Monday, December 8, 2008

Zen and the Art of Automobile Maintenance

My good friend John Peake teaches yoga at Centered City Yoga. He has been happily teaching the free intro class on Saturday mornings since the studio opened more than 5 years ago. He is the kind of guy that you can't help love--up beat, smiling, looks you in the eyes when he talks to you and is always sincere. After several months of knowing John, I was surprised to learn that he owns an auto shop, Peak Performance Automotive.

Upon my first visit to his shop, I realized that John isn't just a humble mechanic, he's a humble MASTER mechanic. I soon learned that this guy could fashion used appliance parts, bike tires, and a cardboard box together and make it run better than most cars on the road, AND it would look sexy and get 60 miles to the gallon! When you are as good as John, bragging seems redundant. Everything about his shop braggs for him: his employees LOVE their jobs, his customers are fiercely loyal and make excuses to stop by the shop, and business is going great.

Like the ancient practice of Zen Buddhism, John understand underlying form. More to the point, John understands that everything is spirit. Cars seem like a simple vehicle to explore spirit, my spirit. When my scheduled pilgrimages lead me seek maintenance at his temple of tappets and timing belts, I go to his shop. John drops everything he's doing, important things, and treats me like I'm the most important thing he could be working with. If my car needs something simple, an oil change or maintenance, he sends one of his highly-qualified mechanics out to work on Nina, my truck, while he takes me back into his office to show me his photos; John has an amazing and artistic eye for beauty and somehow manages to capture people's spirit in his breathtaking photographs. I love one of his photos which hangs on the wall in the reception area of his shop. He took it while on one of his trips to Cuba. It shows an old, worn-leather-woman with the biggest cigar I believe ever conceived, stuffed tightly into her gaping mouth. Somehow behind all that tobacco you can still see that she's smiling. Whether its a car, a yoga student or a mirracle photo occurance, John knows how to climb inside and see the greatest essence of it, make it sing, and project its beauty and potential.

John knows the name of my truck: Nina. It's named after Nina SimoneNina Simone and another friend of mine. John knows my ride better than I do and if there is more serious work than maintenance he tells me straight forward and honestly exactly what's wrong and why, what the parts costs him, if he can get cheaper ones, how much the labor will be, and gives me several options about what I want to do, even if it won't benefit him. He treats it like it's his biggest priority. He's even loaned me his personal car to drive around in for the day until he's fixed mine. He invites me back to see what he's doing and more than that, he let's me participate. I'll turn wrenches, raise the hydraulic lift, put my ear to special car-stethoscopes; not just for kicks, but so I'm empowered to know what exactly is going on.

Earlier this year, Celeste needed a car. A year or so ago, she'd asked the Universe to provide her something, anything, that both drove . . . and had a sunroof. Along came into Milt--a fat, old, Lincoln Continental that sailed down the street. That car felt like a "Milt," mostly because my late grandfather was named Milt and he loved Lincolns like they were holy. After a year of driving Milt (the car), the head gasket blew and he was pronounced dead on arrival. So we found ourselve back on the hunt for a different car.

This time, Celeste thought she'd be a little more specific with the Universe about what she hoped for in transport. Perhaps this time she could get something that ran well, had low miles, (a sun roof of course. After all, Celeste is Nature's Child) and didn't make her feel like she had blue hair and was one stoplight away from adult diapers. Each potential car she brought, unannounced, to John, who would drop whatever he was doing and skillfully study it inside and out. Within seconds, even before a test-drive, he could read its past and future like a fortune-teller reading someone's palm. "See how the paint is rough here? this means it's had some body work done, probably a wreck. Check out the rust on the tail-pipe, it has been poorly maintained," etc. We very much appreciated John's expertise choosing a car but we were getting discouraged that it was taking us weeks to find a car that was in our price range and that wasn't a lemon. John insisted that the right car would come along.

Finally, by chance Celeste spoke to Jeanine, a friend and yoga student, who happened to be selling her older car. It was cute, extremely well cared for, had low miles, within our price-range and . . . had a sunroof. Giddy, we immediately drove it to John's shop. Like always, he dropped whatever he was doing, jumped behind the wheel of yet another candidate, and with us in the car, drove it a total of 4 feet before he stopped the car, put it in park, closed his eyes, raised his hands to the Heavens and said, humbly, "thank you." He then looked over at us with a big grin and screamed, "Sold!" He still raced it around the block like he were on the last lap of the Grand Prix, just to confirm what he already knew: that this was the car for Celeste. While exploring new limits to the G-forces felt as one pulls around corners, he said, "You see! when you don't push it, when you let the Universe work out the details, miracles like this car happen and everything falls into place."

John understands cars but he works just as effectively on the coggs and machanics of people's hearts. It's no wonder that he invites new students into the exciting new realm of yoga. Many of my long-term ygoa students talk fondly about John being their first yoga teacher.

Just like yoga or Zen, we explore our inner workings by enjoying the shiny, alluring, and sometimes frustrating form of form. It all points to the driver--spirit. Our privilege is to practice the yoga of every day living, like John does, and take the opportunity to connect with every soul we meet, with fascination and humble curiosity.

By the way, John is excellent with all cars but LOVES to work on Subarus. Let's be frank 3 out of 4 yoga practitioners drive Subes. Take your car to John and let him work his magic on you and your car.

Peak Performance Automotive is located right by the DMV at:
2810 S. 400 W. Salt Lake City

See you at Yoga.

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