Book Review: All Our Waves Are Water
Stumbling Toward Enlightenment and the Perfect Ride
The biggest challenge for a memoirist is to provide experiences the reader can actually participate in, rather than just summarizing those the author has had. This challenge becomes especially acute when one is writing about spiritual epiphanies, and ones that happened in the relatively distant past.
California writer Jaimal Yogis occasionally skates a bit close to that line, mainly because he has so many interesting stories to tell that he is always soon moving on to the next one. In his first book, Saltwater Buddha, Yogis wrote about running away from home at age 16 to surf in Hawaii and join a monastery. In this follow-up, the peripatetic young writer—always on the lookout for a challenging wave or an opportunity for spiritual enlargement—befriends a cheerful young Buddhist monk in the Himalayas, photographs Franciscan friars in New York, undergoes long meditation retreats, gets emotionally overwhelmed at Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall, and—in Bali—fulfills his quest to surf inside a giant, tube-shaped wave.
The author’s voice is lively, likable, and engaging, and—ultimately—he manages to connect the spiritual impacts of his various experiences and convey thought-provoking and useful insights. Yogis does particularly well when he writes about surfing, which he describes as a meeting between advanced modern physics and the metaphysical intuition of ancient poets and religious sages—not to mention a dangerous but exhilarating form of meditation. Carried along by powerful waves, he is treated to a profound, nondual connection to the rest of the universe. Ultimately, as the title states, surfing proves a metaphor for a Buddhist worldview, showing that life’s most turbulent waves are not exceptions to it, but part of its essential nature—and that wisdom means learning to ride them with grace.