Steve and I first went to Hawai’i in 2002 and again in 2003. We longed to go back but as we all know, life happens and takes us on what we perceive as detours. I say perceived detours because everything that happened in that 14 year period was important to our personal evolution. I like to think of it as gathering what we needed and going back at just the right time.
We wanted to go back because we are intrigued and inspired by Hawaii. There is a magic about the place. It’s raw beauty has a magnetism to it that leaves deep impressions in your psyche.
On our earlier trips to Hawai’i and Kalani Honua Eco retreat center specifically, we were deep into our studies of Yoga as a philosophy of life. In a “spiritual nutshell” we were studying and living “Namaste”. Namaste is the Sanskrit greeting that means, “the divinity in me acknowledges and respects the divinity in you.”
First you acknowledge your divinity and then you open yourself to see it and respect it in everyone else.
In those same early visits we were introduced to the concept of Aloha. We found that Aloha is more than an Hawaiian greeting or salutation. Aloha is a way of life. It is described as “the joyful sharing of life energy in the present. A life of aloha is living from a heart so full that it reaches out to everyone you meet. Aloha is living with love and compassion for your self and all beings.” For us there was such a similarity in the meaning of Namaste and Aloha that we wanted to return and experience Aloha as the perfect complement to our Yoga lifestyle. Namaste and Aloha seemed so aligned and connected. “The divinity in me honors the divinity in you so we can joyfully share our mutual life energy in the present with mutual love and compassion.”
We weren’t exactly sure how to experience Aloha but we figured going back to Kalani and joining their community of volunteers was a good start. Last year in 2015, the timing for a return to the Big Island of Hawai’i seemed right. We applied for a sabbatical from late December to early February of 2016.
Before our acceptance into the program, we went through an interview process with the volunteer office of Kalani. The volunteer coordinator asked if we had any experience living in community, since part of the program was offering two days of service per week and living in close proximity with the rest of the volunteers who support the retreats that are held there. In that initial interview, she also explained the Aloha way life. The Kalani volunteer program was looking for individuals who wanted to come together and support each other in their individual growth and evolution while giving service to the greater whole. I shared that because of being in a relationship for almost 30 years, I felt I had spent most of my life in community. I also explained that our deep commitment to seeing the divinity in each person was right in line with Aloha.
Soon after we arrived I realized living with one other person for however long it has been, is quite different from living with a large group of people in close quarters day in and day out. Add to this the remoteness of Kalani, perched on the eastern shore of the Puna Coast of the Big Island, and you have the experience of working, eating and sleeping with a group of 120 with little opportunity for escape!
There are many beautiful nuances to living in community if you just stop to pay attention and let the judgmental mind fade away. Not everyone is going to think the way you do. Motives and reasons for being there are as varied as the shapes, sizes and hair color— that is if you have hair, and plenty of us there did not – both male and female – for some it’s genetics and other’s it’s a choice. The point is, there are many different expressions of life going on in a community of this size. And plenty of opportunities to experiment with the Aloha Spirit.
Take for example, all the “make believe stories” that you create in your mind about other people. You have no facts but your mind has created a hypothesis that “could “ explain the situation but at some point you just start to believe your hypothesis to be fact. Your mental creation become your reality until proven otherwise. Usually your “MBS’s” (Make Believe Stories) as Steve and I refer to them, have no compassion in them and usually turn out to be judgmental and completely wrong.
I love finding out just how wrong I have been about people. It can be hilarious to find out that the reason they don’t say ‘hi’ everyday has nothing to do with me. Imagine that! In Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements, agreement number two is, “Don’t take anything personally” and number three is, “Don’t make assumptions”. These can come in handy when you live with 120 other people. It is good advice for any of us attempting to increase our mindfulness in our everyday life but living with this many “seekers” makes it necessary for you to take these two agreements to heart and work with them every day. The alternative is you find yourself getting your feelings hurt and living in an insane state of judgment that has you trying to figure out why everyone isn’t like you.
To experience the true spirit of Aloha and Namaste combined I decided to open myself up to compassion by challenging my own MBS’s. Instead of letting my mind make up stories, during our communal meals, I started sitting with the folks who intrigued me. What better way to get to know someone than to break bread together. My line was, “Tell me about your life….”
I heard great stories about their lives, their hopes and dreams. No more walls, no more stories of the mind. Now there was a heart connection.
Our Kalani appointed buddies, Arno and Crystal mentioned our astrology background in their introduction of us to the Kalani Ohana (family) in our first weekly volunteer meeting. This proved to be another doorway to connection. Ironically, the folks who intrigued and baffled me, asked if they could sit down and discuss their charts. Talk about getting to know someone. The mini chart talks were so rich and lovely. Again, barriers of the mind were replaced with connection between our hearts.
I also noticed a sense of the Aloha spirit in the overall group dynamics.
For example, there was very little gossip within this group of volunteers. That surprised me. But in this unique microcosm I found most of these people were working for personal growth and transformation which leaves little room for the smallness of gossip and misplaced projections. Instead they were open to learning from each other.
We were all there volunteering our services in various jobs, in this exquisite paradise. The jobs include, housekeeping, kitchen, horticulture, permaculture, maintenance and various administrative positions. In exchange for our service we were supplied with housing, all our meals and down time to sit and really be with ourselves. I found a majority of the volunteers at Kalani are looking to question their mental perceptions of others and find “their heart voice” that gently nudges them to replace judgement of themselves and those around them with compassion. Perception is something we can challenge and change – – at any time.
There were also plenty of opportunities for reality checks in paradise! There were times when a few individuals pushed my buttons or “got under my skin”. Others admitted the same thing. Certain people were “hitting a hot spot” for them as well. How do you maintain Aloha when this occurs? Well, in this Conscious group of souls, instead of attacking the character or actions of an individual, we discussed what that person was bringing up inside us about ourself. Perhaps the person who got under our skin, was mirroring some aspect of our nature that we weren’t willing to acknowledge or embrace. It felt like alchemy as we turned potential gossip and complaining about others into a path for personal transformation. Aloha/Namaste.
Focusing on our own transformation and allowing others to live their lives without our interference or judgement, moves us closer to our own inner freedom. We start to ask ourselves questions so we can be objective about our problems. Instead of becoming trapped by our emotional reactions and blaming the world outside for why we aren’t feeling fulfilled, we take responsibility for our lives. We awaken to the power of the Aloha of life.
When you feel anger, judgement, resentment well up inside you about another person, take a deep breath and open your heart to understanding the other person and their behavior. In doing so you allow yourself to move into living in compassion for yourself and all beings. That is when Change happens for the good of all.
Being here on Planet Earth, we live in community. We are given opportunities for growth everyday. If we look deep into ourselves and slow down our judgmental minds, we begin to shift our view from seeing and labeling to knowing that each person, each soul, is on the same quest for happiness and fulfillment. Can you imagine the delicious freedom you would feel if we all did this? What if you stepped out of your door into your day, knowing you had the love and support of everyone you encountered and you were encouraged to express your uniqueness, find YOUR dream and LIVE it fully.
Kalani Honua- translated, means where Heaven meets Earth. It is so beautiful there that it just might be the original Garden of Eden. Beyond its physical aesthetic there is also a paradise of self-discovery that lives and thrives there. It is not perfect because it is a work in progress. Each of us is also a work in progress and less than perfect. But with effort and discipline, we can shift our perceptions and open our hearts to ourself and others. We can come to know that Namaste and Aloha live in our hearts.
All of our efforts toward being whole are worthwhile. As we come to know ourselves more fully by questioning our actions and reactions with each other, we shift into a place of inner freedom. If a sabbatical to Hawaii is not possible because of some detours in your life, where can you go or who can you be with that will help you shift into a place of inner freedom. Think about it. Finding answers to that question are worthwhile because you are worth all the efforts you make to be whole and holy.
It is from a place of freedom, understanding and compassion that I bow my head in reverence and say with all sincerity,
“The divinity in me honors the divinity in you so we can joyfully share our mutual life energy in the present with mutual love and compassion.”
Aloha and Namaste my friends.