THOUGHTS ON BUDDHISM

The Mindfulness Road from Hawaii to San Diego

Karen Le ~ Photo Courtesy of Beach Sunset Yoga Hawaii

We’re All Passengers in the Great Vehicle – Perhaps

The Mindfulness Road from Hawaii to San Diego1

Karen calls to “chat,” as she says, inquiring about my health and sending links to courses offered by professionals who point the way to mindfulness. She speaks of inner peace and fixing her website that brings throngs of yoga seekers to the beaches she frequents. Wherever she travels and whoever she meets, steadfast she remains to mission and beliefs. Her vibrancy and passion pour through the phone as our conversation winds into frustrations over internet mechanics that limit spreading mindfulness. Still, her conflict is not really a conflict, just a speedbump along the mindfulness road she drives between her small corners of Waikiki and San Diego.

Hanging up the phone stirs memories of an ex-girlfriend from long ago, who religiously tucked a yoga mat under her arm and spent an hour a day in a hot studio at our local gym. From the weightlifting area, I witnessed the girlfriend and yoga compatriots exit the studio in their designer yoga pants, discussing the wonders of yoga’s spirituality and physical benefits. A new girl, possessing neither their designer yoga apparel nor skinniness, rolled her mat alone as the ex-football player turned yogi master exits the studio and indulges the regulars in mindfulness-speak. He’s an expert sannyasin, captivating the disciples with his experience and knowledge that doubtless allows him the ability to out meditate me in an eye’s blink. Perhaps no competition exists for him, but the new girl disappearing into the streets against the backdrop of the jovial vinyasa-click highlights life’s competition and inequity, reducing mindfulness to mindless personal marketing.

If a Great Vehicle shuttles us all, there must be a lattice of roads connecting all drivers and meetings or collisions should not come as a surprise. My path led to Hawaii in 2016, and if asked at that time, I would claim the move resulted from a desire to escape an Arizona small town and dream fulfillment to live by the ocean. Today’s honest hindsight elucidates the need for some thing and seeking that thing or satisfying life’s emptiness fueled the great vehicle’s motion to Waikiki.

As a marketer, I know at the end of every spiritual mantra, a tagline hovers above an offering beside a dollar sign. I learned this truth years earlier after becoming sick with a thankless job’s long hours that caused a life revolution. Rebelling against nine-to-five yielded a successful home-based writing business as a means to support the novelist dream, which also unknowingly inculcated the religion of marketing.

If a Great Vehicle shuttles us all, a lattice of roads must connect all drivers, making meetings or collisions unsurprising. My path led to Hawaii in 2016, and if asked at that time, I would claim the move resulted from a desire to escape an Arizona small town to fulfill life’s dream to live by the ocean. Today’s honest hindsight elucidates the need to discover some thing, and seeking that thing to satisfy life’s emptiness fueled the great vehicle’s motion to Waikiki.

There, in a Honolulu strip mall, at a Meetup for online businesses, Karen and I formed an unlikely alliance against the unassailable internet enemy, the search engine, that barred her optimizing mindfulness and my profiting. The collision of two opposing, great vehicles inspired an amicable though frustrating endeavor to expand her audience while obeying her demand for mindfulness that opposed all marketing schemes. She spoke of wanting to remain humble and authentic, but the yoga girlfriend, hypocrites, and marketing’s tenets remained strong. Karen hurls mindfulness, Dharma, and other Buddhist concepts, and I volley back with branding and digital marketing machinations.

She says, “I’m trying to share mindfulness: undiluted and authentic.

I nod. “Authenticity and mindfulness are good marketing to attract the customer.”

And so, we battled Google and each other during dinner conversations.

And so, we battled Google and each other during dinner conversations. During dinner one evening, she texts while discussing meditation, inner peace, finding meaning, and transposing these ideas to the world. Caught in her voice’s lull, I snap a photo of the multitasking machine of dharma transmission.

Karen at Dinner Waikiki

She looks up. “You should come to yoga class to understand.”

I laugh, but she ignores my derision and continues challenging the virtues of marketing, shooting down every idea for not being mindful or some other karmic infraction, all the while prompting me to take yoga, which I refuse.

At Thanksgiving, she invites me to dinner, and I accept. There, at a hotel in Waikiki, an unlikely group meets for dinner: a talented Japanese designer, a brilliant soil scientist, and I (the marketer) dine at the invitation of Karen, “the yoga girl,” as I mentally refer to her at this point.

Conversation winds through many topics, but the designer and soil scientist are not just interesting people but investors in mindfulness, revealing their involvement in yoga throughout the evening. I am unsurprised. The brilliant often overthink the meaning of things and fall prey to good marketing more frequently than the dumb. Yet, this unlikely group fascinates me because political and social issues remain critical conversations, not succumbing to the religious goulash I expect from the spiritual. They’re articulate, trying to solve the world’s ails from evidence and syllogisms with surprising practicality and reason. Still, I am keen and know beyond the seeming logic, a reincarnation preacher lurks, waiting for just the right moment to proselytize whatever Buddhist brand camouflages in the yoga.

Weeks pass with no headway made marketing the yoga girl. Our impasse frustrates me with dismay, having failed to convince her of the desperately needed website revisions, sure to deliver the yoga-wanting masses. She just doesn’t get it; I pause and wonder if I don’t get it. Perhaps I need to experience yoga in action, as Karen suggests. Maybe I am missing some vital detail that bars me from explaining proper marketing.

Rolling up a beach towel, I set out for Waikiki’s beach for some morning yoga. The setting is picturesque, and the class is about twenty strong with practitioners. Unfurling my towel and standing in the formation of yogis, the group soon starts following the instructor’s lead from pose to pose, all the while she discusses breathing.

Waikiki Beach Park

Her Sunset Yoga Classes are here at Waikiki Beach Park. ~ Photo By author

Sunset Beach Yoga

Beach Yoga Class at Waikiki ~ Photo Courtesy of Beach Sunset Yoga Hawaii

Yoga reminds me of martial arts and performing stances and forms, but yoga labored my breathing until no longer able to ignore the struggle and quit before losing consciousness. Barely able to walk home, I spend the rest of the day recovering from less than an hour of yoga. Lying in bed, I figure myself out of shape and need exercise to prepare for yoga. Still, the severe adverse physical reaction to performing yoga haunts me, having never reacted so negatively to any athletic activity.

Time passes, and the single yoga experience reinforces the belief I am missing nothing, and like all spiritual nonsense, yoga’s mysticism polluted Karen’s thoughts, clouding her understanding of essential marketing. We talk, but I can no longer waste time with her. I have real work, and business is business, and I need to focus. After only a couple of years in Hawaii, I return to the mainland to pursue another opportunity for writing script in LA.

The new writing gig appeared a godsend but soon dashed hope shortly after arriving and discovering the opportunity was a lie. Scrambling to reestablish in LA quickly devolves life into a nightmare as my business begins nosediving and stress soars. Months of struggle culminated into a heart attack unrealized for being so worried about money and work. Not long after, I received a diagnosis of congestive heart failure.

I am alone in an unfamiliar city and told I’m dying. Unable to walk more than six feet and plagued with constant exhaustion, I begin closing out my life as best I can, shutting down the business and other loose ends. I decide to finish all those books and publish all that writing I’ve been working on since 1989. Armed with my laptop and my portable defibrillator, I go to the coffee shop because I am too scared to be alone, fearing the worst. I begin exploring my writing and realize I accomplished nothing and finished none of what I intended.

Somehow, my great rebellion against the job spiraled life into a meaningless writing void of sales funnels and other selling aspects. The great marketing vehicle drove me to this place never intended and certainly never desired. The desire to write became an end state because that is the wisdom of marketing and business: always work toward a financial goal, live for the money of tomorrow, the freedom of tomorrow, and the happiness of tomorrow.

Ruminations brought thoughts of the yoga girl who understood this paradox of living. I saw her now. Her struggle was not with me, and no two great vehicles collided. Only one great vehicle traveled the road, and finding her way in that machine held her only goal. She was not enlightened or pretending to be wise but learning. She was a civil war of balancing mindfulness while trapped in the commerce that entices with subtlest dishonesties I proved can pollute one into a life of wasted time and effort. If any other proof is needed, her teachings in Waikiki and San Diego expanded while I suffered heart failure and scrambled to finish some of my goals before dying. Did mindfulness give her success? If you ask that question, perhaps you ascribe to the wrong belief, seeing mindfulness as a means and not an end in itself.

Chasing peace of mind in “things” will never end your suffering.

Courtesy of Beach Sunset Yoga Hawaii

Courtesy of Beach Sunset Yoga Hawaii

Her struggle to view the world through the mindfulness lens clarifies when visiting her website, which once appeared as an eCommerce disaster, but now blossoms like petals of a flower into a single understanding I can almost hear in her voice, “I don’t want people to suffer.” There is nothing more mindful or Buddhist than that.

Life rectifies in this new understanding and creates struggles in the movement from marketing and commerce caused by the adoption of Karen’s civil war. It is a fight I am okay with because I don’t want to sell anything, knowing the outcome of that focus. Shifting thoughts towards a new life void of business identity challenges in many ways, and I am no Buddhist because I struggle with all religions, but what I can say is no Buddhist ever came to my door preaching, and when I tell Karen I am skeptical of religion, she nods her head acknowledging my position — whether she agrees or not. If yoga is the mechanism of meditation and mindfulness to end suffering, and authentic people like Karen the result, then perhaps this religion separates itself from other beliefs. Certainly, yoga deserves investigation. More than anything, Buddhism clearly distinguishes itself from religions, perhaps most powerfully in the ability to produce authentic people like Karen.

Karen (right) with fellow instructor

Karen (right) with fellow instructor.
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