Kalani Honua Blog - Volunteer Reflections

Monday, July 14, 2008

Jim Larsen

Jim LarsenFind yourself here. That's what it says on the coffee cups here at Kalani, not as a mandate, but as an invitation. Spend time here. Understand yourself. Get to know the real you, away from the pressures of the social role imposed on you from whatever part of the world you came here from. Anybody allowing themselves the opportunity to do that will undoubtedly free themselves of the pressures of expectations placed on them that simply don't matter.

For example, there was a time when I was self conscious about how I presented myself. I could feel a thousand judgmental eyes staring at me, assessing me, judging me. I felt overwhelming pressure to present myself as perfect as I could. The following is a journal entry I wrote reflecting that time in my life. It was written in November of 2005 while living and working in the Washington DC metropolitan area:

Sometimes I might find myself standing around with my hands in my pockets, but I don't want to stand around with my hands in my pockets, because standing around with my hands in my pockets makes me look slouchy, and slouchy is not how I want to present myself, so I want to take my hands out of my pockets, but I don't want to make it obvious that I am trying to correct myself, so I have to come up with clever reasons to take my hands out of my pockets; like maybe I'm swatting a fly away, or I have an itch, or maybe to give you one of my patented punches of doom to you stomach. The problem with that, though, is that questions always get asked, like, "Why did you do that?" And I say the first thing that comes to my mind, which is usually, "Sorry. Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. I'm a Gulf War Veteran you know." Which is a lie, but now you have lots of questions about my experiences and want to hear some war stories, but I don't have any so now I just want to get away from you, so I turn my head away and go "Ring ring ring" then I say "Excuse me, I have to take this call." Then I run away as fast as I can.

My time at Kalani has helped me overcome this need to present myself as a perfect being. I accept myself just as I am. If I want to take my hands out of my pockets, I will just do it. I no longer feel the need to make a game of it. No more imaginary flies. No more pretend itches. No more senseless violence. No more self-consciousness. If I appear slouchy to you, then could it be that I am merely a reflection of you? I am but a mirror. What you see in me is completely based on your image of yourself. Having trouble understanding what you see? Let the energy of Kalani work its magic on you. Find yourself here.

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Friday, April 4, 2008

Kristal Ornellas
Kristal Ornellas
Long term Kalani-ite Kristal Ornellas recently made a trek home to Massachusetts and stumbled upon her journal from her very first stint as a Kalani volunteer. What she found on one of its pages reads as follows:

THE RULES FOR BEING HUMAN

1. You will receive a body. You may like it or hate it, but it will be yours for the entire period this time around.

2. You will learn lessons. You are enrolled in a full time informal school called LIFE. Each day in this school you will have the opportunity to learn lessons. You may like the lessons or think them irrelevant and stupid.

3. There are no mistakes, only lessons. Growth is a process of trial and error; experimentation. The 'failed' experiments are as much a part of the process as the experiment that ultimately 'works.'

4. A lesson is repeated until learned. A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it. When you have learned it, you can then go on to the next lesson.

5. Learning lessons does not end. There is no part of life that does not contain its lessons. If you are alive, there are lessons to be learned.

6. "There" is no better than "here." When you're "there" has become "here," you will simply obtain another "there" that will again - look better than "here."

7. Others are merely mirrors of you. You cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects something you love or hate about yourself.

8. What you make of your life is up to you. You have all the tools and resources you need. What you do with them is up to you. The choice is yours.

9. Your answers lie inside you. The answers to Life's questions lie inside you. All you need do is look, listen and trust.

10. You will forget all this.

11. You can remember it whenever you want.

~ Author Unknown

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Reid Manchester

It changes you.

Build your walls as high as you want. Make them 6 feet thick. Use the hardest stone. Eventually your walls will be worn down.

Sure, you can fight it. Hold people at arms length, cling to your bad habits, defence mechanisms, wit, charm, sarcasm, humor, fear. Hide behind shyness, a quiet disposition, 9 thin layers or three thick ones. It doesn’t matter.

You’ll start to care about people. Eventually. Because they care about you.

DriftwoodYou’ll stop seeing faults and start seeing strengths. You’ll stop criticizing and start encouraging. You’ll BE one of those strange people that walks around hugging people you just saw an hour ago. Give it enough time and you’ll hug strangers, regardless of their asinine concept of personal space.

Those notions you have about gender and sexual preference will fade. Soon it won’t matter. Soon you won’t care what they’re wearing, or if they’re wearing anything at all.

All that fear you’ve lived with your whole life? Fears about who you are, what you do, how you do it, what you look like, what others think, what your life means. Don’t worry, that blanket of fear will unravel. You’ll be free of it soon.

Welcome to Kalani.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Mike Bailey

Mike Bailey I voted for George W. Bush. Not once, but twice. I’m from a conservative Christian town in the mountains of Virginia. The monotony of my life was overwhelming. The same cup of coffee, the same bagel, the same shirt and tie. I didn’t smile enough. I needed a change.

I felt common. But, Kalani was uncommon, and I feared I would never fit in. I was afraid of people I thought I would never understand. I was afraid to be open. I was insecure and defensive, and I judged you before I knew you. At times my wall wouldn’t let you in. I was afraid to put my foot on the EMAX dance floor. I feared I would look silly. My soul heard the music and longed to explode into feverish dance. My brain talked me out of it. I envied those who were braver than I. I was surrounded, but felt alone. I was afraid of what you might think of me. Real men don’t cry. I’m a coward.

Risks are never easy, and change doesn’t always come fast. But, I remembered how I was as a child. I remembered how I dance when no one is looking. I remembered the joy of Christmas morning, and innocence of youth. I felt like letting go of all the burdens the world told me carry on my back. I wanted ignore the voices that said I wasn’t good enough. I wanted to tell you what you meant to me. I wanted to love with reckless abandon. It scared me to know you could see right through me. I wanted to be more like you. I wanted to be me.

You and I became friends. Sometimes you couldn’t tell if I was joking, or being serious. Sometimes I couldn’t tell. You and I went to the mountain top, saw the sun set, allowed the rain to fall onto our skin. Each conversation, each hug, each soft kiss, removed a brick from my wall. You were real. This was not a dream. I have the power to change. I have the privilege to change what I can. Change is my responsibility. Love changes hearts. I must remember you.

Three months passed. You were a part of it all. Even if I didn’t know you well, you were a part of it. An internal revolution occurred. A war between the dreamer and the cynic. The cynic looks pretty beat up. The dreamer has had a second wind.

I danced my last ecstatic dance. You saw me smile and you smiled back. No words necessary I read your mind. I wanted to dance so hard my feet would hurt. I wanted to remember why my feet hurt. I danced with fire. Sometimes the flame came from the staff, sometimes it came from inside. They both burned so bright.

I hugged you goodbye. You managed to squeeze a final smile from my lips. We were strangers to start, but friends as we part. I am sad to go, but am happy to have met you. I realize what you really mean to me when I know you won’t be in my life every day.

I waived goodbye from the car window and honked my horn as I drove from Kalani. I cried in my car, and cried all the way to the airport. Real men can cry. I have 16 hours on a plane. I dread being alone with my thoughts for that long. I wish you were with me to talk to. It’s so quiet without you. The world I return to feels black and white. Kalani gave me a paint brush. The colors are brilliant. Time to start painting. The pages of tomorrow are blank. I have a pen. Time to start writing. Will you take my hand?

It was never about fitting into Kalani. It was about fitting Kalani into me.

The following is the poem I shared at the `Ohana night. I hope you enjoy it!


Michael’s Poem

From Virginia to Kalani, what would I find? A place I could really be me, body and mind?
A frames of ants, ecstatic dance, kirtan chants, hold onto your pants.
I had found a place of open hearts, open eyes, and open doors. Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.
Surrounded by nudity and gay men I thought I was in trouble.
I just wanted to go home to my safe, conservative, Christian bubble.
But, all bubbles burst and worlds collide and this time I decided I’m not going to hide.
Because you can’t live life like a game of hide and seek.
So hours became days, and days into weeks.
My mind began to open like a flag unfurled. I was experiencing all of this strange new world.
Capoeira moves, hip hop grooves, nature walks, opening circle talks
I witnessed people being true and free. I witnessed what sometimes the eyes don’t see.
Although there were many moments from August to November, surely it is you I will
Always remember.
A full lunar eclipse, volunteer trips, hula moving hips, songs from Kimo’s lips.
Perhaps it was Gerard in the café, going to Hilo bay, or watching Charlie’s DVD’s on a rainy day.
I saw human tenderness between Kathy and Kasi, and got dressed like a woman with a little help from Bree.
Or what about talking story late on the lanai, or the crystal clearness of the night sky.
I saw rainbows and moonbows, went ecstatic at EMAX, and saw the passing of the torch when we said goodbye to THE Max (Fathom).
Hemi Sync and mystic thought, I even got little naked. Who would have thought?
But not all days was I happy and glad. I’m know I made mistakes that made you mad or sad.
And although there were storms in our spiritual weather, my only regret is you….that I didn’t know you better.
It’s only now I truly understand.
I have gay friends, straight friends, friends from far away lands.
So now I pray for you to God above.
And I bid you farewell, Aloha, from Michael with love.

Love,
Michael

3 comments

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Jonathan Jamison

Jonathan JamisonDuring my walk to dinner along the path I took my time to linger at the magnificent sunset of pinks, purples, blues, teal and a larger spectrum that words just don’t seem to truly express. After darkness sets, the glow of Pele across Kalani brings forth such power and grace that my mind wanders into the things I'm grateful for.

Sunset

It has been long over a year since I started my residence at Kalani. Throughout my time here I have seen my mind and consciousness grow and my body shrink. In this short period of time I have had the opportunity to interact with hundreds of amazing people who taught me about the energies of love. I have said I Love you to more people than ever in my life and many times a day here I'm reminded of the power and understanding of this powerful source of life and death. Take the word love and use in front or after any word in the dictionary and it makes sense in a lot of ways.

Being within my 'ohana and allowing my freedom to explore or just watch this powerful energy has been one of the greatest gifts I have gotten from heaven on earth (Kalani Honua). As I write this blog I gain a greater understanding of how to express my love and to connect with those who cross my path. My skills of communication on a world wide level are basically starting with this blog and I hope to continue to share my journey in new ways.

I feel gratitude for the ways that love has brought me pure thoughts and a stronger consciousness. I celebrate life and everything that comes with it and deeply know that I manifest every moment of this existence through my own will of love. The constant evolution that we are morphing through allows us to learn from every experience that love brings us. As we all know, life flows sometimes with us or without us. I love every one that crosses my path and even those who walk 100 yards out of the way of my path. The days become greater and the nights more peaceful with the pool of love that I have built that surrounds me. As I stride forward wandering into unknowns, leafing through this book called life, it seems as though I can truly feel the love for my self. I feel amazing for these moments and for the fact at 36 years old I can palm the floor in a forward bend. Now that is truly the power of love.

Aloha and a hui hou

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Beverly Mendoza

Beverly MendozaAhh Betsey. Betsey is one of the sexiest ever to blow through Kalani. The first time we hung out was at Kehena Beach. It was my first time ever going to this black sand clothing optional beach. And it was as if the set was taken from some Hollywood movie. After climbing down this short cliff and turning the bend a man named Congo from Trinidad sat perched on a gigantic black rock. Two hippie kids from New York played their guitars while Congo carved a wooden stick with his knife and sang a sort of reggae that could have been categorized as the blues for it was that soulful. I couldn’t believe the scene. That a world like this actually does exist outside the movies.

Across the beach were circles of people picnicking, laying around, talking story, laughing and throwing themselves backwards into the waves. Betsey took her clothes off immediately. She laid on the sand where the surf just barely reached her. And ever so often, a gigantic wave would come and crash over her, sending black sand everywhere. We did this forever. Just talking, laying on our stomachs, letting the sand just naturally exfoliate our bodies and letting the Ocean decide when to toss us about. It was a thrill not knowing when the big wave was coming and mid-story, we’d have a mouthful of sand. It was somehow the most hilarious thing ever. Betsey talked about experiencing bliss in the interview below. And so many moments just reeled through my head when I think about my own bliss. This day at the beach was definitely one of them. And Betsey’s happy-go-lucky blissful spirit was surely the catalyst for happiness that day. She emanates this bright joyful glow always and that is oh so sexy, don’t you think?

Betsey CarneyQ&A: Betsey Carney


What brought you to Kalani?

I was on a sabbatical and looking for a place to get away from the mainstream to do some yoga and some spiritual work.

What was your first impression of Kalani? Of the Big Island? Of the people?

My first impression of Kalani was Mary Lou who picked me up at the airport. I felt comfortable with her immediately and knew right away that if she loved the place (she talked about how she loved Kalani on our ride from the airport) so would I. The smell of Hawaii is such a welcoming and comforting smell to me. Every time I land, I feel warm and happy inside. As we drove down Route 130 and I saw the Ocean, I knew I was home. All of the people I met were welcoming, easy-going and happy… my kind of folk.

What was your favorite activity out here? What will you miss most about this place?

My favorite organized activity was yoga. I attended as many classes as I could; sometimes twice a day. In addition to that I loved the road trips with my co-volunteers to visit other places on the island. We always had so much fun. Meeting and getting to know people from such varied places while exploring and enjoying Hawai’i was simply terrific. I can honestly say that some of the happiest times in my life took place during those trips. I miss that immensely.


What advice would you give first-timers?

Just be and allow. And, take advantage of every opportunity you can.

Top three items you couldn’t have lived without on this island?

1) Other volunteers 2) my job at Kalani 3) my open mind.


What was your most memorable moment here?

In the car on the way to hike to see the new lava flow (the cops wouldn’t let us in). Mike, Jill, Jamie and I were “so happy, we couldn’t stand it!”

How have you changed? What imprint has this experience made on you?

I now accept everyone and everything as is. I experienced what it feels like to be “blissed-out”. I know now that it is my choice to be happy doing whatever I’m doing, wherever I am.

I’ve taken that back to the mainland with me and refuse to lose my “Bliss”.

Since you’ve jumped ship, how is life out there? How has the transition been back to mainland life? What next?

See above. It took me about a week to become grounded and I realized that I love where I live on the mainland (Annapolis, Maryland) and I also love Kalani and the Big Island. I want to incorporate both places in to my life from this point forward.


Most memorable lesson from Pele?

It wasn’t a lesson but a realization. She’s a gracefully violent creator, and a sensual, dangerous, wise and beautiful sage. The realization she brought to me was to love and revere everything she has created. If not, I’d be disrespecting her, and since we all are one, that would be disrespecting not only every personality but more importantly what we all agree upon as our universe.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Beverly Mendoza

Beverly MendozaWe get a lot of New Yorkers and East Coasters that come through Kalani. You can spot this particular species in a heartbeat by their style and swagger. The easiest way to identify an East Coaster is by their accent of course. My personal favorites are Boston and Brooklyn accents. So when I stumbled upon Jaime on her first day on the lanai eating lunch and heard this Brooklyn drawl come out of this wide-eyed, curly-haired girl, I sat right in front of her and had lunch and got my New York fix for the hour. Her accent is as Brooklyn as you can get. And her energy was sooooo New York. I knew from the getgo that she’s got quite an adventure ahead of her simply because she was just bubbling with this potential energy and I think I can speak for many people here at Kalani --- but it was so much fun watching her transform and get her jungle on --- a la Brooklyn. She never lost her Brooklyn swagger, she simply amplified it with this Jungle Jane sense of adventure and with her openness to experience it all and her ability to laugh at everything.

On her last night at Kalani, I passed by her on the lawn as she sat watching the stars. We hung out on my porch and talked for quite awhile about what a strange and wonderful trip it has been this summer. We talked about our adventures. We talked about happiness. We talked about love and lessons. We laughed so hard about the embarrassing faux pas we’ve committed throughout these intense whirlwind moments. And she said something I will never forget: “I’m just so happy here. In the past I always had to have some reason why I was happy. But here, on the Big Island, I don’t need any reasons, I don’t seek out any reasons, I’m just happy.” Brilliant, right?

JaimeQ&A: Jaime

1. What brought you to Kalani?

During the past four years my outside world was right on track, just as planned. By age 24, I received my Masters degree in Mathematics and was granted tenure at the high school in which I was teaching. On the inside, however, I felt like I had already jumped off the track a long time ago and was living in a lonely, lost world. There was a voice inside telling me that there was more for me out there; more for me to see and do. Since I grew up in a low-income family, I was never able to travel. The idea of going to Hawaii was so foreign to me. I lived my life thinking that only rich people and honeymooners went to Hawaii. One day in January 2007, I had just finished reading the book, The Secret and I was ready to manifest my dreams. I remember writing down in my journal that I would love to go to Hawaii for at least a month. I was unsure as to how I would afford it, but I was determined to use the law of attraction. The next day I was messing around on the computer and I googled, ‘Hawaii-Retreat-Wellness Center’. The first option that appeared was this place called Kalani. Even though I did not have the money to travel to Hawaii, I was tempted to just look at the website. And all of a sudden I saw the magic word…VOLUNTEER. I could not believe it! And the rest was history.

2. What was your first impression of Kalani? Of the Big Island? Of the people?

The best way I can explain my first impression of Kalani and the Big Island is by visualization. Ok picture this...its Monday the day before I leave to Kalani. I jump on the train and rush to the Bronx to do paperwork at my college. Then I race to Times Square for some last minute shopping, surrounded by huge buildings and bright lights. Lets not forget to mention that I almost got run over by a taxi at least three times, people were bumping into me because everyone’s in a rush, and I got cursed out by a lady because I did not put my Metrocard into the slot for the train quick enough (all normal daily events for a New Yorker). Finally I am on a train back home to a loud, traditional Italian family who cannot fathom the idea that I am going to live in Hawaii since to them, Brooklyn is the best thing created since sliced bread. Ok so now it’s Tuesday, the night of my arrival to Kalani and boom! I’m in the middle of a jungle with loud frogs, huge trees, and people who actually take a few seconds to speak between each sentence! The first thought that popped into my mind was, “What did I get myself into?!?”

3. What was your favorite activity out here? What will you miss most about this place?

Believe it or not…it was weeding! Even though it was a part of my job, it never felt like work. It was very meditative for me. During those hours I was able to reflect on my experience at Kalani and develop myself as a person. Not to mention that while I was weeding I was enjoying my two favorite pastimes: listening to music and tanning.

4. What advice would you give first timers?
Be prepared to let the “old” you go. Many life lessons can be taught at Kalani if you are willing to be a student.

5. Top three items you couldn’t have lived without on this island?

1) Ipod
2) Maui Babe
3) Hair Straightener. (There were some days where the humidity made me look that I had a birds nest on the top of my head!)

6. What was your most memorable moment here?

Not only was this the most memorable moment for me at Kalani, but it was the most memorable moment of my life! It was when I jumped off a 30ft. cliff into the water. Ever since I was a little girl, I had always dreamt of jumping off a cliff (I have always loved heights). When I was standing there looking down into the water I was like…holy crap this is high! But when I landed into the water and looked back up to the cliff, I had a tear in my eye and thought to myself, wow, dreams really do come true.

7. How have you changed? What imprint has this experience made on you?
It’s amazing how the aspects of my personality that needed fixing were adjusted in Kalani. For one, I have a new sense of confidence. Before Kalani, I was confident in myself due to my achievements in school, career and running. Now I am confident in myself overall just because I am me. I have also become more courageous. I have decided to leave my teaching job in January 2008 to travel the world for the next five years. Besides getting the imprint of the Big Island in the form of a tattoo on my wrist J, the most powerful imprint this experience has made on me was realizing that life is too short and beautiful to feel any negative emotions. Just smile and dance!

8. Since you’ve jumped ship, how is life out there? How has the transition been back to mainland life? What next?

I remember the night before I left Kalani: I was outside by myself staring at the stars crying, because I was so afraid to go back to NYC. The idea of buildings, TVs, taxis and impatient people created a panic within me. Would I be able to survive? Will I keep my “Aloha” attitude when I go back? Contrary to my beliefs, the transition has been remarkable! When I got off the plane and waited thirty minutes to retrieve my bags, an observation made me bust out laughing…as I was talking on my cell phone, drinking my Starbucks Frapuccino, looking for the best possible route to run out and get the first yellow cab, I was tapping my foot with this expression on my face like how long does it take to get bags off the plane?! Right then I said to myself (with my Brooklyn accent of course)….ahhh you can take a girl out of NYC, but you can’t take the NYC out of the girl! What I came to realize is that I can have both: a NYC attitude and my Aloha peace. I also realized that I want to continue my travels. After I complete teaching this Fall semester in Brooklyn, I will return to Kalani for a few months and I will then teach overseas in September (either Australia or Italy).

9. You know you’re Kalani-nized when...

You extend your trip!

10. Most memorable lesson from Pele?

Detachment. Before Kalani, I was attached to many things in my life: family, romantic relationships, my job and New York City. Once I learned to let go of my attachments, there was room in my soul for future discoveries of new people and new places to explore. I am grateful to Pele for giving me loving peace, to the many beautiful people I met at Kalani who helped inspire and shape me, and to Richard Koob and his team for creating a sustaining my heaven on earth… Kalani.

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Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Beverly Mendoza

Beverly MendozaYou gotta love David Bowie. What is that man up to these days? I need a song. A life soundtrack sort of song for this phase in my life. Something classic and timeless.

Dearest Sir Bowie,
If you happen to be perusing the Web for Hawaiian Yoga Retreats and chance upon this note, please visit (bring Iman!) and write us a song!
Mahalo!

Hey, it is possible. I was told the other week that Neil Diamond was just down the road.

I’m in Chicago, readers, visiting for a few weeks and returning to start phase two of Kalani. I’ve extended until the end of the year. I intend for “Kalani Part Deux” to be less social and a time for me to buckle down and finish my thesis for grad school. Practice a little bit of self-discipline and reflection. Hone in my energy. So yoga, writing, meditation, work, swimming. Yoga, writing, meditation, work, swimming. (If I say it often enough as my mantra it’s bound to become reality, right?). Kalani Part One was more: yoga, hang out at pool, hang out all over A-Frame Land, go to every good-bye party imaginable even if I just met you yesterday, hang out all over Pahoa, hang out in Hilo, take lots of adventures, hang out on massage tables, beach hopping, hosting visitors, lovely delicious cat naps, work and then if there’s a spare moment left to write then I spent it watching movies or reading books – escapism at its very finest.

I don’t regret any of it. I enjoyed every pleasurable minute, actually. I’ve transformed from the inside out. I am the happiest and most energetic I’ve ever been since I was seven years old. Playing and resting like that really does wonders to your soul. It is a retreat after all. I was revived.

But the summer crew has left. Practically all the friends I’ve made here in the past three months have gone. The mass exodus has commenced and a new crop-a lot of returning volunteers actually whom I’ve never met-are arriving.

“They come and they go,” our volunteer coordinator, Sharyl, says in the old-lady-sitting-on-the-porch-in-a-rocking-chair-mint-julep-in-hand sort of tone (oh and I forgot to mention a tumbleweed rolled on by).

“At first it’s tough, but after awhile it becomes, ‘oh alright, see ya later,” she says gesturing a dismissive wave.

“You’re so cold,” I say after confessing how I just spent one afternoon walking around A-Frame land eating mint chocolate ice-cream and crying a little bit for the place was a ghost town. It just dawned on me that afternoon that certain folks were not there.

It’s tough to detach. The time we spend here is so intense and we grow and change so quickly together. It’s like boarding school or camp for adults. Connections and bonds made with others are quicker and penetrate to the heart faster, instant family (just add hot water and tadaaaa). We often refer to this phenomenon as Kalani Time. It’s a vortex that somehow condenses major life changes in such a short period of time that it seems to stretch out the minutes of time, but in reality, it’s just intense life experiences jam packed into the same unchanging tick of the clock. It only feels that minutes are longer.

Psychological time vs. clock time – the balance is way skewed here (psychological time way ahead). Space and time seem to fold into each other and our experiences are marked by the wrinkles. It doesn’t help that a majority of us don’t know the date anymore here. “I know it’s Sunday because of Ecstatic Dance but it could be July or August, who’s got a calendar?” It’s hard to keep up with clock time. Not seeing a person for a day feels like weeks sometimes. A lot can happen in a day. Just the other week Mother Nature proved a lot can happen in a week. Potential natural disasters seemed to test the Big Island.

It began with meteor showers. How beautiful to watch these forces of light just shooting across the sky. Natural fireworks! And then came Hurricane Flossie heading straight towards us. We wrapped up our A-Frames in tarps, took down our tents, secured any potential flying objects, placed our valuables in plastic garbage bags, moved our cars away from coconut trees and prepared for the worst. It was very anti-climactic the day the Hurricane was supposed to hit. The mountains protected the Big Island again and Flossie landed 50 miles off the South Shore. We had gorgeous storms throughout this week because of Flossie. And the waves were out of this world.

We also had four earthquakes, every night consecutively that week. I was working in the kitchen and thought I broke our Hobart Machine (the dishwasher) when the first earthquake hit just after dinner – the 5.6. It only lasted for a few seconds and the kitchen staff continued on rushing to finish our shift as if someone merely dropped a plate. Nothing seemed to phase us at this point. Then because of the earthquake in Peru, the Tsunami watch was in full effect right after the Hurricane watch. One couldn’t help but feel that maybe the end is nigh. It was surreal and invigorating to ride the waves of all of these natural disasters. I remember thinking, hey, if this is how it’s going to end, I couldn’t be in a better place with such interesting people. I believe I attended a going away party for my friend, Jean-Claude, the eve of the Hurricane. We drank decadent mango shakes and danced the night away in our kitchen manager’s and pastry chef’s home. My friend *C and I took a dip in the pool afterwards and relaxed in the hot tub well past midnight. I couldn’t sleep for some reason. Something was in the air that night. Mother Nature was stirring. The energy was so palpable.

Being back in the mainland the changes become apparent. Since I’ve landed friends and family have been very forthcoming with their observations of how I’ve changed. I seem to be under the microscope here, it’s a bit uncomfortable, but it is what it is. It’s very different out here as well, I’ve noticed. Or maybe, it’s my perspective that’s different. All I know is that I miss the Big Island so much. I’ve realized how luxurious simplicity is. What a gift it is for us to simplify and be with our core and raw nature for a while. The simplicity of life in our retreat, the paring down of the noise and excess of urban life is a luxury and gift. It gives us time and space to experience life-altering moments so presently. And I must cherish this time and space at Kalani and continue to embrace the changes.

The next few posts will be Q&As with volunteers who have recently left. We often gain perspective once we leave. I’m interested to know how life is like out there for these guys. What they’ve gained from retreating at Kalani and how they assess the changes within themselves, their perspectives and the world. I foresee my life getting pretty boring as I sit and finish this thesis. I predict my blog would be in the vein of:

Dearest Readers,
Today I practiced Kundalini at The Point, ate a papaya and wrote three pages. Talk to you next week.

Well, let’s hope. Yoga, writing, meditation, work, swimming…

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Whittney Erskine

Whitney Erskine
My time at Kalani so far has been nothing short of magical. Initially I thought I would find the most healing and growth through yoga and pure air, but I have come to see that it is through my `Ohana that I have blossomed the most. Being here has revealed to me the art and beauty in simplicity. Simplicity brings space, space brings compassion, compassion brings love and mindfulness.

In this simple atmosphere, I can focus my attention on how I am doing things, not just what I am doing. This mindfulness has brought me to a much more meaningful and happy place in myself. Now that I have tapped into infinite love within myself, I feel that I can exercise constant change; of nature and humanity. This ebb and flow lifestyle helps eliminate judgment, fear, and stagnation in the soul. Constant change = constant growth.

I spent my first 2 months focusing on what my own intuitions were saying, trying to understand what this meant, and I internalized so much information. During the rest of my time here, I want to extend out to my community and share my love, compassion, mindfulness, gratitude and skills. Now that I am comfortably grounded here, I have a yoga class in the works, I love doing van runs, I am using my cosmetology tools, and I am making strong, honest, spiritual bonds with the people here.

I wake up everyday, and I know that I am truly blessed to be a part of Kalani. Hawaii feels like home. I want my innate lightheartedness and playfulness to comfort those around me and encourage them to enjoy themselves everyday.

Whittney Erskine, Newport, Kentucky

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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Beverly Mendoza

Beverly Mendoza

Saying goodbye to Rod last week, a fellow volunteer, a fellow soul mate, a fellow tribe member, was hard to say the least. We sat around a bonfire at The Point and everyone was in conversation, reminiscing already about the whirlwind that is the Kalani experience and speaking of the future which is so exciting for all of us. Terrifying, yes, and it was only so appropriate to be standing at The Point, on the edge of a cliff with the vastness of the ocean ahead of us and this fire burning in the ground.

Rod and I had a moment alone while he peed in the jungle and I stood next to him (talk about intimacy right?) If you knew Rod and were privileged enough to hear his story, then you’re a pretty lucky person. Let me just say that this man has been through it. He came to Kalani, he told me, unable to love and laugh and you wouldn’t have ever thought that upon meeting him. You see, he is laughter. It’s absolutely contagious and distinct and it ripples from the lanai to the jungle. He is love. And everyone loved him. He was the social butterfly of Kalani. His heart was stretched and opened here at Kalani, he said. And he never thought he would laugh as hard as he has here at Kalani.

That was his journey and transformation and it radiated from his ocean blue eyes, from his kisses and hugs, from his insanely wise words, from his nursing skills, from his heart.

Rod looked like he saw a ghost his last week at Kalani when he was in the process of saying goodbye. His eyes were perpetually wide open whenever I saw him. You know when a person is just really living presently? When they are absorbing the intensity of each moment? You can practically feel that earthquake in their soul radiate from their body. We always held hands when we spoke and that night at the point he placed my hand on his heart as we said our goodbyes. This man has a drumming circle inside him. One wild drumming circle. To witness a person go through this transformation and have the breakthroughs that Rod had, is so f-in precious. It is so awe-inspiring. And so I thank the Universe for his presence, for bringing him into our lives, for witnessing his light.

Q&A: Rod OlinRod Olin

What brought you here?

I had an opportunity to take a break from my life in New York. The lease on my loft was up for renewal and I was ready to change my job. My friend Jared has been teaching Yoga here for a long time and so I booked a ticket and leapt into the unknown.

What was your first impression of Kalani?

When I got out of the van it was nighttime. I walked into the office and asked them what the ambiance soundtrack was titled and it was actually the koki frogs. That’s when I knew I’ve lived in the city for way too long.

What struck me once I settled in was the friendliness and open hearts of the staff and volunteers here. It gives you a sense of feeling at home.

What book did you get turned onto here in Kalani?

Like half of my kitchen workers, Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. It was amazing how elements of that book mirrored my journey here at Kalani.

What advice would you give first time volunteers? What do you wish you would have known?

Know that as magical and beautiful as Kalani is, it’s also the most amazing and challenging microcosm of the outside world. All of the joys and hurdles are highly amplified. With this it is a great opportunity to observe your own human nature and grow accordingly.

What’s your favorite Kalani buzz-word?

My favorite Kalani word is forgiveness. Because when you live in a community you learn that word over and over and over.

What’s your most memorable day so far?
The day I was at Kehena Beach and conquered my fear of the waves and swam with the dolphins. I learned a really important life lesson that day using the waves as a metaphor. If you fight it and panic then you’re going to sink but if you relax into the wave and make peace with the ocean then it’s smooooooooooooooooooooooth sailing.

How have you changed, can you tell already?

Besides the obvious changes to my body because of yoga, my capacity to maintain an open heart and laugh off challenging moments has expanded beyond what I could have ever imagined. But the real barometer will be when I return to the outside world and when I can measure my responses and actions in my mainland life.

Top five things to bring with you?

  1. A copy of Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart
  2. Your favorite hoodie
  3. A pair of Tevas
  4. An ipod
  5. A good security blanket

What really inspires you about the Big Island?

The relaxed nature and smile of its inhabitants.

Where to next? Do you know yet?

Portland, Oregon for three months to work as a travel nurse. Possibly traveling to South America through the winter.

What will you miss the most about Kalani?

All the people I love. It’s going to rip my heart out to not see them everyday. Even though I know I will maintain my connections with my `ohana it’s going to be very hard to say goodbye.

You know you’re Kalani-nized when...

When you’re riding a rusted out bicycle looking like an extra from “Lost” feverishly on your way to yoga class.

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