Kick. Rev. Go.
This sequence of words have been as common in my Thailand life as having rice on my plate. Basically, it happens a lot. Everyday I kick start my Honda, I rev the engine and I simply Go.
Anywhere. Many times my bike takes me to work, to eat, and to the nearest 7/11 for my sometimes much needed dose of ice cream. As my friend, my bike takes me anywhere I wish to go. All I have to do is; Kick. Rev. Go.
On my second day in Thailand way back in October 2009, I drove from Chiang Mai to Pai. The drive was around 140km and we were learning as we snaked our way through the countless mountains until finally coming across the little town of Pai.
Pai was cute. Pai was quaint. Pai was unique.
Despite the reservations I had, the words, “never try, never know” pushed me over the edge of reason and persuaded me to jump on a bike. To jump into the unknown. Back then these words meant a lot. Now, they mean everything. They allow you to digest certain fears of the unknown. And and and, if you don’t like what you find out, then you know, you have tried and you can always opt out the next time you are faced with that situation. Innit?
This first experience of roadtripping through Northern Thailand made getting the bus from place to city and city to place never seem the same again. So much so, we began hitch-hiking our way through some of Thailand because buses just seemed mundane, boring, regular and the easy option. So now, if I can, I kick, rev and go.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the art of staying in the moment.
Accepting what is.
Because it is already here.
I was unaware of the term: ‘mindfulness’ until I completed a 10 day Vipasanna meditation retreat and experienced mindfulness to a depth I was unaware I could. As I reflect, I guess I have always been a mindful person without really knowing it. I have always liked to escape the kit makking mind of either what was, or what could be. The ocean had everything I wanted as an escape from the stresses of life and when I lived on both the Isle of Wight and the city of Brighton it was a regular momentary escape for me. Whether wind, rain or sun, the ocean always managed to keep me present. Keep me mindful. In very similar ways to motorbikes, sunsets, sunrises and playing with my fire staff (check here for a viddy). They all make you appreciate the here and now, making every breath seem a little more important than the last. They make you appreciate reality for what it is. The the future doesn’t exist and the past is just a mental construct. Be mindful.
For exactly the same reasons for going to the ocean, I love getting on my motorbike in Thailand and just going. Staying mindful on a motorbike has its benefits for sure. Firstly, being aware of the present will certainly keep you on your tippy toes if any stray dog lacking in Green Cross Code knowledge attempts to cross the road in front of you. Also, you will be much quicker to react to the unpredictability of Songthaews randomly stopping for its pick ups and drop offs. With motorbike mindfulness, a heightened sense of awareness keeps you and your bike in much safer hands and although important, it is not the motivation behind this post.
Instead, mindfulness has so many other reasons why it can benefit the mind, heart and soul. The last several weeks I have been regularly driving from Chiang Mai to Phayao once a week for work. The drive is around 150km Most think I am crazy. Some think I am stupid. I think I am crazy. I think I am stupid. But it makes me feel alive and I love it.
Unlike most modes of transport, you are not strapped in surrounded by a hard shell designed in such a way to keep you alive. Instead, you are this soft tissued human, as vulnerable as a butterfly in the open breeze. As I drive, the constant thought that my body, my soft delicate skin is nothing compared to the rough, hard concrete that has the ability to tear me in two. With riding a motorbike, you have to face the fear of sudden death and when you have this intimately riding with you, you have an overwhelming sense of being alive. As humans, we are mere mortals and accepting this fear, being mindful I am so vulnerable, it makes me appreciate every moment. Every moment my skin changes temperature. Every moment I sense an unknown smell in the air. Every moment I glance at the beautiful rugged Northern countryside. Every moment I take a breath.
Kick. Rev. Go. I am alive.
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101 Holidays Blog Pick of the Week
From the beginning of December, I witnessed many people planning and stressing in order to organise a big celebration or event to welcome 2012. This hasn’t been my style for a few years now and I have learnt to relax and not expect too much on the new year front. With this and a new found perspective, the new year was welcomed in a very different and unique way.
Generally, it’s often been a drunken one. Entering into the new year happy, dancing, smiling and being intoxicated to varying degrees. For me now, I have learnt that distraction from ourselves is one of the worst things, as humans, we can do. It was inevitable I was going to miss Krissi, so distraction seemed the easiest option (check out my story to understand more). However, I wanted the transition between 2011 and 2012 to be real, and consist of truth, conciousness and peace. From 11.30am, me and two close friends, Adam and Nicole, peacefully meditated.
3 was the magic number of the night. 3 friends, 3 minds, 3 candles and 3 worlds, feeling the transition from one year to the next.
There was no countdown. There were no party poppers or drinks. There was no music apart form the murmur outside our four walls. There was only calm. A calm that placed us a million miles away from the storm of fireworks brewing outside around Chiang Mai and Thailand. We were poles apart from the people of Chiang Mai. A distance that was accentuated the moment the hands of Southeast Asia ticked into the new year. We didn’t witness it. We felt it. Intense fireworks resonated across Chiang Mai and through each of our bodies. The storm remained for what seemed several minutes, yet we remained calm and focused within our worlds.
This was a perfect way to start the first moment of the year. And and and, it was going to be hangover free. Yes! Maybe i’ll save the hangover for the Chinese new year. When is the Chinese New Year? Around my birthday. Innit?
After going to bed, feeling open and honest with myself and the world, I decided to stay in this concious state throughout the next day and take an early morning journey upto Wat Phra That Doi Suthep for the sunrise. I loved Doi Suthep mountain and it was one of the first things do in Chiang Mai when I arrived early 2009. Nearly three years on and I still love it. I loved to start the day with a sunrise (as long as me and Krissi could get out of bed), so witnessing the first sunrise of the year seemed beyond perfect.
5am had me battling with my tiredness, but after ten minutes motivation slapped tiredness in the face with a wet fish and I jumped out of bed and began to wear my wardrobe. Yes, my wardrobe. Its going to be cold and for someone living in a tropical climate, I lack warm clothes. It is a case of be cold or ‘onion up’. For the slow ones adjusting to my world, ‘onion up’ is the same as wearing a stupid amount of layers. I begin my journey with kicking Nong-B enough so he gently purrs breaking the early morning silence of Chiang Mai. Off we go.
Nooooooooo! There is traffic everywhere. Rot yert yert!
I very quickly learnt that very early on New Years Day, the foot of Doi Suthep is extremely busy with traffic, people, cones and monks. “Dont worry, mai bpen rai” the positive Anthonee says with a smile. No one is stupid enough to go all the way to the top at this time of the morning and besides, Thai people hate the cold.
I was sooo very wrong.
As I meandered my way to the top noticing the traffic being a little busier than normal at this time of the morning I discovered Doi Suthep, the temple and it’s surrounds were jammed with people. Annoyed at such unexpectedness, as I have always had the sunrise to myself or with a few friends, the positive Anthonee in me once again thinks, “Dont worry, mai bpen rai”. Thai people wont be going all that way to see the orange sunrise, they want men in orange.
Again, I was soo wrong.
At first, after expecting a peaceful and tranquil sunrise, I was disappointed. I had built a mountain of expectations of all the previous times the temple was peaceful and empty. This time, things had changed. There was music, people, rows and rows of cameras taking pictures of the burnt orange sky creeping from beyond the horizon.
I frowned. I sat. I pondered. I accepted. I smiled.
It occurred to me I had stumbled upon a side of Chiang Mai I never knew about. Despite my expectations for a beautiful sunrise (for myself), I experienced not only a beautiful sunrise, but a beautiful morning with Chiang Mai’s locals. I snapped away with people smiling and eager to wish me a happy new year. After asking some people in my best Thai-glish (it’s a language in my world), I realised it’s incredibly lucky to come to a temple on New Years Day, especially Doi Suthep. As 8am approaches, hunger starts to infect my body and I return to Nong-B, give him a kick, and we curled our way back down to a slightly less busy foot of Doi Suthep.
Two lessons were learnt during the several initial hours of 2012:
Number one: Whatever storm is happening within your world, or the outside world, calmness will prevail and allow you to appreciate the storm for what it is and learn from it.
Number Two: Always expect the unexpected and appreciate constant change, in this world, and yours.