Otto Ringling is a typical middle aged American. He has two kids, is a senior editor at a Manhattan publishing house specializing in food books, vacations at the shore every year, and lives a comfortable life.
A trip from Jersey to his hometown in North Dakota with his free spirit sister is changed at the last minute as she tricks him into taking her guru Volya Rinpoche with him instead of her.
On the drive Otto complains throughout the trip and challenges the guru and questions his “Zen stuff” with a stubbornness and resistance. Otto does not believe his life needs to be fixed in any way. Rinpoche dressed in a maroon robe, quietly listens to Otto and answers his questions with questions. The unlikely pair falls into a travel routine of mutual respect, fun and learning.
The book was interesting, light and entertaining. For me, it falls into the category of fun summer read. If you have any interest in philosophy, yoga, Religion, Buddhism, travel or food this is book for you.
I won’t give away all of the fun, but a few of my favorite scenes include the drive through Pennsylvania and a Yoga Class.
The first night the pair stays in a historic Inn in Lititz Pa, a small town not far from my own hometown. The next morning they continue on to Hershey Pa. As a ‘local’ I appreciated the description of Pa, and recognized the landmarks. I loved imagining Rinpoche in chocolate world. The description of Chocolate World was perfect and allowed me to think of my own fun times there with family, but in the eyes of Rinpohce.
In a Midwestern town Otto’s sister arranged for Rinpohce to teach a yoga class. Begrudgingly Otto joins the class. Wearing chinos and a jersey Otto struggles through, pain, and embarrassment, and finally makes it to Savasana He is pleased and surprised to find a few breaths of no thought, and in the space of eight to ten seconds he found his old thought patterns suspended and he felt he understood something greater. I appreciated his mispronunciation of the Sanskrit words and his effort to master the physical practice.
This is a story about a physical and spiritual journey full of self discovery and reflection. I enjoyed the side trips visiting small town America through the eyes of a monk, and the fine cuisine sought after by Otto a die hard ‘foodie’ The story lined flowed seamlessly with the teachings of Rinpoche. I enjoyed watching Otto evolve and become open to some of Rinpoche’s teachings while he reflected on his own life.