Waylon Lewis, a second generation American Buddhist and a passionate environmentalist, is the founder of elephantjournal.com and the host of “Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis.” In addition to being committed to promoting sustainability and spirituality through his popular website, Waylon extols the virtues of inspired action towards health and wellness through his work. TourDeFIT.com sat down with Lewis to discuss his life journey, his take on enlightened society and true health and wellness and how to get there.
TourDeFIT: What is the history of The Elephant Journal? How did it come to be?
Waylon Lewis: It’s a long history, relatively speaking, at this point. We just turned 10. In independent media dog years, that makes us pretty old—many amazing (and otherwise) publications come and go. It’s been a rough, tough but exciting period for print and new media, of course. In many ways it’s wonderful, and in many ways independent media and journalism are rapidly becoming endangered species.
Our first six years, we were a print magazine—available in Whole Foods, book stores and yoga studios across America. As we got bigger, it became harder to walk our talk environmentally-speaking—few of you (I didn’t) probably know that the average sell-through rate of magazines nationally is 3 out of 10. So, even though we were printing on the best eco paper, Made in the USA, unlike literally 99 percent of our peers, as we got bigger our sell-through rate would have dropped. So: eventually I jumped online. It was either “Jump online now and lose everything—my office, staff, house, my business, business value” or “sell out” or “continue to grow and make money as a print publication but sell out on my environmentalism and integrity.” Three tough choices.
So, not wanting to sell out, and we had two semi-serious offers, I jumped online, gave up everything I’d accomplished, and spent the last four years staring at a laptop screen 16 hours a day, seven days a week. I’m 38 and have never traveled or taken time off and certainly haven’t been able to start a family. I’ve been a day-old-muffin-eating entrepreneur, now, twice in 10 years on the same business. I don’t believe in selling out, generally. I believe in doing what I love and what I’m good at, hopefully, and what is of some service to a wonderful world that, in many ways, is totally effed. And not enough of us are doing anything about it.
Over the next 10 years, now that we’re stable and big and have won some awards, we’ll focus on the talk show, on making money and inspiring the business community to make tough choices and do the right thing, on employing tons of great, inspiring, inspired people, and on becoming a media reference point for sanity, humor and compassion, and activism, and genuine spirituality.
TDF: What does enlightened society mean to you?
WL: Basically, harmony. Responsibility. Every problem in the world is due to ignorance. To aggression, and to greed. We can begin to realize that happiness doesn’t come from anything other than mindfulness—than fully resting in and acting from the present moment—we can all begin to treat ourselves, and our environment upon which we depend for food and clean air (in Colorado, this summer, the forest fires have put so much smoke in the air, every day, we’re advised not to go outside) and water…if we can begin to source our joy from the simple things—bbqs, family, community—instead of consumerism and mindless entertainment—I mean, we’ve heard it all before, but right now human society is, while wonderful in many ways, sick.
So it’s great to talk with all of you, who are so passionate about true health..!
TDF: What, in your opinion, is the biggest crisis in health and wellness?
WL: It would be easy to say gmos, or fast food, or obesity or diabetes or lack of exercise…but I think more fundamentally it’s happiness. We all want to be happy, and talk about positivity and “The Secret” and stuff like that—when true, genuine, grounded happiness is right here, right now. Happiness isn’t out there. We can’t get it. We won’t find it in pizza or chips or ice cream, or in TV or AC or porn or whatever. We’ll find it through breathing, through exercise, through taking care of ourselves and serving the greater good.
TDF: What is our biggest challenge to achieving sustainability?
WL: I think, fundamentally, the notion that we define our society’s health by our economy is dangerous. Bhutan, on the other hand, does something really obvious: it talks about GNH instead of GNP. Gross National Happiness. They quantify and put a value on the things that provide for happy, healthy people. Our grandparents knew this: saving and thriftiness is a virtue. The best things in life, sometimes, are free. Growing food at home is healthier. Bicycling or walking to school or work is more fun, and better for community and friendships, than driving. None of this is good for the economy—but it’s vital to happiness.
TDF: For you, what has been the most inspiring story that you’ve covered in the past year?
WL: I think, selfishly, the most inspiring stories I’ve seen this year have come out of Jon Stewart and Reddit. Jon Stewart was, single-handedly, able to force and embarrass our national representatives into taking care of our 9/11 first responders, thanks to his rapport with us, his audience. Reddit has shown, time and again, the power of an online community to change national discourse.
For me, the key to “saving” the world, creating enlightened society, will come through media and education: our ability to raise awareness and then galvanize action is just beginning to become apparent.
TDF: What are your own personal views on health and wellness? What do you do to stay fit and well?
WL: I’m not a believer in vacations. They’re sorta like binging after eating too much. Rather, I believe in daily exercise, in managing stress on a daily and weekly and year-round basis. I climb every other day, I do yoga weekly, I bike every day, I walk my dog. I meditate, which is amazing for stress. It’s best to find things you love to do—basketball or gardening or swimming—and do it consistently. It’s vital for our hearts, our lungs, our minds. Then, eating organic, local food. Sitting down when we eat. I struggle to eat without working or watching Netflix. I’m an example only in my failings, and my ability, like so many of us, to overcome them.