“Buddha On The Backstretch: The Spiritual Wisdom of Driving 200mph”
by Arlynda Boyer
Published by Mercer University Press
“It occurs to me that this recognition of the truer, deeper self is the source, too, of race-car drivers’ fearlessness”
A while back I read something about this book and honestly wasn’t sure how someone could compare NASCAR to Buddhist practice, but after reading I am a believer and can understand the parallels between the two. I, for one, should not have been so close minded from the get go. I mean hell, if I, a death metal fan, can compare my life in that realm with my life in the Buddhist realm why can’t someone who’s interest is something other than mine?
“Buddha In The Backfield” is a nice break from the literary, often over intellectualized, books on Buddhism that can get boring with their use of studious words and paraphrasing. Arlynda has offered us a glimpse into the heart of her practice and something she also holds dear to her heart. Her words are meaningful and narrative, to the point you are immersed enough it feels like you are listening to a book on tape, not reading a book.
One thing that really stuck with me is her talk of “flow” and “getting into the zone”. As meditators, that is in a way what we are trying to do. To calm the chatter, to just be. She talks of the “zone” drivers are in while driving. If they are not, things could potentially be very dangerous. One driver she quotes says “I’ve got to be relaxed, but I’ve also got to be hyped up; It’s a fine line, because if I’m too relaxed, I’m just downhill, and if I’m too anxious, I’m downhill too.” As Buddhism eludes to a “middle way” it seems from her explanation that is the biggest similarity for a driver, because with out that “middle way” the would not be able to succeed on the track.
The book is not all comparisons though, Arlynda outlines things that have worked for her, the way the way for her and how they cold work for any of us. As a student of Buddhism for 10+ years her advice is clear and comprehendable. While I still may never watch a full NASCAR race, I can at least appreciate the effort that is put in by a driver and the crew. As Arlynda points out “a crew chief will remind a young driver, ‘Just drive your race. Just hit your marks.’ He does not comment on what other drivers are doing or how his driver compares to the leaders…” Reminds me of something a teacher might say to a student “don’t try to be, just be…”
“Buddha On The Backstretch” was a very enjoyable read. I’d highly recommend it.
Arlyna has even started her own blog, check out more about her at Southern Buddhist