Eastern mysticism and Western rites of passage inform this second volume of memoir from the San Francisco–based journalist.
In his latest, Yogis (The Fear Project: What Our Most Primal Emotion Taught Me About Survival, Success, Surfing…and Love, 2013, etc.) picks up where Saltwater Buddha (2009) left off. Toward the end, he writes, “somewhere along the line I realized that this book was Sonam’s book—a homage to my old best friend and teacher.” He had met the man who would become something of a spiritual mentor when he was in his early 20s, on a trip to India, trying to find himself and recover from the sort of heartbreak common to a young man who is torn between commitment to another and discovering his own true path. A Tibetan in exile, Sonam not only put his young friend’s problems in perspective; he imbued him with a new attitude. Yogis and Sonam spent a lot of time singing John Denver’s “Country Roads,” adapting the verses to their own situation, and Sonam greets the day by saying, “Dis morning, I bery happy,” and ends the day with, “Dis night, I bery happy.” The book does more than reduce the wisdom of the East to “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” but its glibness occasionally veers toward spiritual parody. When the author reunites with the girl who had broken his heart, he realized, “Sati could not glue me back together again. We were two ripples on the sea that had drifted together and crossed through each other. Exchanged molecules and skin and ideas. In a way we’d always be together. But the winds had sent us in other directions now.” So Yogis went back to school to study journalism, to learn a trade as well as Eastern religions, and to the beach to surf and reflect on the notion that “God is the sea”—and eventually to a wife and children, otherwise barely mentioned until the end.
For fellow seekers, Buddha-nature on a surfboard.