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Lions Roar : March 2006
V) ::r: E--< E--< >-< z o E--< >-< ÇQ V) l? Z ...... E--< Z ...... p., Ride of a Lifetime lAIMAL YOGIS feels like he's surfing when he's meditating and meditating when he's surfing. OFTEN WHEN I'M MEDITATING, I catch myselffantasiz- ing about surfing. My attention migrates from the breath to gliding on the steep face of a peeling wave. The water is warm. The wave is the color of clear jade. After almost ten years of regular sitting and surfing, I've noticed that my surf fantasies have a different quality than other thoughts. I let them pass like any other distractions, but I also notice that visions of waves help me settle into the sit. The ancient Hawaiian sport of the gods, surfing never de- veloped in India, China, Tibet, or Japan. But I'm convinced that it's a Buddhist practice-a proper yoga and a great anal- ogy for the mind. After years of hanging out with a lot of Bud- dhists, a lot of surfers, and some Buddhist surfers, I've realized that many meditators are interested in surfing, and vice versa. There's an intuitive connection between the two activities. For many of you this connection will seem a little too hippy- dippy-1970's to take seriously. Nevertheless, it's my experi- ence. I am a Buddhist surfer. And in a world where Buddhist teachings can be pricey and genuine masters as hard to find as cheap sushi, I have let the ocean be my greatest teacher. I remember listening to a dharma talk about five years ago by one of my favorite teachers, Ajahn Amaro, a witty Brit- ish monk in the Thai forest tradition who lives in a humble hut in the Mendocino Forest in northern California. He used J A 1M A L YO GIS is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. a surfing metaphor to explain samsara, the endless cycle of birth and death. The Ajahn laughed as he talked about the ridiculousness of surfers. They struggle to paddle through the crashing surf in search of their perfect wave, he said. But when they finally catch one, they get a fleeting rush of adrenaline, get shoved underwater, come up breathless, and then strug- gle to get back out again for another round. This, he said, is dukkha-suffering. Ajahn Amaro was pointing out that we are addicted to the emotional patterns that continually pound us down. We chase after them for a fleeting rush, but that rush is never quite enough. I agree. But I would like to suggest another Buddhist lesson we can glean from surfing. I believe surfing can teach us to ride samsara, even enjoy it, like a wave, while still seeing through its illusory nature. One of the highest insights in the Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhist traditions is to realize that samsara is, in fact, nirvana: that there is no need to escape because everything is originally pure and perfect. In a small way, surfing has begun to teach me this. When I started surfing on the island of Maui at sixteen, I was just beginning to meditate regularly. I was living on the north shore of the island, where the waves are extremely big and powerful. For a beginner, it seemed impossible to paddle through the breakers. I would see a huge, frothy wall charg- ing toward me and my body would tense up. The wave would break on top of me and send me rolling back toward the