When Tony Lister received the invitation to ride a motorcycle through Kathmandu, Nepal, he was immediately afraid. Where traffic flowed in the opposite direction from his country, in Kathmandu, there seemed to be very few traffic rules. The roads were loaded with hundreds of other bikers swirling around each other. In this experience, Tony learned something about flow—one that he could never have otherwise seen without jumping all the way into the insanity of the moving, living organism that is the traffic of Kathmandu. Tony expresses his gratitude for Gerald Rogers, who encouraged him to experience new aspects of life. Indeed, Legendary Spiritual Adventure retreats are like nothing else!
This episode is all about riding motorcycles in Kathmandu. It's more about can you do life the way you want to. I want to talk about this experience I had when I was in Nepal on this spiritual adventure retreat that I did with my friend, Gerald Rogers and Allison Larsen,my business partners. We do these events as well. Prior to the Corona, we did spiritual, exotic retreats together in different parts of the world. One of the ideas Gerald came up with during this event was to have a motorcycle adventure in Kathmandu. If you haven't ever seen this, there's this Marvel movie that’s called Dr. Strange. If you haven't seen it, you'll see what Kathmandu is like,what the streets are like, the chaos and insanity. A bunch of that movie was filmed there. If you haven't, it's worth a Google.
If you can imagine hundreds of motorcycles all swirling about. Trucks, cars, buses and all kinds of strange-looking vehicles that they've configured together like these crazy tractors that they've made where they spliced together a motor and some wheels and an axle from one vehicle and a steering wheel from something else. They have these crazy tractors that they make where people haul stuff around. They drive on the opposite side of the road as we do in the United States where I live. Can you imagine yourself deciding to engage in an activity like this where you're going to be going opposite of what's normal for traffic, for what you're used to, being on a motorcycle in the midst of swirling motorcycles all about you and everybody seems to want to pass the next person and they pass up the center lane? Meaning with traffic coming in both directions, the motorcycles shoot the gap. They don't wait until there's no vehicle coming in the opposite direction.They shoot the gap when there is a vehicle coming in the other direction.
The motorcycles are equipped with these bars where your knees are. You're riding a motorcycle and your knees are poking out. All of the motorcycles have a little cage built out of steel that wraps around your knees to protect you from when you might bump up against another vehicle or another motorcycle or whatever else you might bump up against. If you can imagine this idea coming up, and my friend, Gerald, who loves to play and loves these little adventures say, “I’ve got this epic idea. We can do a motorcycle ride,” and I instantly got scared. I won't pretend I didn't. There's this fifteen-year-old ego-driven part of me that's like, “I’m brave and I wanted to do this thing.” No, I got scared shit less and not just a little bit.I almost didn't go. I checked in with my intuition and sat with myself in meditation for about half an hour and listened within me if this was something that I felt was aligned in me because the risks were real. It's chaotic and crazy. I wanted to check in to see if it was an aligned experience that I wanted to have as a human being. Ultimately, I decided that it was, but it wasn't without going through some interesting emotional storms.
I think sometimes in life,learning to trust our intuition, and I know that I can hear people's voices on the other side like, “Your intuition told you to do something risky and dangerous. I get it.” Life is risky and dangerous and you’ve got to decide how you make your decisions on what you do. In my case, I checked in with my intuition and the answer was that I wanted to have the experience. I made sure of a couple of things. One, that I had a helmet and then two, I downgraded the size of the motorcycle. Some of the guys were on these bigger bikes like these Chinese made Harley knockoff bikes. It had big wide handlebars and I opted fora little Vespa, a scooter because I didn't want to have the extra layer of using the clutch. I wanted it clutch-less.
There was a part of me, my ego identity of like, “I want to look tough. I'm on a Harley,” that I struggled with it. I aligned with my intuition and that's what felt right to me. I'm glad that I did that because it ended up being the right choice for me. I’ve mentioned I had a brain injury and one of the activities that have been the very slowest to come back into my life was being able to ride a motorcycle because of the amount of movement and the amount of all these moving parts to pay attention to, the amount of hyper-focus that is riding a motorcycle.
Adding that into riding that motorcycle on the opposite side of the road and in traffic as I'd never witnessed before, a swirling of moving motorcycles all around. We ended up riding these motorcycles. We rented a bunch of them. We rode them high up into the Himalayas. We had to ride through town and then up out of town up to some beautiful resort that we stayed out for a couple of days and had some spiritual ventures with the retreat people. We did all those things. On the way there, it was miserable for me. It was so much movement, so much chaos. A couple of times, I went on the wrong side of the road. I instinctively pulled out and then these cars are coming and they're trying to figure out what I'm going to do. All of a sudden, it dawned on me like, “Shit, I'm going the wrong way. I’m on the wrong side of the road.” I peel off the side and they'll be honking and passing me and all these things.
When we came back on the second day, I had this remarkable experience. It wasn't unknown anymore. It was still chaotic, but it wasn't terrifying. I started to discover that it wasn't even weird. There was a flow to it. There was a rule to it and that as we go along,I realized it was like going to a school of fish and that the fish all responded to each other in this fluid motion. I thought we’d be in a small setting. There would be 15 or 20 motorcycles within a stone's throw all packed together. We would all move in conjunction with each other and sometimes we'd bump up against each other. It was very interesting to be riding and bumping into each other and not make it mean anything.
At one point, this bus was trying to ease its way into traffic and they would ease their way in 1 or 2 miles an hour. They would bump their way in and the motorcycle traffic started to squeeze to one side. I was right next to the bus and I was so close that I touched the bus with my hand and scooted around it and moved out of the way. It was normal. There was no adrenaline response or anything because everybody was agreeing that that's how it was done. I want you to think about this. What happened was I was able to drop into the flow of what this traffic was and it all made sense. It no longer felt dangerous or chaotic. All of a sudden, it made sense to me why there were whole families on motorcycles going along and nobody was freaking out about it. There are thousands of people all around on these little scooters buzzing around because there was order, even though when I first saw that,it looked like chaos.
Contrasting that to riding a motorcycle or driving a car in the United States, it's a completely different set of rules. There's this rigidity to the rule system where people get all bent out of shape if you don't follow the exact set of rules the way the rules need to be followed. If you don't adhere to it the way that they expect you to here adhere to it, you get road rage and you get people being angry, outrage and all of this energy of demanding that something show up the way that we want it to show up because that’s how it’s done. It was a beautiful experience. I suppose that happened in Kathmandu when I would drive on the wrong side of the road. I would get a confused response, not an outrage response. That is the one distinction, the one difference. I'd get a confused response. The truck driver or the driver of the other vehicles would be like, “What the hell is going on? You're not following the rules. Where are you going?” They didn't know what to do and they freak out about it.
I was having this conversation with one of my clients and this sparked this conversation that we're having here. This is a person who lives his life very differently than how other people live their life. He's been extraordinarily successful in his business. I'm not going to talk about any details of his business because I want to protect his identity. He's been so successful that if I described his business, you could probably figure out who he was. I want to protect that from him. He does his life differently. He sometimes likes to stay up playing video games until the middle of the night and sleep in until the middle of the morning. He’s shaming himself for it. When I first started working with him, he was down on himself because sometimes he would get into a depressed state. He's a hyper-creative guy, but sometimes he would have a day or two where he'd lay in bed depressed. He didn't understand it and he was down on it.
He started reading all these management books by Jack Welch, who managed GM. He's reading management books by people that manage some of the largest and the most successful corporations in the world. I'm like, “That's not you. There are probably some good principles you can learn in there, but you are never going to be a guy that runs a corporation like that. You're never going to be someone that works in a corporation like that. Why are you taking management advice from people that don't understand you? Why are you reading books from people who don't have a clue about how you operate? You're financially successful. You can do whatever you want in your life. Figure out what your flow is and get into that flow.”
As he's done this, his manic side has started to go away. He'll still have days where he's down and where he'll stay in bed. He'll still have days where he plays video games until 4:00 in the morning and sleeps until noon. He's not down on it because he's figured out that's also part of the genius and the creativity. We were having this conversation about how things ought to be and we're talking about how different people in society, different religions will say, “It's got to be this way,” and other religions say, “No, it's got to be that way.” This whole thing of social distancing is fascinating.
I talked about this on another show,but I had a client that was living in a part of the world where women had to cover themselves from head to foot. They can only show their eyes. My client,who was a woman and a leader among the women in her country and the world, was commenting on how there started to be this liberation where women started showing up with their heads uncovered. The men, who were in control of things, were feeling things were getting out of control and they had to lock them back in place, but the women are no longer listening to those men. What they did is they went and found women they could recruit to deliver that same message. The women started shaming the women back into covering themselves in that society.
It was this interesting conversation of using ourselves against each other. I’ve been watching this with social distancing. You have your views on it. I have my views on it and I don't want to make this about which views are right because I don't know what's right like you don't know what's right. It's interesting that there are note enough authorities to enforce different aspects of social distancing. In some places,it's different than the others. In some places, it's rigid and extreme and other places, it's a little bit of a general principle. We're starting to use each other to shame and police each other into saying, “This is how it's got to be,” whichever way we think. I use my pulpit to lean in the direction that I think it ought to be. Others use their pulpit to lean in the direction of the way they think it ought to be. We shame each other for it. It's an interesting thing.
This conversation with this client led to this discussion of going, “Is there a right way and a wrong way to do life?” If you're a motorcycle rider here in the United States and you ride a motorcycle a certain way and there are certain rules of engagement on the road,then you expect things to show up a certain way and you ride accordingly. If you're a driver in the United States, you expect things to be driven a certain way and you drive accordingly but it doesn't mean it's necessarily right for everyone. If you drove that way in Kathmandu, you'd probably get hurt. You'd probably get in an accident. If you demanded that the other driver showed up the way that you can demand that they show up in the United States, then you would for sure get into an accident.
I lived in the Dominican Republic with my family for a while and I may live there again for a while. Driving in the Dominican Republic has this whole different set of rules. We had to explain to the kids that here in the United States, this town we live in, there's a big old sign when you enter the town and it says, “This is a walking community.Respect the walkers. Walkers have the right of way. If they're crossing the crosswalk or crossing the road, the car stops.” There's some giant sign when you enter the town that says something like that. Here in this town, you can step out into the road and the cars will stop. Whether we think that's right or wrong or it ought to be this way or shouldn't be that way, I had explained to them, “That's not the rule here. If you do that, you'll get hit. They won't stop.” “Why?” “They have the rule of the jungle there in the Dominican Republic. The rule of the jungle is the biggest animal is the king of the road and the smallest animal has to accept that.”
In the Dominican Republic, the Grey hound bus and the Mack truck, they plow through those towns and everybody peels off the road and gets out of the way. The motorcycles, the trucks, the walkers get out of the way. Everybody peels out of the way. Those buses do not slow down and they rip through town because they're the biggest. Everybody knows and everybody gets it. When I was there, I was driving a big Ford F-350 truck sometimes. That's a pretty big vehicle down there. I would get the right of way no matter what. My instinct was if somebody is on a motorcycle since I like motorcycles, I want to give that motorcycle some room. I want to let them into the lane, let emerge, not make it hard, not run them into a pothole, not run them off the road.
As I'm driving this big truck and we'd be coming into a roundabout or something and there'd be a motorcycle coming, I would slow down to let the motorcycle in, but it would confuse the motorcycle rider because I wasn't following the rules. The rules that motorcycle rider were used to was that the big car took the right of way, took what it wanted because that's what the big cars do in that society. That's how it's done. I would almost cause accidents because my impulse was, “I'm always looking out for motorcycles on the road.” I would cause him to almost get in an accident because I wouldn't behave the way they expected me to behave. I wasn't following the rules. I wasn't doing it the right way.
I had to learn to change my instinct and plow through so that everybody knew where to drop in. It was fine. There was order within that, even though I felt like it was abusive and obnoxious. If I drove like that in the United States, it would create road rage. It would create a lot of toxic feelings. It's this interesting conversation about life that I’ve been thinking about. Which way is the right way? Which way is the way of doing it how it should be done? In Kathmandu, the second day of the ride when we came back, it was bliss. It was Zen. It was this remarkable experience.It was joyful. I was so present in the moment and I was like, “This is amazing.I wish everyone could have this experience. I wish everyone could have this flow state experience of movement and chaos and people coming in and out and honking and moving and flowing with it.” It was instinctive and pure.
I'm wearing this shirt that says,“Pura Vida,” which was from Costa Rica. It means pure life. It was so pure to experience and I'm grateful that I have that awareness in my body, in my being,my consciousness of having had that experience and it felt like the right way. My point is maybe the right way is right for wherever you are and maybe there's away of doing life that works for you. Maybe it would be okay if you do you and I do me, and we figure out how to live in peace with each other within that context. Maybe we spend a little bit less energy trying to demand that life show up the way we think it ought to show up and we drop into the flow of the way life is showing up. Maybe we spend a little less of our energy trying to police each other and enforce a way of being that ought to be with each other and we get with the flow.
We'd drop into making it flow the way it works for us and getting in with the flow of the way it works where we are. If I drove in the United States the way that I drove in the Dominican Republic, I'd probably get a lot of tickets and have a lot of confrontation on the road and probably cause some accidents. If I drove the way I drive in the United States in the Dominican Republic, then I’ll probably have a lot of problems on the road. If I tried to ride a motorcycle in Kathmandu the way that I do in the United States or the Dominican Republic, then I would have trouble with that.
Play with this in your world. Where are you resisting the flow of things? Where are you putting a lot of energy into demanding life ought to show up different than life is showing up? Where are you struggling with people not getting what the program? Maybe you can let them be people and you can drop into the flow of your life and the bliss and have these incredible experiences of life. It’s like coming together and situations working themselves out and allowing people to be who they are and then trust that that's who they are and not fighting it, letting them be who they are. If that means you need to create boundaries and distance yourself because that's who they are, then take good care of yourself. I wanted to share this. Look at how you can drop into the flow state in the midst of chaos, of uncertainty, of changing things and find a moment of being with yourself and allowing yourself to be yourself. I look forward to talking to you next time. In the meantime, create yourself a fantastic day.