Thursday, January 17, 2013
Jaimal Yogis sits in the line-up at Mavericks, the surf mecca in Half Moon Bay, waiting to ride waves large enough to swallow a house – highly skilled watermen have died here. The first action he gets is being sucked under by not one, but two waves, so deep that it gets dark and he can’t tell which way is up. After catching his breath, realizing he’s survived a two-wave hold down, and patiently waiting for his chance, he catches a 40-foot wave and rides it to completion. This is not a daredevil stunt he pulls, risking his life just to get material for a book.
Much of what Yogis writes about in his latest book, The Fear Project (Rodale Books, 2013), is intimately connected to his lifelong passion for surfing, which bridges the reader to sometimes cathartic episodes for a man wanting to improve his quality of life – whether by successfully surfing waves at Mavericks or staring into the eyes of a white shark from a cage to alleviate a childhood fear.
“Risk is a necessary part of learning,” Yogis says. “Experimenting with fear is scary because it opens doors you have to be ready to meet.”
Sharks became mysterious monsters in Yogis’ mind during a grade-school field trip to Alcatraz. The guide explained, with great dramatic effect, that even if a prisoner were to get off the island, the sharks would finish the job the guards couldn’t do. So diving with white sharks off the Farallon Islands seemed like the sensible way to get over his nightmare-inducing fear of those sleek “men in gray suits” of the ocean.
“His eyes are black… but they are not malevolent, not empty,” Yogis writes about the white he sees from a shark-cage. “They are simply the eyes of a being that has existed on Earth for 11 million years… I expect to feel afraid but I’m not. I have a strange desire to get out of the cage and swim after him.”
Yogis presents a personal narrative interwoven with research and interviews on fear, and it reads like a conversation without feeling like a self-help book. Yogis makes himself a guinea pig and casts his own fears, doubts and anxieties under a microscope for the world to see.
While the book is easy to read, Yogis gives his readers serious science to digest. Studies by neuroscientists Daniella Schiller and Joseph LeDoux shed light on the mechanisms of fear and how it has kept us alive through the evolutionary meat grinder. Yogis also enlists top athletes, including Jamie Patrick (ultra-distance swimmer) and Darryl “Flea” Virostko (big wave surfer) to tell their stories on overcoming their demons to achieve.
The Fear Project is replete with practical advice (all backed by scientific research) like getting more exercise, using breathing techniques, finding time to meditate, thinking positively and facing your fears.
“I really hope [the book] helps people in a scary or stressful time in their lives,” Yogis says. “And I’d like to hear from them.”
THE FEAR PROJECT (Rodale Books, 2013) by Jaimal Yogis. Info at www.fearproject.net Call local bookstores for availability.