Kalani Honua Blog - Volunteer Reflections

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.


Monday, July 2, 2007

Beverly Mendoza

Beverly Mendoza
There are certain books that get passed around here at Kalani like a hot potato. When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron is one book you’ll often find someone totally immersed in on a hammock, or on the lanai, or even in the laundry room. I was reading it once by the pool when two people in passing both whipped a copy out of their bags and proclaimed, “I’m reading that too!”

We’ve even joked that the Kalani Volunteer Program should hand out a copy of Chodron’s book to first time volunteers along with their letters of acceptance. It would be a kind gesture equivalent to saying, rest child rest… without knowing the details we know what you’ve been through.

I’ve been wondering why Chodron’s book is so popular here. I’m beginning to think as I get to hear more and more of the people’s life stories here that perhaps the common denominator of our stories and fates and destinies (and we’re a mighty eclectic bunch, I have to tell you) is that sometime before we’ve committed ourselves into coming to Kalani, our lives have broken or at least come to a halt and we arrive a bit damaged. Nothing that a yoga retreat can’t patch up, we think in our moments of hope during these breaking points. And so we untangle ourselves from our worlds, we pack our bags and we get on a plane and we take this humungous leap of faith across the Pacific Ocean to the Big Island.

Oh, the Big Island! The land of the Goddess Pele! Whatever research you’ve done on this legendary woman, you ain’t seen nothing yet until you experience her magic. I see her as the supreme real estate agent. I believe Pele calls people to the Big Island to experience whatever life-altering lesson(s) she wishes to teach you. She calls the ones who belong here and she sends the ones who don’t back.

So we arrive. We’re just bug eyed, jet lagged, little balls of excited and nervous energy and we are so ready for change, we are so ready to feel and look fabulous, we are so ready to retreat and get it together.

If anything, the “red road” heading to Kalani should be a warning of what awaits you on your journey. It is the most stomach dropping, spine tingling ride I’ve ever been on with manic up and downs. It beats the notorious San Francisco hills, no doubt. They are these short, never-ending hills and no matter what speed in which your volunteer driver takes them (although fast and reckless is always a good time) you’ll feel your stomach tickle your throat a few times. As you drive you are surrounded by lava and cliffs that look like slabs of dark chocolate. The ocean is so voluptuous and she sprays the whitest mist you can ever imagine. The sound of the waves crashing takes all your anxiety away, as if absorbing all that noise in your mind. The clouds are fluffier here too, you’ll see. And the aroma of saltwater air intermixed with the scent of flowers and fruits is what heaven must smell like. And just when you think your senses cannot take on any more you notice a canopy of lush green trees as you drive through the jungle. Specs of sunlight shine through as you go deeper and deeper towards Kalani. You look around for Tarzan and Jane, for somebody’s gotta be swinging on these vines around here. Trees with lush red flowers miraculously grow from the lava rock. Nothing makes sense here! This can’t be! You are Alice in an exotic Wonderland. Where are we? You can’t help but become a child again in such wonderment. And perhaps you’ll feel the mana (the spirit and power) from the land spiral up your spine. I did the moment I stepped off the plane. It’s the awakening of your chakras, it’s the feeling of being tapped into a very energetic land.

So you are surrounded by beauty and you’ve got some serious stuff to work on within yourself and your fate is about to intertwine with the fates and destinies and lives of some very incredible people. Are you ready?

Here’s a lesson I learned in my third week here as a volunteer. To leave your expectations and agenda at the gate (which by the way is very “Jurassic Park” – you’ll see). Whatever it is that you feel like you need to work on, whatever it is that you expect to get out of Kalani --- drop it. Enter with an open heart and mind and soul. It’s as if you’re coat checking your agenda to a higher power that has plans for you that you cannot ever fathom. If I had known that earlier, the adjustment period wouldn’t have been so agonizing for me. To be as present as you can be and to truly appreciate this experience necessitates dropping your agenda and your ego. I know, I know, it’s way easier said than done. Especially for a neurotic city dweller still dealing with the shock of being unplugged from that urban fast paced socket that necessitates control for survival. Depending on where you’re coming from, there may be many layers you need to shed here. But remember that Kalani is your blank canvas though. It is very much the real world here as it is “out there” but here you can start fresh from the get go. Your slate is clean– just like that. Be mindful of the baggage you packed with you. You don’t have to keep those here. None of us know you, or expect that from you so you can easily drop it and try something new. Changing who we are is much harder amongst people we’ve known forever. It is instant freedom to be here in that respect.

A good friend here who was on her fourth month once said to me when I thought I wanted to pack up and get out, “I came here with all of these plans of what I wanted to accomplish and I did none of that, but instead I learned all of these other lessons that I could have never imagined I would learn or even needed to learn. And in hindsight they were even better lessons.”

By the way, my name is Beverly. I’m a three-month volunteer here at Kalani and I serve in the kitchen. It’s my first time at Kalani and I’ve been here for about five weeks now. I’ve been asked to blog about my experiences here to paint a picture of the volunteer experience. And I’m assuming the readers of this blog are people that may be considering coming to Kalani (at least that’s who I had in mind while writing this first entry). I will be doing some Q&As with other volunteers who have some pretty amazing stories and perspectives to share in future entries too. And my personal experiences will most likely get much more personal. I wanted this first entry though to be a reflection on what connects us all here, to show the broadest spectrum of the Kalani volunteer experience so that you may begin to imagine your experience here, if you choose to leap of your cliff to join us.

So I hope you come back again every Monday for a new post or perhaps you’re filling out the application now and we’ll be meeting soon.