Wednesday, December 23, 2009


To quote Professor Hubert T. Farnsworth of Futurama, "Oh my, yes, it's the apocalypse all right. I always thought I'd have a hand in it."

The Shenandoah Valley got its biggest snowstorm in the ten years I've lived here last weekend. Here are a few photos:

First, this is during the storm. It came down well over an inch an hour for the first several hours, so it piled up fast. In the front you can see the wrought-iron fence around our front yard. The gate section, the highest two points, hit me mid-thigh, and you can see how close they are to being buried. In the back you can barely make out my pickup truck, which I only finally got dug out today (Wednesday the 23rd).

This is the next day. That's the same high point of the fence, and behind it the enormous pile that built up from our shoveling the sidewalk.

My husband's Toyota, with 22 inches of snow on the roof. When the snow finally stopped, there were 22-24", depending on where you stuck the tape measure. His car was completely buried, not a single bit of metal visible at all.
This is looking down the side street. Being in two dimensions really flattens out just how steep this hill is. This block of the street is basically a U shape, with a stop sign at each high point of the U. When it ices over, it is virtually useless. We've heard people spinning their tires for minutes trying to get out of either end of the street (record tire-spinning time: 45 minutes -- no kidding!), only to finally give up and go home.
We're lucky; we can park on the major street (I took this picture standing in the middle of it) and take other routes to get where we need to go, so when this street is icy or snowy, we just don't use it for a couple weeks. Other people aren't so lucky. You can't quite see them, but there are two dead-end streets located virtually at the very bottom of the U. They have no other option but to try to get out this way. About the only thing to do is get a running start, have someone watch for traffic, and blast right through the stop sign; alternately, if you can keep some traction, creep through using barely any throttle.
Staunton is an incredibly hilly town -- on the street behind us (the one this U-shaped street intersects in the picture), the sidewalk gives up and turns into stairs at a couple of points.
Mary Baldwin College is located here. Frederick Street forms the lower base of the college, and a set of professors' offices called Rose Terrace is near the very top. I counted the steps once walking from Frederick to Rose Terrace. One hundred and fifty stairs -- I think the rule of thumb is ten steps to a story, so that's the equivalent of walking up fifteen flights of stairs.
Finally, the two most comfortable creatures in Staunton that night -- our cats, Peanut (the grey one) and Indy (the black one) curled up on the radiator. The camera woke Indy up and she's starting to stir. The moment before this, she was sprawled out asleep. It's only a hot water radiator, so it doesn't get nearly as hot as a steam one would. In fact, it stays pretty much perfect cat-warming temperature all winter, although when it gets really hot, they favor the piece of drywall that Peanut is lying on.
I wanted to add one little Buddhist thought, and then we're off to visit family in Pennsylvania and New Jersey for the holidays. I tried in my book to emphasize that Buddhism is not a philosophy but a practice. I said "actions speak louder than words," "you have to do it, not think it," and so on. Although the intentions behind your actions is important in terms of karma (i.e., seemingly good actions, done with bad intentions, generate bad karma), it is the actions you undertake that make you the person you are. No matter what we say to one another about ourselves, others see our actions and whether or not they say it out loud they judge those actions against what you've said. If your actions and your words match, you're seen as a person with integrity; if not, you're seen as a hypocrite or a liar.
Buddhism is the same way. It asks you to look at yourself as others do and see whether or not your words (or your goals) line up with your actions. If not, it asks you to be honest about recognizing that and to make the change so that they do. It also asks you to be honest -- brutally honest -- about your intentions. Are they not-so-great intentions? Then expect not-so-great karma -- and don't complain about it when it arrives, because you are the one who set it in motion.
Is it okay to do good actions with a good intention because you want good karma? Sure. Wanting good karma is pretty karma-neutral. It's a little more selfish than doing good things with good intentions just because they are good in and of themselves. But it's not nearly so bad as having bad intentions, such as doing something to put someone else in a position of owing you, or doing something because you want to be to be admired for it. Those would be karma-negative intentions. Doing something because it's inherently good, with zero expectations, is karma-positive. Doing the right thing because you want to keep your karma in the good zone is karma-neutral. It's not a negative, at least.
Really, Buddhism is remarkably simple, and one very old Buddhist story reflects this.
A monk renowned for his wisdom was sitting in deep meditation when someone
approached him and asked, "O venerable teacher, what is the essence of

The monk replied,

Not to commit wrong actions,
But to do all good ones
And to keep the heart pure --
This is the teaching of all the buddhas past, present, and future.

His questioner was annoyed and exclaimed, "Why, even a five-year-old child knows that!"

The monk (and this is why he is called wise) replied, "Yes, but how many fifty-year-old men can easily practice it?"

This is indeed the essence of Buddhism. It's simple to grasp and can be explained in a sentence, but to practice it, every hour every day for a lifetime, is remarkably difficult, something that requires teachers, retreats, books, and communities of fellow practitioners to pull off.
Whatever December 25 means to you, have a merry and safe one, and a happy and prosperous 2010!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Praise for Buddha on the Backstretch!!

I've done a few interviews for Buddha on the Backstretch now, and begun to see some interest in it from both racing and Buddhist sources. Here is some of the latest press for the book:

My local paper did a brief profile of me.

Local author compares Buddhism, NASCAR
When Staunton author Arlynda Boyer was a little girl, her father took her to Bristol for her first NASCAR race. As soon as she saw Dale Earnhardt's yellow and blue Wrangler Thunderbird tearing up the track, she was hooked.
"When he drove a car, he had a good way of giving his body language to the car," said Boyer, remembering her fascination. "You could tell (when) he was driving angry and when he was driving all out."
In October, Boyer published "Buddha and the Backstretch," a book that compares the Buddhist mentality with that of her favorite NASCAR driver.
Fifteen years ago, Boyer began practicing Buddhism. She was drawn to the faith in part because it encourages people to live in the present and not cling to possessions, anger or regret.
"These people are kind of like NASCAR drivers," Boyer said. "They talk about living in the moment and they talk about giving everything our all and letting go."
A year after Earnhardt's death, Boyer wrote a commentary for National Public Radio about how he and other great drivers served as examples of how to be a better Buddhist.
"You won't find a driver replaying a race five years after its done," Boyer said. "They give it 100 percent, but the minute they walk off, it's done."
The essay became a premise for her book, "Buddha and the Backstretch," which is available at Bookworks on West Beverley Street in Staunton.
Name: Arlynda Boyer
Town: Staunton
Occupation: Author, prospective grad student
Family: Husband, James Roguskas; cats, Peanut and Indy
Hobby: Poker. "Nowhere else in life do math and luck and psychology crash together like that," Boyer said.
Favorite food: Asian
Books: Non-fiction and anything by Shakespeare
Best advice: "Everything you're choosing to learn is choosing the shape of your own mind," Boyer said. "So choose carefully."
— Rebecca Martinez

Foreword Magazine profiled several new religious books, including mine:

Religions Merge Into One: And a Meditation Runs Through It
Submitted by foreword on Tue, 09/01/2009 - 15:56

We move from “walking the path of kindness” to driving like a bat out of hell as an effective way to investigate the Buddhist mindset. Buddha on the Backstretch: The Spiritual Wisdom of Driving 200 MPH (Mercer University Press, 978-0-88146-174-9) deserves the pole position for portraying Buddhism as no more or no less exotic than a super-hyped stock car plastered with beer decals. Arlynda Lee Boyer is superlative with colorful commentary and insightful explanations of how a firm grasp of flow, mindfulness, patience, endurance, discipline, concentration, equanimity, and finally acceptance (as in death), benefit both racers and meditators. Her book will broaden appreciation of Buddhism’s unparalleled coping skills. It might even create a few unlikely gear heads.

Finally, a NASCAR blog by Art Weinstein reflected the befuddled but interested reaction I've been getting a lot!

Buddhism, Dale Earnhardt and NASCAR
A NASCAR BLOG BY Art Weinstein

I thought I’d seen everything in this sport until the other day when a new book arrived in the mail here at NASCAR Scene. The cover featured an illustration of a bobblehead Buddha on the dashboard of a race car, and if that wasn’t enough to hint at what the book was about, the title made it clear: “Buddha on the Backstretch: The Spiritual Wisdom of Driving 200 MPH.”

I’d bet if you went to a typical Sprint Cup race, you’d be able to count the number of Buddhists in the crowd on one hand, even if you had lost several fingers in an industrial accident. But the book’s author, Arlynda Lee Boyer, has been a practicing Buddhist for more than 10 years. Long before she embraced the religion, however, she was a devoted NASCAR fan, and more specifically, a big Dale Earnhardt fan.

She says that after her conversion to Buddhism, she couldn’t help but notice the similarities between the ancient Eastern religion and NASCAR, the Southeastern religion.

“Gradually, it dawned on me that the practice’s dedicated teachers, its monks and nuns deep in intense training, with their laser focus on enlightenment, their serene acceptance of death, and their infectious joy, reminded me of someone: race-car drivers.”

Boyer admits that NASCAR drivers are mostly Protestants, yet again and again, she kept seeing Buddhist principles at work in the sport: “To drive as Earnhardt did, [drivers] must stay on the ragged edge of control, barely hanging on to a car … for three to four solid hours, and they must never once panic.”

Opening this book, my expectations were low, simply because of the whacky premise suggested in the title. But Boyer did a nice job of researching her subject matter and makes some interesting observations comparing the sport and religion. She returns again and again to the subject of Earnhardt, even recounting heartfelt conversations he’d had with Darrell Waltrip and others through the years. She admits Earnhardt himself probably would have “rolled his eyes” at the mention of karma but that, “he would have appreciated the qualities at the heart of Buddhism – self-awareness, presence, compassion and joy.”

If you’re interested, the book is published by Mercer University Press.
I'm delighted by the coverage. Buddha on the Backstretch may not have what it takes to be a bestseller, but I'm happy to have accomplished it nonetheless -- and I hope people appreciate what it has to say, even if they're a little confused at first!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Meanings, Media, and Therapy

One last comment about meanings, and I'm done on that score.

It occurred to me that one thing I could have added to my comments on meanings is this: I think that even people who cannot articulate deep meanings are nevertheless aware of them unconsciously. Things (actions, statements, etc.) that are in harmony with the deep meanings are simply perceived as "feeling right" on a gut level, while things that violate those deep meanings arouse a vague sense of unease, resistance, suspicion, or discomfort -- some sense of "something just doesn't feel right." Our ability to detect lies is probably connected to this gut-level sense that something doesn't quite resonate the way it should.

The same idea works in most forms of media. Some news stories capture the imagination and others, nearly identical in details, don't. Some people capture our imagination and others don't. I think it's because the ones that do are tapping a deeper meaning, either in us or within our culture, and we instinctively respond without always being able to explain why.

Myths have always articulated deep meanings (in fact, that's arguably their only real function). And if one thinks about it, contemporary compelling stories often echo the storylines of myths or fairy tales or the characters in them. That's because the myths and the news stories are both touching the same fundamental idea in us. It's why the myth has survived thousands of years and it's why the news story captures us.

To take just one example: Natalee Holloway certainly wasn't the only teen to disappear in 2005. But she was the one who became a media sensation. Why? Partly "missing white woman syndrome," a habit of television news to focus disproportionately on white and female victims to the exclusion of minority crime victims. And that in itself reveals deeper meanings: that "white woman" and "victim" are still deeply connected in people's minds, and that we are all too prone to believe that young white women are helpless in the face of dark-skinned predators.

More than that, though, the case captured imaginations because it featured a pretty young woman endangered in a place that was supposed to be safe and beautiful -- think Snow White in her castle, Rapunzel in hers. There was a frantic mother searching for her -- think Demeter and Persephone. It pushed the "damsel in distress" button of all fairy tales and medieval stories of knights. When a black teen vanished from her housing project the same summer, though, America yawned and looked the other way. Because we knew, unconsciously, that if we followed that story, we would have to face questions about poverty, substandard housing, racism, and a lot of other questions we've spent decades avoiding. We didn't do it consciously, but news organizations and news viewers together opted for the satisfyingly mythic over the uncomfortably real.

Great literature also works by tapping deep meanings. A lot of books may be well-written, even brilliantly written, but not stand the test of time because, whether even astute critics can articulate it or not, the books are devoid of the deeper meanings that resonate with us and make us want to read the book over and over again or urge it on others. Literature that becomes timeless does tap into those themes. Shakespeare's genius was in creating plays that, however flawed (and critics do recognize all kinds of flaws in every one of his plays), always touched on something very deep about humanity. That's the secret of his deathlessness, an innate ability to draw from the deepest wellsprings, and people recognize it, consciously or not, and respond to it.

I commented in Buddha on the Backstretch that only a few of our personal experiences resonate enough for us to become the stories that we tell about ourselves. All of the big experiences in our lives shape us, yet we do not usually use all of them to define our character. Even within our own lives, we have our own deep meanings (and I would venture to say, our idiosyncratic meanings have a shared resonance with larger cultural meanings in most cases). When the events of our lives touch on those deep themes, then those events become our key stories. We use them to tell ourselves and others who we are.

Where therapy comes into this is in the form of cognitive behavioral therapy. If you've ever had counseling or talk therapy, odds are it was cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT. The three key assumptions of CBT are:
  1. Individuals are active agents with the power to bring about change in their own lives;
  2. People actively engage in the emotional and intellectual ordering of their experiences, which can be called "creating a personal narrative"; and
  3. The ways this ordering is carried out underlie a person's sense of identity.

According to CBT's theory of depression, some people create overly negative narratives in which they depict themselves as ugly, unlovable, worthless, incompetent, and so on. The job of the therapist is to get the patient to verbalize those images so that the patient and the therapist together can challenge them and alter the narrative to be more realistic, nurturing, and compassionate. One psych writer says, "Changes that occur in narrative metaphors are at least as important as changes that occur in specific behaviors."

It's no accident that therapy is aware of both personal and cultural myths and the way deep meanings affect us. The founder of CBT, Albert Ellis, wrote that the system "particularly stresses philosophy. Why? -- because I borrowed so much of its theory and practice from ancient and modern philosophers rather than from professional therapists. Its main theories are therefore philosophic and include profound religious and spiritual elements."

Is this sounding like Buddhism yet? It should be. Buddhism looks beyond surface meanings to find the deeper ones, and it focuses on becoming a better person by paying close attention to the state of our minds in any given moment. Moreover, it asks us not to blindly believe everything we think, but to question whether each thought is as kind and helpful as it can be. Buddhism encourages us to accept the occurrences of life without adding a great deal of personal narrative to them, to respond from our highest selves, and then to move on cleanly, without clinging or regret.

The Dalai Lama sums up this link between narrative, metaphor, meaning, and therapy, and I'll leave him with the final word: "If we can reorient our thoughts and emotions, and reorder our behavior, not only can we learn to cope with suffering more easily, but we can prevent a great deal of it from arising in the first place."

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Meanings, Meanings, and More Meanings

I said last time that I would go a little deeper into how I see things as having surface meanings, mid-level meanings, and deep meanings. Well, I'm back from Thanksgiving and ready to tackle it.

I think many things have multiple levels of meaning, but I'll use a couple of examples from religion. The first is reincarnation, from Buddhism via Hinduism.

The first, surface-level meaning of reincarnation is this: be a good person in order to get a better rebirth; be bad, get reborn in miserable circumstances or as an animal. Round and round you go, and ideally you keep working to be better and better until you are at last reborn as one who is capable of achieving enlightenment (to achieve enlightenment is to enter nirvana and stop the cycle of rebirths into the samsaric world).

That's the surface level -- it's simple, it's straightforward, and it encourages us to be good and not to be bad. The mid-level meaning is the one that many Buddhist teachers use to introduce Western students to the idea of reincarnation. At the surface level, reincarnation seems literal. At the mid-level, it's a metaphor for how we relate to one another.

Because we've been reborn countless times into countless lives, we've all been born to one another. We've all been parents to one another. We've all raped one another. We've all been raped. We've all murdered one another, and we've all been murder victims. We've all fallen in love with one another, and we've all felt ourselves to be the beloved.

Thus, the mid-level meaning of reincarnation is this: we are all deeply, intimately connected to one another. Like the surface meaning, however, this level of meaning has the same ultimate effect: to encourage us to be kind to one another, as kind as we would be if we were still in intimate connection, and not to be evil.

Lastly, the deep meaning of reincarnation is that because we cannot know whether our overall arc is headed up or down, and because we cannot know how many times we or anyone else has cycled through the whole up-and-down-and-up-and-around arc, we should always look on one another with compassion and without judgment. Any interaction between you and another person is merely one tiny vector point in a whole tapestry of relationships you share without knowing any of it. The person who is mean to you today might be struggling upward, and you might be plummeting downward unbeknownst to you. So treat everyone with compassion and non-judging.

And, as you can see, that meaning has the same ultimate end as both of the others: do good and do not do harm. The question is how deeply you can see such meanings. If a person is only capable of wanting a materially better life next time around, they may only be capable of grasping the first meaning. A Westerner who is skeptical about reincarnation but suffering from modern alienation might be best served by the mid-level meaning. The deepest meaning is for those who are spiritual students, who want to understand the fullness of the spiritual tradition.

The concept of being compassionate and non-judging doesn't depend on reincarnation. It can stand on its own without any ideas about rebirth attached to it. But having all three levels provides three entry points for people to arrive at the same idea, making it more accessible to a wider range of people. However, this is why I can say as a Buddhist that I believe in the idea of reincarnation, but I do not believe in reincarnation literally. The idea I believe in is the deepest one: how we are to behave, in this life and in any others that may (or may not) come.

A Christian example might be the rules of various sects. I see a lot of people arguing quite strenuously over whether women should speak in church (and by extension lead services and be ordained), whether worshippers should dress up formally or wear jeans to church, whether they should follow this doctrine or that doctrine, etc. If I were a Christian, I'd obey whatever rules my particular sect happened to lay down. That's not necessarily because I think that God wants me to do it, though.

The surface meaning of the rules are what they are -- don't wear jeans, etc. Again, straightforward, and the point is to obey. The mid-level meaning is that God is an authority over us, and we should behave not as though we are in the presence of our "homies," but as though we are in the presence of our better, one we respect. Maybe it's the native Southerner in me, but when I see someone enter a church in ripped jeans, munching on the last half of a sandwich, I think, "Show your deity a little respect!"

The deepest meaning, though, is about ego, will, and surrender: our insistence on doing things our way and according to our convenience is a manifestation of our ego (not in the sense of vainness, but in the sense of asserting our selfhood and individuality). Throughout the Bible, submission to God's will and giving up our small egos in service to God is urged and held up as the greatest good. Even Jesus struggles to do this: he spends his whole last night in the Garden of Gethsemane struggling with the total surrender of his will to God's. He begs, "take this cup from me" (Matt. 26:39), but ultimately he knows that God's will must be done and he reconciles himself to surrendering his ego.

So the deep meaning of what some sects call "silly men's rules" is that every silly rule is a chance for us to erase a little bit more of our egotism and pride, and to learn to submit our wills, not to men and their rules, but directly to God. He couldn't care less about what we're wearing, but that's only the surface point. He does care whether or not we are willing to make the effort to surrender our willfulness and desire to have things our way to him, and anything that encourages us to do something we'd rather not is something that encourages us to give up a little self-centered stubbornness. Note: I'm not saying that obeying little manmade rules is the same as obeying God's will. Not at all. I'm saying that (if I were a Christian) I can see manmade rules as a metaphor for a deeper message about will.

A last note on me and my personal belief: on the whole, I admire the deep meanings of the Bible. I've read the whole thing cover-to-cover and have a shelf of scholarly books on it as well. But for me, admiring the deep meanings requires no kind of literal belief, not even in God or Jesus. I can see them as metaphors just as I can see reincarnation (a tenet of my chosen practice of Buddhism) as a metaphor. What drew me to Buddhism is that to me, some Christians -- though by no means all -- seem hung up on arguing about surface meanings and whose sect has it right and whose sect has it wrong and why you must join the right sect or you are doomed. Buddhist teachers, on the other hand, seem profoundly attuned to the deepest meanings in a text. They look for the metaphor in everything, and thus they also seek the true meaning beneath the metaphor. And then they work very hard to embody that true meaning in their words, actions, and lives.

So whatever path you follow (even if it's no path at all), look beyond the surface. Find the deepest meanings, and then embody those meanings in everything you do. Peace out, y'all.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Things I Wish I'd Said

As I said, with every book there's always something you think about after it's too late to add it. Your head is in the "space" of the book for so long that thoughts continue to occur to you long after the writing is done. Perhaps that's even more true for Buddha on the Backstretch, because it's really a book about my philosophy toward life, and that will continue evolving and expanding.

In the next post, I want to talk about surface meanings, mid-level meanings, and deep meanings, but if I included it this time, the blog would be too long. So I'll just say that I see many things as having at least three levels of meaning, and I want to explain one quote in the book through that lens.

In Buddha on the Backstretch, I explained the concepts of nirvana and samsara this way:

Nirvana is enlightenment, sometimes thought of as a place that enlightened beings go. Samsara is its opposite, the world of striving and suffering, greed and envy. However, for Buddhists, such sets of opposites are examples of "dualistic thinking." By freezing concepts into "either/or," we fail to see the possibilities of "both/and." We do not realize that what we think about the concepts, such as "these are opposites," can never be as big or as all-encompassing as the concepts themselves (in turn, the concepts are never as big as reality itself). Instead, Buddhists think in terms of interpenetration, the idea that one concept goes through and into another. To put it as the Buddha did, samsara IS nirvana -- because without the reasons to practice that samsara offers us, we would never find nirvana. Moreover, once we gain some level of realization, we understand that although the world might be samsara, we can hold nirvana in our minds and embody it in our actions and words, thus filling the world (samsara) with nirvana. Or, in Elizabeth Barrett Browning's charming phrasing, "Earth is crammed with heaven."

When my friend John read the manuscript, he said he didn't completely get this passage and asked if I was trying to repeat the adage that we can't truly know joy until we've known pain. That's not exactly what I wanted to say, but at the time I couldn't think of a better way to describe it.

What I meant (and what the teaching "samsara IS nirvana" means, at least as I understand it) is akin to taking a glass of fresh water and adding salt to it grain by grain. When does the glass become a glass of what we would call salt water? Not with the first grain, which would be imperceptible. At some point, you have ceased to have fresh water and begun to have salt water, but no one knows exactly when that happened.

Along the same lines, one Buddhist teacher took his students outside and placed a grain of sand on the ground in front of him, asking "Is this a hill?" He kept adding grains and asking the question. Every pure, unselfish act is a grain of salt or sand, a grain of nirvana. We add grain after grain, and eventually, this suffering world of samsara has a hill, or a salty taste. At some point that we may not recognize, the suffering world has nirvana in it. You won't know when the change occurs, but you will realize suddenly that, hey, nirvana is here, in this world. You can point to it, taste it, let it run through your fingers. Nirvana has interpenetrated samsara.

So when it comes to the teaching "samsara is nirvana," the surface meaning is a paradox. The two seem to be opposites, so saying that they are the same is a paradox. That is the case with a lot of Buddhist teachings. Because they are paradoxical on the surface, you must look deeper to find a meaning. What I just described is the mid-level meaning, the idea that our actions can bring nirvana into the samsaric world.

The deepest meaning is that once you are enlightened, then anywhere you are is a manifestation of nirvana, because you will see the inherent enlightenment (the nirvana) in everything. To an enlightened being, then, nirvana and samsara are exactly the same thing. They are both an ocean. The hill is always there.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Welcome to my inaugural blog post! The Southern Buddhist blog exists primarily in support of my book Buddha on the Backstretch. You can order Buddha on the Backstretch here, or ask your local bookstore to order it.

Buddha on the Backstretch is my first book, and it was published in October 2009 by Mercer University Press in Georgia. This is how the publisher describes the book:

By using Buddhism as a lens to examine NASCAR racing -- and NASCAR as a means to illustrate Buddhist teachings -- Buddha on the Backstretch provides a unique new perspective on the field of sports and spirituality. Not aimed solely at either Buddhists or race fans, the work's message of self-improvement via popular culture serves as a Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance for a new generation. Buddha on the Backstretch considers mindfulness, handling setbacks, patience, discipline, heightened awareness, impermanence, equanimity, and how we face death. The work looks at why we need heroes and how we can take a hero's story and use it for our own growth. Like an anthropologist, the author can take a story about loose radiator bolts and red North Carolina clay and tease out of it three different Buddhist elements of mindfulness. The aim is to show readers how to examine all facets of culture and all the people around them, and be able to find, in seemingly unlikely places, profound lessons on how to live. If the student is truly ready, then a NASCAR driver can be as profound a teacher as a guru in robes, and a serene Buddhist teaching as lively and colorful as a weekend at the track. The first work by an imaginative and quirky new author, Buddha on the Backstretch will alter the way you see the world, help you see wisdom everywhere and find the joy in the daily spiritual practice that is Life.

Of course I'm thrilled to be a first-time author, and Mercer was a delight -- everyone there is dedicated, helpful, bright, and genuinely kind. They did a great job with the book, but the process of writing, editing, designing, proofing, and printing stretches out over roughly a full year. In that time, I naturally thought of a couple more things I wish I'd said.

That will be the subject of the first couple of posts. After that, anything goes. I plan to write about whatever has become my interest of the moment. You can expect to hear about NASCAR and Buddhism, of course, but also Futurama, poker, Shakespeare, grad school, history, my favorite quotes, and various random brain storms, drizzles, and farts.

Thank you for reading. Onward and upward!