Listening, Staying Present and May is Motorcycle Safety Month.

“You’re not Listening”

I’ve started reading Kate Murphy’s book “You’re Not Listening” for an upcoming Book Club meeting. I received the book a couple of weeks ago and only cracked the spine last night. It was late so I only read the introduction to get a flavour for the writing style and judge how easy it will be to read. I’m happy to say that it is an easy read and I’m looking forward to digging into it.

And then this morning, I started reading the first chapter and I had the overwhelming feeling of deja-vu. I’m wondering if I read the first few pages online as I ordered the paperback. In chatting with a couple of friends yesterday, who are a further ahead in reading the publication, they both stated that they are guilty of some of the scenarios found in the book. I would be surprised if any of us did not realize that we are frequently not really listening. That flashback is a great metaphor that tells me that many of the things that I read is this book may be stuff that I already know and I’m simply not using.

Being Present

Not listening has become a meme representing partners, parents, children, and any number of other interactions. Google “not listening meme” and you’ll see what I mean.  Murphy’s book will undoubtedly offer tips about learning to listen better and I am looking forward to every page with a certainty that I will see myself well represented.

In the meantime, as I ponder this topic, I think that not listening is often a symptom of not being present. I’ve recently re-started a meditation practice and I can see the benefits already – one of which is listening better. It’s great training for staying in the moment and recognizing the stimuli all around us – sights, sounds, temperature, smells. I’m continuing on my life long trek to stay in the moment and maybe getting a little better at it. I started a 12 week program called the Artist’s Way about a month ago and restarted 2 weeks ago when I realized how difficult it was to insert a new task into my morning routine. The expectation is to spend time writing out 3 pages of basically “steam of consciousness” – longhand. The very purpose is to help me learn to stay present and the first weeks were rife with distractions. It’s going better now but I still take breaks to make tea or work on a grocery list because my mind wanders!

Spyder Riding

To aid me on my quest, I promised myself this past week that I would ride my Spyder every day this week. We’re in the middle of an incredible streak of weather for early May with full sun and temperatures creeping up to 30C all week. Last summer, I got caught up in busy-ness and Bullwinkle sat in the driveway more often than not.  Admittedly, I changed addresses and had a lot going on. Still – the joy that I get from an hour long motorcycle ride is a form of meditation that I’m hard pressed to replicate sitting cross legged on my cushion. The saddle of a motorcycle is a vulnerable place and requires that all senses be engaged. And the part that I love the most about riding is the fact that my mind and body are in the same place at the same time. 

So, as I cruised around western Québec and eastern Ontario this week, I saw cardinals, an eagle perched in a tree, a deer that was unfortunately the victim of someone’s bumper and flocks of geese. I also stopped to watch and listen to the water crashing through the damn at Carillon. I felt (and tasted) the dust from numerous fields being plowed to prepare for planting and sneezed violently a couple of times as I crossed stands of birch and ash trees. Those are my nemesis and pollen counts are astronomical this week. I am confident that the nice weather means that it will be a short allergy season for me so yeah for that!

Daily Trips

I’ve taken a short jaunt each day. The first to Alexandria, ON along the backroads from Vaudreuil-Dorion. The second day was along the water through Hudson to Rigaud.  Another trip across had me taking the ferry between Hudson and Oka to cruise along the 344 on the north shore to Grenville and then Hawkesbury with a friend for an ice cream stop. That trip is one of my favourite rides although the potholes were brutal. With a 3 wheeler, I have to navigate the holes to consider three lines for my tires and it’s sometimes impossible to avoid a hazard. So – staying present is the only way to stay safe – for me and the bike.

And those rides really are a meditation of sorts. My eyes are not closed, of course, but I am in the moment and aware of what is going on around me. And I feel the ease of my day as evening approaches – I’m less tired and pre-occupied because I’ve taken time to clear my head.

Motorcycle Safety Month

Incidentally, May is Motorcycle Safety Month and, judging by the number of times that I waved to passing bikers this week – the season is off to a booming start. And, with the price at the pumps of $2/litre Canadian – it’s a cheaper way to travel right now. (not cheap – but cheaper) Some things for my fellow riders to take seriously are: 1) wear protective gear, 2) use your turn signals and follow at a safe distance 3) drive sober and 4) obey the speed limits. I lifted those from the Ottawa Safety Council website – good advice and I would add that the gear should promote high visibility – colours, reflectors – whatever it takes to make sure that other drivers see you.

So, whether you travel by motorcycle or car – please stay present. A motor vehicle is a luxury and a pleasure and needs to be handled carefully – put away the phone, clear your mind of that crazy day at work and enjoy the ride. Someone’s life may depend upon it.

What can you do to stay present in your life? What benefits can materialize from taking time to shut out the past and the future for a little while?

Have a great week!

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