The book Zen Driving taught me to enjoy driving a car again
Zen Driving by K. T. Berger is a remarkable book that can change your driving habits, your attitude toward other drivers on the road and, maybe even, your life.
The authors are two brothers Kevin, a freelance journalist, and Todd, a California psychotherapist. Between them, they have put together one of the best “lessons in life” books that I have ever read.
I came across this thought-provoking book around 20 years ago, when my daily commute was on one of Pinellas County’s most highly-congested roads. From my perspective, Ulmerton Road was populated daily by thousands of cut-throat drivers hell-bent on getting to work on time. And I was one of those urgent, anxious drivers.
You know the saying, “you get back what you give”? Well, I was giving out cranky, me-first vibes and found myself surrounded by more of the same. Sound familiar?
Me? A Buddha Behind the Wheel?
I had recently started taking classes in metaphysics and spirituality and one of my classmates recommended this book Zen Driving, whose subtitle is the intriguing “Be a Buddha behind the wheel of your automobile.”
By the end of 176 pages of uplifting encouragement and gently inserted Zen lessons, I changed my attitude toward driving almost overnight. I especially altered the way I felt about the other drivers who shared the road with me. From middle-finger salutes to “Bless you, have a good day.” No kidding.
How many books have you read that can do that? That can alter deep-seated attitudes and behaviors so easily and quickly.
Zen Driving isn’t an instruction book about driving, either. It’s a gentle, flowing lesson about Zen Buddhism and how to apply Zen principles in everyday aspects of your life. The example the authors chose to use is driving, but the spillover effect is huge.
There’s a very thoughtful chapter called “The Beginning Driver” which points out some of the problems in classic Driver’s Education courses. If you’re planning to coach your teenagers in the art and craft of driving, this book will give you some food for thought, especially when it comes to the fear-based agendas that are presented by state officials, insurance companies and… us parents.
The Road-Car-Driver Ecosystem
The main premise of Zen Driving is that when we get behind the wheel of our automobile, we become one with a road-car-driver ecosystem, where the flow of traffic should occur like a “large, choreographed dance.” According to Zen Buddhism, everything is one interconnected flow that is constantly changing. And that should translate over to freeway driving, as well.
The authors emphasize that driving can be an enjoyable, rather than fearful experience. Relaxing, not gut-wrenching. They explain how awareness of other drivers and circumstances comes through a practice called “Moving Meditation,” where we observe without critiquing (even if a driver cuts you off)… “Bless you!”
By staying in the here and now, by not dwelling on yesterday’s anxieties or anticipated fears, we can learn to achieve a 360-degree awareness of what’s around us in every moment. That is how we flow in concert with the traffic and stay alert to those who momentarily lose their sense of being part of the whole.
After I read this book so many years ago, I was able to relax more about the half-hour drive to work. When I stopped competing with other drivers and saw them as friendly, helpful co-owners of the driving universe, I noticed that people let me in if I needed to change a lane quickly. Or they smiled at me at a traffic light. Tailgaters disappeared.
Nowadays, if I fall out of my “serene driving vortex,” for whatever reason, I can get back into it more quickly than I used to. I’m not quite to the point where I feel my car around me “as if I’m wearing it” but driving is no longer the chore it once was… or just a way to get from point A to point B. It’s become part of the dance of life, not a means to an end.
Your Car As Sacred Space
What about you? Does sitting behind the wheel put you in a sacred space? Or have you become (or do you know) an aggravated driver who has “fallen from grace with the highways?”
Just the act of reading this book raises vibration. The gentle humor, the fun way with words, the amazingly pithy subheadings (“One Drives as One Lives”) blend into a flowing journey of enlightenment about something we all take for granted.
All we need to do is remember that Zen Driving can’t be taught or learned in a classroom or book, even a book with this particular title. So read the book and then take yourself off onto the open road with an open mind. The rest of it you already know how to do.