Dharma Wheels: Zen, Motorcycling & Cognitive-behavioral Therapy

Dharma Wheels is an examination of human happiness through the triple lenses of Zen Buddhism, cognitive-behavioral science [CBT] and the art of motorcycling.  Zen addresses first questions of life’s meaning and death’s certainty. CBT provides leverage on the emotional aspect of existence, addressing negative feeling states like anxiety, depression and anger. A six-week motorcycle tour through the American West is the venue for Wheels’ investigation.

 

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      Dharma Wheels is an examination of human happiness through the triple lenses of Zen Buddhism, cognitive-behavioral science [CBT] and the art of motorcycling.  Zen addresses first questions of life’s meaning and death’s certainty. CBT provides leverage on the emotional aspect of existence, addressing negative feeling states like anxiety, depression and anger. A six-week motorcycle tour through the American West is the venue for Wheels’ investigation.
 
     Seekers have long sought out quiet places – desert cells, mountain hermitages – to locate the wellness at our center. The author threw a leg over his motorcycle. Like a hermitage, any day on a motorcycle is a laboratory, a controlled setting in which to see more deeply into the way things are. During a year-long Zen retreat the author once sat still in a single place for 12 months. During Wheels’ tour he sits in this same stillness –  atop a one liter motor, traveling  through the great Western landscapes of desert, mountain range and coastline.
 
      Dharma Wheels reads on two levels. One is the story of a motorcycle trip through 11 western states that lie between the Continental Divide and the sea. The book puts the reader in the saddle to absorb firsthand the roadstead passing through. Glacial mornings silent save for the squeak of still-cold leathers. Pinion smoke wafting over late night country lanes. Meteors crisscrossing red rock canyon lands like some jai alai game of the gods. Six weeks sans email, wristwatch or phone, the ticking of the odometer the only clock.
 
     The second level is the ancient, ever-new story of the human quest for happiness. Itself a journey, this quest is the backstory to any tale of the road. The author’s whole life is an inquiry into the habits of heart and mind that enable us to live and to die well. As a Western cognitive scientist his days are an investigation into precisely this. Forty years of Zen practice have helped him recognize the cognitive filters that cloud a direct apprehension of reality. Classic Zen texts and fMRI machines now agree: well-being is one the world over, throughout space and time. Through the lens of science East and West, Dharma Wheels snaps into focus the moving parts of this wellness.
 
     These two stories are not separate. The Buddha looked up from beneath the Bodhi tree, saw the morning star and realized the truth that he’d been seeking. All people go The Way from particular to particular, tree by tree, milepost by milepost, star by star. This Way has always traveled under local names, in any language ever spoken. Truth, wisdom, the good road, divine life, Tao, Buddha nature, mental health. These names are all fingers pointing. Dharma Wheels stands up in the place to which they point.

 

 

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