Using Surfing and Meditation as Tools for Clarity: Saltwater Buddha

Using Surfing and Meditation as Tools for Clarity: Saltwater Buddha

Read a Review of Saltwater Buddha
Saltwater Buddha: A Surfer’s Quest to Find Zen on the Sea
by Jaimal Yogis
Pub. Date: May 1, 2009, Wisdom
200 Pages
Buy Saltwater Buddha at AmazonWhy I Read this Book: Surfing and the ocean has long been referred to as the ideal analogy to life and success. So much can be learned from the ocean.

Topics Covered:

  • Self discovery–learning who you are
  • Insight Meditation and Zen Buddhism
  • Relationships
  • Living your dreams
  • Living modestly


Imagine yourself on a wave, just as it’s about to break. Not too early, not too late but just perfectly timed as you pop up on a board and enjoy the most blissful twenty seconds of your life. You are one with the ocean and are at total peace. How present are you? How much are you thinking about next week’s meeting, what the market did today or even what you’ll be doing ten minutes from now?

Work with me here. Forget for the moment that most of you have never probably ridden a wave. Or that I could probably count on two hands the number of waves I’ve caught in my life (although after this book I intend for that number to take a serious jump). Just imagine for a moment, or if you’re lucky enough, recall your most recent memory on the ocean. There is something enchanting about nature, the wilderness, the outdoors, a sunset, a calm lake and especially the sea.

Some of the most successful people I’ve come across have often times chosen the ocean and surfing specifically as the best analogy to life and in turn success. I will let you all make up your own mind but Jaimal Yogis has done us the favor of sharing his. I first got turned on to Saltwater Buddha from a friend of Jaimal’s and it turns out we’re both local San Franciscans and we’ve since been in touch as he’s gone through his recent book tour. And just yesterday I heard the exciting news from him that Saltwater Buddha–The Film is coming soon. Very cool.

It was a friend who got me reading but it was the intrigue and education Jaimal created in his stories that kept me going. Despite the playful cover and the title, this is a book full of inspiration, learning and a ton of fun, regardless of whether or not you’ve ever picked up a board or intend to pick one up. Although you will likely be on your next trip to the water sooner than expected once you’re done reading. It also could not have hurt my reaction that the majority of this book was read via headlamp one evening somewhere deep in the Andes in a freezing cold tent (literally) at about 11,000 ft en route to Machu Picchu last May. What an association!

There is a mountain of excitement and education to be found in books written by high adventure/outdoors guys living on the edge. As a result, I have become a real-life adventure author junkie as of late between Laird Hamilton’s Force of Nature, Yvonne Chouinard’s Let My People Go Surfing, Shaun Tomson’s Surfer’s Code and Jaimal’s Saltwater Buddha.

At first I wasn’t going to review this but after giving it a second read and some deeper thought, it clearly earned its spot on Reading For Your Success. Jaimal tells his story of what he’s learned about life on the sea through a book’s worth of stories, adventures and mistakes. Amazingly, his stories, even though told in chronological order, manage to have the seamless flow like they were written just for him to live. The fun spin is that Jaimal has spent years studying Zen Buddhism and shows us how closely linked it is to surfing and in turn to life. His calm and “Now” approach to life is something to be admired.

Key ideas to take away:

  • You are your own person–try not be someone else or live another’s life
  • Comparison between yourself and others rarely serves you and is often the source of discontent
  • Embrace the ups and downs of life in every moment–they are not going away
  • Discover an empowering reason for each life occurrence–big and small, good and bad, they are meant to happen as they do

A number of his stories and lessons were things I was able to directly apply to my perception and approach to the constant rising and falling tide of life. Not only will you get a dose of life lessons regarding relationships, living your dreams, self discovery and living modestly, but you will also get a 101 course in Zen Buddhism and meditation–just enough to perk some intrigue.

There was one concept that took me especially strongly which I’d like to share. “Enjoy The Paddle,” as Jaimal puts it. As it turns out, maybe 1% of surfing and time spent on the water is actually spent riding a wave. The rest is spent wiping out, getting slammed by waves and paddling, lots of paddling. Yet Jaimal, as most any avid surfer, loves being out on the water. They love surfing and of course the euphoric feeling and pure presence of riding a wave. But to genuinely love surfing, you must love the paddle. Is this starting to sound familiar to anyone? We spend the great majority of our lives paddling–working towards a goal, finding a mate, learning a new skill, building a business, growing a family, cleaning our house. So much of our time is spent on the ups and downs and enduring parts of life and only moments in the truly euphoric, bliss-like experiences. This is unavoidable. But that’s just it, it’s all gravy. The paddle is what life’s about. It’s not about what’s at the top of the mountain. It’s the gorgeous (and perhaps not so gorgeous) scenery you see along the way, the rocks you grab a hold of and the ones that slip out from under you and cause a stumble. That’s all part of the paddle.

One of the most valuable teachings Jaimal received from the ocean (and I did from his story) is that surfing and life are about the paddle. And if you are going to spend the majority of your life doing it, why not enjoy it. Embrace the paddle. Embrace the journey. Embrace the bad times and the good. Every one of them is there to serve you anyway. If one can truly learn to enjoy the paddle (and of course the occasional wave) there will be nothing left between you and life. Between you and success. You will be living moment to moment in your own fulfillment. So whether it’s an entrance exam, a board presentation, a stressful holiday season, a tough argument, a recession, a new job (or a job you wish you still had), or the best wave of your life, keep paddling and enjoy every stroke. Does it make sense to live any other way?

What has been your biggest lesson from the “ocean of life”, whether actually on a water or your version of it? What paddle are you currently struggling though? How have you learned to embrace it? Share your experiences in the comments section below.

Also, don’t forget to check out our new site feature: What Should I Read? If you are curious what to read next, just tell us your goals for success and where you are in life and we’ll tell you what you might want to read. We have read hundreds of books and are happy to help! In fact you can see a lot of the books we’ve read on Good Reads.

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~Reading for Your Success

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