San Francisco: Saltwater Buddha
I met my ex-boyfriend at the yoga studio. When we first started dating, he was doing a lot of yoga. I thought, "Cool, I am dating a yogi!" Then, surf season started.
His practice dwindled down to the few stretches that he would do on my living room floor to release the muscles in his back, tight from all of the paddling. I tried, fruitlessly, to get him back to yoga class. He kept telling me that, during surf season, surfing was his yoga. I was perplexed at the time. Now I get it.
A couple of weeks ago, my friend and fellow Yoga Journal contributor Jaimal Yogis sent me an advance copy of his new book Saltwater Buddha: A Surfer's Quest to Find Zen Out at Sea. It's the perfect read for those who love the ocean as much as their yoga mats, or for anyone who wants to gain a deeper understanding of the spiritual practice that is surfing.
In his funny and poignant coming of age memoir, Jaimal (at left) tells tales of his teenage journey to live and surf in Hawaii, his later short-lived stint as a monk in Berkeley, and his eventual decision to pursue a degree in Journalism at Columbia. Through it all, he keeps returning to the ocean, and drawing comparisons between Zen meditation and surfing, the waves of the mind and the waves of the ocean.
There are many beautiful passages, but here is one of my favorites:
" . . . it seemed to me that what the mind brought forth while surfing a wave was as close as I'd come to Zen. The great ancestor Sengcan described the Zen mind by saying that the subject disappears without objects, objects vanish without a subject . . . Riding a wave, this happened naturally. The wave demanded such hyperfocus, there wasn't room for judging. On a steep, hollow wave, there wasn't even time to differentiate between one's body and the wave. There was only this and this. Just power and presence."