Monday, June 27, 2011

Getting ready to leave Kalani....

I was ready to leave Kalani at the end of my three months.  The dysfunction was impacting me and I wasn't able to not let it affect me.  For me, the dysfunction included the lack of follow through on the management of the place, the gossiping, the judgments, and the complaining.  This scenario seems to be inevitable in a group environment, whether at my regular work or in the remote jungle community that I was in.  I know I participated in it - I often found myself bonding through complaining.  But, I didn't want to do this -  I was trying to change my own patterns.  And, because I didn't want to get too involved, it was easier to move on.   Maybe, it was just that I was becoming restless after being in a place for so long - 3 months seemed to be a good amount of time to experience and become a part of the community, and for it to feel new.  It was starting to feel comfortable and old and this was a journey of exploring and having adventures, not settling down in any one place so soon.  I was anxious to take the plunge again.

I had no idea where to go.  Fear was starting to creep in.  Randy was also going to be leaving as well as Liz, Riana, and Jan.  We all had arrived basically at the same time and our time was up.   By management, I was asked to stay.  And, if I could have managed a car, I may have considered it.  But being without a car or public transportation made life there in the jungle a bit too difficult and restrictive.  And, the people whom I had grown close to were moving on and it felt right to be leaving together.  It was great support for making the transition into the unknown.  It lessened my fear.

The exhilarating part was that with each conversation that each of us had with others we sought out options....possible adventures....trying to figure out where I wanted to go next ~ which place did I most resonated with.  At times, it was overwhelming.  A huge world, too many choices which is not always great for someone who is decision-making challenged.  I need to hear, see, explore, research, and feel the options in order to know if it is right for me.  Sometimes, a long process which I have been working on - to reduce this processing time and to know more quickly ~ which basically means a deeper connection with my inner being, and, development of my intuition and trust that I am being guided to where it will be best for me.  I wanted and still want to truly live with that spontaneity...I am getting there.  

Conversations about Vipassana seemed to be popping up everywhere, (a sign?).   I was intrigued, yet fearful.  (Vipassana is a Buddhist meditation technique developed by S.N. Goenka, and the initial step is a 10 day silent retreat where you meditate for 11 hours a day with the goal of minimal physical movement.)  Randy and I explored the Vipassana process and had some of the same issues, i.e., back issues and concerns about sitting for so long without moving, and, neither of us wanted to share a room.  I wondered if I could actually do a 10 day silent retreat?  For me, it was scary, exciting and new.  I was learning, where there is fear, jump, make the leap and do it.  Randy was an experienced nomadic traveler and this was not challenging for him to decide and move on to the next adventure.  He was and still inspires me on living this nomadic lifestyle.  I often turn to him for support if I am around a non-supportive environment for too long.

One afternoon near the end of our stay, Randy and I spent time on Kalani's community computer doing our research of where to do it.  Lots of choices for locations since they happen all over the place.  We found one outside of Vancouver, BC that had private rooms.  Our time at Kalani was ending in just a few days so the pressure was on to make a decision....was this for us?  Almost without thinking, we signed up....we jumped.  We turned to each other and one of said, "Well, we have a 'home' for at least 10 days!"   I walked away with laughter and lightness in my heart and body...I was moving on...yippee!  Life was good....

As I walked back to my present home, my A-frame, I realized, I am jumping from the tropics to cold snowy weather without appropriate clothes since it was the end of's an opportunity to trust that whatever I needed would come to me, easily and hopefully within my budget....would it?

The last days of Kalani were bittersweet....

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Lessons from Kalani

Being at Kalani Oceanside Retreat taught me many life lessons.  I had started to become a minimalist during my journey.  At the start of my travels, I had purged many of my belongings and was traveling with my luggage.  After arriving on the Big Island, I had already purged some stuff to lighten my load.  While at Kalani, I realized that anything that I truly needed or wanted would come to me, effortlessly and easily.  I didn't need to hold on to anything in fear of needing it at a later date.  I was able to give things away that I wasn't using, even though I may possibly need it later.  I knew the object would be returned to me, in some fashion, when or if the time of need arrived.

There was a donation box for the volunteers.  The stuff came from other travelers, either a volunteer who no longer desired it or a guest who had left stuff in the room after departure.  There were countless times when someone thought to themselves or announced that they needed something and it would magically appear in the box for them to find.  It was an incredible reminder that the Universe does provide.  There are many books that are written on this subject, (such as, Ask, and it is Given, by Abraham).  Instant manifestation is possible when we let go of the disbelief and truly trust that we are being taken care of.

I learned to follow my own rhythm at Kalani, and to let go of concerns of what others did or their expectations of me.  I could let myself dictate what I wanted to do.  I was able to relax and value myself.    I learned that I was interesting to others and their actions showed that I did have value just because I was me.  This was not always the case in my other life.   I was reminded that being authentic was the key.

I remember a conversation that I had with my housekeeping manager.  As the conversation unfolded to some of the unique things that I had done, she said, "Wow, there is much to know about you and your interests and experiences...I never would have expected that from you (who appears quiet and shy and mundane).".  I liked having the package be unwrapped, savored, a moment at a time and to not show it all  immediately.  I enjoyed the process of getting to know others and for them to get to know me.  It was exciting to share what I had done, and to find others who had similar interests.  Connections were made with the most unlikely people.  It was rewarding.

At this point in my life, I had learned to recognize unhealthy people, those who would be toxic to me - or I should say, 'incompatible with me'.  I met several at Kalani, those that would drain my spirit, and take advantage of my kindness.  Aware of my co-dependent tendencies, I found my voice often, and spoke with kindness.  I was able to leave a situation because of the incompatibility and be okay with it.  I learned that people would accept my boundaries and respect them, which hadn't always been my experience, especially at my previous job or with family.  I could be honest from the beginning and take care of myself, while being kind, compassionate and considerate.  What a relief.  I felt the heaviness leaving my body.

Food, was an issue for me.  This seems silly now, but back then I was concerned about the food.  I am particular when it comes to food (a.k.a., a picky eater) and am not a vegetarian or vegan.  At this time, Kalani was on the edge, trying to provide mostly vegetarian and vegan meals, with some occasional chicken, fish and dairy.  (Food was included in the volunteer work exchange program, and there weren't other options in the area if you didn't like the food.)  I was able to let go of these food concerns.  I got support.  There was Max, in the kitchen, who cooked the eggs just like I wanted them.  There was Crandall, who would sneak back to the kitchen to cook the fish since it was only pan-seared and I couldn't eat it raw.  And, Todd, who like to cook meat - chicken and ribs, which weren't usually a part of the menu.  In the end, I found that my concerns about having to eat vegetarian and vegan were not necessary.  I got what I needed.  Now, when I travel, I can trust that even if I am going to a vegetarian or vegan environment, I can get what I need, and I have learned to eat just for nourishment when necessary.

I got sick at one point while being at Kalani.  I stayed in my A-frame for the day, and by the evening meal, there were people who noticed that I had missed meals.   People checked up on me, brought me meals and offered to get me whatever I needed for the next few days.  A few weeks ago these people were strangers, now they noticed when I wasn't there which meant that they saw me.  And, they were now concerned friends who were offering to take care of me.  I have often felt invisible in my life so this certainly impacted me.  I experienced that people often saw me only when they needed me and when I could do something for them.  This was not the case here.  Genuine kindness and reciprocity - I began to do the same, especially to the newer volunteers.

I had this dream of swimming with dolphins since...forever.  At the local black sands beach, KehenaKalani volunteers became my supporters for this endeavor.  Often, someone would come running back from the beach (2 miles away), to inform me that the dolphins were in.  To have people, even those whom I didn't know very well, come back to tell me this was incredible to me.  In the busyness of daily life in the traditional paradigm we are sometimes so busy and lost in ourselves that we don't have time for this thoughtfulness.
See full size image

Unfortunately, swimming with the dolphins didn't happen during my stay at Kalani.  I had missed many opportunities - sprinting down to the beach to find that they had left.   I had already had plans to swim with the dolphins for the weekend after 9/11, when all air traffic had stopped.  My loss was quite minor compared to the impact of that day, but I was nevertheless disappointed that the trip to the Florida Keys to swim with dolphins was cancelled.   And now, at Kalani, I learned to practice patience, knowing that I would swim with them in the perfect time and place.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Friends of Kalani

I am not sure even how I met all of the people who I met at Kalani, but what's important is that I met them.  Without these connections and their friendships, I would not have managed living in community with the joy and laughter that I experienced.  

(I have changed some of the names, not sure of people's response to being a part of a blog.)

At work, in housekeeping, I met Liz, much younger than I, who had an openness and sense of humor that I loved.  She approached me with an unexpected greeting, with such a way of connecting, that made it easy to become friends with her.  She had a dry sense of humor, one that I resonated with.  While others didn't get her jokes, I was right there, laughing and responding in the same dry manner.     We often laughed our way through cleaning the rooms, which made the mindless work so much fun.  Liz also had a similar work ethic as I did; yet we were both learning that there was no need to overwork as we did in our careers.  Liz was responsible for bringing Bob Marley to the housekeeping area where we sang and danced to his music as we folded the towels and sheets.  

I met Riana, Liz's partner spontaneously one day on the lanai.  Riana, too, was loving, kind and just fun to be around.  She worked in the kitchen and when we got the same days off we traveled to town (Hilo), on the van runs that Kalani offered for those of us who didn't have a car.  This was our time to reconnect with society - with stores and such, that weren't offered in the remote area of Kalani.  And, we splurged and rented a car to get to the other side of the island, Kailua-Kona, in order to be near the white sandy beaches.  We had a great time sharing our own personal journeys and how we were going to get to the next we wanted to grow.  

Hapuna Beach, Kona side of the Big Island

Hilo, downtown
Hilo Bay

Jan, who I also met in housekeeping, had a like-minded spiritual focus that I was looking for.  We were of different ages, and in different places in life, but we connected.  We both liked the early morning shift.  We walked the grounds, cleaning as a form of meditation, respecting each other's need for peace in the early mornings.  We found a rhythm that matched our internal one.  

Randy was my neighbor, a loving soul, who was more than generous and always attempted to come to any situation with compassion and empathy.  He was an experienced nomadic traveler.  His travels often brought him to areas where there was a need for assistance (volunteers).  If I am remembering correctly, he most recently had come from Thailand after helping out with the tsunami that had occurred several months back.  He was an inspiration and my desire to travel and volunteer started to germinate when I heard his adventures.  His life seemed so exciting, even though I am sure that there were trials and tribulations along the way.  Randy had the courage that I wished that I possessed, to live life to it's fullest.  I was making progress though...with these beginnings of traveling here to the Big Island of Hawai'i having 'outside of the box' experiences.

I think I met Mary, who arrived much later than all of us, while hanging out in A-frame land.  Although she lived just outside the ghetto, around the corner, she had rats.  Interestingly enough, the ghetto didn't have the rats.  How ironic.  Mary, was another loving soul who was a comfort.  She was easy to confide in, and I appreciated her, her gifts and her free spirit.  I was able to share some private thoughts and experiences that I hadn't shared with anyone that I could remember.  There was an ease that came while we were in each other's company that I don't often feel with many.  

I felt loved and accepted by all of these women, and by Randy, and, hopefully I returned this same feeling to them.

And, even though these are the people whom I became the closest to, there was a feeling of community and connection with so many others.  We had running jokes.  We laughed at our mistakes.  We danced together.  We swam, at the pool and at the black sands beach.  We watched the full moon rise over the water at the Point.  We ate together, with respect to those whose rhythm of the day meant eating separately on the Lanai.   We had a dream group, exploring the realms of the dream world together.  We were sharing all aspects of life together.  And, we felt a trust with each other after such a short period of time.
Kehena, a black sands beach near Kalani
The pool
The Point, across from Kalani

Ecstatic dance, Blue Room at Kalani
Now, don't get me wrong, there was lots of dysfunctional stuff happening - judgments, criticisms, complaining, etc.  And, often it was a surprise to me when it happened, thinking that I was at a spiritual retreat place where people would rise above all of that, including myself.  I was often reminded of our humanness and that we are all at different stages of our processes.  I often fell into the same mode of complaining that I had when I worked as a teacher.  This was something that I wanted to let go of, knowing that it was creating what I didn't want in my life with such focus on the negative.  

Yet, despite the dysfunction, when you live in community like this you get closer to people in a shorter amount of time and develop friendships on a different level than in the traditional paradigm.  I was able to let down my guard and be who I was even if it meant I had a different opinion.  I walked away from disagreements and the dysfunction with ease and integrity, knowing it would be smoothed over because basically it had to, we all lived together.  There is a gift that comes with living in community, and, my friendships and memories are indicative of that gift.   

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Back to the Big Island – Kalani Oceanside Retreat

Transitions have always been a cause of anxiety for me.  The unknown and all that it may bring is what scares me.  Yet, this excites me as well – and being open to the possibilities was where I wanted to be emotionally.  But the unknown and its unpredictability can still be a challenge despite the mixed response.  I had already explored the unknown through remote viewing and it was exhilarating…but, here, in everyday life, the unknown caused me great concern.  Meeting new people was (and still is) not an easy task for me.  It brings me out of my comfort zone and to many underlying emotions, to all those feelings and insecurities that made me have co-dependent tendencies.

So, here I was, walking into a life style that was quite foreign to me.  I was going to be living in a community known as Kalani, which is an oceanside retreat.

As a volunteer, I now had to eat with others, work with new people, and live in a small A-frame in A-frame land, (A-frames are made of 2 sided corrugated metal with the other 2 sides being screens and a door…the living quarters for volunteers – simple living.).

My first ‘comforting sign’ was that my A-frame was number 27, a number I resonated with – most likely due to my favorite childhood Red Sox player, Carlton Fisk whose number was 27.  But, for some reason, that small sign gave me ease.  However, the ride from the airport by a stranger from Kalani did not ease my transition.  He was just as shy and uncomfortable as I was, or seemingly so.  Later, at dinner when I sat alone, he came over to extend an invitation to join him at his table.  And, although I would have preferred to stay put, I joined him.  There, at his table, was Crandall, a native Hawaiian, who worked at Kalani.  He was so kind-hearted and thoughtful, and not just to me, to everyone.  During my stay, he often provided food that I preferred and great stories of his life on the Big Island.  He opened the door and welcomed me despite my fears and differences.  And, we laughed.

Luckily, Kalani gives you a few days off when you arrive to get settled and to adjust.  Living there at the time was a bit primitive, even though they had added electricity to all of the areas on a regular basis by this time.  However, it is in the jungle, on the remote side of the Big Island, with few amenities.  It was going to be an experience, for sure.

I opted to live in an A-frame versus the dorms.  I couldn’t handle sharing a space with anyone after living alone for so long.  Yes, I have ‘space issues’ from growing up in too small of a house, from lack of personal space and boundaries by my mother who didn’t recognize a need for it, and for whatever other possible reason.  I embrace this issue now and recognize it for what it is and that it is a part of who I am, on many levels.  Anyway...

Each A-frame had a mattress, a fan, a light and a place for your clothes.  Walking was the mode of transportation, to the bathroom, to the lanai for meals, to wherever.  And, even though electricity had been added, lighting was limited and one learned to walk by the stars and moon, and be guided by the natural environment.  (Ahhh…the night sky in Hawai’i is amazing!) 

My A-frame section was called, The Ghetto, since it was easily overgrown by the jungle plants.  I knew when to turn into the ghetto when I recognized a certain bush, which then would lead me to the path that lead me to #27.  It was fun, albeit an adjustment.   I had to laugh though, thinking that I had come to Hawai’i, to paradise, and I was living in The Ghetto.  Too funny!

Mindless work, a great relief.  I worked in housekeeping for the ‘volunteer’ part of the work exchange program.  Kalani is not typical in it’s housing set up for guests.  Each unit, called a Hale, was located over the property along with small guesthouses as well, including one called the Treehouse.  In order to lug the linens and cleaning supplies we used vans.  Big Blue, an old decrepit van, that required a funky way to get it started, and when you pressed the brakes it did not register that it was suppose to stop until several seconds or so later.  This, being mainly a walking community proved to be a challenge as the driver of the van.  Vans didn’t have the right of way but it didn’t know it needed to stop either for the pedestrians that were in the road.  Lots of screaming and flapping arms to get people to move.  Lots of laughter from relief and from the ridiculous-ness of the situation.  Big Blue…I wonder if it still lives?

The mindless work was great though.  Knocking on doors and saying, “Aloha, Housekeeping!”, enter, clean, talk, laugh, and we were done.  And folding sheets and towels to Bob Marley – great energy!  I, of course was struggling to let go of my Northeast work ethic, but was slowly letting it go to a certain extent.  I did, however, get to become a paid volunteer due to this work ethic, so there was a positive benefit.  I no longer had to pay to volunteer…I got paid instead.  Money comes in unexpected places.   Yet, I think the higher goal was to relax and to let go of how hard I had to work.  A new perspective was needed…doing less was fine and it was enough.  The work didn't define me. 

The bugs and critters were the next area of adjustment.  No spiders crept in to give me messages although I saw them often enough, just not hovering over me while I tried to sleep.  Red ants infested the A-frames, and some had rats, although I was one of the luck ones, the rats did not live in my A-frame.  I did have a family of mongoose that lived underneath me with the cutest little mongoose pups.  I enjoyed seeing them crawl in and out of underneath my home.  The geckos were also a joy to watch as they climbed the walls and ceiling, and occasionally dropping into my lap while I was lounging on the bed.

I met Randy, who has become a great supportive and loving friend over the years.  He was my neighbor in the ghetto.  When he saw the inside of my A-frame, he announced that I was living in the elite A-frame quarters since I had a separate fan for my clothes to prevent mold growing, a fan for me, a bed frame with draws underneath it, a waterproof curtain to prevent the rains from entering, a nightstand, lamp, candles, art work, etc…I had made it home – I personalized it.  Of course, working in housekeeping gave me access to the ‘extras’ that made my A-frame luxurious.  How great was that!  Mindless work, income, and extras!  I have learned that I can live without so much.  I've have learned what is necessary and what isn’t and that I can make any place feel like home, no matter the quality or the amount of stuff.  I can be at home.

What I had read about what Kalani had to offer and what its intention was, I had expected something different from what I experienced.  I expected my time to be spiritually focused, being around like-minded persons who wanted to grow and get disciplined with spiritual practices.  What I got was a younger crowd than I, who were still focused on partying and living without responsibility, accountability, etc.  In retrospect, I think this may have been a lesson for me to release those expectations of myself, and to lighten up, but I was beyond the partying stages.  I didn’t want to drink to get drunk.  I didn’t want to be up late at night and do what I did back in my 20’s.  I was in a different space.  I was older and I was looking for support from a community in an emotional and spiritual sense.  I learned that I had to let go of those expectations and enjoy what did come to me, which was a community, albeit with different focuses, and friendships.  Some of these people became life-long friends whom I remain connected with today and others who I feel as though I could contact now and still be welcomed as their friend.  Kalani gave us a deep-shared experience and a connection.

From sharing with others who have gone to Kalani, I know that each person has a different experience there, and it all depends on who is volunteering when you are there and who the paid staff is who are managing the place.  But, as my housekeeping manager (Jamie) often said, "It is all good.”.

Next up….my friends from Kalani.   I am so grateful for them.

 The Lanai

  A Hale