If you know me, and you read that, you would assume that I had a horrible time, right? No. Just the opposite. This trip was just what I needed- to step outside of my comfort zone and relax into things that make me uncomfortable. It sounds cliche' and a bit exaggerated to say it was a life changing week- but I'm saying it anyway. Along with above-mentioned items, there was also extraordinary vegan food; the most thoughtful, enlightened and kind people; deep and engaging conversations; daily lessons in Buddhism; yoga and meditation three times a day; and even though there was a routine and schedule every day (which I thrive on), there was also free time to explore the Big Island (which is meditation in itself).
The retreat was held at the Kirpal Meditation and Ecological Center in Pahoa, Hawaii. Obviously, it is not a hotel, so it is not for everyone (but as soon as I hit "publish" here, I'm going over to their site to give them 5 stars). They have an awesome staff who were very conscientious and attentive to every need we had (even my annoying food sensitivities) and prepared three awesome, vegan meals each day- with 4 courses each night, for dinner. Clean, minimal, open-air cabins and a meditation pavilion are set on ten acres (surrounded by black sand beaches) where they grow much of their own fruits and vegetables. Every structure is open-air (yes, even the restrooms!) and solar-powered and water is harvested, filtered rainwater. The views were incredible, as the grounds were very thoughtfully landscaped and cared for and surrounded by rainforest. So cool.
As I researched a variety of retreats, I kept passing on this one because one of the reviews mentioned an excessive number of frogs on the property. (Long story- but since age 4 or 5, after a nightmare about bullfrogs, I've had an intense dislike and fear of frogs!) But, something about this place kept pulling me back to it. Finally, a little voice told me that there must be a reason for it and that stepping out of my concrete-loving, frog-avoiding, comfort zone was probably the reason. I'm so thankful that I listened to that voice!
So, other than being in awe of the beauty and laid-back vibe of Hawaii, what did I learn? Too much for one post, but here are just a few things:
*Friends and kindred spirits can be found anywhere. These people. Oh, my. There was just something so different about every single one of them. Not once did I hear any complaining, gossiping, criticizing or judging (not even the one time when politics came up). They were all so peaceful, content and thoughtful. We had extended conversations about things like prayer, how to make the world a better and more loving place and what we would change about ourselves to be better, more loving people. Oh, my. I loved it. And even though they were all experienced world travelers, they made me feel like a valued and important part of every conversation. They all knew that I am pretty new to this healing journey and that Hawaii was actually the farthest I had ever traveled; but they also knew that I have in fact, lived a life, and definitely had something to contribute to the group. The level of unconditional acceptance and belonging was something I had never experienced before.
* I can do hard, uncomfortable things. It might not sound like much, but being dropped off at the airport, alone, to navigate through four unfamiliar airports, going to an unfamiliar place with no familiar people, was scary to me. Now that I've done it, I feel empowered! And I'm already planning the next trip :)
Even though I've had a regular yoga practice for eight years and have been serious about meditation for the last year, I had never heard of Lu Jong, which is basically a combination of both. It is an ancient Tibetan practice, used to heal your body and mind by opening blocked channels of energy. Each day, we studied each movement at length, along with various lessons in Tibetan Buddhism. The best way to convey the way it makes you feel is to pull a quote directly from the Lu Jong website : "And as one practices Lu Jong, love develops – love for the practice, for those that gave us the practice and for the way the practice makes us feel!" Perfect.
*Being outside, surrounded by nature, actually feels good! I'm sure the beauty that is Hawaii helped, but coming from someone who is chronically deficient in Vitamin D due to lack of sunlight, that is a surprising realization! When I got home, it actually felt weird to be indoors for any length of time after, basically, being outside for 6 straight days and nights.
This trip was truly a turning point for me. To summarize the lessons learned, though, I would have to say that this trip, again, was a reminder to me that "crisis is a gift". This came up several times during our Buddhism discussions and is a lesson that seems to be following me around this year. Really, though, if it wasn't for the previous, crisis-filled years, I know that I would never have had or taken advantage of this awesome opportunity and experience.
A couple of "shout-outs" to end this post. First, to Farrah Garan- our teacher. Seriously, such a special, caring, patient, loving and happy person. Have you ever been around someone so positive that you feel better just standing next to them? Well, that was Farrah. Seriously, one of the best teachers I have ever had (and I've had a lot!). Inspiring to say the very least.
And finally, to Little Man. This trip was actually his Mother's Day gift to me. I know, right?! You guys, this kid is special, I'm telling you. He is the most introspective, caring, loving and intuitive almost-22-year-old you will ever meet. He loves his momma, for sure, and knew I needed some major spirit-lifting. And, my-oh-my, my spirit has been lifted. I love you, Colbey Ray.
My job now is to pay it forward, learn more and extend everything about the magic of that week into every day of my life. I can't wait!
I hope you are having the best week! Until next time :)