My life has seen its share of miracles, my memories seasoned with such abundance and blessings too numerous to count. Recently, I was struck by how much of this out-pouring of blessings found their incipience while I was either short-staying or vacationing in Hawaii. My times on the big Island and Maui have been a time of celebrating friendships, and many major milestones in my life and those I love: I have witnessed engagements and weddings of my dearest friends. I have been with my friends while I have finished my first novel, was inspired to conceive my first child, and now I return to share the gift of Hawaii’s natural beauty as the background for what matters most to me in my yoga practice: the inner world, the seated practice.
I was recently flying cross-country and saw the United Hemispheres magazine featuring Hawaii. It is not uncommon, if not really the default winter cover article, for any domestic airline that runs flights across the Pacific to the speckled volcanic masses called the Hawaiian Islands to pay favor to its awesome natural beauty. So I won’t bother you with that. The inner beauty of the island speaks ample volumes too. As I am on the verge of going back, this time for contemplative practice and to share with others the joy of the deep, richer fruit of the yoga experience, it is hard not to recall all of the blessings that have come into my life as a result of my work and comraderie on the island.
It is oft cliché to see the American family packed up and ready to get their suntans on. Bobby & Susie, the tokens of the stereotype nuclear family of four boarding the plane full of eager smiles.
The Tommy Bahamas shirt on dad, mom in Lilly Pulitzer, the cute boy & girl laughing abundantly at the beach under the warm-wind palm leaves. This was my ‘idea’ of Hawaii, a vast over-commercialized island Disneyland of Macadamia nuts, Bubba Gump’s fried baby shrimps, and plastic leis. As such, I avoided Hawaii for many years, opting for more lavish and exotic authenticities- Bali, Costa Rica, Thailand, the South of France, etc. — but not so much now; at least not exclusively.
Hawaii is an amazing fix for those with less time to bandy about, and as I have learned, a place where my heart has been humbled, time and time again, and my view on life newly inspired.
Paradise takes time to travel to, fortunately Hawaii does not. From the Pacific Northwest, the flights are of nominal distance, reasonable price, and most of the carriers provide a quality and relaxing experience. Since I have typically traveled with friends, we have hours to play cards, Scrabble or just rest up because as soon as we get there, we will be getting ready for some serious yoga, fun in the sun, and lots of time in the water. I have been to the islands on shared flights with many dear friends;
admittedly, we are the new Bobby & Susie!
Hawaii still holds mysteries where the tourists don’t go. I have spent two of my trips to Hawaii in Maui living with locals, once for two weeks with my friend Christine, and another living for a month in Maui working on my book and meandering the island in the locals’ fashion with my friend Claudia.
There is a healthy amount of yoga and a rich yoga scene on the islands. This time, since I am hosting a yoga retreat with my best friend Liz Doyle, it will be an excellent opportunity to take turns teaching and taking yoga for the week we are there (February 22-29th, 2012) in the privacy of our own green-certified luxury boutique hotel where we have the opportunity to create the most conducive environment to yield extraordinary results for our guests.
Being in Seattle, I love mountains and water in close proximity and the islands have this in spades, plus the black-sanded beaches from all the volcanic activity and other natural beauties to behold. Hike,swim, snorkel, windsurf and golf all in one day if you desire.
The quality of the food and access to some many exotic fruits and fresh seafood is an inspiration. Unlike Europe, I never feel unhealthy or over-indulgent eating in Hawaii. Although I am only human…
Smoothies in the morning, fresh caught fish in the evening, salads throughout the day and the occasional –oops! — macadamia chocolate treat.
The aloha spirit is contagious. Friendly faces, the sweet breeze, the smell of plumeria or pekoke all evoke a natural sense of calm and tranquility. Hawaii is extremely conducive to contemplative practices, notably meditation. It is through meditation that I was able to use the totems of nature and the earth’s elements to connect to a more intuitive side. The inner beauty of me is brought forth on the island in ways difficult to articulate. From making connections about the future of my friends, to envisioning my beautiful daughter coming into this world, my ability to get to my roots and work my way back up has offered alarming clarity and motivation to take action in bold and rewarding ways. When working on my novel in Paia, I actually wrote better, produced more, mined organic interconnections within the characters more intuitively than when I was at home pounding away on the keys for days on end under inhuman self-set deadlines.
The words had poetry, came naturally, felt pleasant to bring forth.
Often times in yoga, we speak about rasas, the intentions of our actions and thoughts. Hawaii is a destination at this moment in time that has every year, millions of visitors actively cultivating the rasas of connecting to nature, taking care of one’s self, stepping away from a world seething with stress, to reconnect within. The tourist aspect of the island (although not being idealized in this article) supports the premise of sending out the intentions of visitors enjoying their stays and returning again and again to escape the external illusions of the daily rat race, and instead find that ‘novel-writing’ flow in whatever it is that is most meaningful to them.
As we begin looking forward to 2012, may you find your island, taking time to enliven and nurture those parts of you that are often neglected but can bring out your best when you take time to slow down, self-reflect and take care of yourself. Hau’oli Makahiki Hou!
More details on the Inner Work for Outer Joy: Cultivating a Practice with Purpose February 22-29th, 2012 on the North Kohala coast of the big island, please