Monday, October 27, 2008

Thinking About What You're Trying Not To Think About

Back in August, while riding my Harley-Davidson along the back roads of Wyoming, I was perplexed with a nagging thought that really had my attention. I wondered why people live their lives according to the desires of others and furthermore, why was I letting this drive me crazy? It was not MY problem. Or was it? Weeks later the epiphany hit me. I had been living for years according to the desires of others by allowing their voices to chant religiously in my mind and believing them, to boot! I came to the realization that I need to divorce those voices, the ones that keep telling me what they think I should/shouldn’t do, feel and think. I had been out there riding a motorcycle while my mind was riding on a train. It was time I jump off that train and let the rubber meet the road.

So often we’re married to the voices in our head; a well worn path we’ve been following without question and we wonder why we’re not happy in all areas of our lives. We can choose not to be distracted by or identify with those voices; they aren’t ours anyway. Or we can victimize ourselves by blaming people and circumstances to rationalize what our mind thinks, feeding and sustaining those very voices.

There is an almond shaped neuro structure in our brains called the amygdala, which is central to the nonverbal expression of negative emotions and disrupts the control of rational thought in humans. According to research, negative signals lose their meaning and comprehension when the amygdala is surgically removed. Since we’re not all going to run out and have our amygdala removed, I have a more workable idea. Divorce the “nut” because you’re in love with YOUR life…with being the unique human being that you are. Choose a new partner, a new belief, which matches your wisdom and medicine. Resolve to leave all the other shit behind you; leave it on the pavement! Kick it to the curb! When we’re married to others’ voices, it’s just a lonely night at the Memory Motel. Perhaps Mick Jagger was revealing a deep message in these lyrics…You’re just a memory, of a love that used to mean so much to me. [You’ve] got a mind of [your] own and you use it well and [you’re] one of a kind. [You] got a mind of [your] own and [you] use it mighty fine. Your mind is the Memory Motel, and thoughts, regardless of their nature, will park their ass there as long as you keep feeding them. Which guests do you want staying with you? Feed the ones you want to stay and starve the rest! They’ll keep knocking on the door but you don’t have to let them in.

We can choose to see and feel the potential for joy in every aspect of life. We all too often give up our power to live our own lives to forces outside of ourselves. We can be with what is in the moment and allow our hearts to open up, not only to ourselves, but to the world. We get caught up in spending so much time and energy looking for ways to cover our pain instead of facing it and questioning its truth. What we really want is to simply feel good about ourselves without any outside influences; people, materials, chemicals, recognition, praise, admiration. I invite you to get off the well worn path and onto the back roads. Create your own roadmap letting your heart be your guide. You don’t get on your motorcycle and hit the engine kill switch; you flip the start switch and fire it up with a spark! You crank the throttle and roll down the road, open to new adventures, discovering fresh forage for your eyes and mind. Treat your life like it’s your motorcycle!

I often hear motorcyclists say when they get on the road and leave all their troubles behind. The truth is, your troubles are always waiting for you when you return. I also hear people claim that they get out on the open road and don’t think about anything yet, it’s impossible to not think! It’s especially impossible to not think about something you don’t want to think about. And our troubles; they’re all just thoughts.

Try this. Sit back for a moment, clear your head a little, and now, for the next several minutes, I want you to think about absolutely anything you’d like to think about with the exception of Polar Bears. Go ahead…start. Did any Polar Bears creep into your thoughts?

Telling yourself or anyone else that you aren’t thinking about anything when you’re on your motorcycle is a lie…to yourself! The question needing thought is; what are you out there trying not to think about? When you get your answer, ask yourself if what you’re thinking is really even true. Question the thoughts you are trying to ignore and see how many you can let go because they have no validity in reality; only in your mind.
The thoughts aren’t going to go away but we don’t have to let them run our lives. We have a choice whether to listen and abide, to fall victim to their prey, or to acknowledge the thoughts and choose truthful, positive ones in their place. When you quit feeding thoughts that aren’t working for you, when you quit tolerating the negative thoughts that are holding you back, you open yourself up to you and to more joyful experiences.

Andrew Schneider sums this up beautifully. “The potential for joy and happiness is a constant within ourselves. We take it everywhere. But we are deluded if we think that others or situations must activate it for us to experience it. We are the only ones capable of activating it, and we can do so whenever we choose. If we prefer fear and worry or conditioning over happiness then we will implicitly choose not to activate it.
What we focus on becomes familiar, and what is familiar becomes our standard for what is real.
Happiness, freedom, peace are all natural states of being---and we have to consciously choose those natural states each and every moment of our lives---choosing love and gratitude no matter what.”

Now there’s something worth thinking about!

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Medicine, according to Native American teachings, is anything healing to the mind, body, spirit which aids the seeker in feeling more connected and in harmony with nature and all life forms; my medicine is Motorcycle Medicine. Through Medicine Rides, I teach motorcyclists how to observe the signs of nature that can assist one in healing and seeking wisdom along life’s highways. A Medicine Ride is an experience you give yourself to learn and master new thought patterns and heighten your awareness and appreciation for the messages being sent to you from your natural surroundings. Getting off your well worn path of life and learning to follow the roadmap of your heart; the heart always knows the way home. Getting out of the fast lane and rolling through the curves, over the peaks and across the valleys; taking the unbeaten path, while enveloping yourself with all that surrounds you…just you, your machine and the open road…the perfect atmosphere for validatinging your freedom and learning to fly.

A Medicine Ride is led by me, Karen Allen, and custom tailored to the needs and desires of each group or individual and open to novice as well as seasoned riders. Originating outside of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, trips range from 1-3 days traversing 100-300 miles each day, winding through spectacular Southern Wisconsin back roads, over rolling hills amongst quilted landscapes with views that will take your breath away. These roads are magical! They’ll make you forget where you are and what year it is, and gently re-mind you of who you truly are.

A Medicine Ride is for anyone with a passion for motorcycling, as well as a desire to take motorcycling to a more spiritual level, utilizing freedom of the open road to free the spirit of one’s soul. A Medicine Ride is an experience for any motorcyclist seeking a stronger connection to the self and all life forms. Incorporating a combination of Native American spirituality and self-development exercises, a Medicine Ride will help you achieve a more peaceful, balanced and centered existence while opening your heart and enhancing the quality of your life.

As a student and believer in Native American teachings and traditions, as well as a perpetual student of life, I am a Martha Beck Life Coach, utilizing motorcycling and nature as tools for accessing the true nature of the self with a willingness to share my experiences, knowledge and wisdom to support others in using the open road as life’s classroom and the pavement as the optimal venue for unloading excess baggage.

I have been on a life-long quest, seeking the truth of my Self, getting side tracked many times along the way. Childhood traumas, 2 children and a divorce, years and countless hours in therapists offices all leading me to making personal development a priority and my Harley-Davidson Motorcycle on the open road my therapist.

Since purchasing my first Harley-Davidson motorcycle in 1990, I’ve covered over 180,000 miles of North American roads during the past 17 years, letting the sound of my own wheels drive me crazy. With the aid of some very good teachers, including Martha Beck and Meadow DeVor, I’ve learned to turn down the volume in my head to hear the voice of my heart. There is great peace in discovering that the only wheels that need to be spinning are the two you’ve got on the pavement. I have traveled unpredictable roads, weathered many storms and mustered the courage to go where others fear. I am the Pathfinder who shares the knowledge of the way through the forest so the path may be clear for other bold travelers.

We all lose our direction in the chaos and uncertainties of life. As your Pathfinder, I will help you focus on what you can change; your perspective and awareness. I have a tool pouch of thought-altering exercises I utilize on the road to help you clarify your vision, heighten your awareness and cultivate a new perspective of your life, past, present and future. I will guide you in staying focused by assisting you through the roadblocks, and showing you alternate routes for thinking and responding to life. I am the compass that brings you back to your heart!

Riding a motorcycle is more than operating a machine; it’s an experience we give ourselves to increase awareness of the relationship of our surroundings to ourselves. When our awareness increases, we expand our experience and open our world to unlimited possibilities and unpredictable outcomes. As we become filled with the exhilaration of travel, we discover how easy it is to move into uncharted territory. This mobility brings freedom and personal power for discovering new places, not only geographically but also within our selves. With this awareness, we open up a world where we see glimpses of who we truly are, what we want to be and where we want to go. When we broaden our awareness on the open road, we learn to integrate the twists and turns of life and shift to a new level of insight. We begin to see new things, new opportunities and possibilities that have been shaded by our hectic lifestyles, experiences we’ve endured, and beliefs we’ve chosen to hold onto. We never know who we’ll meet on the road, what we will see, experience or feel that will inspire us and alter the course of our lives. We become aware of the need to shift up or down, proceed with caution or full throttle, when to take a break, how to weather a storm, and how to handle the curves with ease by preparing for the approach.

Let me put you on a highway and guide you in finding your own Medicine. I am also available for individual coaching and invite motorcyclists, as well as non-motorcyclists, to contact me at when you need support through life's twists and turns, or when you simply lose your direction and need some guidance to get you back on your road.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Following the Leader

I recently had the experience of leading a group of 8 riders on a leisure Saturday ride. I realized something profound as the day’s events unfolded; one rider getting lost, another telling me I need to drive real slow, another losing his bike in gravel and two others failing to notice a yield sign. We’ve all been so programmed to get in line and follow suit without question and we wonder why we lose our senses of direction and instinct. We unconsciously put all our trust in a leader and place our own on the passenger’s seat. When we ride someone else’s course, eventually we’ll find ourselves lost or worse, taking a fall.

We all make mistakes, even leaders make mistakes. If we’re so busy following the leader, we’re going to make a lot of mistakes. Each of us has our own roadmap, skill level and individual set of limitations. When we stray from that place to follow the leader, we lose ourselves. We lose touch with the voice of our heart. Expecting someone to ride a particular way is telling someone how they should live. When someone tells me I ride too fast, I wonder if they believe they’re supposed to keep up with me or that a set speed limit equals safety. Everyone has their own speed limit on the road and in life and it can either kill you or save your ass; the decision lies with each rider. If we constantly listen to the voices of others without question, perhaps we’re holding onto the belief that if “everyone” says it’s the right way or right thing to do, so it must be. Perhaps we follow leaders so we have someone other than ourselves to blame should reality and the plan part ways.

If we go about blindly following the leader, we miss our own cues. Riding is life! Be your own leader; let your heart be your guide. If you get lost along the way, find someone who’s been in your shoes and can assist you in finding your way home; a compass that brings you back to your heart when you lose your own direction.

As I prepare for a 10 day ride out West on my Harley-Davidson, I think about that long haul across Iowa and Nebraska. I welcome it as an opportunity to acknowledge my incessant thoughts, question them and leave the ones that no longer serve me on the pavement. I can’t stop the thoughts but I can choose not to believe them, and I can choose to replace them with ones that do serve me. In leaving my excess baggage in Iowa and Nebraska, I open my heart to receive what the Spirit of the West has to offer me. I will take with me this poem, which is found on the last page of Martha Beck’s book, Steering by Starlight.

Live while you are alive…
Learn to be what you are in the seed of your spirit.
Learn to free yourself of all things that have molded you
And which limit your secret and undiscovered road…
Never forget that love
Requires that you be
The greatest person you are capable of being.
Self-generating and strong and gentle –
Your own hero and star…
Be grateful for life as you live it,
And may a wonderful light
Always guide you along the unfolding road.