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.