Bikers are worldly. They’ve seen things, man. They have perspective, probably the result of always looking farther ahead than most people. Well, you know, the vanishing point and all that. It may seem like a tenuous connection, but it’s actually not.
I mentioned in an earlier post that where you look is where you go.. not only on the bike but in your head. If you look towards the negative, that’s going to be where you end up. I live by that rule.
To be on the road on two wheels means you have to constantly be in the moment. You practice it every single second, in fact more frequently than that. The brain has been shown to process visual information at the rate of 13 milliseconds per second. That’s brain bogglingly fast. In fact, your hearing gets to your brain faster than your sense of touch or smell or sight because, simply, it’s wired up the closest. Of course, if the sound comes from further away (15m or so) if you're looking at a balloon 'pop' you'll see it before you hear it. That's because sound travels slower than light outside our bodies, but you get the idea.
So, all five senses both arrive at and are processed at different speeds and your brain cleverly synchronises the whole lot so it seems like it happens at once. That means what you experience is never actually ‘now’ because there’s a time lag. But that’s for another blog, for all intents and purposes, let’s go with ‘now’ being the moment you feel most present and able to react to your surroundings.
Your superpower is enhanced with every ride
An experienced motorcyclist is utilising their subconscious in a very effective manner. This 13 milliseconds is the fastest ever recorded and was achieved by scientists flashing pictures of things at people and them saying what they saw after. They didn’t always get it right, but got it more right than by chance alone which effectively means they took their ‘best guess’. That means their subconscious picked it up and influenced their choice.
Speed of visual observation is faster in some people and it can be improved with practice. That means, every time you go out in the bike and you are making conscious observations they are being noted by your subconscious so that, over time, this part of your brain will assimilate this important learning and apply it without you knowing it's doing so. It's the same as when you're learning to drive a car or anything else that once was hard, but then became something you did automatically. Playing a musical instrument is another example.
So, riding our bikes, we take in a shed load of information and, over time, our subconscious handles more and more of it which allows us to think occasionally about the big stuff when riding while still being present in the moment. New riders can’t do that so well, they still have to bring into conscious awareness every potential hazard, so they need to pay attention and it's hard work. Even experienced riders, when coming to an unfamiliar situation, put full attention to the task. That’s just survival instinct. Every moment is a learning moment and a conscious risk assessment needs to be carried out at every junction. Because no two experiences are exactly alike.
Always let your subconscious be your guide
We are all using our subconscious to help make choices as we navigate the world. Our gut reaction about people is usually the result of seeing minute changes in their faces that tell us what they’re really thinking. A creepy feeling you have about some place is usually because you’ve picked up a threat even if you can’t verbalise it. You may even have subconsciously noticed something amiss with your bike and felt a little uncomfortable riding it that day, although can’t say why. Some tarot card readers will say that there's nothing actually spiritual about reading the cards, they're just picking up clues from the person in front of them and making best guesses.
If you think about the massive amount of computing power our subconscious is responsible for, it’s a huge resource and I would say never, ever underestimate it. Listen to it all the time, because usually there’s a bloody good reason to.
Your gut thinks too
One thing that blows my mind is the gut. It's actually a nervous system in its own right. It's said to be our second brain and much of the time is responsible, through the endocrine system, for our moods and sending out fear or flight hormones. It's a primal connection that exists between our brain and our belly. It could also then, be part of that subconscious network.. that gut sinking feeling is actually more true to science than you realise.
The brain, something plastic that can go in the sea
So my conclusion from all this is that you, if you ride a bike, may have greater intuitiveness in other areas of your life by practising constant awareness in your riding. The brain is a muscle, every part of it, and riding, like learning, actually grows it. At any age it still has 'plasticity' - the ability to stretch and enlarge. I wouldn’t be surprised if one day they find it’s a great way of avoiding dementia… best keep riding then eh?
So, we perceive things that other mere mortals may miss. But it’s like a pointy thing. Where you point your perception, that’s where it will go. So, as well as using it to stay alive on the bike, use it to notice your surroundings in life. Are they where you want to be? Do they make you and those around you happy? Observe others and identify opportunities to help them. Is that wishy-washy nicey-nicey hearts and roses hippy stuff? Yes and no. The happiest people in the world are those that help others, so effectively you are creating happy endorphins for yourself as well as them. Win win buddy.
Balance is a life skill too
I believe that the right thing comes into your life at the right time. It’s happened to me so much, particularly with people. It can be the same for everyone. What it boils down to is being open to what lessons others have to teach you and then, like the good biker you are, adopt your posture accordingly. Use your finely tuned sense of balance to appraise people and events moment by moment. Once you are in this mindset, you will start taking on lessons from others without even being consciously aware of it. Particularly on lessons relating to where not to look.
Every person you meet is a teacher, including you. Perceive them and their lives from every angle, from their own and from the independent point of view. Look, I’m not a religious person, I’m science girl with a capital S (it’s sewn into my pyjamas) but that means I’m open to all things and from a deterministic point of view, everything happens is the right thing, because it was, through cause and effect, meant to be. Just physics, nothing more. As the philosopher/martial artist Glenn Morris would say, study on this.
The eyes... nah, they don't have it
A final, but interesting point on vision. It was explained to me on a recent Bike Safe course (run by the police in the uk.. recommended) that the way the eye processes movement is, in evolutionary terms, designed for slower things that move. Of course, they didn’t have cars coming towards us in the bush did they? So the eye takes snapshots when it processes the information from the retina and then knits it all together. But in the process of this kitting together some things get missed out, those things at the edges of the frames sometimes get cut because they’re blurred. This means that even if you see a driver looking at you from the junction you are just about to go past, he or she may not have seen you. Even if you see the whites of their eyes. This phenomenon is called ‘saccadic masking’ and worth knowing (and do your own google).
So if you ever rely on knowing if someone has seen you from eye contact, think again. The eyes may have seen you but the brain may not. Same with some folks standing right in front of you too :-).
I very rarely think in words at all. A thought comes, and I may try to express in words afterwards. - Albert Einstein, 'Productive Thinking', 1959