The Tao of Driving


Thoughts, or rather no-thoughts, while driving a car – by Punya.

barn owl

Since a very long time I have wanted to write this down. Maybe out of superstition, I never did. What if my death came in a car accident? Well then, it would just mean that I was not ‘in the Tao’.

For many years we lived in Scotland, in the hills of the Borders to be precise. Fields are divided from other fields and from the roads by tall, thick hawthorn hedges. The roads are narrow, like one-way streets, and you don’t see what is coming around the curve. Dangers were not only oncoming cars and tractors but bunny rabbits jumping out onto the road or pheasants walking leisurely in your direction. Testimony of that were the many carcasses in different stages of decomposition lying on the tarmac – to the delight of feasting crows.

So, after strapping on my seatbelt – which takes me into ‘driving mode’ – I used to talk to the various creatures. This was the formula: “Hey, you furry and you feathery ones, get out of my way. I am now coming!”

One day I gave a lift to a retiree trans who was living in our village; with whom I had made friends. He/she had to catch a train in Berwick on the coast. We were already late. No time for prayers for the little creatures. Right outside the village a pheasant crossed the road under my wheels. I heard a thump and in the back mirror I saw it tumble, headless, high in the air. It was such a ghastly sight that I promised myself, train or no train, to always talk to the furry and feathery ones before driving off.

On another day it crossed my mind that if I could talk to animals to advise them to stay away from me, I could also talk to them to ask them to show themselves. I love owls – I knew where one lived. One evening, at dusk, I had seen her fly out of the woods over the high stone wall of Floors Castle. She almost touched the roof of our car. So once, when driving past that spot I invited her to come and say hello. A few times she did – in the middle of the day.

That things like this can really happen – and that I was not just dreaming – was confirmed by a friend of Amiten’s we visited down south. He had been in the British Army in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. After I told him about my rabbits, pheasants and owls he said that it made total sense. “As a soldier I used to send ‘little Alfie’ to see if it was safe to go ahead, as if part of my aura could look around the corner. I always got the feel of the situation. I survived. I came home, but many of my friends did not. Those were very dangerous times.”

Here in Corfu, main roads go through mountain villages, narrow streets between the houses meant for pedestrians, carts and donkeys. Now 40-seater tourist buses, concrete mixers and gravel haulers drive through, often taking the bends with three-point manoeuvres.

If I am not caught up in a heated conversation (I hate to drive and talk at the same time) i.e. when the Tao is not lost somewhere in outer space, the magic happens. I usually become aware only in hindsight that I had been slowing down at the approach to a village – when a big beast came out of the impasse and I still had time to find a comfortable place to let it pass by. “Oh, that’s why I slowed down, I must have felt something big coming.” If I had driven faster I would have been stuck in the middle of the village with the beast, requiring backing out for quite a distance (which I hate doing).

I love to drive (without talking!), enjoying the rolling of the bends, changing gears just in the right place, avoiding potholes as elegantly as possible, driving around cats and dogs basking in the sun and permanently settled in the middle of the road.

I love to drive, being present to the shady olive groves, the potted roses in bloom on the balconies, feeling Amiten’s company next to me. Should I get caught in thoughts of any sort, I remind myself: “Drive in Tao.”


Punya is the founder of Osho News, author of many interviews and of her memoir On the Edge.

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