December 31, 2012

Ask Waylon Anything.

Waylon’s Ask Me Anything conversation/interview on Reddit: the Transcript.

Note to elephant editors: no need to share this one up, just putting up for those who might find interesting. ~ Waylon, ed.

All questions were answered, for several days. An interesting, constructive conversation. Here’s the transcript, for those of you not on Reddit. If you are on Reddit, or would like to join, head here to r/yoga and ask any new questions, they’ll still be answered.

I’m the founder of elephant journal, first a magazine, now online. AMA (self.yoga)

submitted ago by edwardrmurrow

We just started our new “Quality” section, which used to be called “Editor’s Picks,” thanks to this thread–and moved it up above Popular on our font page, http://www.elephantjournal.com . Thanks to this r/yoga for the critical support. Now support those writing quality by slowing, and reading!

We’re starting a new “ecosystem,” where we’ll be paying writers for quality in the new year. It’s not quite live, yet.

We’ve been named #1 in the US on twitter for #green, and also focus on Buddhadharma, adventure, the arts, cycling, family, politics, activism, wellness, relationshps and sexuality, equal rights, animal rights, conscious consumerism, and organics.

Our “Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis” has hosted Shiva Rea, Robert Thurman, Dean Potter, Rabbi Zalman Shalomi-Schachter, Khandro Rinpoche, Sakyong Mipham, Dr. Andrew Weil, Michael Pollan, John Friend, Seane Corn, Joan Halifax Roshi, Paul Hawken, Richard Freeman, Deepak Chopra, Bill McKibben, Arianna Huffington, Sister Helen Prejean, Alice Walker, Michael Franti, Chris Sharma, Amy Goodman, Ram Dass, Howard Dean, congressmen and governors, and is going national in 2013 via our youtube channel and a live tour.

While we have a million readers a month, we make (as I calculated in the recent yoga thread re how elephant could improve in quality, not just reach) 1/40th of peer web sites, mostly because we’re supported by independent, small mindful businesses, not car and alcohol ads. We put our paygate (not paywall) in place two years ago, which asks those who want to read a lot of elephant to consider paying $1/month, or come back and read for free tomorrow, or subscribe free to our weekly email “Best of” newsletter with free article links, http://www.elephantjournal.com/join-the-cause

I’m a “Dharma Brat,” raised by my mom in Boulder Colorado, I don’t own a car, I live downtown, I support local and enjoy it. I have a half-hound all-trouble rescue named Red. I’m 38 and want to help change the world for the better, and myself along the way, and have a good time doing so. I’m nearly done with my first book, Eco Boy vs. Yoga Girl, a romantic but raw send-up of the world many of us know so well here.


EDIT: Still taking questions as long as they’re out there, checking in a few times a day. If I don’t get right back, I will soon.

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[–]ChildLightYoga 4 points ago

In a previous reply, you mention Gary of Clif Bar, author of Raising the Bar, a book I also love. As a fellow yogi and entrepreneur, I wonder your thoughts on navigating working with individuals or businesses who may not be operating within the same value system, honoring honesty, integrity, compassion, etc. I used to be quite naive, assuming all yogis in business must have the same values and have unfortunately found that is not always the case (the hard way). Have you ever experienced this? What is your advice on navigating these situations while also honoring we know to be right and just.

[–]edwardrmurrow[S] 4 points ago

I think stick to your guns. Maintain your integrity, hold your seat. When I went online I had a ton of debts in transitioning from print to web, and lost all advertisers (they had no one to advertise to)…and it was difficult to be responsible and answer those emails and answer the phone when I knew it was someone needing money I didn’t have. But I did pick up the phone, answer the emails, and paid everyone back, and learned by doing that I enjoyed walking my talk more than the alternative.

It’s good business, too: I’ve been in business 10 years, and we have a lot of strong relationships, which I’ve needed, because part of our “brand” is being frank about reviews and being honest about those in our various worlds (yoga, natural products, etc) who are, while great in some ways, not in integrity.

It’s tough: most folks in this world think happiness comes from getting happiness. But it comes from having integrity, and sharing happiness, and thinking of others, not a selfish kind of greed. It’s what Buddhists call the “hungry ghost” realm–I’ve worked with many in the yoga sphere who are out for themselves. They and we like to talk about “abundance,” but many of us don’t actually feel it. Even being broke all these years, I felt like it was more importance to my inner richness to be able to respect myself and my path and livelihood at the end of each day, than to sell out in big or small ways.

Anyways, it’s late, I’m rambling…hope some of that made some sense!

[–]aocurator 3 points ago

hey waylon,

I’ve had a yoga practice for several years now. I’m interested in learning more about Buddhadharma and incorporating it into my life over the next year. Any suggestions?


[–]edwardrmurrow[S] 3 points ago

I think it’s Bryan Kest, along with Richard Freeman, Cyndi Lee, Sarah Powers, and others who love to point out that yoga was meant to help us limber up for meditation practice. And meditation practice is, as Buddhists say, called “practice” for a reason—it helps us get better at being ourselves, not taking ourselves too seriously, and yet being raw, open, and caring deeply.

We have a bunch of blogs on meditation and tips for making one’s practice regular, but I don’t want to blogspam at you. But feel free to search on our site.

For my part, Pema Chodron and the Sakyong’s advice has been most helpful: meditate for short periods, if that’s all you can do, that’s still effective in stabilizing our mind and grounding our daily intention or aspiration in being of benefit. In Buddhism, it’s said that the best times to practice are morning and evening, after waking up and before going to sleep. So I wake up, brush my teeth, let my dog out, then meditate. It helps reconnect the mind and heart with the present moment, with that brief moment of peace before the day’s to-do lists come flooding in. And it’s more efficient to be present that it is to be speedy (there’s a great article on that by Dr. Reggie Ray, on elephant, called “Busy-ness is Laziness.”).

Then, meditate for a few minutes before going to sleep–that’s said to help with going to sleep and the quality and depth of one’s sleeping and dreams. If you stress out about work while sleeping, this will help. Futhermore, and lastly, always “bow in” and bow out, dedicating any merit and one’s intention for the good of others.

As for learning about Buddhadharma, it’s great to start with a visit to a free open house at your local Shambhala Center or Buddhist center, or before that to read a few books. And, yes, we have lists of “best Buddhist beginner’s books” on elephantjournal.com, too! Thanks for the question!

[–]PPLongstocking 3 points ago

I know I’ve asked you most of what I’d want to know (I’m managing ed) but hmm… who were you most nervous and/or excited to interview? And who is your dream interview who you haven’t yet?

[–]edwardrmurrow[S] 2 points ago

My worst interview was with Anne Waldman, a poet and longtime supporter whom I’d interviewed a few other times one on one, but…it was one of my first in front of a crowd, and I’d had one cappucino too many. Lesson learned! I’ve had a bunch of interviews go really well, it’s kinda like playing pool or some sport–preparation helps, practice helps, but sometimes things just fall in place and it’s a joy. One of my favorite interviews, to this day, was with Lester Brown. A real vision for alleviating the suffering of all, at least on the physical plane!

Michael Pollan is one of my real idols–interviewing him was made easy by how affable, fun, intelligent and alive he is. Seane Corn is always really fun, sweet, troublemaking.

My list of dream interviews is long–but we’ll get through that list over the next few years! Right now it’d have to be Pete Seeger. I’d love to connect with him before long. Also, Gary of Clif Bar is really re-inspiring me business-wise, with his book Raising the Bar–I’m hoping to do a book club with him on elephant in the shorterm.

Thanks for jumping in and asking a question, and for all the passion and caring you bring to elephant, both as a writer and editor.

[–]RoseWthorns 2 points ago

Think positive, what you give you will receive, happiness is an attitude, cheer up someone has it worse than you do…. blah blah blah. I see a bunch of generic sudo-spiritual sayings everywhere that are meant to give us something positive to think about, but none of it seems to be grounded in any truth. Just hopeful positive nonsense which makes the rest of us who have a different reality feel guilty for not being happy about it.

I’ve read some of the stuff posted on Elephant Journal regarding Tonglen. Seems much more plausible of an approach to dealing with life’s pains and most of life’s unfairness. Sometimes shit just happens, ya’ know? Anyway, any thoughts to elaborate? Any other recommended approaches that are not based in making someone feel guiltier for having a crappy life and knowing about it?

[–]jenny_jen_jen 4 points ago

Something I love about the Elephant Journal is that there are a lot of writings that, in my opinion, value the acceptance of feelings that so many “happiness pushers” (as I like to call them) so often shun. I gather so much more value from the many articles I’ve seen that admit times in the authors’ lives when they have given up, crumbled, gotten horribly angry, etc. I can’t speak in the language of philosophers or discuss this from a very enlightened point of view; however, in layman’s speak, I can certainly say that the Ele does a wonderful job of incorporating a more realistic view of human emotions.

[–]edwardrmurrow[S] 2 points ago

I wholeheartedly agree. If you do a search for “spiritual materialism” you’ll see that there’s plenty of articles that are more your or my “style”—more about facing the music of our own suffering and neurosis, hopefully with humbleness and straightforwardness, so that we might tame our own selves and be of some use to others.

You can ask our small team here–I often complain about those sorts of posts. Wishful thinking about growing one’s garden won’t help it grow. That said, we publish what we’re sent, if it’s workable, and don’t need to agree with anything. We edit and try and work with authors.

But we do not and should not contribute to reinforcing the pinteresty spirituality we’re seeing. You could look up my blog about “Rumi is Social Media Crack Cocaine,” which addresses this. Again I don’t want to be linking every other sentence!

Tonglen works against the ego’s tendency to push away pain (even if it’s reality) and cling to pleasure (even if it’s our own projection). It helps us directly grapple with this sweet, but sad life. As Trungpa put it, we need to hold both the sadness and pain of samsara (suffering, neurosis) in our hearts and at the same time the vision and brilliance of the Great Eastern Sun (fundamentally wholesome vision of society, human nature)—then, the fruition is that we can be present, and live life properly.

[–]edieyoga 3 points ago

What do you do when you have writer’s block, assuming that happens? Do you have siblings? Did you take the vows of buddhism? [not that you need to just curious]. How long did it take you to write your book…and how long did it simmer before words found it….? I’ll start with these….Thanks. Edie

[–]edwardrmurrow[S] 2 points ago

Great questions, wow.

I don’t get writer’s block, generally…I’ve had it once or twice. I try not to worry about it, I just go exercise, or rest, or meditate, or see friends…generally I only can’t write if I’m too tired to see straight, or have been online too much, and have no inspiration. Generally, when folks get writers’ block, it’s because we’re trying to force a voice or style or story that doesn’t feel inspiring or genuine. Let it go, and RESPECT THE BLOCK!

I have taken the vows, Refuge and Bodhisattva, as well as Shambhala. Great stories about those, but another time!

The book isn’t done–but it’s been a year. I picked the fun-est, easiest subject, and it’s still taken awhile. It’s fun, though! Reading it to Lindsey or another elephantian has been really helpful. Reading your work outloud is always helpful in getting the flow down.

[–]edieyoga 1 point ago

What do the points mean?

[–]edwardrmurrow[S] 2 points ago

On Reddit? Just upvotes or downvotes. We’re supposed to upvote anything relevant and interesting, whether we agree or not, but most of us just upvote stuff we like, and downvote anything we dislike.

[–]pkpzp228 3 points ago

What are your motivations Waylon? What do you want for EJ, for boulder? How can we help?

[–]edwardrmurrow[S] 2 points ago

My first motivation, the one that’s got me up in the morning and keeps me up late, is compassion. That sounds nice and all, but when we see suffering, and it’s unnecessary, we want to alleviate it. Media and education and information is perhaps the surest way to change or enlightenment—but only if 1) the message can get out there beyond the core or choir and if 2) the message is grounded, helpful.

So that’s our job!

In terms of Boulder, elephant’s everywhere, now, we’re read more in CA and NY and TX than in CO…but Boulder will likely always be my home, and elephant’s homebase in a way (though our team is located all over the world, now).

I want elephant to remain independent, to begin to fund real original writing and journalism, and to make a fun, helpful difference in this wonderful, but often heartbreaking world. So on a practical level, I hope to grow our readership to 35 million, where Huff Post/AOL was some six months ago or so, and to become truly relephant, while maintaining integrity and improving the quality of our content.

[–]deusset 3 points ago

Thanks for doing what you do!

[–]edwardrmurrow[S] 3 points ago

Thanks for thanking!

[–]PlaidHabit 2 points ago

Why do you write at Elephant Journal rather than your own blog.? Your pieces don’t really feel like journalism but rather whatever amuses you at that moment.

[–]edwardrmurrow[S] 3 points ago

Upvote for a critical question! I write two different sorts of blogs, I guess: first) topical, fun, inspiring, or heartbreaking popular news that help connect what’s going on “out there” with mindfulness, awareness, with our trying to be of benefit. So a blog about pigs getting abused one day, or a child jumping in a puddle the next–not necessarily profound stuff, but relephant and accessible and reminders either of compassion or some other value we hold dear. 2) journalistic-ish news, with our “mindful life” angle on it. I wouldn’t call it journalism–for journalism, we’d need a paid staff of writers, and we’re trying to get there. Proper journalism would require us to make much more from our advertising, and leave most of our smaller advertisers behind, and it would require us to charge our readers more, somehow. We’re innovating a bit (paygate: elephantjournal.com/member) but don’t want to charge our readers to read, much. Right now 98% of our readers read for free. 3) stuff I put time and heart into. I don’t have a lot of time to do this, but there’s at least a few pieces a month I’m proud of, even if they’re just personal pieces. I’m happy to offer examples.

To your greater point, elephant journal isn’t an individual’s blog, it’s a rather large, but still far from corporate news site. That said, we focus less on regurgitating the news you can get from primary sources than offering personal pieces, commentary, and hopefully as we progress, more freqent quality original work on green, Buddhism, cycling, the arts, etc. If you look around, you’ll find a lot of quality. I’m happy to offer examples from any time period of our last 10 years of work I’m proud of.

[–]teslastrong 2 points ago

I’d like to see the examples please. 🙂

[–]edwardrmurrow[S] 1 point ago

I wrote this yesterday, a personal piece, not journalistic in any way, but one I put some love into: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/12/im-alone-youre-alone-theres-space-between-us-thats-loneliness-love-like-fire-requires-oxygen-i-love-you/

[–]LoriLothian 2 points ago

Hi Waylon:

Have you considered creating break-away magazines from the subsections? elephant love and relationships, for instance, would bring in a whole different stream of new advertising revenue and it would also deal with the nagging problem of some yoga-readers objecting, stridently even, to the sexuality content on the site. As love and relationships team leader.editor, it’s chagrinning to see the push back on elephant main FB/main page from readers who somehow want to separate sex and up to 3/4 of the “popular lately” pieces running on ele main page, are from love and relationships section…..

Lori ANn

[–]edwardrmurrow[S] 2 points ago

There’ll always be some pushback between sections–Buddhist folks don’t care about yoga positivity, yoga folks may not care about politics, vegans dislike slow food articles, etc. Why can’t we all just get along, even in Portlandia!?

Seriously, however, our mission is to bring together all paths of mindfulness–that’s where the sparks fly. Our job with the love and relationships section is to make sure that any erotic or sexual content has a point to it, connects to mindfulness, is empowered, or at least raw and genuine, and not merely titillating. I don’t mind if prudes object: I do mind if reasonable people feel cheapened by cheap content. That’s the job of our editors: to demand more and better work from those enthusiastic about contributing to the community.

[–]EnderAtreidez 2 points ago

watsup bro. i enjoy elephant, i have a subscription and browse often. there is quality, i will check out that section. and then there is this “fifty shades of yogasex” i find so. many. articles about sexuality.

i like your journal, and you seem like a cool guy.

[–]edwardrmurrow[S] 3 points ago

Hah, sounds like our next hit article. It’s a fact, and perhaps a sad one, that sex and kittens rule the internet. So some writers go that way because they want readers. Some writers, however, blog about cute animals or sex because it’s relevant in some way. We blog about rescue animals, say, or factory farming…and, likewise, since you brought up the sexuality stuff, we blog about sexuality, since it is a good part of the human experience, both in terms of what’s inspiring, fun, exciting, natural…and what’s neurotic, confusing, etc. So the key point is that our blogs should never be merely titillating, or exploitative…that’s a disservice both to our mission and our readers, and our own reputation. I don’t really want that kind of “traffic.”

Thanks for the question!

[–]Edithebl 2 points ago

I see you are still taking questions…impressed you took some of the vows and you do yoga, of course. What is your favorite style? Never heard of the hungry ghost. Admire your passion for compassion, and the level of integrity. I feel for the one who thought the yoga world was different. It never is. Human nature is what it is. There are always a few gems and you seem to be one. So a question. How long did you think of the idea for your book. My dad gave me the okay to write mine, just that before when I started here he asked me to wait till he and mom were dead to write about them. And I would have….my ideas have been simmering for years. Glad to hear you rarely get writer’s block. When did you first start writing? Do you write poetry? What got you started to write…? Usually it’s pain…or grief. Kudos for keeping EJ independent. How often do you do yoga? Did you study directly with Trungpa [did I spell it right?]. Well that’s enough for now….

[–]edwardrmurrow[S] 2 points ago

I’ve taken really all of the vital Buddhist vows…it was an honor, a pleasure, and has helped shape and direct my life, which I need.

I don’t do enough yoga, but if I miss enough classes, I have to go in—working online makes yoga vital both to my mind and body. It’s wonderful how the body literally forces me to get my lazy butt to yoga!

Amen. I wrote a blog about the “yoga world” notion…titled “Community Sucks”—you can search for it on elephantjournal.com, if you like. The point being that there is no “perfect” community, and that we all have to work with our friends, family, ourselves…and that through commitment, we can grow up and learn to love. We blame our leaders for failing at creating peace, but we in our own lives fail on a micro level to do the same.

As I think I mentioned, I tried to think of the easiest idea for a book that I could, since I’ve worked several books previously, for years, and finished zero of them!

You could perhaps, a la Kerouac, write about your mom and dad using different names, and then wait to publish until they pass on. That way you could start now, before memory fades, but still honor their wishes.

I’ve always loved writing…my first real story was in second grade, titled Sea Dragon, and thanks to my classmates and teacher, I was encouraged to keep at it. Reading a lot helps—I read a ton as a young boy. Unplug, children!

I don’t write much poetry. I don’t frankly really get poetry—I feel like a lot of it is gibberish, prententious, inaccessible…I got to study directly with Ginsberg and others at Naropa etc as a child, growing up in the Buddhist community, and the way they taught poetry, as genuine expression, as a sort of meditation-in-action, is something I’m interested in. And I love haiku.

I was too young to study much with Trungpa, but I did do most of a three-month seminary with him, and went to countless talks by him…I did a fair amount for my age. But mainly his world, or mandala, taught me–the school I attended for a number of years was founded by him, my Shambhala Sun Summer Camp was created by his students, and then I went on to study, teach, work with and for his community.


[–]TruthCartel 0 points ago

So do you believe that the Mayans have been wiped out as EJ posted on one of its blogs? If not, how do you not find this incredibly offensive? Why did you ban people from EJ who were critical of this post?

[–]edwardrmurrow[S] 2 points ago

Not sure what blog you’re referring to? Leave a link, happy to reply, though I likely didn’t author it, so I’d be replying as to what I think the author intended, and I may well join you in disagreeing, or no.

I’m not sure I banned anyone regarding any Mayan 2012 posts, but if I did, which I didn’t, doubt it’d be the end of the world. 🙂

[–]TruthCartel 1 point ago


well my comment and several others were deleted that were critical of this photo and I am no longer able to comment on Facebook for the post I made.

[–]edwardrmurrow[S] 2 points ago

I didn’t delete any comments that I know of. “Intense Debate,” the comment system we use, automatically shelves (they’re still there, we just have to go in and find them) any comments that are “too long.” But you can split your comments into two, or three etc if necessary, and get them up that way.

We delete maybe 1% of all comments—we get pretty good comments, generally, a testament to our readership, considering the nature of the internet and anonymous, meanie comments being so sadly common.

We love criticism, whether it’s of us, or about issues, or of authors, as long as its respectful. If it’s not respectful, we do delete, and you can rephrase and repost. If you’re being personally insulting, you can get banned. But generally, I can assure you, we’re pretty relaxed about everything. You have to really hit us the wrong way to get banned, so just give your criticism the time and respect it deserves by taking the time to say what you mean, instead of just getting personal. You know, “ad hominem,” I think?

Here’s our comment policy: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2010/08/be-nice-or-well-kill-you/

[–]TruthCartel 1 point ago

so what’s your take on your photo meme? do you think it’s respectful to all of its readers especially those of Mayan descent and know Mayans?

[–]edwardrmurrow[S] 3 points ago

If it is, happy to take down, but the point of the photo was to say that all this 2012 stuff was hype, spouted by folks making money off of fear and hope and nonsense—as you saw I took the time to make a few corrections re the photo, and there’s videos in there going into more detail.

I didn’t create the videos, either—bloggers can’t realistically be considered authors of videos and images they include. Our job is to make sure there’s appropriate context, links, facts.

For all of us who read online, we all have to ask “where is this coming from?,” and, “is it to be taken literally,” and if so, “are there contextual corrections being made” and “is this an opportunity for those who may not know much about history to learn more?”

I feel good about that post—many in my new-agey sphere were feeding off of 2012 hype, and I’m proud that elephant went the other way.

If you can find a better image that makes the same point, I’d genuinely be grateful and happy to use it—that said, again, images and videos that aren’t spot on are equally useful in pointing out the truth, as long as whomever is posting them takes care to point out said context, links and facts.

[–]TruthCartel -1 points ago

so you don’t think it’s disrespectful? yes or no? Why not take more accountability of what is posted rather than say this is what other people created because I responded to it and then got immediately banned for saying it was ignorant instead of it being discussed like this in a more respectful manner. I am smart enough to know the intent but I don’t give into shock value memes when it obviously disregards the feelings of an entire group of people. It would be similar to saying Americans wiped out all of the Navajo or Lakota or any other tribe when in fact there are many present living. I just found this extremely tasteless and I don’t care for EJ anymore.

[–]teslastrong 2 points ago

Not to be pedantic (ok, maybe a little) but the preferred term when referring to indigenous people is Mayas. Mayan is used when referencing the collection of languages. It would be akin to using the word Englishes for people from England. Not to worry, it is a very common error that has been perpetuated by the recent “doomsday” media coverage. Carry on…

[–]edwardrmurrow[S] 1 point ago

Thank you! Good to know, for both TruthCartel and myself–learn a new thing every day, and the more we learn, the more respectful and sensitive we can be.

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