why road trip
All of life is a foreign country.
+ Jack Kerouac, letter to John Clellon Holmes (24 June 1949)
Some beautiful paths can't be discovered without getting lost.
+ Erol Ozan
The concept of time, as it's commonly understood by normal
people with normal jobs and normal goddamn lives, doesn't
exist on the road. The nights spread out like the dark,
godforsaken highways that distinguish them, and the days run
together like Thanksgiving dinner smothered in gravy. You
never really know where you are or what time it is, and the outside
world starts to fade away. It's cool.
+ Tiffanie DeBartolo, How to Kill a Rock Star
Now, on this road trip, my mind seemed to uncrinkle,
to breathe, to present to itself a cure for a disease it had not, until now, known it had.
+ Elizabeth Berg, The Year of Pleasures
When we get out of the glass bottle of our ego and when
we escape like the squirrels in the cage of our personality and get into the forest again, we shall
shiver with cold and fright. But things will happen to us so that we don't know ourselves. Cool, unlying
life will rush in.
+ D.H. Lawrence
An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered.
An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered.
+ G. K. Chesterton
Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again;
we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.
+ Jack Kerouac
Half the fun of the travel is the aesthetic of lostness.
+ Ray Bradbury
Wonders of a journey consist far more of such intangible
experiences and unexpected situations than of factual things and events of material reality.
+ Lama Anagarika Govinda
prelude: road trip as spiritual journey
This past year, I created and led a series of classes called Awakening: realizing spirit in ordinary life which
helped participants to see their own lived experience as the most immediate opening, the most accessible path,
to what has been called "awakening" or "enlightenment." The idea is that the great spiritual traditions
(Christianity, Buddhism, to name only two) began with the lived experience of one person, and what was realized
in those extraordinary lives is actually already present and accessible to any one of us in what has been accurately and mistakenly
called "ordinary" life. Our ordinary lives are extraordinary, full of transparent moments, epiphanies, suffering disguised
as joy, joy disguised as suffering, all markings along the way.
It is, of course, more complex than that, and it is usually not clear where our path is leading. But if we take our life as
spiritual journey, then the destination is not the paramount consideration (we are, after all, going to end up dead at some
point and that is a given). And if we take our lived experience as no less significant as the lived experience of those whose
stories are connected with the great spiritual traditions, then we have the same access to the same spiritual depths that inform
those traditions. It is the journey that gives life meaning, the dynamic Quality of travel, that opens up awareness and
connection and everything else that "spiritual" experience is supposed to be.
In the Awakening course, we used the track themes from a CD called Migration by R. Carlos Nakai and Peter Kater
as a mode of inquiry, and they have proven to be quite helpful. There are many pathways to realization, these are not the
only ones, and they may not even be the best ones, but they serve adequately.
The music is excellent, but the track names nicely describe the developmental aspects or stages of a spiritual journey.
Quoted from the CD jacket notes:
Gathering one's tools.
Preparing oneself. Purifying, centering.
Recognizing the "sacred" in one’s life.
4. Stating Intention:
Realizing and acknowledging one's purpose.
Letting go of control, allowing vulnerability, leaving what is known.
6. Embracing the Darkness:
Walking into the unknown, being in the void
7. Lighting the Flame:
Conscious connection with spirit, finding meaningful ritual.
Climbing the mystic spiral to a vision of oneness;
a vision that alters all perceptions.
Listening, observing, being still.
10. Becoming Human:
Empathy, being in truly responsible relationship.
11. Walking the Path:
Integrating life experiences, teaching by being.
Transcendence of the illusion of separateness. Humility. Joy.
Road Trip is Spiritual Journey. Especially because it doesn't "go" anywhere but back home, back to where
we started. Except: it will not be the same place any more. A good road trip disrupts, just long enough, all the
static patterns of Quality and deadening routines that insinuate themselves into daily living, and we begin to see
things with fresh eyes. A good road trip teaches us (again) that home is not so much a place, as it is something we create,
wherever we are; or perhaps more accurately, home is something we are wherever we go. The themes
from Migration are helpful in seeing past the surfaces of maps and interstates and campsite reservations
to the more significant aspects of experience.
Writings along the way, posted here, will, like all good spiritual practice, always have an address in real
time and space, but they will also look to the spiritual themes of wandering, initiation, honoring, stating
intention, surrender, embracing the darkness, lighting the flame, transformation, quietude, becoming human,
walking the path, and service.
Plus, it's just a lot of fun.
Migration CD can be found
A fuller development of the Migration themes (pdf) can be found
More on Quality can be found in Robert Pirsig's books Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Lila.
Clicking on the Cruiser image at the top will always take you home. Comments/questions are welcome and can be sent to: