#tbt Vietnam, My brother, Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

“The truth knocks on the door and you say, “Go away, I’m looking for the truth,” and so it goes away. Puzzling.” -Zen and the art of motorcycle Maintenance

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This picture brings me an immeasurable amount of joy. I’m the little nugget with the big ears and mischievous pre poop smile. I’m sitting on my big brother Jordan, next to my big sister Amanda. While my sister and I have had the most evolving, challenging growing loving relationship, my brother and I didn’t speak for over 10 years.

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“You look at where you’re going and where you are and it never makes sense, but then you look back at where you’ve been and a pattern seems to emerge.” — Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

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We could have gone the rest of our lives not talking but something in Vietnam 🇻🇳 in 2012 changed me. I was affected immediately by the energy of this beautiful country. Overwhelmed with anger, fear, frustration and confusion, after being happy and open in magical Laos 🇱🇦 I could not understand my sudden shift in attitude. It was the first time I could conceptually understand collective energy. The Vietnam war’s damage lay evident in Cambodia 🇰🇭, Laos and Vietnam but how they dealt with their adversities could not have been more different. It makes you think if all our individual efforts make the collective then we have a lot more power to affect change then we perceive to believe.

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“When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called a Religion.” -Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
“Your common sense is nothing more than the voices of thousands and thousands of these ghosts from the past.” -Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

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My girlfriends and I booked a motorcycle tour for a few days and within a few hours on the bike I felt parts of myself start to fall away. As if the freedom of the bike was giving my heart a perspective I had never discovered before. Having only ever navigated the world on foot, in car or on bike; I had never experienced the world with a passive panoramic view. As I learned to get more comfortable on the bike, trusting my driver, allowing myself to be supported by this monster machine, I began to open up to trusting my feelings, allowing them to co-exsist without shaming them away.

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“In a car you’re always in a compartment, and because you’re used to it you don’t realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You’re a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.
On a cycle the frame is gone. You’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming.” — Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
A view from my seat on my motorcycle tour December 2012 Vietnam

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By the second day I was feeling more like myself, in awe, bewilderment and joy of the world. I had believed for so long my world had to look, smell and taste a certain way. That I could only achieve success if I followed a very linear path, if I played all the right rules and never questioned the perceived authority. I was trapped in a fear that as soon as I let my heart wander and my mind expand I would never again be the AJ I was before. Who would I be then? I was stuck in pride. Pride in my misery, pride in my suffering, in my doubt, in my shame.

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“We take a handful of sand from the endless landscape of awareness around us and call that handful of sand the world. Once we have that handful of sand, the world of which we are conscious, a process of discrimination goes to work on it. This is the knife. We divide the sand into parts. This and that. Here and there. Black and white. Now and then. The discrimination is the division of the conscious universe into parts..” — Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

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I woke up the third morning with a calm feeling. A sense of knowing that something big was about to happen. I boarded my motorcycle with ease and a sense of trusting grace that I was fully supported. As we drove through the mountains and clouds of Vietnam, I saw flashes of my dad, passing me like shots from movie I once watched. I allowed the thoughts, inviting them in and watching them without judgement. I saw my dad in the army hating every moment of his experience, hating his forced entry into a war he didn’t believe in. His resentment, frustration, stifled creativity pressing on his heart. I could feel it. I was overwhelmed with sadness and pain until I literally couldn’t see anymore. I took a breathe and my whole world changed.

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“Mental reflection is so much more interesting than TV it’s a shame more people don’t switch over to it.” — Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

I was in Vietnam. Vietnam! If my father had been sent to Vietnam I would never EVER be alive. He would have never met my mother, never gotten married. Who knows who my dad would have been but he certainly would NOT have been my dad. I would cease to exist. This realization made possible by an event that happened 40 years before. Every single experience like a pebble placed perfectly in front of each other leading to this very moment. If one pebble was misplaced I wouldn’t be ME. ME the person who I’d been trying to find. Who ran to Asia, who spent the last year drinking all her problems away; ME who felt so lost and uncertain. SHE was existing right here, in this moment, in the mountains of Vietnam, because everything in her entire life and before her life and before her parents life and their parents and their parents made it possible for her to do so.

Vietnam 2012

The air pressing on my face brought me out of my euphoric state of knowing and I felt a longing I had not experienced before. A longing so hidden behind anger and misguided information. I wanted a relationship with my brother. A person for whatever reason chosen to walk this earth with me. The past didn’t matter anymore, why we stopped talking felt not only irrelevant but completely foreign. He was my brother. He was my blood. One of the first people on the planet that I unconditionally loved and my heart was partially broken without him.

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“Mountains should be climbed with as little effort as possible and without desire. The reality of your own nature should determine the speed. If you become restless, speed up. If you become winded, slow down. You climb the mountain in an equilibrium between restlessness and exhaustion. Then, when you’re no longer thinking ahead, each footstep isn’t just a means to an end but a unique event in itself. — Zen and the art of Motorcycle Maintenance

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I took a step off the motorcycle and knew while nothing physical had changed I would never be that AJ again. Part of her had died on that motorcycle, a small sacrifice really in the journey to personal transformation, but a necessary one, ensuring her survival on the unpaved road in-sight before her. As I look at this 27 year old photo. I wonder if I knew all along that I would leave only to return to exactly where I was in this photo. Supported and loved in the arms of my family.

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Introducing the newest member of our tribe Hannah Elaine

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If you want to learn more about me check out my website yogabyaj.com or find me on instagram at @yogabyaj or facebook Yoga By AJ