Holy Waters

“I hope atheist, agnostic or religious people come out of the book questioning their views,” author Jaimal Yogis says.

In Jaimal Yogis’ second book, The Fear Project , he rides 40-foot walls of water at Mavericks in Half Moon Bay that make him face his fears and physical limitations as a surfer. That was 2013. In his just-published All Our Waves Are Water, Yogis stands at the base of the 60-foot Western Wall in Jerusalem, which provides a ride of a different kind.

He encounters an inexplicable spiritual awakening – complete with the tradition of depositing a prayer note into a crack of the Wall, chanting, rhythmic swaying and bawling – that tests Yogis’ intellectual and emotional limits, and comes and goes like the waves of a surf session.

Yogis says this spiritual experience, among others, was not easy to write about because he was at his most vulnerable point.

“I took [chapters] out entirely and then put them back in several times,” Yogis says. “I couldn’t deny the deep experiences I had in churches and places like the Western Wall. There was just something inexplicably powerful about them. I felt I had to be completely honest about my own experiences. What good is a memoir if you’re not baring your soul?”

The award-winning writer and avid surfer returns to Monterey County this week during a national book tour. (As for the local surf scene, he says: “Low crowds and a chance for a tube in clear Monterey Bay waters is pretty much heaven.”)

Yogis is a Buddhist, which has not stopped his exploration of other faiths or his pursuit of scientific basis for spirituality. In a chapter about his time at the Western Wall, he proposes that, via a principle of particle physics called quantum entanglement, his experience may have been affected, on a subatomic scale, by a millennia of suffering.

All Our Waves Are Water does not discriminate against – or favor – any one view of spirituality. Whether he’s in the Himalayas meditating on dumplings with a friend or nearly getting shot by a plainclothes police officer in San Francisco, Yogis finds teachable moments not just in classrooms or in “holy” places. The common theme: Growth comes from getting out of your comfort zone.

“If we get too comfortable in our own bubble, surrounded by people who agree with us, look like us and talk like us, growth stagnates,” Yogis says. “It’s true on a neuroscientific level: Novelty makes our brains grow. It’s also true on a political and spiritual level. We’ve got to continually be thrown off our center.”

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