Kalani Honua Blog

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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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Richard Koob

whale sharkOn my usual morning swim today, completely without any dramatic music, just a few feet below me passed a creature, much bigger than me and at least 10 feet long.

I had the sense of it being a friendly, or at least indifferent whale, but then recognized its shark-like features. It's blunt snout and beautiful light polka dots helped me surmise it was at least not a tiger or great white. So I relaxed a bit and watched it, but, being still somewhat uncertain, decided not to follow it, and continued on with my usual swim and a little extra apprehension.

Later, I searched the web and found the perfect-match image. Also I learned that whale sharks are gentle, but should not be touched or chased. More reassuring is the news that they eat plankton, not people. They're not likely to hang around long, and are rare to see on a regular basis in any single place in the world. As waters warm up they cruise the seas for cooler fare, and what could be "cooler" than Hawaii's naturist beach, right near Kalani. Hence, don't be duped by any tour operator who promises you a sighting!

diver with whale shark
As if there hadn't been enough excitement for one day, in the afternoon I took a couple of nature-loving Canadians to the nearby tidal pool sanctuary. There I saw the rare yellow-nosed chub with his rather plain chums. And I pointed our to Brian and Sharon how the yellow tail coris (see pics below) does a complete transformation from it's baby colors, Nimo-like orange and white, to it's glorious rainbow blue sequined yellow-tailed adult triumph. These fish start life as cleaners, removing parasites and dead tissue from larger fish, then, happy with the taste, start eating smaller fish as they get bigger.

Juvenile yellow tailed corvis Anilao yellow Coris


Fortunately whale sharks study at a different culinary school!

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Arthur Frommer

kalani jungle poolBudget Travel by Arthur Frommer : You can still enjoy the Hawaii 'that once was'

Budget Travel by Arthur Frommer
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 09.09.2007

If you really mean it when you complain that Hawaii has "lost its character," if you're genuinely troubled by the crowds at Waikiki or Lahaina, if you're determined to experience the Hawaii "that once was" — then you'll consider booking a stay at the 120-acre Kalani Oceanside Resort Center on the Big Island of Hawaii.

It's a dreamy, laid-back, unpretentious place designed for the same people who patronize yoga centers and meditation camps on the mainland. Some 30 years old, it still follows the gentle precepts of its founder (he's still around): a mainly vegetarian cuisine (but with lots of fresh fish), yoga and tai chi everywhere, supportive and non aggressive fellow guests who follow their bliss, plain but adequate accommodations — and none of the conspicuous consumption or boisterous showoffs of the standard resort. Rooms are without TVs, and most are with open, screened walls.

A typical dinner starts with coconut squash soup, then features seared ahi with pineapple salsa, baked tempeh, quinoa with sunflower seeds, broccoli stir-fry and cucumber salad, and ends with lemon ginger cake.

Rates are refreshing by Hawaiian standards. Starting at the bottom: If you bring your own tent, you'll be given a campsite, three meals daily, two full-body massages, daily yoga classes and the right to engage in all resort activities (hula, ecstatic dance, meditation, weaving, pool, hot tub and sauna) for a total of $780 per person per week, whether single or double. If you're one of two persons traveling together, you'll receive all of the above for $930 per person per week in a room with shared bath, $1,020 with private bath.

A final touch: Volunteers willing to work 30 hours a week for a month pay $1,000 for an all-inclusive one-month stay at Kalani, attending all classes and activities, receiving accommodations and all meals. Call 1-800-800-6886 or log on to www.kalani.com.

But how can you get there cheaply?

Call ATA Airlines.

After Southwest Airlines bought a large portion of the struggling Indianapolis-based carrier ATA, the two airlines — now partners — dropped some routes and added others to complement each other and provide better connections for travelers. Hawaii is one of the major areas where new ATA flights have been added. And the result is that the least likely airline in America now offers the cheapest fares to Hawaii.
Bookings must be made through ATA (not Southwest); go to www.ata.com or call 1-800-435-9282.

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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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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Kalani `Ohana

It seems like a miracle to get almost everyone in one place at one time, but here they are: the July 2007 group of Kalani volunteers and staff.

July 2007 Volunteers

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Kalani `Ohana

Although Richard Koob, the Director of Kalani, has always recommended that every person find his/her inner leader, by a balance of mana'o, pu'uwai, and na'au, i.e. rational thinking, heartfelt emotions, and intestinal intuition, he was just declared "guru" by The Advocate, the award-winning national LGBT newsmagazine and world web site.

Their "cool jobs" article this month introduces Richard and 9 other "gays and lesbians working outside the paradigm."

The article:
Richard Koob
Richard Koob
Hawaiian retreat guru
Kalapana, Hawaii

Imagine if your typical workday looked like this: Practice Kundalini yoga at sunrise on the Hawaiian coast, socialize with travelers from around the globe, trek to the beach, sit in on a few staff meetings, play volleyball, and recover in the hot tub. And if it's Tuesday, teach hula.

That's the life of Richard Koob, 60, the director of Kalani Oceanside Retreat, a 120-acre getaway along one of the most unspoiled coastlines on the Big Island. Koob opened his nonprofit retreat in 1982 with his partner (Earnest Morgan, who died in 1992 of AIDS complications) as a place dedicated to nature, culture, and well-being. "It's important to enjoy life and focus on doing what we really love," says Koob.

Many of Kalani's activities, including dance and workshops such as a yoga retreat for gay men, reflect Koob's personal passions. "We've been on the vanguard of helping gay men realize how important it is to develop one's soulful and sensual side," he says.

An eclectic clientele is drawn to its rejuvenating massages, hula classes, historical sites, and breathtaking lava-walled cliffs. Accommodations range from $30 campsites to $260-a-night tree houses. Koob and Morgan always intended Kalani to attract people from a variety of backgrounds-both financial and cultural. Says Koob: "I think that appreciation of diversity comes from the gay experience."

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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.

Aloha,
Beverly

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Arlene Lindstedt

MoonThe beauty of Kalani stems from its tolerance and kindness towards others, diversity of thought, boldness in dedication to protecting both the environment and Hawaiian culture, its creative vision of the future, and gentleness --- wrapped with humor and an enthusiasm for life.

The accommodations are comfortable, but rustic by common standards...Cell phone reception is almost impossible; there are no TV's in the rooms; most rooms have open-screened walls or half-walls that allow for the pristine beauty, fragrances, and birdsong to cuddle you as you drift to sleep --- or wake to another glorious day...

The food borders on exceptional --- fresh breads, fruits, vegetables, and entrees that utilize the best combination of seasonings, meats, or vegetarian ingredients...

This is not 5-star resort, where you're pampered with facades and ostentatious service. It's natural. It's people helping people. The energy is positive ---- and you can just be you...

I think many people "find" themselves at Kalani. It's a good spot for self-awareness and an opportunity for you to mentally articulate who and what you are, what's important... and recognize the inevitability of change as a dynamic, unique, and needed catalyst in our lives..........

               - Arlene Lindstedt

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