First 30 Days Blog

23 aug

The Highest Pass

HighestPassWell, I never really did think my backside would be prominently featured on a giant movie poster! It was never one of my life goals to be honest and yet, boom — it has happened.

I also never thought I would ever sit myself on a motorbike going 80 miles an hour! I’ve lost friends on motorbikes so you can imagine it wasn’t something I was eager to do. You know those things that you will “never do”? I call it the anti-Bucket List. Those things that you’ve decided, nope, not me. Either because it brings up fear or some other emotion you’re not really up for. I’m talking bungee jumps, speaking in public at an important event, or even something like telling that guy or girl you’ve been friends with for years that you actually have feelings for them. What is on YOUR anti-Bucket List?

Back to the movie. So, riding a motorbike was on my anti-Bucket List. So when one of my best friends, Brooks, an avid rider himself, asked me if I wanted to go to the Himalayas and ride across the highest roads in the world as part of a documentary film, I said sure (that’s my type of thing!) but, I’d happily stay in the film vehicle. I therefore arrived in India, with no riding gear, but excited to be part of this adventure and see these beautiful mountains that hold such spiritual significance as well.

There were eight riders, all guys and another seven guys, all crew, drivers, mechanics, you name it. That’s a lot of men and testosterone for one woman!

Within a few days of the journey getting started in Rishikesh (the birthplace of yoga), I figured, why not try and get on a bike. Was I really safer in the jeep? Was God more present in a car than on the bike? Also, another big reason was that there wasn’t much space for me in those film vehicles while the crew recorded our every move and conversation.

I found a helmet, bright yellow biker pants (for guys, of course, so they were way too big) and one of the guys lent me a spare leather padded jacket. I looked like the Michelin man! “Great,” I thought. My first entrance onto the big movie screen and I look terrible. High-def cameras on me at all times and I had no make up ever. I didn’t even have a mirror for the whole month we were gone and we didn’t exactly wash much! Here began my first lesson in letting go — letting go of wanting to look good, of being a certain way on camera, of how people were going to see me and think of me. Letting go of controlling other people’s opinions of me. Of allowing myself to be seen, exactly the way I was — whether I was tired, sick and suffering from altitude sickness, hungry, wanting my space, freezing, terrified, whatever was present for me. All of it was going to be captured on camera. Vulnerability at its max!

The next big lesson in giving up control came from actually getting on the BACK of the bike. This I can tell you is actually harder than being the one riding it! Roads in India are a massive danger zone. They are filled with people, cows, trucks, kids. There are no traffic lights ever, no signs. People die all the time on them. There is so much going on, the noise, the distractions. And once we started getting out of the cities and into the snowy peaks of the Himalayas, roads turned to snow, avalanches, ice, rocks, dirt, sand, you name it. I literally had to put my life in the hands of the guy who was riding the bike. Brooks first, (then he had an accident and couldn’t ride with a passenger anymore), then Mike. Mike showed me how to ride and feel safe.

When you’re on the back, you’ve got to basically go where they go. So, when they lean all the way right, that’s what you’re doing even though every part of you thinks that gravity is going to make this bike tumble. And tumble I did, a few times. The most pleasant fall being in sandy dunes where the weight of two riders basically sank the bike into the sand!

We traversed mountain peaks, through all weather conditions, altitudes of up to 19,000 feet. We slept in army barracks, monasteries. We ate a lot of lentil soup and drank chai tea daily. We rode over 2,000 miles in about a month. We became a family. We each had very distinct personalities and every day brought another set of challenges, either individually or as a group.

The ultimate lesson was facing death I guess. It was very clear the level of danger we were all undertaking. (We were higher than Base Camp Everest just to give you a sense!) I guess I’ve never had to actually go right into the feeling that at the end of any one of these days, either one of my fellow riders or I might be gone. All I can say is that there is real freedom when you do. When you understand that you are safe no matter what. That you are not the physical body. That you are never really in control of anything. And not to get this intellectually, like “it’s great to overcome my fear” kind of thing, but when your bones really get it, your life is very different.

India changes people. But this experience left me looking at life as something to love and learn from. It was never about becoming someone, making it, being successful, being safe and in control, or getting some approval from the world. Life became about a deep search for truth, for knowledge for what is really worth doing and becoming.

I ended up going back to New York, getting rid of most of my stuff and then traveling the world for nearly two years. Yes, I may end up writing a lot more about this life changing experience! In the meantime, I invite you to look at the trailer The movie has been released in movie theaters in LA and Seattle and will be coming to many other cities. I’m also honored to be screening it at Google and Twitter in mid-July.

Posted by First 30 Days on August 23rd, 2012 in Ariane, New Directions, Personal Stories, Spirituality | 0 comments

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