Meditation & Motorcycles

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Wise Women, December 2011, by Kim Epp Frenette

Many pay lip service to living in the moment; Dorit Brauer actually does it.

When you are with Dorit, she is with you; not thinking of her next appointment, not revisiting the day before, not checking her messages. The woman doesn’t even own a cell phone. She is in the moment, she says, because “that is where life happens.”

Don’t confuse ‘being in the moment’ with surfer dude ‘going with the flow’. Dorit Brauer may be cool – she rides a Suzuki Bandit 1250 motorcycle after all – but she is far from flaky. She is a consummate ‘doer’ who lives her life with joy and gusto.

Dorit has a thriving holistic reflexology and guided meditation practice in the South Hills. For many years she worked at UPMC in its Center for Complementary Medicine. She studied reflexology at the Mahut School for Complementary Medicine and Holism in Tel Aviv, Israel, where the training is extensive and reflexology is covered by insurance and considered an important part of the medical profession.

Brauer is a self described life-time learner, infinitely curious, and loves a challenge. She moved to Israel from her native Germany in her early 20’s after being fascinated by the many Israelis she met on a solo backpacking tour in South America. She threw herself into learning Hebrew, becoming fluent after 6 months of classes for 6 hours a day, 6 days a week.

She stumbled upon reflexology after attending a lecture. “I was completely intrigued; it didn’t make any sense at all. I took the course purely out of curiosity,” she explains. “If any one had said I would make a living out of rubbing people’s feet I would have said, ‘you’re crazy!’”

After living, working and studying in Israel for 8 1/2 years she ended up in the United States. Why Pittsburgh? Like many transplants, a love interest long since over enticed her here; love of the city and the region made her stay. Having lived in and experienced enough alternatives to know, Dorit counsels, “don’t underestimate Pittsburgh!”

Packing light for a six week road trip

Dorit’s curiosity continues to drive her. She became fascinated with labyrinths and decided to take a facilitation course – and was one of only 2 non-clergy people attending. While very spiritual, Brauer has no religious affiliation; for her the labyrinth is like a walking meditation. She turned that interest into a major project in 2006 for her 40th birthday; a motorcycle tour across the US with a twist: visiting notable labyrinths across the country.

Dorit’s intention was always to write a book about the experience. A six week road trip, 7430 miles, 46 labyrinths and a few years to synthesize, and Dorit has finally completed an opus she describes as a “tapestry of life experiences.” She is in the process of finding a publisher. It is a long way literally and figuratively from the girl on a dairy farm in rural Germany, chafing at the restrictions placed by a conservative father who firmly believed ‘Girls don’t ride Motorbikes’ – the title for her book.

The profound natural beauty and cultural diversity Dorit experienced on her motorcycle/labyrinth-walking road trip convinced her to make a major decision; Brauer recently became a US citizen. Though it was a tough decision – she had to renounce her citizenship to Germany (not exactly an underdeveloped country from which one needs to flee) – Dorit says it was “life transforming.”

“I feel I was gaining something. It was a formal commitment to be at home here. I could be anywhere, so why here, but it was a commitment to my life.” She explains the impact of the trip. “To see this huge, long country and how great it is…there was a sense of ‘this is my place and where I want to be.’”

Dorit attributes her ability to seize each moment to “an awareness of the urgency of living,” first brought home by the death of her best friend at age 15. Reinforced by years in Israel “with Scud missiles falling in my backyard,” and a near fatal motorcycle wipeout, the idea that “any day might be our last day” is not conceptual for Dorit. “The more we become aware,” she says, “the more we realize to not take anything for granted.”

A permanent change….

“Once you have had that epiphany, it really is in your soul,” says Brauer. “Nobody can ever take that away from you.” For those of us who, perhaps fortunately, have not had such powerful experiences, Dorit maintains there are still ways to improve your ability to value each moment.

Of course, she is a big believer in the regular practice of mediation and guided imagery. Statistical evaluation of her classes at UPMC showed participants received significantly improved concentration and energy levels as well as decreased anxiety. But it can be even more basic than that: “Observe the small things that nourish your soul and practice more of that.” Brauer recommends people take a period of time everyday to reflect on those happy moments and “bring them to light.”

“It is very simple really,” says Dorit Brauer. “Whatever you focus on is what you will get more of.”

* * * * *

Dorit Brauer spoke with Wise Women on a late autumn day when the last vestiges of Indian summer made the day sunny and almost balmy. She imparted the following observations before heading out for a ride on her Suzuki Bandit 1250.

On the space for traditional and complementary medicine:

We are now realizing that modern medicine doesn’t give all the answers. It is absolutely necessary – you don’t meditate on a toothache! – but some things can’t be answered by a mechanistic concept of reality.

Probably wouldn’t hear the cell anyway….

On why she doesn’t have a cell phone:

It is very nice not to be reachable! I use technology for business but I think people are completely obsessed. It takes away from living.

On the wisdom that comes with age:

At 21 I went back-packing alone in Brazil for 10 weeks. My parents totally freaked out. Now that I am getting older I totally understand!

On moms and reality:

I had to promise my Mom not to camp (on my motorcycle road trip.) But at 40 years old, I like my hotel room, hot shower, and big dinner with a beer…

On why she will keep going on road trips:

It’s addictive. Once you are out there so far from civilization it is the best feeling in the world. There is such a sense of freedom, of pure satisfaction of being by yourself.

A favorite non-biking activity:

I am studying at Carlow with the Mad Women in the Attic writing program. It is a great group; we are ‘bad-ass!’

Labyrinth at Westminster Presbyterian in USC

On her fascination with Judaism even though she is not, as far as she knows, Jewish:

I have always felt a strong connection. I feel very comfortable…in my soul it is such a huge component.

(All genealogical records where destroyed during WWII in the part of Germany where Dorit was born, so she has no way of researching a possible Jewish lineage.)

On perspective:

You have to ask, “Where do I see myself in 1 year, in 5 years?” You need to align yourself with your future self. It cuts out a lot of the drama. If it doesn’t matter in a year from now, why even bother?”

On the theory behind guided imagery:

Every thought creates reality. If you choose your thoughts carefully you become the master of your own reality.

On the negativity in today’s culture:

Mass consciousness always picks up the lowest common denominator. It is entirely fear based….Don’t listen to the news!

Rocky Mountain knights on BMWs

Scariest moment on road trip:

I was caught in a hail storm close to the summit of the Rocky Mountain National Park. I was determined to go on when two guys on BMWs came from the other direction and gave the ‘cut throat’ sign that I should turn around. Then my bike started slipping. It was pure luck I didn’t wipe out. I could have gotten myself into real trouble if they hadn’t come along. After the weather cleared we spent the rest of the day riding together.

Her #1 Motorcycle rule:

Two wheels, no alcohol.