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.