4-Wheeling Zen

by Chris Nelson COPYRIGHT © 2007

In the pursuit of a favorable path through a trail, one must first examine one’s own intent to be on a trail. What is the motivating force for being there? Perhaps it is to have the camaraderie of friends, or maybe to get away from the hustle and bustle of society. For some, unfortunately, the intent is to conquer the land and feed an insatiable ego. For me, the main desire to drive through the wilderness comes from my deep appreciation for the remote places of this planet, the excitement of exploration, and the desire to learn. In this conscious self-definition of my intent, a sense of care and guardianship for the earth and nature manifest within me. The feeling of a deep responsibility to place my tires carefully and drive my vehicle harmlessly over this land I love so much becomes paramount to me. To spin my tires excessively or to leak oil onto the land from a less-than-gentle approach is in direct opposition to my centered intent.

With this acceptance, four wheeling becomes a moving, fluid meditation for me. It is harmony between driver, vehicle, and land. To move with selfless intent allows the driver to be more effective at getting through the various challenges the trail has to offer. It is my belief that when this caretaker intent is truly infused within oneself, she begins to have ability and finesse beyond even her own skill level.

Traditional eastern philosophical works are riddled with fables of the young apprentice meeting an enlightened elder. Oftentimes, the young disciple’s enthusiasm for knowledge is enormous. He is longing to hear the teachings to set himself free, and is expecting the master to utter a great diatribe of advice and guidance. However, the yogi’s words at the meeting quite likely may only consist of a very simple comment. “Master, please teach me the way to inner harmony.” The elder responds, “Hem your tattered pants.” The student initially is taken aback by the mundane comment and may even feel slighted. As the teaching has time to grow within the young disciple, however, he alters his pants with great attention and begins to find this careful attention flowing over into other activities. Eventually the lesson is fully learned when the disciple extends this same care and meaningful intent to all things in his life. It has been said that if you study one flower long enough, it will lead you to the universe. With this said, clean your injectors.

Tires move our vehicles over the land. They are one of the softest components on our vehicles. The portion of the tire in contact with the driving surface is known as the contact patch. This is a variable area, which is affected by many things including tire pressure, how the vehicle is loaded, angle of terrain, and speed change. As we lower the air pressure, the tires become softer and more pliable on the surface irregularities. The tires also become more vulnerable to puncture and a broken bead. The Zen state of tire pressure is to find a middle ground between rigidity and vulnerability. When loading the vehicle or building armor, try to seek a balanced weight distribution. This will help to keep these variable contact patches closer to equal. Even with simple tasks like this, move from your centered intent.

When driving up a hill or accelerating, a weight shift occurs resulting in making larger rear contact patches. Driving downhill or decelerating makes the front contact patches larger as a result of the weight shift. The tires with larger contact patches have the most traction. This is why a proactive on-road driver slows before a turn, and then accelerates evenly through the turn. The driver has the most control over the vehicle when these patches are even and driving straight. Our vehicles are performing the work to move us and our gear. The ride should feel comfortable. If the occupants are uncomfortable, then the vehicle and terrain underneath are even more disturbed.

Water has been the predominant shaper of the landscapes on which we travel. It has been a teacher to many spiritual seekers and can aid the four wheeler equally well in its guidance. Water is soft and supple. It can fill any space with its presence and is found in all living things.

It is unwavering for its quest toward the center of the earth’s gravitational pull, and it always takes the path of least resistance. As we drive our vehicles through an arroyo, for example, it is often favorable to center the vehicle over the path the water takes. The contact patches are closest to even on the walls of the V-shape, formed within these arroyos, by following the path of water. (Picture here of vehicle centered in v-ditch taken from front or back.) It has often been a helpful image for me to think of water rolling through the terrain as I drive. I imagine it meandering through rocks and around corners with a steady pace. Occasionally it thrusts upward with its force to climb an obstacle. As it does this, it maintains its intent at the center of its existence and therefore slides over the terrain effortlessly. As we drive, think of this imagery of water flowing. This steady, persistent movement will help to keep contact patches even and give you consistent momentum.

Please take care in your actions wherever you go. Move from a noble intent and enjoy the riches of the wild. Ask yourself the sacred question, “What can I do to make sure my great grandchildren can enjoy this as I have?” Take as much care in the simple tasks as the more complex ones. Even a single leaf falling into a pond sends ripples to all shores. Our actions and intent reach far.

© Chris Nelson, 2007. Material in this article may not be reproduced in any fashion without the express written consent of the author.