. Use coupon for 50% discount until March 1st

photo credit: Youth In Revolt via photopin (license)

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