Process to Purpose
Monday, January 5, 2016
Today is the day I embark on a month long retreat on the big island of Hawaii. I will have the opportunity to participate in over 40 hours of yoga. classes a week, learn about and immerse myself in the Hawaiian culture, eat delicious farm-to-table dishes, and explore the natural beauty of Hawaii; from the high peaks to the royal blue oceans, and everything in between. I hope to meet likeminded people who want to connect and share cool, life inspiring experiences. I hope to get to know myself a little better, and inspire my own experience in life. That’s just what I hope for, but as the wisdom of the Tao teaches, I will remain open to everything and attached to nothing; bring on the awesome, Kalani!
I found Kalani while searching for a place that I could unplug from the routine of my day to day life. I wanted to strip away all of the outside materials and associations that I have formed my identity around, with the hope to understand the conversation behind the monkey brain that consumes most of my day to day life. On this spiritual quest that I have found myself on, I am energized and motivated by every bit of the journey of understanding myself more and making more decisions with confidence and love. I feel like I’m finally hearing the whispers of my true self and quieting the noise that shaped me based on societies expectation of who I was supposed to be.
I’ve always had this nostalgic feeling when traveling to Hawaii. Maybe it’s because I lived here for a short time when I was just a baby. Maybe I was Hawaiian in a previous lifetime.. Whatever it is, I do feel like I’m going home whenever I return.
This trip was inspired by a series of events that led me here. I think life and its meaning started to shift when my dad passed away in January of 2013. I realized the impermanence of all of life, and how quickly it can flip you upside down. I started to question everything. I was lost and hurting, wondering what it’s all about here, in this life. Because it all comes, we whip through it, the highs and the lows, and then just like that, it’s over. I needed to find what made my life fulfilling, and I needed to start applying it, whatever it was.
My dad was a traveling man, always taking us kids on trips around the world, he was a man who valued experiences over ‘things’. He encouraged us to look around, pay attention to people and your environment, to observe life and the many ways to look at things. To listen before you speak, to think outside of the box. He got his doctorate in Philosophy, a thinker. After he passed, my siblings, mom and I decided to hike the Kalalau Trail on the Napali coast of Kauai; a trip dedicated to this adventurous and intellectual character I understood my father to be.
The Napali coast stretches the shores of the Pacific, with steep inclines along the tropical cliffs of volcanic rock, swells of ocean waves crashing below the trail. Nick had done the hike once in a quick (and exhausting) day trip, when dad brought him to Hawaii years before he passed, and because dad said he had done it and raved of its magnificence, Nick decided to tackle it solo. A few years later, in dads memory, Nick had suggested we go hike it together, but take our time and camp out at the beach at the end of Kalalau, something he wished he had made time for the first time around. Man was that a tough hike! 11 miles each way, no mercy for the fear of heights, with steep cliffs, a raging ocean, rapidly changing winds, and a narrow trail that could fit one person and one way traffic. There were signs ‘falling rock’ or ‘dangerous tides’ all while we trekked a narrow and unmaintained trail. There were several moments I thought, “this is pretty dangerous, it could take my life.” But wow, was it magnificent! It was so beautiful, look in any direction and see the vast beauty of mother nature’s creation. We struggled, but the adrenaline. kept us moving, every time we overcame an obstacle, we knew we were closer to victory. It was worth it, we weren’t going to turn back… we didn’t come all this way… we would do it for ourselves, for the inner fighter in all of us, we couldn’t fail. Dad did it, so we could. Watch us… I know you’re watching us, dad. I think deep down we wanted to prove to dad we could do it and would do it; that we would be strong and fight through, know-matter what it took. Maybe it was a symbol of how we felt after losing him, we knew we still had each other and we would stick together, through life, through the hills and valleys… we’d find peace as we looked around, reflect and take it all in.. we wouldn’t falter because of the raging seas below or intimidating peaks that we faced. Symbolic, as I reflect on it. Also, interesting timing, as Cheryl strayed had just released her book, Wild. I related to her quest to understand all that her life had become as she hiked the pacific crest trail while trying to overcome the loss of a parent.
Image above of the NaPali Coast.
After that trip to Hawaii, I knew I had to go back. I cried as the plane took off. At the time I was headed back to the concrete jungle of NYC, where I lived in my shotty apartment under the BQE, in Caroll Gardens, Brooklyn. I’d return to the rapid paces of the city. The bustling of that city is impressive. I was always stimulated by it, you could constantly be moving and still have so far to go, the sky was the limit, and boy were there people ready and willing to do whatever it took to get as far as possible. For what though? Money? Status? I started to question my own motives … why did I live here? A country girl, raised in the farm country of Upstate New York and the foothills of Boulder, Colorado.. here I was chasing limitlessness in the big apple. Meanwhile, my family is broken, we were spread out across the country. And our glue, the guy who brought us all together to make memories, take trips around the world, or perhaps just for a philosophical discussion on the living room couch, he wasn’t here anymore to keep us connected, to make sure we planned trips see each other twice a year.
It was a lonely time for me, but the beginning of a transformation as I look back. When a family member passes, it hits everyone in a different way; some people get mad, some sad, some entitled, some just get quiet… I think I adapted all of those emotions, but mostly, I got quiet. My best friend and angel, gave me some books to read, to help me find a reason to smile again; she was my guide from fear to a return to love. See, I was afraid, I was so afraid of what the future held. Dad was our pillar, he always came through, he always had the answers, we idolized him… big time. So when he was gone, we had lost our compass in a sense. Here we all are, spread out across the country, silenced by the sadness and changes that we faced. I was paralyzed by the fear of making decisions on my own. Fear consumed me. Where was I going? Who was I becoming? Was I good enough? Would anyone ever love me like he did? Who’s going to bring the family back together? Are we all going to separate and be alone, chasing the confusion, diverging? Fear slows you down, it made my decisions controlling in nature. I needed to get control of this chaos. What was going to happen to my family and life? Trying to get a grip on it was stifling. I’ll touch on fear later.. it’s a big one for me. But the books helped, slowly, I found a faith, in something bigger than me, call it the universe or god or spirit or the unknown space that fills everything that I can’t see with my human eyes. I found peace in letting go and trusting that things had to work out. That faith came from some of my greatest spiritual mentors and authors; Wayne Dyer, Marianne Williamson, Gabrielle Bernstein, Deepak Chopra, to name a few. I also formed a strong faith that, though he was gone in the physical plane, my dads spirit was guiding and protecting me.
I spent a lot of time in silent contemplation, meditation and reading. I started to attend a Unity church service on the upper west side of Manhattan every Sunday. I would sit in the back quietly and privately, listening to an uplifting service. It was a place where strangers would go and we’d sing and listen together like best friends for an hour a week. The service helped me to not feel so alone in this city, so far from my loved ones, it became the highlight of my weekends. I found this sense of community in my faith. I began to attend workshops or speaking events by some of my favorite author mentors; Gabby B and Marianne. That’s the cool thing about living in NYC, access to class acts. I took advantage of the peace and comfort I found in the community of people, trying to help each other heal through compassion. You see, we all break at one time or another, to varying degrees, sure, but our hearts are fragile… and there’s nothing like connecting with others when they need that support as much as you do.
I took stock in this community of kindness. Strangers who didn’t necessarily ask about the details of my day to day struggle, they were just there to help bring a smile to my face when we crossed paths. The books were huge, I read and read for hours. In time, I began to overcome my desire to stay in the city where they say dreams are made of. I did make dreams when I was there; NYC has this way of inspiring you to be your best self; but the dreams that I was inspired to pursue didn’t mesh with living in New York City any longer. The constant struggle working at a job that I wasn’t particularly passionate about, only to make enough money to live in a tiny apartment, in city that never sleeps, and even when you find silence in your mind, it is never quiet outside.
I wanted to breath fresh air again, talk to strangers, smile to strangers, take the earbuds out and look up again. I wanted to listen to the breeze, the birds, to see the stars and see breathtaking views from hilltops overlooking valleys. Funny, there’s so much truth to the fact that we learn what we love when we lose it. I wanted to get back to a simple life. I missed the one thing that still felt like home, the landscapes and smells of my roots in upstate New York. I was also on a quest to find what I was passionate about, or at least understand what I could bring to this world naturally. So after much contemplation over many factors, I decided to get back to upstate New York, my roots but also my family. I wanted to be by my sister again, and closer to mom and our family. We needed each other, loss and distance made that very clear to me.
So I got home and got quiet. I found a quaint apartment with plenty of space to relax and breathe. After living in a box size apartment in New York, I’ve found great satisfaction in the simple things, like a full bathtub and closet space! I’ve spent hours meditating, journaling, stretching my mind and body. Again, looking inward at what it was I could do to make a difference in this world. I found comfort in yoga and breathing, slowing down and listening to my body and heart. I’ve been reconnecting with my sister and mom, helping to bring some connection and normalcy back into my life. I have made it a priority to nurture the relationships that mean the world to me, the people that make home feel like home. I never want to take advantage of these simple treasures again. In getting quiet, I’ve found that my talents come out when I am in environments when I can help others; whether it’s listening or offering advice; I’m in my flow when guiding others through their challenges, helping them to overcome their own fears and perceived obstacles. I find joy and satisfaction in helping others, because it’s when we are at our most vulnerable points in life, we are our truest selves. And that realness is what we all have in common, what better way to connect with a human soul? What better way to make an everlasting impact on the lives of others?
So now what? Good question, we’ll see… but what I do know, is that I’ve become a different person through facing my fears. I’m choosing to walk forward and listen to my heart at every crossroad, and finding peace in the process. I’m happy now, but it isn’t a happy filled by externals, it’s a happy that is fueled by pure gratitude for the peace of simplicity within. I am on a quest to help others to find their way to the same peace that I feel. I’ve decided to make it a priority in my life to give back, to be an instrument of love and compassion in whatever way I am best fitted. I want to help others overcome the fears that block us from the most important love one could ever possess; to love yourself and trust yourself. There’s a saying about the eye of the storm being quiet and calm, while the hurricane winds rapidly whirl around it. When we have peace at our center, and are proud of who we have decided to be, the winds of change cannot disturb the calm that rests in the center. When we can shed the facade that we create by trying to meet societies expectations of us, and just be comfortable in our own skin, we begin to master the ability to find ultimate peace and happiness in every instant.
So I embark on this next month to unplug a little more from a very plugged in life, and to aim to learn as much as possible, to use each opportunity as a chance to add another tool to my tool box. I will take these lessons and tools and give them out to every person who wants them. Some ask if I’ll become a yoga instructor or what I intend to do with this experience. The truth is, I don’t know how this will all sort itself out, but I do know that I am following my heart. I’m learning that when you make decisions with your heart, you will be lead to or through your purpose. You just decide to walk, and the road will pave itself in your unique and ideal path, customized just for you. I have the deepest confidence and certainty that I will utilize this experience in the best way possible. I will share with those who want to hear whatever I have to share and try to tie in tools that I learn along the way. Hopefully in using experiences like this, I am able to laugh and make awesome memories, while contributing to the laughter and awesome memories of the people I cross paths with. And that’s it, it’s pretty simple. But if I can get this right, I think it’ll be a pretty good start to making a positive impact on the lives of others.
Here’s to an amazing experience.
With all my love,