I've been reading fiction and nonfiction in sequence for a few weeks now. My reading brain, which I imagine as a cross between a Hungry-Hungry Hippo® and a bookworm, has been demanding romance, then nonfiction to think about and learn about a subject, then more romance again. I'm completely fine with this reading order, and I thought I'd share a few of my impressions about the last nonfiction book I read, and then, next time, I'll bring the romance back—which is much like bringing sexy back, only better!
Saltwater Buddha: A Surfer's Quest to Find Zen on the Sea by Jaimal Yogis
I bought this book when it was a $0.99 daily deal at Amazon, and after I read it, I learned that the publishing house, Wisdom Publications, is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to publishing books that further the world's knowledge of Buddhism. I hope this daily deal brought more attention to their publishing house; it certainly made me more curious.
Saltwater Buddha is a memoir/travelogue of the author, Jaimal Yogis, who, in high school, decided he'd had enough of suburbia, and grabbed some money from his mom's credit card and bought a ticket to Hawaii. That his parents didn't kill him for this decision reveals a good bit about his upbringing: His parents, though terrified for his safety (I felt for his mom, let me tell you, not knowing where he was, then learning he was on his own in Hawaii), tried to balance their encouragement of his own desire to find himself and his purpose with their hesitation in allowing him to run off without a fully developed plan for things like food. And also shelter. That Jaimal ended up in a house full of Australians who signed his enrollment forms at the local school and were generally not horrible is rather amazing, too.
Yogis' journey of both self discovery and intention is fascinating and interesting since he recognizes when he's made a mistake in his decisions, and is honest about it. No, he probably shouldn't have run away, but yes, he did learn to listen when something or some place, i.e. surfing and/or Hawaii, called to him on a very spiritual and intimate level.
The book is broken into easy-to-read sections, usually based on where Yogis was or where he was traveling to, and what element of Buddhism he learned in that journey. The most valuable part of the book for me was his comparisons of Buddhism—the interconnectedness of all living things, and the power of meditation—to the vast power of the sea. Every part of the sea had a parallel within Buddhist philosophy and observance, and that tangible example helped me understand what Yogis meant, and why he found such value and peace within both.
As I wrote in my Goodreads review:
What I liked best about it was the constant parallel between Zen meditation and the sea, how impermanent our lives are, like a wave; how we're all connected, like the oceans. The passages describing his struggle and achievement in meditation and Zen practice were wonderfully written, and the text and the motivation behind it made for some very peaceful reading.
Yogis' stories of the surfing spots and waves that scared him, and his learning process of getting on a board and falling over a bunch of times before he figured it out, was also helpful and interesting, since we are not, culturally, encouraged to appreciate the lessons of failure. Failure at learning to surf means getting wet, getting saltwater up your nose (ow), or worse, and yet there are a good many things to be learned in the process.
The peace Yogis describes within his practice of surfing and his practice of meditation was a palpable theme within the book, and I liked that best. Reading this book was in itself a meditation, and I'm happy I grabbed a copy for less than a dollar. My enjoyment of the book was worth much more than that, especially since the lessons on contentment and awareness have stuck with me since I finished it.
Sarah Wendell is the co-creator, editor and mastermind of the popular romance blog Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. She loves talking with romance readers, and hopes you'll share your new favorite romance reading recommendations. You can find her on Twitter @smartbitches, on Facebook, or on her couch, most likely with her eyeglasses turned towards a book.