Forgive the bad joke, but I’ve really done a deep dive into Jaimal Yogis body of work this past week. I watched the documentary about his life – Saltwater Buddha while reading his latest book released in July 2017 titled All Our Waves are Water – Stumbling Towards Enlightenment and the Perfect Ride . I fully enjoyed the road trip by journeying along through Jaimal’s life and times through both celluloid and print.
All Our Waves are Water is a continuation of Jaimal’s book Saltwater Buddha in which he takes readers on his journey from boy to man – or grommet to older surf dude (I have no idea what the accepted surfer vernacular is around this – forgive me). It’s a wild trip taken by someone who started out like many of us – seeking escape from suffering through drugs, drink and running away from home. He comes to develop a solid relationship with surfing, spirituality and seeing the world as a means of self-discovery, relaxation and personal goal setting. As he says in the book, “Surfing was Zen for the stormy world.”
Carrying the torch from Saltwater Buddha, All Our Waves picks up with a 23-year old Jaimal in India to try to secure credentials to help him get into Columbia Journalism school. He bounced around looking for work and eventually found a job as an English translator for a young Tibetan monk named Sonam. This auspicious meeting was one that transformed Jaimal greatly as Sonam’s outlook towards life was something that changed his outlook as well. The story of their friendship gives all kinds of good heart feels. The young monk’s memories of Tibet and his family are bittersweet, and his wish to return is painful to read.
Jaimal finds the beauty and the wisdom in everything that surrounds him, and the foundation of this book relates to exactly this level of perception of his environment – both internal and external. This book is like sitting around the campfire with an old friend who tells the best stories.
He has a profound ability to create the most vivid and beautiful landscapes through his descriptions of the many locations he has visited. India, Mexico, Israel, Bali – heck even New York City in winter becomes magical through his descriptive lens. It’s clear that he’s connected to nature and has a profound gift for being able to detail what he witnesses around him. Beyond the settings he exposes readers to, he provides insight into the people he meets on his various journeys. You’ll discover the “Queen of Ocean Beach,” Sari a boatload of surfers, and other assorted characters– each person dropping wisdom in Jaimal’s life.
He quotes Rumi in capturing the essence of what his writing is about as he says, “this book is an attempt to understand the ocean in a drop.” As such, the ocean is a central character in the book. We’re gifted with the words of a ‘spiritual surfer’ – someone who asks the deep questions and plunges into the rip curl even though they are scared witless. Jaimal’s understanding of Buddhism is placed in the context of surfing. Emptiness, nonduality, compassion, interdependence, enlightenment – it’s all par for the course when you’re floating on your board waiting to catch the next wave. He has many other experiences, notably at the Wailing Wall that encompass Christianity so this book can best be defined as spiritual rather than exclusively Buddhist in tone.
As you would expect is the case with someone who both travels to remote locales as well as cavorting on monster-sized waves, there are accidents, bails, and near-death experiences. There are also stories from being away on retreat, something that can also feel like a death-defying drop into a rogue wave the size of a building. He deftly describes the mental and physical processes he experienced while on retreat or during meditation – something that helps other practitioners see that they’re not alone in having loopy feelings or thoughts arise when on the cushion.
Fear is another central theme in the book, and it’s something that Jaimal has explored in a previous book titled The Fear Project . He has no shame in speaking to his fears – worries about grad school, about surfing, about his relationships – he gets into all areas of his life where fear lurks below the surface.
All Our Waves are Water is a surf travelogue blended with the journey of a spiritually minded individual. For those who aren’t familiar with either the landscape of surfing or the spiritual space, you’ll discover new lands and take an interest in Jaimal’s experiences as he navigates through his youth and the challenges and joys found in the process of finding (and losing, then rediscovering) oneself. It’s an engaging read that kept me highly interested, and for anyone who enjoys books about travel from the first person point of view, you won’t be disappointed. I’m looking forward to Jaimal’s next book as he transitions from a young father to a grizzled old spiritual surf dude.