They journeyed to the top of the world and found freedom of the heart.
“The journey taken in The Highest Pass was really the metaphor for living the life we want to live every moment.” –Anand Mehotra
Yogi and teacher Anand Mehotra had traveled the world but had not yet stood at the peaks of the Himalayas, as seen from the hills outside his hometown of Rishikesh, India. That all changed with a trip—by motorcycle—to cross the world’s highest pass, the road to Ladakh.
“I have always been a seeker of radical aliveness,” says Anand. For Anand, the journey to traverse the highest pass was about the quest to feel fully alive, a journey that became particularly meaningful when a reading of his astrology chart predicted he would perish in an accident in his late 20s. But the possibility of death couldn’t drown out the voice calling to him from deep within the Himalayas. Anand decided to combine his love for motorcycles with his passion for adventure. A conversation with his student Adam Schomer transformed what could have been a simple road trip into an adventure with a group of bikers that included a film crew. Those gathered along the banks of the Ganges in Rishikesh to pray before making the trek would find their lives changed forever.
Opening in theaters on April 27, The Highest Pass documents this band of adventurers on an epic motorcycle journey across 2,000 kilometers of demanding terrain. The film is part spiritual quest, part reality show, and part travelogue with cinematic views of the peaks and people, as Anand says, “The journey is an adventure, but at the same time an adventure of the mind.”
While on the road, the group faced challenging moments including unpredictable traffic along windy inclines, snow and ice, drastic changes in altitude, and unnerving cliff edges as they climbed to a height of 18,000 feet. Although they embarked on the trip in June over a road usually open from May through September, they were just behind the snowplows due to an unseasonably heavy snowpack. Every day, they faced danger as they came up against the extremes of physical and mental obstacles, testing their teamwork as well as their support systems and vehicles.
They also confronted what Adam described as own fears of feeling foolish and worries about dying on the trip. There was a moment, Adam said, “when there was no other place to go than inward to challenge the self and take a leap beyond one’s own limits. In those moments, the most important task was to react with more courage and love so that amidst a challenge you can look at yourself and take a leap beyond the fear.” These are some of the principles and perspectives inherent in the Yoga tradition taught by Anand to help them see the road and to help them experience freedom rather than conflict. “The longing deepest in the human soul is that of freedom,” Anand says; the greatest obstacles to freedom are the conflicts within the mind itself.
The challenges the riders face in the film parallel the circumstances that life lays at our feet in every moment: with no experience to draw from, we often have to make decisions that depend upon our complete focus and one-pointed trust. The rider’s journey is an inspiration to say yes to opportunities that call for risk taking within the context of our own lives, to say yes to radical change. “The thing which inspired me the most was inner alchemy and human potential,” says Anand.
The most rewarding transformation for Adam was faith. He began to understand experientially that faith is the opposite of fear and that you can’t have the two in the same bucket. Either you have faith and trust or feel threatened and overcome by fear. It doesn’t have to take a motorcycle ride through the highest peaks of the Himalayas for anyone to start growing the willingness to take a radical risk for change.
Another measure of courage was delivered by the land, beautifully filmed by the cameras: breathtaking images of roads not traveled by many beside isolated mountain lakes, secluded monasteries, and the vast valleys between. Riding a motorcycle means there is no barrier between rider and the immensity of nature. “When you’re riding, you’re at one,” says Anand. “The highest travelable road is the world within us.”
LA YOGA regular Michael Mollura composed the stirring film score which was performed by LA-based musicians MoMo Loudiyi, Dahveed Haribol Das, Marty Lieberman, Annmarie Solo, Violeta Villacorta, and Eddie Young along with vocals by Yes lead singer Jon Anderson.
Connect with Anand Mehotra via a weekly meditation satsang in Santa Monica as well as Yoga teacher training, warriors of wisdom programs, and retreats in Rishikesh, India at the Sattva Yoga Center. For more information, visit: Mysattvayoga.com.
The Highest Pass Premiere
See the film in theaters in the Los Angeles region (Santa Monica and Pasadena). To view the trailer and check out more information about the film, visit: thehighestpass.com. Come to the LA YOGA screening in Santa Monica Sunday afternoon, April 29, and share the experience with the Yoga community.
The film will be showing at the Laemmle theatres in Santa Monica on 2nd street. Following the premiere is a Q&A with filmmakers including writer and producer Adam Schomer and director Jon Fitzgerald.
27 April ; $8
Laemmle’s Monica 4-plex theatre; 1332 2nd St, Santa Monica, CA 90401
Selah Michele is an active part of the LA YOGA team who thinks about safety while riding her bike around LA, an adventure experience in itself.