As I’ve written elsewhere, I am an aspiring home chef and a relatively avid watcher of cooking shows. One of my favourite cooking shows these days is Masterchef Australia —I’m sure the other iterations of the Masterchef franchise are equally good, but I’ve stayed local, as one can only watch so many cooking shows Imagine my joy and rapture when I discovered that one of the judges on Masterchef Australia is also a passionate rider of motorcycles!
I was casually reading the Masterchef Australia bio of Gary Mehigan recently when I noticed that he was the solo host of a soon-to-air cooking and travel series called Far Flung. I made a mental note but did not really pay this any more attention.
Well, my wife was channel-surfing a couple of days ago and she happened to come across said cooking and travel show hosted by Gary. Noticing that he was travelling and cooking through India, we decided to sit down and watch the rest of the episode.
We too have travelled through India and really enjoyed the experience and the food. I was very much impressed by Gary’s willingness to go into the back streets and alleyways of India to give an honest depiction of the people and culture, for which he has an obvious affection. Then —insert squeal of delight— Gary visited a Royal Enfield motorcycle assembly plant in Chennai, India.
What?! A celebrity chef visiting a motorcycle plant while filming a cooking show. Now that was unexpected. But even more unexpected was his passion for motorcycles. The show’s description even begins with encouraging viewers to, “Join popular MasterChef Australia judge and chef Gary Mehigan as he explores his twin passions for fine food and fast bikes on this six-part culinary road trip through Asia”. In this case I’m happy to do what I’m told.
During the episode, Gary noted that his favourite saying was,
Four wheels move the body, but two wheels move the soul.
(Gary Mehigan, celebrity chef and co-host of Masterchef Australia)
That really caught my attention because I had never heard this aphorism before and because I know exactly what he is talking about.
The Experience of Awe
For all the moral panic being perpetrated against motorcyclists around the world, riding motorcycles is fun and is an experience that moves the soul. It turns out that even a celebrity chef can be uplifted by riding a motorcycle. Of course, this is not news to me, but I am happy to be reminded that it does this for a wider variety of people than I thought. Saints and sinners alike, so to speak.
Besides riding a motorcycle, there are other experiences that tend to give us this uplifting experience: music, walking in nature, good times with friends, etc. You might be surprised when I tell you that I can have such an experience when I’m discussing ideas with others. The discussion brings on a moment of clarity that transports me to a higher plane of insight —or so it seems at the time— such that my breath gets caught in my chest and I just need to pause and bask in the moment. I am in awe.
The point is that ordinary moments can become extraordinary. You can’t force the experience but you can prepare yourself for it.
One way you can prepare for it is through religious practices like prayer, meditation and even service, all of which can give us this uplifting in our spirit. This should be no surprise to anyone, as such have been practised throughout human history.
Interestingly, there is a difference of quality noticeable in these experiences. When one is moved by a piece of music, we get a sense that life can be bigger than we’ve previously noticed, but we don’t feel a sense of communion with Mozart. Riding a motorcycle on an open road gives one a sense that life is something more and we might feel a sense of communion with nature, if we’re on a country road or riding through a forest, but we won’t feel that communion to the same degree as, say, walking in the forest or standing on a mountaintop.
Religious practices can provide that uplift in your spirit because they too give us a sense of transcending ourselves. In such practices, we discern that life is something more, but we also get a hint that there is someone bigger. That sense of connection and communion with someone bigger is called spirituality and is markedly different in quality than the experience of music that moves you.
Neuroscientist Michael Graziano argues that such experiences are constructed in the brain and do not necessarily require a God to exist for us to have them (see here and here). In contrast, another neuroscientist, Mario Beauregard, offers compelling evidence that religious experiences have a non-material origin, that it is God who creates spiritual experiences, not the brain (see here). I would say that Graziano is correct if we’re only talking about the lower-quality awe we experience when listening to music, an experience that helps us feel as if there is something more to life. I side with Beauregard, ultimately, because such experiences still require a stimulus. Something other than ourselves causes the spiritual experience —for an example, you can listen to my story here. Therefore, through religious practices, we discover that there is indeed someone bigger.
The Peace that Protects
Regardless of which experience you have and what caused it, we can all agree that having such experiences is worthwhile. The apostle Paul was clearly in agreement with this when he wrote,
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable —if anything is excellent or praiseworthy— think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me —put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Thinking on and practising such things as are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy —whatever such things might have these qualities, motorcycle riding not the least of which— can prepare you to have a moment where your spirit is moved, a spiritual experience. There is no guarantee, of course, but you will certainly be in the right frame of mind and spirit for such to happen. What should really catch your attention most about these verses, however, is that Paul here admitted two things: 1) such experiences bring peace to one’s spirit (and who couldn’t use more of that); and, 2) our creator meant for us to have these experiences.
Even more than this, Paul further explained why our creator wanted us to have these experiences and what benefit they provide:
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
We don’t have to understand it or how it works, but it turns out that the peace that comes into our life when we think on and practise whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy, guards our heart and mind (i.e. our spirit) protectively. From what do they protect us? From whatever threatens our peace —and I’m sure you can think of some things in your life that threaten your peace.
Think On and Do the Things That Move You
So, think on those things that lift up your spirit and do those things that move you. Intentionally set aside time in your busy schedule to listen to music, enjoy a coffee and/or good food with family and friends, ride a motorcycle, take a walk or climb a mountain.
Whatever stirs your spirit —and your experience of awe might arise from different causes or in different circumstances than some other people— I recommend not being afraid to include proven religious practices into your lifestyle, because it is our creator who has intended these spiritual experiences for you. They are life-enhancing. They fill us with peace. They protect us from that which would destroy our peace. And God wants nothing but the best for you.
What moves your soul?
How often do you spend time on such things?
What can you do to make more time for such things?