Don’t Let Life Make You Bitter

Now more than ever we have platforms to put ourselves out there.  There are ongoing debates about how much information is too much information to share.  And even more debates on the idea that if you put yourself out there in some way, especially on social media, that you should probably just go right ahead and strap on your armor for the barrage of insults and differing opinions about to be thrown your way.

My issue is not people sharing themselves, their opinions, their joys, or their sorrows. I think that’s a big reason why we like to stay in touch via social media – to see how other people are doing.  Of course, there comes a time when comparing ourselves to what everyone else’s lives that appear perfect online might become detrimental to our mental health (see this article). But, if you can create a healthy attitude toward social media, why not use it to share positivity and connect with others?

I don’t necessarily agree with people who post their drama online – I guess that is where I draw the line. It’s become all too easy to share unsolicited opinions, critique every sentence, and twist people’s words about what they post. And to say awful things to and about someone you would not otherwise say it. It’s far too easy to react.

What we have forgotten, or maybe some have never even realized, is that how we FEEL and THINK about someone else’s actions, opinions, words, etc… goes through our own frame of reference.  We interpret the world through our own lens.  It is our responsibility to be aware of this, and be able to respond accordingly.

So, when someone posts something you consider offensive, it’s okay to scroll right past it. We cannot expect everyone to consider our entire life history (which the other person may not even know) when posting or saying things – this is an unrealistic idea of people being THAT sensitive to your feelings.

It is not everyone’s responsibility to censor their beliefs and opinions – to get small – to make someone else comfortable.

Of course, this does not condone being a completely rude, obnoxious, and uncaring individual.  It’s important to be kind, compassionate, and understanding towards others and their life experiences, but it is not YOUR job to make other people feel okay.  It’s their job.

If someone else’s viewpoint upsets you – the first thing you need to look at WHY it makes you upset.  Taking personal responsibility for your reactions, feelings, and thoughts is one of the first steps to healing.  

I struggled immensely with this perspective initially.  I always saw what other people did as a direct attack on me, and if I felt attacked, I was a fighter, not a flighter.  But with this attitude, I was continually angry, I did not approve of my reactions and behaviors towards others, including my words.  I did not like myself as a person.  I felt mean but also conflicted because I felt like I was the continual victim of life’s joke and other people’s hatred.  This was an awful place to reside.  I was angry and projected it onto everyone else.

Once I realized that I cannot control other people’s behavior, I looked at my own.  WHY were certain people and things and beliefs pissing me off to no end? WHY was I reacting so defensively and out of control? WHY did I attach myself so fiercely to my beliefs? Had there been times where I thought if I had these beliefs it would protect me from being hurt? Were the beliefs I was attached to helping me NOW or were they limiting me?

I realized that my power to a peaceful life resided in my ability to be AWARE of my feelings and thoughts and reactions, and see where I was unfairly projecting this onto others if I saw something I disagreed with.  Or if I interpreted someone’s actions or words to be hurtful. And in the end, most of the time people were just going about their lives, trying to make it through, and weren’t trying to actually hurt me.

Facebook was a tough monster for me to deal with at times – and a few times I logged off for months at a time to take a break. When I returned this last time I had done an immense amount of personal growth and spiritual work and had come to a more confident place.  With my confidence growing in myself, the person I am, my ability to react in the ways I want, and show compassion towards myself and others, I found Facebook to be a supportive platform where I can share and I can learn.  We have this wonderful resource to support others all over the world – why not use it for good?

I used to think the issue was people shared too much of themselves, and this is why drama and negativity spread on the internet so easily.  But really, the more I step back and observe, it seems to me the issue is the lack of insight and restraint people have when it comes to not responding to things they don’t agree with. It’s somehow become acceptable to freely give opinions not asked for and to critique every little thing.  It’s become “okay” to berate, name call, attack, and abuse other people via a keyboard.

The fact is, most people want to share themselves and be accepted and loved for who they truly are. Why do you think so many people compulsively post, scroll, and comment? We’re all just looking to be accepted and loved in life but many times we put ourselves out there in some way and feel rejected.  How could we not with everything I said above? People can seem harsh and life can seem lonely.

When you put yourself out there – expect that people will disagree and not all will handle it in a respectful way.  Be ready to separate yourself if needed – protecting your energy and respecting your progress is OKAY.  When you put yourself out there on social media, personally to a friend, in a book, in a blog, in a song, in any creative form, expect to feel alone in your journey sometimes.

But focus on those that support you.  There will be people out there that appreciate your perspective. Focus on those that help you stay positive and moving forward.  Focus on those that see you for who you really are and not through a distorted lens they refuse to change. 

Don’t let your negative and hurtful experiences in your life darken your lens so much that you react without kindness and compassion for others. Don’t become hard, bitter, and push people away.  Others can only love and support if you let them. When you feel picked apart, judged, and awful things happen to you – know that you still have love and support out there somewhere.

In my past, I have been angry, felt slighted by life, felt like a victim, interpreted everyone’s actions as offensive and insensitive, and I had no self-confidence. I was looking for someone to say the right words, to save me in some way, and to get rid of the hate I had in my heart for me, and in turn, I was taking no responsibility for myself.  As I now put myself out there and tell my story and share my perspective as transparently as possible, I feel incredibly vulnerable. But I am confident in myself, my life experiences, and the person I am today to know that this is my path – to share, to learn, and to not let others or life make me negative.

In the end, it came down to me realizing my happiness and future meant more to me than what has happened in the past. I searched for ways to stay soft, kind, and positive. It’s an everyday process, but so worth the effort.

BE SOFT. DO NOT LET THE WORLD MAKE YOU HARD. DO NOT LET PAIN MAKE YOU HATE. DO NOT LET THE BITTERNESS STEAL YOUR SWEETNESS.

– KURT VONNEGUT JR.

 

 

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Maui ~ Friday, Day Five: “Are You from Here?”

Slappy Cakes.  While on vacation, I frequented this pancake specialty breakfast restaurant 3 or 4 times.  My plan was to only go there once, but the coconut and chocolate chip pancakes with coconut syrup with a fresh fruit cup and mimosa were just too much to pass up.

By the second time I came in and sat at the bar, the staff knew who I was and greeted me with a smile. They told me about their lives in Maui, which mostly consisted of working in the morning and surfing in the afternoon.  I told them about my solo adventure, how much I loved my Airbnb I was staying at, the writer’s conference I was attending, and my big hopes of writing a book some day. I didn’t tell them I had come to the conclusion I had some type of past life connection to Hawaii and the Pacific Islander culture.  But, many times during my time in Maui I had people who lived there full time asking me if I was from there, which only strengthened my comfortability there.

After saying bye to the Slappy Cakes crew, I ventured to the local Barnes and Noble. While on vacation a dear friend of mine added me to a Facebook book club.  I had tried to stay out of the bookstore (I have a slight obsession) but this was the perfect excuse to go to one of my favorite places.  I picked up the first book that was suggested in the book club, exhibiting a great deal of self-control and only buying that book.

Finally, I headed to Mid-Pacific Tattoo in Lahaina to see if I could get a special tattoo while there.  I spoke with another girl named Ashley who set me up with tattoo artist Matt – both transplants to the island from the mainland.  Matt was a tattoo artist in Boston, and we easily were comfortable talking about home.  I chose to get “yama” and “niyama” in Sanskrit on my hands as a reminder of how to treat myself and others with compassion. Kind of a yogic reminder of the progress I have made, and the will to continue on this beautiful journey.

While Matt was prepping everything, my adrenaline kicked in.  My hands started sweating, I was fidgeting and kept trying to get comfortable in the chair, and my eyes darted around at the people who came into the shop.  Matt called me over, and it was time.  I was afraid this tattoo would hurt as the ones on the inside of my fingers hurt the most out of all the ones I’ve ever had, but it actually wasn’t unbearable.  And before I knew it, it was over.

I took a walk down Front Street to the famous banyan tree park.  The sun was hot and shining bright, the air was thick (seems to be a theme while in Maui!), and the sidewalks packed with shoppers. The cars were bumper to bumper all the way down the street and when I was walking I avoided getting close to them as they were over heating.  I spoke to my boyfriend on the phone, talking fast with a continual smile – still going off the high of a new tattoo.

To fully enjoy the moment, we got off the phone.  I walked under the long-reaching branches of the banyan tree, happy to find some shade.  There were kids running around, lots of benches, and a man playing the harmonica. I realized how far the branches reached, all colliding at the center of the park into a thick trunk.  I looked up in awe at this beautiful natural creation, the blue sky just past the branches.  I sat for a while on a bench closest to the trunk and soaked in the calmness of being under the tree despite a number of people around me.

The director of the program I work at has been to Maui many times, and before I left she suggested many places to visit and restaurants to go to.  She is a beer enthusiast and suggested Maui Brewing Co.  I am not super into beer but tend to love the food at these types of restaurants.  I decided to head to Maui Brewing Co. for lunch before the first night of my writer’s conference.

I sat at the bar and enjoyed reading all the clever beer names they had come up with, deciding to order the Pineapple Mana Wheat.  I ordered some food, making small talk with a young man who had just started bussing tables there.  We shared some of our food and talked about the importance of staying positive and smiling.  I smile after he leaves to go to work because I think I have found my people – friendly, polite, positive, and can have a deeper conversation than talking about the weather.

My heart races and I feel butterflies in my stomach when I realize I have a few hours and need to head over to the Westin to start the writer’s conference.  The Fall before, I was in Philadelphia with my Grandmother at a Hay House event, just forming the idea of attending a writer’s conference.   I was quickly shot down when I realized how expensive it was, thinking I’d never make it to one.  A few months later I got an email from Hay House stating they were doing a rare

A few months later I got an email from Hay House stating they were running a rare offer to those who purchased the online version of the writer’s workshop.  Not only would they let you pay in payments over a 10 month period, they would include a FREE ticket to the actual conference, and you could pick from Florida, Las Vegas, and Maui.  I, of course, picked Maui and just decided to make it work.  Now, I was finally walking into the Westin to start the two and a half day conference to learn how to write a book and get it published.

I was intimidated – I had never been around so many people with similar interests and ideas and definitely not with the same dream in mind.  Would I be the worst writer there? Would I get along with anyone? How far behind other people would I be in writing my book and creating the oh so famous “platform?” The compulsion to compare was overwhelming.

Taking my seat, I sat next to a beautiful blonde woman who looked very well put together.  We made small talk and expressed how excited we were to finally be there! It all felt like a dream.  And even more so when Reid Tracy came on stage and I heard his slow drawl in person.  He was tall and had a stunning smile.  Next came James Van Praagh, short with intense eyes and a lot of energy.  Doreen Virtue came on stage to introduce James Van Praagh and it was like being in the presence of angel like I’ve heard it was – she literally was glowing.  Positive people and the energetic vibes in the room were inspiring.

This dissipated quickly.  After hearing about the process of book proposals and creating a pitch to help your book stand out and the importance of catchy title, and… and… and… I felt in over my head.  My eyes glazed over, my note taking slowed, and I second guessed everything I had dreamed of.

I said goodbye to the woman I was sitting next to and ventured through the lobby of the Westin.  The Westin’s entrance was directly off the beach with outdoor restaurants and outlet stores.  From the beach towards the lobby, there were pools and restaurants, art tables set up, and a beautiful, tropical waterfall.  Coy fish swam in the water and flamingos stood on one of their legs with their head tucked into their body.  The conference room was right off the lobby, and the lobby transitioned into the tropical outdoor area with no walls.  I stopped to admire the flamingos and take a deep breath before I headed back to my Airbnb.

I went to bed feeling confused, and not so sure I had what it would take to get a book published, especially in the “self-help” and “new age” genre.  I questioned why I had even ventured to Maui.  I wondered what the next day would bring.

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Maui ~ Thursday, Day Four: “Road to Hana”

I woke up restless.  I woke up wanting to exert myself.  I wanted to hike, run, and be in nature.  Explore as much of Maui as I could and get back to the less touristy part of the island.

When I planned out my general itinerary (yes, I’m that nerdy) I did not do a good job at one part: figuring out where the bamboo forest was.  The bamboo forest is on the east side of the island, and I was staying on the west side.  The west coast of Maui (Napili, Ka’anapali, Lahaina) has beautiful beaches and resorts, while the east coast of Maui is much more rural.  The main airport is in Kahului in the center of the island, and you really can’t get lost going from one side of Maui to the next.  From one end to the other would only take a few hours.

My first morning on the island I drove from the center-ish of the island towards the east coast and checked out the Haleakala Crater, which believe it or not is part of Haleakala National Park.  The park takes up a large part of the southeastern part of the island and extends all the way to the water.  I realized as I was driving north to Paia after visiting the crater that I was driving in the opposite direction of the bamboo forest. I initially thought I was okay with missing out on visiting the forest, but after a few days on the west coast of Maui I was drawn back to the east coast of the island.

I woke up early, ready to get sweaty, challenge myself, and burn some calories.  A few people told me about the road to Hana, a 64.4-mile road that connects Kahului to the town of Hana, with not much in between. The road travels along the coast with amazing views and even though it is a relatively short distance it can take over two hours to travel.  There is over 600 hairpin turns and 46 one lane bridges traveling through lush, tropical rainforest.  If I took the road to Hana, eventually it would bring me to the east side of the island and to the tip of Haleakala National Park to the Pipiwai Trail.

Deciding to take this adventure for the day I packed up my hiking pack with sunscreen, water, and energy bars. By 7:30 am I went from Napili to Paia, and took a break in town before starting the road to Hana.

Almost immediately, the road started to curve sharply to the point I had to slow down to 15 mph or less.  I came up to the first one lane bridge, so distracted by the views I almost jammed myself between another car and the shaky concrete of the bridge. Whoops! I’d have to balance taking in the breathtaking views with paying attention to this tricky, narrow road.

I could tell who were the locals driving this tedious road; they traveled fast, impatiently taking the continual turns and not moving over much for oncoming traffic.  The tourists, including myself, slowed down, took pictures, and clearly were leisurely driving towards Hana in no particular rush.  I got nervous, holding my breath at times as I squeezed past other people on the road, sitting up straight and peering over the front of the Jeep to make sure I wasn’t sideswiping anyone.  I was even more nervous when huge trucks came up behind me, fast, riding my ass until I pushed over as far as I could for them to pass.

The cars in front of me stopped abruptly. What was the hold-up? I had my windows down, craning my neck to see what was going on when a tall man in cargo shorts and a plaid shirt came into view.  He sauntered down the hill, his steps heavy as he hit the uneven pavement. I eyed him curiously.  We caught each other’s gaze, I smirked, and asked him, “whatcha doin?” He smiled, laughed, and stated the road was washed out. I then realized the huge trucks that passed me going 40mph when everyone else was going 15 were there to fix the road.

After about twenty minutes, the long line of people started moving forward.  As quickly as we were all squished together in the middle of this beautiful tropical forest, we were just as quickly spread back out, all of us on our own journey along the same road.

I reached Hana but only after what seemed like forever. It was a very small, rural town with dirt roads barely wide enough for my Jeep.  The GPS was in and out on my phone but it looked like there was only one road to the start of the Pipiwai trail, so I kept going. Eventually, I made it, paid my fee, parked my car, and found the head of the trail.

The Pipiwai trail is an eclectic one.  It starts out with a dry, flat, dirt path with open areas of grass on either side.  It quickly becomes more secluded, the path starting to get rocky and damp with thick tree roots pushing through.  The sun was blocked out by the tall trees, making this part of the trail cooler than the first section but the air was still heavy with moisture.  There started to be an incline, my leg muscles working, my breath becoming louder but steady; I was feeling that exertion of energy I was craving.

Pretty quickly I came across Makahiku Falls.  I took in the unique view, my heart beating bass-like in my chest. I was standing level with the top of the waterfall but with a vegetation covered ravine between me and it.  There was a beautiful white bird that flew from the waterfall side of the ravine to the other side, level with my gaze.  He soared, a long tail waving elegantly behind him.  I took a deep breath, feeling gratitude and awe at witnessing nature’s creations.

I hiked on, coming up to a huge banyan tree next.  The trail curved up and around a slight corner, the banyan tree presenting itself, set to the right of my view.  The branches stretched feet across to the left and to continue on the trail you had to go under them.  I walked up to the tree, excited to touch my palm to the smooth bark made rough by all the initials people had carved into it. My hand touched the tree, I closed my eyes, and took a deep breath.  A surge of energy rushed my body, shooting through my feet and into the ground. I smiled, taking it all in, staying in the present moment with this energy.

Opening my eyes slowly, I moved around the tree looking at the initials and hearts and plus signs, representing love and connection.  I chose to not put my initials in the tree and continued on the path, coming up on a few beautiful bridges.

There were two small waterfalls, one after the other that flowed into little pools of deep green water. Viewing them from the side of a bridge, I could see a few people sitting by the pools of water and for the first time in my life, I wanted to go into an unknown pool of water to cool down.  It was hot, humid, and the sun was shining brightly. I decided to keep going, anticipating the gorgeous waterfall at the end of the hike.

And before I knew it, there the bamboo forest appeared. I remembered back to sitting in my living room in New Hampshire looking up on the internet “fun things to do in Maui” and staring longingly at the pictures of the bamboo forest.  It stretched and contorted my mind to think that now I was here.

The bamboo was green, tall, round, and thin. No leaves shot out from the “trunks” of the bamboo but instead waited to burst out at the top of the stalks.  It was once again cool, damp, and relatively dark in this part of the forest.  The trail turned into a twisting and turning wooden boardwalk and continued for longer than I imagined.  It felt as if I was in a totally different place than the rest of the trail since the terrain had changed so many times in just a few miles.

The path became rocky and slippery wet, with a beautiful stream appearing on the right. The trees were no longer bamboo, and the sun shone through as the trail became wider. I looked up and saw it: the 400ft Waimoku Falls.  It was such a shockingly beautiful sight, I gasped, stopped, and looked up at the waterfall peeking through in the distance. My pace quickened, excitement and wonderment filling every part of me.

A sign warned me of flash floods and I stopped in my tracks.  Nervous to cross the stream that looked like it could flood in a matter of seconds, I took a deep breath. I remembered my boyfriend’s advice of “confident steps,” placing my right foot on the closest slick rock. I bent down, arms stretched out and legs working fast, and before I knew it I was on the other side, with the falls looming high above me.  I could see the entire waterfall now, beautiful soft white against the dark rock.

I sat on the rocks, gazing up and taking my time before heading back.  It had taken a lot of dedication to get to Maui, then to Hana, and finally to Waimoku Falls.  I knew I’d be back one day, but it wouldn’t be for a while.

Hiking back to the car I moved at a quicker pace.  My eyes focused at the terrain below my feet, sometimes running down the trail.  I made brief eye contact with others hiking up the trail, smiling and cheering them on, everyone’s breathing labored.  The trail opened up, the grass once again on either side of the path, and the sun bearing down on me again.

I hopped into the Jeep and took a breath.  I was sweating from head to toe, some of it dripping down my forehead but most of it wetting my shirt in the middle of my back. I had decided to take the southern route home instead of back tracking west on the road to Hana.  The road to Hana was so incredibly tedious, I was hoping the southern side of the island would be easier.  Boy, was I wrong!

The road was much less maintained and traveled, some of it washed out all along the cliffside.  The road was even narrower than the road to Hana, and much closer to the cliffside than I’d ever seen.  I had to go much slower on this side of the island, and it took me just as long to get back to the west coast, but it was worth the adventure.  The views on the south side of the island were completely different than on the road to Hana and were a must see even if the road was treacherous!

That night I rested deeply.  Tired.  Satisfied. Content.

Santosha in pure living form.

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My Past Lives 

This is AMAZING. I bought “Past Life Oracle Cards” designed by Doreen Virtue and Brian Weiss. I put my energy into the cards and pulled three. This is what I got and I couldn’t believe it!

Knighthood- “In relationships and careers, you’re drawn to defend those who are weak and vulnerable.”

Scribe or Writer – “If you dream of being a published author, this card urges you to pursue that path. Do research on writing and publishing, and more important, write every day – which can be in the form of journaling, letters, creative writing, or nonfiction writing such as blogging or articles. If you have a strong enough desire to be a published author and you’re willing to put forth the effort, you can attain your dream.”

Lessons and Blessings – “This card means that you have learned important lessons, which are bringing blessings to your present lifetime. You’ve mastered how to turn painful events and memories into growth experiences.”

I’ve always been a fighter and protector of people and animals who are vulnerable; writing a book is one of my biggest dreams and I’ve started blogging to become a better writer; and the last one is really self explanatory.

Whoa!

Maui ~ Wednesday, Day Three: “Drinking the Kool-Aid”

My first relaxed, sleep-in morning in Maui was bliss.  The studio I stayed in had a Murphy bed that folded down into the living room. The mattress was unexpectedly comfortable, there was a selection of plush pillows, and the neighborhood was quiet and serene.  The mundane sounds of motorcycles revving by, the occasional angry commuter beeping at the person who cut them off at 5 am, and the eighteen-wheelers shifting down in front of my house in New Hampshire was replaced by the hum of the air conditioner and the distant sound of birds singing.

A few times I adjusted myself in bed, preparing to get up.  Then I remembered I was on vacation, smiled, and curled up under the soft blanket, falling back asleep for another hour. And then another hour.

I purposely scheduled my massage in the afternoon on Wednesday so after a busy few days I could rest up and relax.  I sat up on the edge of the bed, lifting my arms over my head and stretched, letting a primal groan release from my mouth.  Opening the screen door, warm and humid air rushed in along with the sounds of the birds going about their morning business in the back yard.  I sat on the lanai, content in the moment but excited for my upcoming massage.

There was a familiar rumbling in my tummy, and I remembered I had planned to go to Slappy Cakes for breakfast. They also had coconut syrup like Kuna Lodge did.  That’s all that had to be said for me to commit to go there. I dressed, much more quickly and efficiently than I would ever do at home, clearly motivated more than usual.  Coconut syrup and a Lomi Lomi massage would probably be enough to motivate just about anybody.

Slappy Cakes was busy, a longer than expected wait.  A spot opened up the bar, so I pulled up a chair towards the end of it.  The bartenders were nice, but not sickly sweet like the other people I had met so far. They were young, restless to get out surfing the big waves that were coming in.  I looked at the menu, quickly choosing a mimosa and the special of chocolate coconut pancakes.  I included a $4 fruit cup, excited to have fresh Hawaiian fruit despite being bothered that it was $4.

The pancakes were beyond delicious, the mimosa was smooth and fruity with the expected bite of champagne.  The fruit was flavorful and much more fresh than I’m used to at home.  The atmosphere was comfortable, relaxed.  I took my time, reading some of my book, savoring my food, and sipping my mimosa slowly.  There was some small talk with the people that worked there, but mostly I was eavesdropping on the locals conversing about everyday life on Maui.

I paid my check and decided to go for a drive before my massage.  I took a left out of Slappy Cakes and right onto the main highway, heading South to Lahaina.  Ka’anapali was all lush grass and flowers, huge, lavish resorts, and views of the beach in the distance. Continuing down the highway there were strip malls, some with familiar places like Subway and Barnes and Noble (omg omg omg a bookstore!) but also had stores unique to the area.  There were beach parks, one after another with a parking area and a line of palm trees, the waves crashing up onto the sand.  As I got farther from Ka’anapali, the parks lost their structure and designated parking lots, becoming grassy land where people backed up towards the waves and lounged under trees in the shade.

After exploring the area for a while it was time for my massage. I made my way back towards Slappy Cakes and just down the road I found Zensations Spa.  I checked in, sat in the lounge listening to the calm flow of water from the fountain and meditating on the Buddha statue in front of me.  I sipped on cold, refreshing water as I waited for my massage therapist. I was excited to get a traditional Hawaiian Lomi Lomi massage and desperately needed one after sitting on a plane for so many hours just a few days before.

My massage therapist was casually dressed, had a partially shaved head, tattoos, a nose ring, and gave off some super chill vibes.  I got settled on the table, happily anticipating the next hour.  She was friendly, didn’t talk too much, and was a very talented therapist. There was (of course!) a couple sensitive areas, my body squirming under her weight, but it was all needed.  The after-massage high set in quickly and I was on cloud nine for the rest of the day.  I did not share with her I was a licensed massage therapist because I’ve learned that this can be a huge mistake; it changes the dynamics and power differential. The hour is no longer blissful and relaxing but seems to turn into a mini-conference of people in the same field.  No thanks!

Enjoying my blissed-out state, I decided to head to the beach.  I had a few hours before I needed to be at The Westin for the luau that night.  I drove to the closest beach park and sauntered over to a grassy area, sitting under the shade of a palm tree.  The sun shone bright and strong, making me squint and already warming my skin after only a few minutes.  To the left there was a young girl about 10 years old, tan skin, blonde long hair in a braid who was jumping into the waves, sometimes dropping a skimming board into the water.  To the right were picnic tables, grills, and about fifteen long, thin canoes with a sign stating they were for the local canoeing team.  The beach was not crowded like on the East coast, and birds surrounded me more than people.

Sitting under the palm tree, listening to be the beautiful sound of the waves, and settling into the sun, I looked out over the ocean, complete contentment within my heart and soul.  It felt like home deep within me and such clarity came to my mind about life’s biggest quandaries.  I wrote a little bit, I pulled a few tarot cards, and I relaxed, soaking in the pure enjoyment of the afternoon.

Eventually, it was time to head out for the luau so I decided to find my way to The Westin.  I parked at Whaler’s Village, full of eateries and outlet stores, making my way to the boardwalk all along the beach.  I turned the corner and saw “Westin” mowed into the lawn, and a huge pool area with tropical vegetation, flamingos in the water, waterfalls, fountains, and outdoor restaurants.  As quickly as you were on the beach, you were in the midst of this highly designed hotel lounge area, and then into the actual hotel but there were no walls.  Everything was wide open and the sound of waterfalls carried everywhere.

After waiting in line for a while, they ushered us into a semi-indoor room with free drinks and of course I grabbed a complimentary mai tai.  And that was by far the strongest mai tai I had ever had.  Within a few minutes, I felt the warm rush through my body, everything relaxing even more after such a peaceful day.  There were round tables, tightly packed next to each other as if we were at a wedding.  The men and women working the luau looked the anticipated part; the woman with brightly colored fabric wrapped around them had flowers in their hair and the men were shirtless with the same flowered print wrapped around their waste.  Everyone was barefoot as they showed the crowd to their seats.

I sat with grandparents who brought their grandchildren, both very well behaved and respectful.  There was a couple to my right, friendly and talkative.  A mother and daughter sat across from me, accompanied by what looked like the mother’s sister.  I could easily see the live band playing Hawaiian classics, and the stage where the luau would happen was a little farther away.  The sun shined in on us but it was comfortable, and we all engaged in small talk as we settled in.

The food was wonderful.  It was set up buffet style with traditional Hawaiian options but also basic choices like salad and fresh fruit.  The kalua pulled pork was the best pulled pork I’ve ever had and I could have eaten an entire plate of it.  The hula dancing was beautifully flowing, their movements like liquid.  The strong beat of the drums penetrated my heart, and a feeling of familiarity overcame me.  I had never been to Hawaii or any other tropical place and definitely had not been to a luau, so where could this feeling be coming from?

At the end of the evening, the male performers put on an elaborate fire show. There was precision to their movements; passion radiating from them.  The fire dance was a male dominated performance exuding masculine power into the audience, contrasting starkly with the peaceful, calm, and nurturing feminine energy of the hula dancers that had come earlier in the evening.

As I drove home, that feeling of connection to the history of the Hawaiian people invaded my mind again.  Invaded is an appropriate and accurate word choice.  I was perplexed why I was so confused by this because why wouldn’t I be interested and excited to learn more about the Hawaiian culture if I was in Hawaii? And of course the luau was a new experience and I am a lover of endless novel adventures.  But this felt different.  The feeling that came over me was on a deeper level; one of higher intuition and truth.  And I wasn’t sure how to interpret it.

I drove the dark, windy beach side road back to the condo and contemplated what this could mean.  On my spiritual path, I have come across the idea of past lives, karma, and karmic debt.  The idea that we are beings with lives past lived and in our current reincarnation we are attempting to ascend to our highest, healed self, is one viewpoint that I have struggled with.  It makes sense to me at times, but when I find myself in a lower vibration, it seems like an unfair game that is played on us.  But I suppose this depends on how you look at past lives and karmic debt; is it an opportunity to fully heal yourself through human life experiences and relationships, or will you take a victim viewpoint?  I have chosen to take look at this possibility of past lives and karmic debt as an opportunity to come into my highest self.

Because I am more open to the idea of past lives now, I started to wonder if I had a past life in Hawaii or as part of another Polynesian culture.  If this were true, it could explain my underwhelmed initial reaction when I got to Maui; there wasn’t much of a reaction because deep down it was a familiar place.  Deep down, I had already experienced the awe of the landscape, the ruralness of “upcountry.”  It didn’t feel like I was on vacation or experiencing a new place because I had already been there.  Maybe this was like coming home.

I went to bed that night, thinking to myself that I had officially gone crazy.  I had joined the ever-feared cult, ushered in quietly.  I swished down the Kool-aid; fallen down the rabbit hole.  But when the adrenaline from the luau dissipated and the booze from my mai tai settled, my thoughts became intensely clear: I knew what I was thinking was truth.  As I lay in the dark, listening to the hum of the ceiling fan and air conditioner, my mind quieted enough to connect to the wisdom of my heart.

Hawaii wasn’t just a tropical vacation destination; it was home to a past version of myself.

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Maui ~ Tuesday, Day Two: “Upcountry Sunrise”

Despite being exhausted and more than elated to be at the hotel with a comfy king sized bed to sleep in, I tossed and turned the four or five hours I slept.  My body was in an airport hotel in Maui, but my mind played tricks on me, making me think I was back home and just having a bad night sleeping.  Sometimes I would slowly open my eyes and remember where I was, and other times my body would jerk quickly like I was falling from a twenty story building, arms flailing, air catching in my throat.  I shot my arm out to the other side of the bed, reaching for my boyfriend but he was not there.  The next time I woke up I was sleeping diagonally in the bed with one leg half off the bed, air conditioning humming loudly at the other side of the room.

I awoke with the familiar pressure in my bladder signaling to me that I needed to go pee, however, after a largely unsuccessful night’s rest I lay there for quite some time wishing it away.  Grudgingly, I stumbled to the bathroom, groggy and with no glasses on, arms outstretched attempting to find the light switch.  Checking my phone, I was shocked to see it was 2:30 am, only a half hour before my alarm was set to go off.  Excitement rushed my body as I remembered my plans for the day: venture to the Haleakala Crater to see the sunrise and make my way to the west side of Maui where I would be staying for the rest of my trip.

And then dread filled my mind.  I would be driving a huge unfamiliar vehicle in the dark, traveling in a completely unknown place, alone, and would reach an elevation of over 10,000 feet on a narrow road to get to the top of the crater.  My next thought was simply, “what an adventure.”  I quickly brushed my teeth, dressed, packed up my things, and headed down to the lobby, anxiety still rushing through my veins but slowly transforming to exhilaration.

The road was lonely, stretched out before me for miles but I was only able to see as far as my headlights would show me.  A few cars came up behind me fast, quickly passing me; reminding me of my tourist classification.  The woman at the desk gave me very clear directions and in the moment I understood them.  As I was driving I realized I was going in the wrong direction and missed a turn about ten miles back.  Swinging wide right, whipping the Jeep around in the middle of the road, I hit the gas and headed back to the right set of lights to go left towards the crater.

Time went by fast, and I started to wake up more and more, now realizing how much of a daze I was still in when I checked out of the hotel.  A dark brown national park sign came into view with white painted letters announcing I had reached Haleakala National Park. “Crater 22 miles. No food.  No gas.” The road almost immediately started winding and narrowing.  It was still dark out, my lights shining ahead and my eyes straining. After miles and miles of winding road and my heart catching every time I went a little too fast around a corner, I finally came to a place to pay to enter the park.  And then I drove more miles and miles, ascending into darkness.

I parked the car and had no idea where to go since it was still completely pitch black. I lit the flashlight on my iPhone, technology starkly contrasted with the nature I was consumed by, atop a crater 10,000 feet in the air.  The air whipped my cheeks and legs as I opened the door stepping onto the gravel.  My shirt pushed up by the force of the wind, my legs instantly becoming cold.  Why did I wear these? I saw groups of people walking behind me to the left, so I followed, up concrete stairs where a building emerged.

The building blocked some of the wind and an orange glow lined the edges of it.  I walked in almost running into other spectators awaiting the sunset, all of us hushed and moving around slowly in the cramped building.  You entered at the back of the building with the opposite side made up of big windows.  Dark shapes, all different sizes, lined up against the windows with some of their noses pushed up against the clear, cold glass.  I wandered outside of the building, taking a left to where I saw no one.  I stepped to the front of the building and the wind pushed into my throat, making me catch my breath and my eyes instantly watering.

The view was starting to reveal itself, the orange glow turning a lighter orange and beginning to turn yellow.  I stood there with the wind pushing me back into the building and at one point, crouched against it. Eventually, I went to the other side and was sheltered by the wind by everyone surrounding me, some with big blankets wrapped around them, the corners flapping violently.  The sun slowly rose, shining onto the clouds we all looked down on.  I was in awe, appreciating every new morning, every breath, every experience.  This was life.

The venture back down the crater was tedious and looked completely different than I had expected.  It was now 6:00 am or so, and after watching the sunrise I decided to get some breakfast at the Kula Lodge.  I read online they had coconut syrup, which of course caught my attention.  While driving to the summit of the crater, I realized how close I was to the edge, many times the road missing a desired guard rail.  On the way down, it shocked me how tight some of the corners were, how narrow they became as you shared the road with other cars and bicyclists.  I do not pray very often but I found myself praying all the way up and for a while, on the way down.

It was 7:00 am as I reached Kula Lodge, one of the waitresses just putting out the “open” flag.  There was already a line of people waiting to be seated.  I sat in the back right corner at a table that faced the big picture windows overlooking the beautiful crater and Hawaiian landscape.  The waitress was extremely nice, sickly sweet like the young woman who checked me into my hotel the night before.  I was starting to see this might be a trend, but it was a welcomed one.  Friendly, talkative people that I could connect with even if it was just a few minutes of small talk.  The food was good, and I instantly fell in love with coconut syrup (where could I get more of this while I was here?).

There was a small but packed full, eclectic gift shop around the corner, stocked with everything from art to homemade soap to Hawaiian jellies, seasoning, and you guessed it ~ coconut syrup. I considered packing a little box for them to ship back to New Hampshire but decided against it, and instead bought a few things that I could easily pack for my trip back home.  Continuing down the road, heading for Paia, I came across Twin Falls which was suggested to me by a friend who had been to Maui three times. There was no place to park in the first two lots, so I parked on the edge of the road, walking back towards the food stand and entrance to the trail. I had heard about the fresh banana bread and coconuts you could buy from the food truck at the start of the trail at Twin Falls.  There was a lot of people roaming around, parents chasing after their kids and couples sauntering down the dirt path.  I decided to come back to the food truck for something after I checked out the falls.

There was no place to park in the first two lots, so I parked on the edge of the road, walking back towards the food stand and entrance to the trail. I had heard about the fresh banana bread and coconuts you could buy from the food truck at the start of the trail at Twin Falls.  There was a lot of people roaming around, parents chasing after their kids and couples sauntering down the dirt path.  I decided to come back to the food truck for something after I checked out the falls.

I think I was the only person at Twin Falls alone, but I didn’t mind.  The bamboo was beautiful, an alien vegetation I had never seen.  Tall, shoved together tightly, moving in the wind and creating a creepy, creaky sound that could easily be found in a scary movie – yet it was oddly calming to me.  Reaching the falls, I looked over the edge of the rocks, hearing the laughing and talking of kids and teenage boys rooting each other on to jump into the waterfall.  I sat on the bench for a while watching everyone jump off into the pool of water, but was not overcome to do this myself!

I found a less traveled path – so less traveled I stumbled by a man taking a piss in the bushes.  Oops.  I kept going, at times crouching to miss some of the branches that hung low.  I ventured down a rock pathway, taking my time to not slip. I came across a beautiful river that flowed gently, the sound of the water against the rocks out of a meditation soundbite.  Hearing another waterfall in the distance, I walked upstream and found two beautiful waterfalls, families swimming in the water below them.  As I walked back to the food truck after enjoying nature in this new place, I felt such a deep sense of gratitude.

Of course, I ordered a smoothie and half a coconut to eat the flesh out of.  I hopped in the Jeep, continuing on to Paia sipping on a delicious smoothie and eating the flesh of the fresh coconut.  To say I was in heaven might be an understatement!

Paia was too crowded and I decided to not stop.  There was no place to park and after being up for hours, I wanted to see more of the island and check into my Airbnb.  The drive across Maui was interesting as I was not close to the ocean and had not had that “wow” factor yet.  Most of what I saw was overgrown hills, narrow roads, and in some places, dilapidated houses.  This was Maui?

Coming to the southwestern coast of Maui, things started to look more like what you would expect Hawaii to look like.  Bright blue ocean for miles, islands stretched out in the distance, white lines pushed up against the rocks as the surf came in.

There was much more traffic, huge resorts in the distance, palm trees curved over by the wind and beautiful views. As I came into Lahaina, through Ka’anapali and into Napili, I contacted Debra who was the owner of the condo I was renting.  Everything was tightly packed together in Napili, which was not what I expected.  In my mind, I had visions of vast beaches and wide open, lush lawns in front of mansions.  It wasn’t what I expected, but over the next few days, it started to feel like home.

Debra helped me find the reserved parking space and led me down a walkway to the condo.  It was serenely quiet despite so many houses close together, and when she opened the door there was a cross breeze from one end of the studio to the other end. Granite counter tops, newly renovated.  Modern finishings, but homey at the same time. We made small talk, spoke about my stay, and she left me to get settled.

My first full day in Maui had been another adventure added on to the previous day of travel.  The Haleakala Crater at sunrise was a must-see experience, Kula Lodge was delicious, Twin Falls was a beautiful walk topped off with fresh coconut and a smoothie, and the drive to Napili had views I would never forget.  I rested, organized my clothes, and prepared for the next few days, ready to explore more of Maui.

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Maui ~ Monday, Day One: “5,000 Miles”

There was much more resistance than typical on my way to the bus station.  Usually, when I am embarking on a traveling adventure I am excited and ready to get the hell out of New Hampshire for a little while.  Traveling had become my escape and a way to excite myself with something new after what always seems like a day to day, mundane existence.  But, this time was different.

I couldn’t see my life after this trip.  Whenever I thought of my future, there was nothing that came to me after Hawaii.  I attributed this to my increased ability to really “stay in the moment” and be present and not always fast forwarding to the future, worrying, and missing out on the actual experience.  But my imagination had gotten the best of me as well (it’s really hard to shut off sometimes!) and I thought maybe this was the Universe’s way of telling me this trip would be the end of my life.  I used to love to fly but as time has gone on, it makes me increasingly uncomfortable, as if I have developed claustrophobia in the last few years.  Maybe I’d be going down on the plane or be in the wrong place at the wrong time and see the darker side of Maui.  But who knows ~ I was still going and in my heart, I knew I had to go.

My boyfriend stood next to me, loyal and protective, as we waited for the bus driver to load my suitcase onto the bus.  We held each other, kissed each other, looked into each other’s eyes and prepared to be separated by almost 5,000 miles.  I got onto the bus, him walking back to his car.  It was time.

Getting to the airport and through security was largely uneventful.  Once on the plane, I realized I was sitting in the middle seat between two strangers.  This flight would be almost six hours to Pheonix, Arizona.  I had been to Pheonix a handful of times and felt a comfortability knowing I was going to a familiar place for my layover.

Typical pleasantries of getting on the plane and getting comfortable in your seat.  There was not much conversation initially; the lady on my right quickly pulled out her computer and started to peruse Facebook and her email, impulsively and compulsively switching from one window to the next on autopilot; the gentleman on my left fell asleep almost immediately, his head cocked back at a strange angle and his mouth dropped open.  I decided to watch some movies on the tablet I brought, which was a great way to pass the time.  For a few minutes, I forgot I was cruising at 40,000 feet in a tiny tin box with a hundred other people, squished in like sardines in a can.  I amused myself with the hilarity of what it would look like if you took away our shelter and we were all just flying through the air, seated, and moving at 600mph. Ha!

The inevitable conversation had begun. Who do you think it was first? The woman to my right who was sucked into social media or the gentleman to my left snoozing like he was taking a nap in his backyard on a sunny afternoon?  It was the guy to the left ~ the lady was still immersed in what she was finding online.

He spoke exasperatedly like he was continually out of breath.  He constantly was smiling and laughing after everything he said like he was making profound statements that anyone would agree with.  His eye contact was intense but friendly.  He worked for a small toy company and traveled a lot and went into detail explaining his extensive and seemingly strenuous work trips to China in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.  We talked about good food, travel, places we’d like to visit eventually.  And at times I had clearly tried to end the conversation so I could return to my movie but he continued to talk enthusiastically as ever, smiling and laughing with deep breaths and that smile.

Just like that he quickly changed focus and started to work on business – just like that he was back to a stranger I was sandwiched next to on a plane.  The woman and I spoke briefly, following the same path of conversation as with the man.  Jobs, kids, travel.  She worked with focus groups and was happy to be away from her children for a length of time.  “A whole five hours of being able to check out Facebook and do some work, totally interrupted.  It’s heaven.” She asked me about my traveling plans and seemed almost surprised I was going to Maui solo.  “Well, you’re obviously a very friendly person and will have no problem traveling on your own!” Oddly enough, this gave me some reassurance even though we had only exchanged a handful of sentences.

As the plane was landing my connecting flight was supposed to be boarding.  This had never happened to me before and I started to panic.  I usually had plenty of time for connecting flights.  I rushed off the plane, saying goodbye and good luck to my seatmates. A little bit of chaos entered my body but I reminded myself that everything would work out the way it should.  Regardless, I rushed to my next gate, completely out of breath. And I rushed for no reason ~ it was so hot in Phoenix that we could not board the plane. We had to wait until the plane cooled down a little bit like it had just lost its temper. I giggled to myself and went to find food.

I eagerly awaited boarding, at times almost to the American Airlines lady scanning boarding passes when the pilot would appear from the depths to announce we had to hold off because the temperature was rising again.  Eventually, we all boarded, and I was nervous to see who I would be sitting next to.  There was tangible stress in the hot, thick air as the passengers got settled.

I ended up sitting next to a wonderful couple.  They were high school sweethearts but with an extensive siesta that included other marriages and children before reconvening again in the 40’s.  The husband had lived in Maui with his family for many years, so they visited quite often after moving to Chicago.  They were incredibly gracious as if we were on their personal jet that I just happened to be on, catching a quick lift to Maui.  The lady downed two small bottles of wine and the conversation began.

We realized we both had an interest in Ashtanga yoga, meditation, and I told her about yoga nidra and she encouraged acupuncture because it was so healing for her.  By the end of at least an hour and a half of talking, she insisted I take her number in case I ended up needing anything while on the island.  I did not object and appreciated the motherly gesture.

I saved her number in my phone, excited to have felt a little warmth from this person. There really is nothing like motherly concern.  At times, my Mother’s meddling as I viewed it in the past, was smothering and frustrating.  And at this point in my life after so many years without parents, I think I would find it equally as frustrating and annoying.  But oddly enough, I also miss this connection with my Mother.

She had mastered the balance between calling to make sure I’m still alive and smiling and giving me enough space and acceptance to create my own life. She knew when to stop calling and let me have my own experiences, honoring the need for me to develop my own sense of capability and independence.  This started to trump her impulsive, almost selfish need for reassurance that I was okay.  She would occasionally make that call, and I could tell in her voice she was trying not to call – to honor that agreement we had of me being my own person and giving me space.  After all, in her senior yearbook, she wrote her biggest pet peeve was “pushy people” and I knew that was the last thing she wanted to be.

After putting the woman’s number in my phone, her husband grabbed my suitcase from the overhead compartment and they were off.  I was stuck by the window, standing up but crouched and squished under the panel above me as were many other passengers, eager to vacate the plane.  As I waited, I smiled to myself knowing my day of travel was over and I was in Maui.

The airport was something out of the 1970’s.  To the right were the gates, enclosed with big glass windows and air conditioned, and on the left, it was open with the hot, humid air blowing in.  Everything was brown and beige, and if it was beige it was on its way to being brown.  Despite the mediocre, worn airport the weather was beautiful.  Everyone from the plane moved down the hall in a hoard, some of us excited, some of us moving with intense purpose and focus, and some of us, like me, wandering along and taking in the freedom of movement after such a long flight.

The view was not spectacular as I walked to the exit. It looked like the center of the airport; white buildings, trucks, and loading docks, the trucks moving around in the small enclosed area what seemed like a little too fast as if driven by a seasoned employee.  The air was thick and dense and it felt like water droplets were sticking to every part of my clothing.

The rental car place did not have any two-door Jeeps left, so the rented me a four-door Jeep, huge, truly American.  Oversized, beefy, and it seemed lifted.  I took my time adjusting everything, feeling relieved I had made it this far, but also nervous to drive this huge vehicle in an unknown place.  I put my big girl pants on, took a deep breath, looked both ways to make sure I was not going to run anyone over and shifted into drive. Slowly pressing on the gas, cautiously as you do when first driving an alien vehicle, but nothing happened. A little more pressure, expecting it to come to life and roar forward.  Noe.  It revved but just sat in its parking space.  I could feel my cheeks flush and anxiety rise within my chest.  I impulsively pushed on the gas pedal out of nervousness and this time it revved even louder, jerking forward up on its tires but still not driving forward.  I let off the gas and it rocked back complacently into place.  What the fuck, what the fuck?!

I looked down and realized the parking brake was on, a small smile spreading across my lips at my silly mistake but realizing and remembering things like this seem to be par for the course on new adventures.

I found my hotel, just down the road.  The check in woman almost sickeningly sweet.  I told her I was going to check out the Haleakala Crater in the morning and that I would be going to bed early to get up at the suggested time to leave: 3:30 am.  For the few minutes, we were talking, I don’t’ think she stopped smiling, but it was a genuinely sweet smile.  She was not native Hawaiian, but maybe mulatto with long, dark, frizzy curly hair.  Innocently sweet, beautiful, kind, attentive.

Setting off to my room, the dorky side of myself emerged as I was excited to see what my room would look like; the layout, the furniture, the extras (a stocked fridge, a safe, a hair dryer?), and of course what shampoo and conditioner would be complimentary.  After the longest day of travel I have ever endured (especially alone) and a six hour time change, when I opened the door to the hotel room the king sized bed glowed with a golden light around it and from somewhere in the room angels started to sing while a harp played.

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