Tag Archives: Hawaii

Hōlanikū – A Return to Pō

[Disclaimer: not everything I write in this blog may be accurate to the places and the cultures depicted. This blog is not a resource for you to learn this information. This is only a narrative report of my personal experiences. I will do my best to accurately represent this information, however this can even be challenging to anyone for much is left to the interpretation of the person gathering and “reading” the information. I have very little to no background in Hawai’i ʻōlelo and the subsequent manifestations ( mele, hula, ʻōlelo no’eau, oli, mo’olelo, etc…) although I am a student of these and understand my own personal need to learn in order to expand my own knowledge and awareness. Because my knowledge is very limited in this context, I borrow heavily from my broader understanding of archetypal psychology and mythology. However these subjects too are relatively new and foreign to me.  One of the purposes of this blog is as a tool to help me apply the knowledge I am learning to my own story as a way to actualize it: to bring it to life! Thank you for reading!]

Return to the West. Entering Pō.

Every Journey Into Darkness is a return to greater awareness of self. Human existence is a profoundly existential experience; every human being is burdened, or gifted – depending on how you look at it – with a deeper sense of awareness of self. However, full consciousness is not handed to us. In our lifetime, we must seek it out. We must journey into the unknown, the uncharted territory, the shadow realm, and bring back with us our own awakening.

How does one do this? How do we know about that which is unknown? How can we embark on a journey in finding and obtaining our fullest potential? The answer, or rather the reward, is found only within the journey itself. Yet, as creatures who are but merely the latest continuation of the unraveling story of life, we may my find guidance  in all that came before us. These clues have been observed from people to people, generation to generation, preserved in stories which have been remembered through their cues from the environment that surrounds us: Earth, and the greater cosmos.

The story of the Human is a cyclical story embedded within the larger contextual story of life. Each of us human beings are an expression of this grand story. Our identity, our psyche, is but a representation of all which has come before, flowing forward and backward in time: spinning, spiraling. In a reality in which we as humans are perceiving our world, it is difficult to “see” the foundational forces that provide this “home” or “space” for us to even exist. This is why humanity is profoundly a existential experience: The physical world in which we are born into: the light, is only illuminating the creations, but we cannot see the source of these creations. For that, we must venture into the darkness…

I cannot deny my own acute awareness of a deep void that rests beyond my horizons. Its gravitational pull is strong, pulling me towards its edge. I both fear it immensely, and desire it tremendously. I fear it because it is unknown: as we all are naturally programmed in our genetic instinctual self-preservation to remain in a state of safety. But I desire it because I feel so contained and limited within this bubble of safety. What does it mean when your soul calls for you to expand, to risk everything?

I don’t have many answers, but I have found that when I respond to this calling, my perceived experience fills with meaning and purpose. Destiny comes forth and leads me on. Passion is ignited and lights my way.

I am about to return to a very special place. It’s name is Hōlanikū. It is both a place on this Earth, and a place in our psyche. I am returning here for work, both practical and spiritual. This place is an Atoll which is part of the largest protected preserve in the world, the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, and it rests at 28.3925° N, 178.2936° W. It also rests in the realm of . As the Atoll exists much further north and west of the main Hawaiian islands, it also then exists within the realm of darkness: the subconscious; the source. It exists beyond the horizon, in the West where the sun sets, and in the North. These are places within us and without us where life came from and life returns to. It is where our ancestors rest. It is the home of our kūpuna. Mai nā kūpuna mai. 

I am still trying to grasp the deeper significance of ancestral places and their imprinted wisdom on the geography of us people. I am merely a beginning student who has been honored to learn from our greatest Kumu, our greatest teachers. I do not take this lightly. I take it as a huge responsibility, a deeper purpose. And although It often feels like a great undertaking: to walk between the realms of the conscious and unconscious in such magnitudes, I have already seen what walking this path has given me. A greater sense of myself. A greater understanding of the mystery of life and a clearer vision of where we as a people are going…

If you choose to follow this blog, you will be diving along with me into my journey. I will attempt to post regularly beginning now and all the way through the six months on  Hōlanikū, as well as the return. If you would like further information about this place and the work that we do, please visit the Kure Atoll Conservancy page.  If you would like deeper information on this place, there are many resources for this. Check out Kekuewa Kikiloi work titled Rebirth of an Archipelago: Sustaining a Hawaiian Cultural Identity for People and Homeland as well as some of his other work: KŪKULU MANAMANA: RITUAL POWER AND RELIGIOUS EXPANSION IN HAWAIʻI THE ETHNO-HISTORICAL AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY OF MOKUMANAMANA AND NIHOA ISLANDS:

Mahalo nui for your interest in my story!

Breath of the Hill

A Personal Essay on Hawaii

In the winter of 2010, I traveled to Hawai’i with a school program, having never been before. During the time, I had no idea how this experience would impact my life. I now live here and consider it home. This place has shaped me profoundly, and I have discovered much not only about myself, but about us humans struggling to maintain our sense of place and identity in a globally charged world. Below is an essay I wrote upon my return to college in Washington after my short but profound time in Hawai’i. I like to return to it from time to timea during transitions in my life as a reminder of where I have come from since then. In short, this is the purpose of telling stories; To remind us who we are, where we come from, and where we are heading.

In just a few weeks I’ll be returning to the island of Holaniku, a small atoll at the Northwestern edge of the Hawaiian archipelago. Stay tuned for future posts on my preparations for another 6 months on the isolated atoll.

BREATH OF THE HILL

Hapu'u

Kipuka

          Hapu’u. Tree Fern. This was the name given to me. I liked the idea of being a tree fern, unraveling fronds towering over human heads, growing upwards steadily towards the canopy, towards light, the soft furry pulu shedding off of me, glistening a golden orange-brown through the crack of shade in this dense Ohia Lehua forest, with their bright red flowers shooting out like fireworks frozen in mid-burst. The canopy is full of sounds; a biophony. I am standing in the middle of a kipuka, this particular one is called Puaulu, a small patch of forest that stands isolated in the middle of an old frozen lava flow. It is an island of sorts, somehow untouched during the eruption that covered this side of Hawaii with molten smooth rock, pahoi hoi, like syrup over pancakes.

The air is thick with mist. The sounds of birds resonate through the kipuka in mysterious way. I am focused on a Hapu’u standing tall in front of me, trying to notice its detail. The large fronds radiate out from its thick stump creating an understory of canopy. Some of the fronds have snapped and point downwards making the tree fern into an hourglass shape…

            January 06th, 2010

            The ferns are a rusty color at the base, with a furry texture covering it. The rainforest consists mostly of these tree ferns. The Ohia Lehua trees form and enclose the canopy. Some of the trees release a hanging reddish-brown collection of aerial roots, a defense mechanism that is activated if the tree is somehow damaged. Ohia refers to the tree, lehua to the blossoms; bright red flowers, small buds, maturing into hard woody capsules.

I take out my tiny sketchbook and make an attempt at drawing this giant fern. It is the first time I’ve seen one. They are everywhere, dominating the mid canopy, shading, protecting.

Today is full of first times. I am marveling at it all. The group is far ahead of me on the trail. I stop every step, noticing a new plant foreign and unfamiliar to me, beautiful to me. Everything is so different here. There are large cavities in the ground where the soil collapsed because of an absence of support beneath the old lava rock. The land here is not very stable. It is not so old as it is periodically covered with lava, as the island swells and grows, and erupts. My skin begins to breathe, sweating, opening up to the humidity. Rain falls softly and shyly.  A pheasant comes bursting out of the brush and over my head, a great flash of blue and black. The size of the canopy and many birds residing in this Kipuka means that this forest is very old. I think about what it must have been like before the latest lava came barreling down out of one of the volcanic shafts that connects to the deep magma chamber. Hawaii is but 0.6 million years old, making it the newest land formation on the earth. In fact, some might say that it is still 0 years old since the land is actually still forming, fed by a hot spot deep in the mantle layer. Inevitably, someday, this kipuka will come crashing down, only to rise up again.

Yesterday I landed by plane 2,390 miles from California; 3,850 miles from Japan; 4,900 miles from China; and 5,280 miles from the Philippines. I am standing in an island within an island, isolated by lava that is isolated by a great ocean. I take a deep breath in and look up at all the life existing in the canopy. I walk out to the edge of the Kipuka and the frozen lava flow. Standing between these two worlds I begin to contemplate the balances of life. All this life somehow made it to the most isolated place on the planet, all this life finding ways into every corner of the earth.

I look down at my hands and examine the grooves sketched in my palm. I focus my eyes at the cracks in my skin. I wonder who I am. I wonder how life came to together to create me. Was I once just a mere bare rock that emerged from the ocean, born into the turbulent exposure of the world, growing and filling with life?

 

Tuesday, January 9th, 2010

            It was the most pretty and mystical walk yet, with the sound of hundreds of birds chirping, the giant Acacia Koa and Ohia trees, some of which are joined together near the base of the trunk forming wild structures. The most mystical aspect of it all were the Ki plants that sprout up tall, then bloom long glossy leaves that are used in a variety of ceremonial ways. The ki plant was introduced by ancient Polynesians, and is part of the lily family. It is considered sacred to the Hawaiian god Lono, and to the goddess of  hula and the forest, Laka. It was used by the kahuna priests in their ceremonial rituals as protection to ward off evil spirits and to call in good.

Hapu’u means ‘breath of the hill’. The young hapu’u grows upward until it is too heavy to support itself, at which point it cracks, splits, and falls over. New roots spring from the fallen trunk, and again it grows towards the sun. Again gravity pulls it back to the ground, and so on… this cycle continues, like long slow breathing. I came to Hawaii to reach out towards the sun, to feel alive, to get away from the confusion I faced daily back at home, and school. I arrived to the program silent and shy, raveled up like the new fronds of a fern, hidden from the other members of the program. As Americanized as this Island has become, Hawaii felt foreign to me, and very magical.

Pele

Monday, January 8th, 2012

              I watched the sun rise above the Kilauea caldera. I watched it shine through geological vents, pouring vapor out along the bluffs, dissipating over the rim of the caldera that rises above the desolate crater floor. Within the caldera is the Halemaumau crater, home of the passionate goddess of fire, Pele, she-who-shapes-the-sacred-land, as her name is described in ancient Hawaiian chants. I am sitting perched at the site where Pele’s brother, kamohoali’i, god of the shark, is meant to live. Pele gave him this cliff, Palikapu okamohoali’i, for helping Pele navigate to the island of Hawaii from Tahiti. It is said that she gifted him with this side of the caldera because no smoke or fumes ever blow in this direction. It was a beautiful sight, and is embedded in my mind.

           

I picture myself as the shark god, looking down below into the crater where my sister Pele lives. I imagine the rain pouring down Mauna Loa, seeping into the ground, down towards the lava, towards Pele where her fiery passion vaporizes and steams through the cracked vents, bellowing out over my head, over the rim of the giant caldera, and fainting with the rising sun. I see myself as part of this story, the story of Hawai’i. I imagine myself as part of the land and wonder how I can feel so at home when I am thousands of miles away from all those I’ve ever known and ever loved. I did not want to return there. I wanted to be a part of this place, here, so active and alive with myth.

I return down the slope from the rim of the caldera to our campsite. Everyone is just getting up, slowly emerging from their tents, standing, stretching – taking in the new day. There is a slight smell of sulfur dioxide in the air. Pele’s wavering temper lingers in my mind. I think about what the volcanologists we visited the other day who told us about the volcano’s continuously erupting activity – how they don’t know exactly what caused the inflating and deflating of the magma through the vents. There are only some possible theories conjured about the swelling and increased pressure in the magma chamber, but no one knows for sure. As the sulfur smell floods my nostrils, I smile with a wild yet comforting thought that it is of course Pele who is causing all of the eruptions.

Keauhu trail to Halape iki

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

            The ground began to even out. We were surrounded by tall grass, an ecosystem we had not yet been to, but beautiful nonetheless. The thick fields of grass made everything look golden, and their pink tops created a colorful scene, dancing through the light as the wind swooped though. Suddenly, I became overwhelmed. My eyes swelled with tears as I closed their lids, feeling the wind push against my body, against all that surrounds me. At that moment, I felt very close to the land. I felt a part of it. I understand how we are born from the soil, and die into the soil. We all come from the same energy, Earth. It is very over powering. I have been so calm and relaxed, so peaceful and balanced, so soft and real, comfortable and clean. But I do not understand how I felt at that moment amongst the grass. It felt like a great sadness pressing down on me. How I wish times were different. How I wish I could change the world. Sometimes I think I can feel it dying. I wonder how many of my tears cry for this. How many for happiness and beauty? How many for sadness?

            Just now I saw a whale emerge, startling me, as I looked out at the ocean. It was far away in the distance. I could only see debris shooting out of its blowhole. I focused on the Whale as it slipped beneath the blue, silently disappearing.  The whale reminded me to stay focused on what’s left, and not to dwell in the absence of life, on the surface of how things appear. There is still an abundance, I just have to seek it out, believe in what’s left.

           

            We started out on an old frozen lava flow that stretches down the side of the biggest and newest formed island, the Big Island, comprised of five separate volcanoes, at least one still active and growing. The terrain gradually changes into thicker vegetation as we head laterally off the recent frozen lava and onto an older surface. The rock transforms from a dull charcoal color into a reddish-orange as it has had more time to oxidize in the exposed air. Many plants have made their home here, even without much fertile ground. We continue on across the frozen lava and into fields of long grass that lead us down rocky slopes eventually out to the ocean. The landscape is starting to change with our decent. The climate is fairly dry on the leeward side. Hills rise to the northwest of us, and to the south they fall down to the coast. We arrive at a lookout and can see for miles along the fall line. The beauty and expanse of the blue horizon envelops my peripherals, the water meeting the coast in deep, crashing waves. Things in the distant always look like they are moving in slow motion. To the east I can see the recent lava flow we traversed earlier slope down over a drop-off, then gradually traveling all the way to the coast and into the ocean. I stop to look out. As I graze across this landscape, something begins filling up inside of me, up to the brim of my eyes, ready to burst out. I feel compelled to be in solitude.

The group stops for a break. I unlatch my backpack’s buckles, put it down and head over the next hill, out of sight. I am tense; my breathing is fast, my skin is prickly. The corners of my mouth begin to tremble. I start to cry. I am lost and confused. This is my first backpacking trip. I sit down and hug my knees, allowing the tears to flow. I gaze up and scan the scenery around me, distorted with tears. I sense the calmness flowing around me. My breathing slows. There is a certain silence that exists here. I notice only the noise of wind darting across the sky and blowing through the grass, which rattle and sway together. I cannot even hear the rest of the group back at the trail, but I imagine them sitting there, munching on peanut butter-filled tortillas, laughing and breathing, taking in the warm air. I feel distant from them, disconnected. Why do I sit here away from the rest, alone? Why am I filled with emotions? What has gotten into me? I wipe the tears from my face, gather my wits and walk back to the group. Is it this place I have come to that is bringing about such challenging emotions, or is it where I come from?

 

January 5th, 2010

            I feel like I am in a dream. I don’t know if it is because I went from a dark Seattle winter to a Hawaii warm-weather climate, or just being thrown into a completely different world all together. Maybe it is because I am with all new faces. In a dream, I often feel unsettled. Nothing is ever quite right in a dream. This is how I feel now.

            But, I also feel good. I have been unusually calm since arriving. I have also been quiet, not too social. I wonder if this is just my shyness. I don’t seem to have anything to say. For now I will just listen.

            Tonight and for the next two nights we are staying out on the water. We arrived at night and I can only hear the sound of the waves rolling in and out. It is very relaxing and I welcome it. It makes me feel at ease, at home. I can’t wait to wake up and the see the ocean…

            Tonight, I see stars, thousands upon thousands. I will spend every last waking minute staring up. I have never seen so many starts. I have never missed something so much…

The next day I wake up early and split from the group, as I’ve grown accustom to doing most mornings, but this morning is different. It is the first time I have ever meditated. It is the first time I have sat in a single place, by myself for more than a few minutes. I find a mound of A’a, a type of lava flow that rolls, spews and sputters, freezing into large clumps. I look out onto the horizon and concentrate on nothing, but everything at the same time. I feel powerful, meaningful, significant, and humble. It feels as if the island is revealing itself to me. I sense its aliveness, from the tiny critters crawling beneath my feet and buzzing in my ears, to the cloud of gases spewing out of the land. I watch the sun rise, I hear the rhythmic waves, I feel the wind envelop me, and I taste the world. I feel free of the constraints of my body; hovering. I find myself amidst it all- experiencing something I don’t believe I have in a long time…I feel…alive

The fronds of my Hapu’u begin unraveling as the sun climbs higher into the sky. My breath is deep and with each exhale I grow taller. I exhale so tremendously that the weight and height of my branches can no longer stand on their own. I fall, crashing to the ground. The waves breathe in again, and through the soft pulu of my Hapu’u stump, new fronds appear, coiled tight, starting the cycle all over again. This moment of solitude early in the morning is something I’ve never had before. It is a gift, and I cherish it each day. I either get up and run, or find a spot to my calling and sit until I grow tired, returning to the group whom are always there to greet me with that sort of calm energy that Hawai’i exudes.


Petroglyhps

Petroglyphs

            Our group went to see the ancient petroglyphs left behind by long lineages of Polynesians. We meander around the rocks on raised platforms, finding many ringed shapes carved into the frozen lava. Usually a column or row of these rings can be found, all in a line, each about the same ratio between the inner and outer circle that make up the ring. The rings represent the belly-button, a symbol of birth, fertility, and family. Each line of belly-buttons is the lineage of a family and are unique in their carving, distinguished from one family to the next. Some stretch many generations back, and others continue to be added to this day, carving new rings for each new generation. The petroglyphs are located a great distance away from any ancient human settlement. It is a sacred place, a recording of existence, a story of humans rooted into the rock.

Staring down at the donut shaped carvings, I start to miss home, at least, the idea of home. I start to feel lonely. Where are my roots? Where do my people reside? How are we a part of the land, a part of this universe? I count the rings, one, two, three…ten…twenty…fifty…one hundred…they go on and on. I squeeze my eyes shut. I want to so badly carve my own belly-button into the rock. I want to be part of this lineage. I feel the hot sun bearing down on my exposed neck, making me sweat. I grow hot, unnerved. I want to yell out, scream at the world with such fiery passion, like Pele exploding out of the crater, erupting with volatile anger. I want to split into a million parts and float out with the wind and circle the globe until I settle into every corner of the world. All this life, in every corner of the earth. Where do I fit in?

The Inversion Layer

Mauna Kea

Mauna means mountain. Mauna Kea is the sacred mountain of Hawaii, the summit at an impressive 13,796 feet. Mauna Kea translates as White Mountain, also known as the mountain of Wakea. There is an ancient saying, Mauna Kea kuahiwi ku ha’o I ka malie, ‘the astonishing mountain that stands in the calm’. It comes from how the mountain’s summit rests above the cloud inversion line, and is one of the reasons it is such a  good site for the science of astronomy, the other reason being it is surrounded on all sides by water, so there is virtually no light pollution. Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain in the world, measured from its base down at the ocean floor. It last erupted 4,500 years ago and is long dormant.

We waited until the sun went down to view the awesome array of stars above. Every star seen with the naked eye is part of our galaxy, except for the Pleiades constellation, which consists of a cluster of stars from the Andromeda galaxy. The Hawaiians have their own name for Pleiades, Makali’I.

I watched Jupiter set, and Mars rise. I watched one of the arms of our galaxy, the Milky Way, stretch across the entire sky in a wavy length containing an estimate of 1 trillion stars. There are so many that you cannot see them individually.

January 11th, 2010

   The vegetation on Mauna Kea is extremely sparse, a characteristic of montane desert climate. Dry air, windy weather, and variable temperatures make if difficult for plants to thrive and are why so few are found here. A now rare, but highly special plant of Mauna Kea, the endemic Silverswoard, glistens with so much silver it looks as if spray-painted. When cattle and sheep ran free, as they did in the early 1900’s, these plants were particularly tasty to them, and soon the plant became endangered. It was thought to have gone extinct until a few were discovered growing on the edge of a cliff, where no sheep or cattle could reach.

   The summit of Mauna Kea is an Alpine-Tundra climatic region, consisting of only moss, lichen, grass, and ferns. Very little fauna can be found. The only insect found to be living at the summit is the Wakiu, because of an anti-freeze chemical it produces. This highly specialized bug is a perfect example of species adaptation. The bug flies around finding dead frozen insects that were unlucky enough to be caught in winds sweeping them up to the frozen summit. The only native land mammal of the Hawaiian Islands is located up on Mauna Kea: The Hori bat. Other animals of flight in this area are the Nene goose, which have evolved to have shorter wings and lesser-webbed feet in order to better suite their new environment on the Island. Obviously, they do not migrate, but have been hybridizing with introduced species of goose. A full breed Nene is a rare sighting. 

   The mountain itself is a sacred and holy place for the Polynesians, and only high priest have ventured to the peak, too sacred for any other class to be. The lake Wa’le on Mauna Kea is thought to have healing powers as is used often for medicinal purposes. Many believed the lake was bottomless because the water is able to collect instead of drain away through porous volcanic rock, but actually the floor is made of clay. The lake is colored a solid green from the amount of algae growing in it.

We travel up along the saddle in between the broad active volcano of Mauna Loa, and the steep dormant volcano of Mauna Kea. The van barely makes it up the road to the visitor center on Mauna Kea. We are ascending up towards a sacred place. After reading about all of the social, cultural, and political conflicts that still occur today concerning the volcano, I feel weary about approaching. Not only am I not a priest, I am not Hawaiian at all. This volcano is a site where very few people were allowed. Now it is littered with tourists and scientists alike, disturbing this holy peak. It does not seem right for me to hurl myself up the side of this mountain. I feel unwelcomed.

The visitor center is only at 9,000 feet, the peak at nearly 14,000 feet. The van cannot make the rest of the climb, which I am somewhat grateful for. I already feel like a disturbance of some force or deity. The air is thin and cool. We are sitting at just about the inversion line, a layer of clouds suspended just below us. It feels like we are floating on top of them. If I strain my eyes just right, I can see the vast blue of the ocean, thousands of feet below.

While we wait for nightfall, I spend my time meandering on nearby trails, observing the vegetation, what little of it there is. There is a small garden close by dedicated to restoring the Silversword plant populations, āhinahina,, a relative of the pineapple. Their silver color is an adaptation to their cold environment. The silver coloring are tiny shiny hairs covering the leaves, which are parabolic-shaped focusing the warm sun rays on to the plant’s growing point, raising the temperature of that point by 40 degrees. It is the same concept of a reflector or solar oven.  Silverswords live for about 10 to 50 years as a low, round bush. At the end of their life, they send up a flowering stalk that can grow over 6 feet tall within a few weeks, and produce up to 600 flower heads. It reminds me of the Great Pacific Octopus, which only lays eggs once, near death, thousands of them at once. She spends the last moments of her life guarding her eggs, keeping them hidden and safe. With a single death, comes a multitude of life.

Looking around, I take in the emptiness of vegetation, the scattered life that exists on this barren mountain. It seems that I am not the only one unwelcomed, for there are few who have actually been able to colonize this harsh environment and make a life of their own. The miraculous ability to adapt; to not only survive in places with little to no nutrients, oxygen and violent exposures of sun, wind and bitter coldness, but to thrive in this environment. I decide that I am not welcomed so long as I do not belong. Everything begins from somewhere else, and only those who find a way to survive and live in balance with their environment become a part of their environment. I stare back down at the Silversword and ponder what it means to be native. Where am I native to? What specialized adaptations have I evolved to have? If this mountain is thought to be sacred, are the plants and animals that live on it sacred as well? Perhaps there is some place where I will settle and become sacred myself.


Waimanu Valley-1049

Waimanu Valley

Saturday, Febuary 6th, 2010

            If you look down and focus on the ground where your stability lays, you can feel the whole earth shake and tremble, as it does, through age. I have grown for twenty rotations around the sun. My heart has beat in rhythmic cycles all the while. Small, rhythmic trembles, beating through age.

Last night it rained a good amount. I awoke to the sound of the river raging into the sea, clashing against huge waves. A violent battle of fresh and salt-water forces. The river’s width increased dramatically since the night before, and the speed at which the water flowed was menacing. I stood in awe, trapped on the beach, merciful and powerless. This tremendous force blocked our only way back out of the valley. I looked out where the river met the ocean imagining sharks stationed with their mouths wide open, waiting for fish and other critters as they helplessly poured in from the rushing river. I looked back into the valley to see new waterfalls appear that weren’t visible before. The amount of water coming down from the top of this valley, Waimanu, was unbelievable. How could it rain so much? It was a mesmerizing site watching new falls form slowly and subtly in the distance. 

This is the force that carved the valley into what it is now. A valley, which was used by Polynesians to nourish the growth of Taro, a staple food, which many subsisted off of and ensured food of plenty, even during terrible droughts and times of war and famine. It is a valley where people now come to live to get away from the modern human constructs of the world. It is a place of refuge, and serenity. It is a valley of time, ever-changing where all creatures may find food and stability. Yet it floods with tremendous volumes of  water, carving, shaping, and changing the landscape. I look down at my feet, where the roots of my Hapu’u are buried deep into the ground, stable and grounded. I feel the whole earth shake and tremble, changing, as it should through age.

In a few days I will return home, far away from this chain of islands. I will remember how rooted I felt in the stories of Hawaii, like the carved belly-buttons, how stable and healthy I felt waking up each day with slow and purposeful intention. I will always remember how I grew and fell, grew and fell like the waves, and the Hapu’u tree ferns. I will remember how I changed, like the Waimanu valley, carving deeper and deeper into the wholeness of this earth. We all come from somewhere, and I have learned through my passage through Hawaii, that only when I stop and listen to the stories being told around me, may I find home.

 

 

A Day in the Patient Life of Tyler

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“Rome wasn’t built in a Day”
2016 was a year of me confronting what I want which ultimately brought me to the realization that I don’t really know what that is. And so with 2017 arriving I’m accepting that fact as gracefully as I know how, so I can take the next steps towards greater awareness, scraping off the layers of denying my own heart its true desires and begin exploring the world of risk-taking.
I’ve always wanted to rush life’s processes, anxious for change, but I always am expecting to be able to do it from the safety and comfort of my own conservatism. Committing to the unknown has always been a real issue for me, suspending me in what feels like a regressive time-wasting well with slippery moss-dampened high walls. I learned quickly in this deep well how to master self-deception, believing the walls can never be climbed, that I’ll just have to wait in the shuddering darkness for some savior to come rescue me in the forgotten forest. All of this, of course, I have done onto myself.
And so as the years go by, even as I live in the perceptive paradise of Hawai’i,  I have picked up the handy tool of doubting myself through the highly infectious inner spinning spools of the mind, twisting and weaving together threads of domesticated abstract thoughts, only mere reflections of who I am, into a too-tightly knit canvas, smothering the true me.  This blanket of deception- how I see myself, how my mind weaved together a construct of who I am – is now the wholly dominate way in which I have come to know myself. It’s hard to breath under that blanket. It’s hard to find any source of warmth in that well. It’s cold and lonely and I can only hear the echoes of my voice reverberating the doubts I shout so that my doubts in this illusionary well start shouting at themselves. Doubts shouting out doubts. Doubts doubting doubts.
Hawai’i in some ways has become a symbolic plane-field to contain my virtual self, and study it with keen awareness. Nothing really to report, certainly nothing worthy of being published. My life continues on what seems like a meaningless thread of nonsense. It brings me down a lot. I’m afraid I’ve learned to not trust most things, most people, weary of their true unconscious intentions, their unmet needs. But most of all, I have learned not to even trust myself. I’m not sure I have the strength to climb the walls towards the light. I’m not sure I have the the ability to relax so that the grip of my mind’s threads stops weaving its constricting tapestry around my squirming body.
I hunger for truth. I desire change. I pray for progress. I live in angst.
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On New Years Eve, I ventured out to the far reaching coast of Kalapana in Puna to stay with a fellow runner friend, Tyler. He’s 29, been on the island for 6 years and seems relatively grounded (relative to me that is). So I finally took him up on his invitation to dine and dash, in a literal sense. We went out for a 9 mile run on the Red Road, climbed his neighbors coconut tree to harvest the fruits as a favor, and settled into his abode as the sun set, shining its last colors above the jungle canopy.
Tyler bought a piece of land a few years back, and with the help of friend they built a 16×24 un-zoned house with lovely loft, complete with water catchment, a propane shower and composting toilet. Befriended his sweet elderly  neighbor with the mature coconuts, he borrows her electricity and modest wifi. We made a delicious abundance of vegan food all locally sourced (except for the rice). Because it was a special occasion, Tyler whipped out his valued juicer and creamed the old coconuts we harvested from the Tree, mixing it with a delectable tahini, lemon, curry spice, and soy sauce as dressing for the cooked Bananas, Uala Potatoes and Green Beans. On the ground of his kitchen lay a series of banana bunches on newspaper, all in what looked like a sequential order, from freshest to ripest. Tyler  was just going through his life’s routine, and I refreshingly observed the ins and outs of his low-impact, simple yet methodical Puna lifestyle.
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The Humble Abode
The next day we awoke to the new year, and amongst our breakfast we indulged in a digestive conversation about things to come. Tyler does not comment much on his introspective life, instead spending most of his cognitive abilities outwardly. His way of life is extremely systematic. He has only what he needs, and nothing more. He is efficient with his movements and his work. It is a delight to witness, and at times I found myself even humored by it as it creates a concentrative lightness in the atmosphere. I felt so far removed from my own internal burdens that being in his world with all of its intensive intentions somehow made me feel happy and giddy. As I laughed aloud a couple times, I hoped that Tyler did not take any offense. It was too tempting to express my jubilance as he performed calculating squats for optimal leverage while juicing the coconut, or his precise arm-wailing technique while entering his house through the screen door to prevent any greedy mosquitos from joining our New Years party. The beautiful part was that all his movements, his actions, were evolutionary-based. They were all created as solutions to problems. They were creative and effective. And if they weren’t effective, they died, and new methods were born. It is his way of life.

But in this morning-lit conversation, Tyler shared some wonderful insight that struck me like a big brass bell, still resonating through my trembling cells. “I feel there is a change coming soon for me. I’m not sure what it is, or when it will happen. There is a time for rest, and a time for action. The past six years I’ve not really had any motivation to pursue anything, so I didn’t force anything. I just lived day by day, exploring what I enjoyed, and throughout it all I’ve always been waiting with patience for when the time comes to move along. And I think it is soon.”

I looked up from my oats as he spoke. Just an hour before while Tyler was still asleep, my mind was active and buzzing, trying to figure out my life for me. I was looking at Job openings, I was looking at Graduate programs. I was considering this and pondering that. My mind is earnest, it is loyal and well-intentioned, but now, as Tyler finished speaking, I wondered just how much my mind was really acting in the best interest of the rest of me. For a split second I saw that the well wasn’t real. That the blanket was made of nothing. Here stood Tyler, a man who I can say without a doubt is a gifted and talented man, just living a self-proclaimed idle life in the back jungles of Puna, and he’s okay with that. Content with his life as it is, in the now.

I was inspired. Not by his life per se, but his attitude towards his life. His full trust and faith in himself. That what he’s doing now matters, and everything will fall into place as the tides change, as the seasons cycle, as the stars align.
I don’t know how many more cycles I have on this Island. I never really know. But I dream of living here forever. I dream of starting a family, having land, having purpose, having a close and loving everlasting community, where someday I’ll be a grandfather to the whole town. But I also still doubt too much that I’ll ever achieve that. I’m afraid I’ll be alone for the rest of my life. I’m afraid we all will be. That the world will end in loneliness.
Or revive itself in togetherness.
That day, as I collected my belongings and said my farewells to Tyler, I drove back along the windy roads to Hilo and started to reimagine myself as I once was, as I always have been: a man of faith exploring that which makes the heart grow fonder.
Here’s to 2017. A new year. Another year. Another chance to wash away the past and be alert to the callings of things to come. All we can do is prepare every day in every moment and act when it is time to act. If we miss the last bus, well then we’ll take the next train…
…as in the words of Julian Casablancas:
I say the right things but act the wrong way
I like it right here but I cannot stay
I watch the TV; forget what I’m told
Well, I am too young, and they are too old
Oh, man, can’t you see I’m nervous, so please
Pretend to be nice, so I can be mean
I miss the last bus, we take the next train
I try but you see, it’s hard to explain

Rest

My brain feels like a boiled egg. I could only sleep in about an hour. The sun has risen, but Hilo remains quiet and asleep. It’s a three day weekend, and the hard workers of the Big Island lay in their beds weighted by the consuming hours of  past labors.

My stomach feels messy from all the pizza I ate yesterday, and that’s certainly the same reason my head is sloshing with low frequency pains. I wake up not feeling all that into myself. It comes and goes like the seasons, like the rains, like the planets circling nearby.

It’s a privilege to be an existentialist. The freedom of my pondering thoughts is directly related to the abundance of opportunity at my finger tips. Even as my head slams with yesterday’s regrets, I swim in the notions of why I exist.

The Hilo rain this morning drifts in from the ocean in soft waves. I shuffle around the quiet of the house, make my coffee, and hang upside down on my roommate’s inversion table, trying to release the tension coiled around my spinal column. I contemplate what I’ll try and do today, trying to brush away impending thoughts to be present in the relaxing and restorative day off I have ahead. I just finished another enduring week of work with my summer gig: a team leader for a small group of up and coming young adults passionate about their home land of Hawai’i. Each week we visit a different site of managed reserve land in which any various conservation project is being implemented through whatever funding has been allocated for that place.

We as a team have been working hard, and I’ve been given the great gift of total trust in leading this group of 17 and 18 year olds – an age in life I remember all too well. An age, in some ways, I myself am still afraid to let go of. That turning point. That severance. Excited to be my own person, but deathly afraid of what sacrifices must be made. Safety. Innocence. Comfort.

The rain thickens and drowns out any sounds of civilization from the city as the Hilo town begins to wake up. I dreamt of Mauna Kea last night and wanting its spiritual solitude, but all my waking life seemed to be up there with me.

The summer has come into its fullest and all seems busy with activity during these longer days. My family feels distant along the pacific coast of America, and I cringe with homesickness during these soft gentle mornings as I lay outside of their proximity. A normal routine of emotions spill in and I allow them to fill before flushing them back out.

The house cat comes bounding in with the heavy rain on her silky black fur. She cries outside my door and awaits my response, smelling the particles of dust and debris on the floor around my doorway. She stands at the threshold of my room, uncertain if she will enter, or let me be, licking and drying her dampened paws.

Next week I head out to the historical Kuamo’o Battle field and burial grounds of Pili Kauwela in South Kona. A place of heavy energy I am told. A place with memories of the deaths of not only many people, but a whole philosophy and religion: the Kapu system.

I do not know what next week will bring in its entirety for me or my team, but I anticipate the immersion into a place that will tell a story of an important lesson on humanity.

 

 

 

The Mythological Pastry

The days roll over each other like buttery layers of a croissant, congealed into weeks and months, together like flaking goodness of sweet and fat fused just perfectly imperfect by the blazing oven of creation.

I sat outside the Laundry Express on one of these particularly buttery days trying to use the space between loads as an opportunity for pastry reflection. Three weeks ago I lay curled up on the floor boards of my tent confronting the delicate edge between life and death, not necessarily suicidal per se, but certainly not filled with the will of life either. And now I’m sitting with my legs crossed down town with damp feet, with one sultry croissant in my hand, wondering how I picked myself up and  began to rediscover the source of life; my source for life. The journey to that source certainly is not over, most likely has just begun, but enough time and events and experiences have passed that I can split open that croissant and feel the soft steamy innards against my taste buds and salivate over the digestion of this little package of experience.
My newly acquainted friend slides through the sliding doors of the laundry center and sits down next to me on the firm plastic bench outside. A waft of detergent scent follows her out, mixing and dissipating with the ethanol infused vehicle emissions from a herd of cars passing by us in circles hoping to find an open spot in the parking lot. Laundry Express is one of the most popular destinations in Hilo.

I barely know this women. I just met her that morning. She just moved into the vacant tent up at our place the night before. We  shared coffee and bananas and pineapple for breakfast and somehow with the help of the buzz of caffeine and my nervous energy upon having a new junglemate, we found ourselves knee deep in one of those conversations that is real hard to find a way out of. Philosophical. Political. Moral. Spiritual. It was messy.

But at the end of it we discovered both of us were in need of washing clothes and my was I relieved to find that out cause I was dead out of clean clothes with a couple more job interviews coming up and no way of getting my heap of possessive attire to town. But she had a car. A Cadillac. I think it was my first time in a Cadillac.

And sitting there on the firm plastic bench surrounded by fumes we also both discovered our passion for writing. She had come to Hawaii originally to hunker down and finally complete a book she’d been writing for 5 years, a collection of over 2,500 pages by now. A bit of a nightmare, if you ask me. I didn’t tell her so, but I did tell her how I so admired her for attempting to write a book, and even such an epic as that. I myself, I said to her, could really only handle writing little blogs, but wished that some day I’d write a book. Something that involves Mars perhaps.

When I asked for the premise of her book she asked if I knew what ‘M Theory’ or “String Theory’ is. I said I had heard of it and she went on to explain the 11 dimensions our universe is made up of and that her book is essentially 11 different stories all intermingled in a structure much like that of this ‘M Theory’.

I got all excited because it reminded me of how classic tales and ancient stories were told in a convoluted ‘more than meets the eye’ type of circular ‘ring theory’ way in which a hidden message could be found in the depths of the structure of how the story itself is told. One of my favorite examples of this is George Lucas’s creation of StarWars which is arguably the greatest modernization of myth to date (you can see what that’s all about here).

And her struggle to complete this story of her’s that seemingly turned into some kind of monstrous monstrosity with its massive accumulation of pages upon pages, weighing down on her pushing her ever so slightly further away from obtaining the ultimate goal of completion reminded me a bit of what my life was feeling like; this life in which I felt this enormity of potential pulsating from every cell and fiber of my being and trying so hard to work on the small things in my life so that I could realize that potential and become this greatness, this grandiose grandness I’ve always felt but could never find… in me.

She said, “I’ve been here for just about a year now and my book has made no progress. And it’s funny, because you know just 8 days ago I was just about ready to give up, and not just on the book, but my life. I couldn’t stop crying. For days, I just cried. And here I am now. I just bought a car and moved to a new place and am picking myself up and I’m okay with where I’m at and in fact I feel like somehow I’ve let go of control a bit and am allowing things to just happen, allowing my days to unfold, just as this book is unfolding. I do my best writing when I don’t really think about what I’m writing. It just comes out, layer upon layer.”

“Like a croissant.”

“What?”

I point to the glazed flakes of what remained of my croissant sprinkled across my lap. “A croissant.”

“Oh. Yea. I guess.”

 

 

Wednesday’s Training PT II: Always have a Plan B

**PT II (a continuation of Wednesdays Training PT I: The Socratic Method)**

My phone rings. I look over. Its my father calling.  I was expecting this call. I knew what was coming. A compassionate concern for my well being. Some fatherly advice. Advice I didn’t want to hear, but I needed to. That kind of advice in the back of your mind you keep quiet and ignore until someone says it out loud. I pick up the phone.

“So how’re you doing?”

“well I’m good. Just uh, hanging in there, you know.”

“yeah. So I’m concerned about your financial situation.” oof. Straight to the point. He’s here to talk problem solving. His speciality. My disability.

“Yeah me too,” I say, “It’s kind of the source of all my stress.”

“I bet. So do you have a plan B, you know, if things don’t work out?” I’m not happy with where this is going. I know what he’s hinting at, but I don’t want to admit it, and I don’t want to hear what he’s about to offer. But it’s got to be said.

“No plan B, I’ve just been hoping I get a job before I run out of money. Sort of racing against the clock at this point…”

“Well I think you should have a plan B, and to me the most practical plan is to come back here, to Seattle.”

There. It’s said. Those words. Come Back home. I’m not sure my father knows what those words symbolize to me. Maybe he does. But the tears start to come. There’s a long awkward silence over the phone. I finally say something, “I can’t afford to do that.”

“Well I’ll help with that of course. We’ll get you back. Look, its just a plan B, but you need to have a plan B. You gotta think about what you’re doing out there, if it’s worth it, if it’s really working out for you, and if not, then you need to figure out what to do. I’m sorry if that’s hard to hear” Another long pause. Now I’m upset. I have a terrible insecurity that my family thinks I’m just dicking around in Hawaii turning into a beatnik.

Some words come stumbling out of my mouth meekly, “Yea no its okay those are thoughts I’ve been having myself. I question what it is I’m doing out here all the time. It’s just…” I try hard to hold back the tears, suppress the emotional release, but some still gets through, “…I guess that means back to the nest.”

“It does, but there’s plenty to do around here. Just remember that it is still your choice. I’m just offering you a realistic alternative.”

I had been denying a plan B because I new what it meant for me. It meant failure. Failure to launch. Failure to be anything on my own. It meant returning to home, where I was just a kid dependent on my parents. I was feeling so ashamed and humiliated having this conversation with my father over the phone. But the worst was yet to come.

“Are you getting enough to eat? Are you staying healthy?” I guess my father is pretty concerned, but I had been alluding to my less-than-ideal situation, and to my pride that might be preventing me from making smart rationale choices in life. But I reassure him.

“Yeah I’m getting by. I’m filling myself up. Been running and paddling and biking lots. I know I gotta eat, and I know I need money for that. I’m pretty much living off of the  money I made selling my bike. But that money is gonna run out real soon.”

He asks if I have friends on the island. I tell him I have a supportive community and am staying active in the community. I tell him I’ve had a number of job interviews, some I’m hopeful about. More reassurance that I have an invested life here in Hawaii. And then  the question comes.

“Do I need to loan you money?” There it is. The question I’ve been too prideful to ask myself. And now I’m too prideful to even say yes, yes I do need to loan money otherwise I’ll be foraging on mac nuts and plucking taro out of the ground. I need the money, there’s no doubt about that. But I don’t want help. I don’t want my father to have to swoop in again and rescue me. Pride I’ll tell ya. It’s gonna me kill me if I don’t kill it off first.

I give in. I tell him I could use the money, but that I really don’t want it. I say this through tears he cannot see. I say it with surrender in my heart, with my head hung low. But I know I am blessed, to even have this as a choice. And I love my father and am blessed he is willing to help me, willing to see me succeed.

We finish off our phone conversation in a casual manner. We talk little details about my whole family’s planned visit in April. My father says he’ll transfer enough money to help me get by until then when I should make a decision about staying in Hawaii or returning with them after the trip. I give out a sigh, a release, after having a hard but very much needed conversation.

As soon as I hang up, I get another call from a stranger inquiring about my guitar I posted an ad for online. He wants to check it out and possibly buy it. We set a time and place for tomorrow, and my pride begins to creep back in, maybe I don’t need my father’s money. Maybe I can still do this on my own…

My thoughts start to wander back to my conversation with Taapai, but now my mind is wandering with thoughts of my father, with thoughts of returning home, with thoughts of selling my guitar just to prove I don’t need help, with thoughts of my family visiting in a month.

I wander through the states of emotions I felt while talking to my father, wondering how I might have desired those feelings of shame and humiliation and how my father helped me feel them and overcome or maybe fulfill them by safely expressing my shame to him, and to myself.

I wandered back to the idea of emotional desires and what it all meant for myself after feeling such intense emotions right after feeling that dull depression – my psyche ebbing and flowing through emotional states like a wave. Is this what life is about? Embracing whatever emotions are being requested by my body or soul or whatever is the source of my being? God? Is this what Buddha means by participating in the joyful sorrow of life? Am I on the path of spiritual guidance? Is this the way to enlightenment? To the Tree of Life?

My mind starts to wander far, and my body soon joins in.

Time for a run.

Wednesday’s Training PT I: The Socratic Method

I know what happens to me when I stop running. I know all too well. Depression. I don’t feel like doing anything. The thought of doing anything even slightly causes anxiety. But when I’m running, the threatening harsh world is smoothed over and doesn’t seem so scary anymore. It becomes inviting. I feel up to life’s challenges. Exhilarated even.

But what happens when running becomes an obstacle? Just a fix, a state of being I become addicted to. Abused. 

I’m making myself a cup of coffee made from yesterday’s steeped grounds. It doesn’t have that same aromatic full-body kick to it, but it’ll do. I just ate a bowlful of millet I spiced up with a left over pack of pepper flakes from Dominos, and fry up my last egg. It fills me up, but I know I’ll be hungry again within the hour.  The sun is heating up the day, but I can see a weather front moving in. It’ll be nice to get some rain.

Gusts of wind are blowing erratically. The tarp of my outdoor kitchen is dancing wildly with each blow . Tiny droplets appear on the screen of my computer then disappear as the wind returns the moisture to the air. It’s a beautiful day. Moody. Nice smooth, filtered light making all the green colors pop out vibrantly.

I’m tired. My legs feel heavy from the past two weeks of running. My arms and sides and butt are sore and stiff from paddling and biking. I’ve been going hard with my body, trying to stay fit and in shape for the marathon. It’s under two weeks away. Finally time to taper and recover the muscles. I can’t rest too much, it wouldn’t be good, but I can sense my body desiring to crumple up and take a break from it all. I’ve been going hard on all levels. Not just with my training either.

I’m staying positive. I’m staying focused. I’m building confidence and averaging a job interview a week. My Hilo Ohana has been so supportive. “You can do this!” they say. “You’d be perfect at that job” they remark. Just yesterday I got called in for an interview after only applying the day before. Encouraging. My phone rang while I was walking up to my tent. I almost didn’t answer, too tired to want to talk. But I knew I couldn’t afford not to. 1 hour later I was sitting at the cafe 5 miles away rattling out answers about my personality and skill traits like I had become oh-so used to doing the past 6 months.

6 months. In a few days The summer team for Kure Atoll conservancy will be embarking on their 6 month journey to the atoll, the very same journey I embarked on a year ago, that I returned from 6 months ago. It’s been 6 months. 182 days. Still no job. In some ways I’m actually impressed with myself. I’ve been able to get away with living without a paying wage. That takes finesse I tell yeah, if you don’t have much money to begin with.  But it also depresses me. I’m someone who needs to be doing something. I need production in my life. I need to be acheiving. And when I turn around and see that since I’ve returned from the far reaches of the Northwest Hawaiian islands, I see a young man who has not been motivated to work. But I’m too tired for the emotional baggage that comes along with that. Depression is a real downer. A real addiction I tell ya.

So instead I choose to rest my weary bones on this Wednesday, and sink into a reflection I’ve been meaning to return to:

I was sitting with my roommate Taapai. It was dark and chilly out. We just finished our shared meal of Poi and and sautéed greens in coconut milk.  As we often do, we were sharing the same physical space but very much involved in our own thoughts; each in our own meditative worlds. Sometimes a bridge is formed between our meditations when one of us feels inspired to share. I spoke up.

“I’ve been feeling depressed.”
“oh yea?”

“Yea. It’s weird though, it feels like I’m coming out of it, like a spell was broken.”
“what broke the spell?”
“I don’t know, it’s hard to say really. Maybe I got fed up feeling that way… I started writing again. And that felt good. I think it was because I was creating something. It felt good to be creating… the depression, I wasn’t doing anything, and I didn’t want to do anything.”

“Depression. It’s an addiction.”

His statement caught me off guard. I had to pause and process it, but I couldn’t grasp the concept behind it. “How do you mean?” I asked.

“Look at it this way,” He leans in. He’s got my attention, “emotions are different states of being. When you are feeling an emotion, your body or psyche is desiring a certain state of being. Otherwise, that emotion wouldn’t exist, right? At first glance, you would think that being sad is not something anyone wants to be. But then why does that emotion exist?”


“Oh I see. you’re saying that all the emotional states exist for a reason: to fulfill a certain state of being. Being sad is as necessary of a state of being as being happy. Our psyche desires certain emotions to fulfill a state of being that is necessary in that place and time in our lives.” I’m a quick conceptual learner.


“Yes. you got it. But what happens when we feel an emotion that won’t go away? Like depression. It’s chronic. You feel depressed. You go to bed feeling depressed, you wake up and you’re still depressed. This is when your psyche becomes addicted to that emotion. It’s craving something, trying to fulfill something. It’s stuck in a self-fulfilling pattern.”


“hmm I don’t quite understand what you mean.”


“I mean when you say you were depressed, you’re psyche was addicted to being sad. It was keeping you in that same state, with no end in sight.”

“But it did end.”

“Yeah eventually. But why did it end?”

“I got tired of feeling that way.”

“okay you got tired of feeling that way, but did feeling sick and tired of being depressed make it go away on it’s own?”

“no.. I had to do something.”


“Exactly. You only became aware that you were depressed. That awareness alone did not change your state of emotional desire. You had to  force yourself to break out of it, right?”


“Yeah I guess so, in a way. In the only way I felt I could, and that was to write about the depression.”

“Right. So somehow while your psyche was still in that state of depression, addicted to it like someone is addicted alcohol, you saw yourself in a different light, and you wanted to get there, but you had to somehow break this immediate feeling you were stuck in… and you did this by – what did you say – writing about it?”


“Yeah I got out my computer and started typing away about how pathetic my situation was, and when I was creating those words I was then immersed in the activity of creating a story, and I looked back on my words and saw how that actually sounded good, and next thing I knew I was in this state of being satisfied by what I had just created. It was like I had dislodged the depressive emotion and replaced it with something else. All of a sudden I was no longer desiring to be sad and depressed, I was desiring to feel good from creating something of quality.”

“Yup. you got it. You see, our emotions are as much of a desire as the substance in our lives we consume to feel a certain way. You can become addicted to feeling bad just as much as you can become addicted to feeling good. You can become addicted to being alone or become addicted to being among people. Neither is right or wrong. It’s just a state of being in which you are desiring.

“In this world, this life, our entire existence is made up of desires. And society judges which desires are deemed good and which ones evil. Religion loves to decide this for us. But in truth, it is the very act of desiring that causes all conflicts. People desire control, people desire clean air, people desire happiness, people desire sex, people desire war, people desire peace, people desire to love, people desire solitude and on and on… we come together and we share our desires with each other, we find those that share the same interests with us, but those interests are just desires. We relate with our desires and if there is enough of us who relate, those desires become a collective desire,a social movement in which all who participate in that movement are fulfilled by its cause. But one desire always conflicts with another, by definition. If we desire to be happy, than we cannot be sad. But sad exists for a time and a place in our lives.”

“yeah I suppose you’re right… I don’t really want to believe that though. I want to believe that there is always some unifying truth, like on a spiritual level, that drives our motives transcendent of desire. Desire just seems so primal to me.”

“Well there is a unifying truth of course, but it exists outside the plane of our physical reality. That’s what spirituality is… it’s that very unifying force that directs us as physical beings towards righteousness. But we often confuse the morals and ethics taught to us from an external source with the divinity that speaks through us; the internal source.”

“So what are you saying, that a heroin addict’s desire for a dangerous drug should keep on desiring heroin? That they are actually going through with a spiritual fulfillment?”

“No you misunderstand what I’m trying to say. But I can see how you came to that conclusion. What I am saying is that all desires – whether it is that person’s addiction to heroin, or whether it is that other person’s addiction to feeling sad – all those desires are dictated by the very root source of our physical existence: emotions. That in fact, our whole physical selves is directed by our emotions; what we feel in turn motivates how we act, or do not act. This is the very essence of being alive in our plane of reality. Acting bodies of life influencing one another. Every thing else is secondary to those emotions. But emotions are secondary to the collective spirit we all share, what people might call God. It is when we align our emotional state with that of God then we are not acting out of our personal selfish desires, but out of a deeper soulful place. You may still feel sorrow or overwhelming joy either way but those emotional states are no longer full-filling themselves, they are full-filling something else. something greater than yourself.”

“Ok wait, your saying that if I go out and call people to encourage them to vote for say – Bernie Sanders, I’m really just doing that for my own selfish needs?”

“Yes, in a way.”

“But I don’t agree with that. I believe it would be selfish if I just worried about my own vote, or didn’t vote at all.”

“Well yes those would be selfish too.”

“But by trying to get more people involved and voting for Bernie Sanders, and sacrificing my own personal agenda because I believe in this movement in our country, isn’t that a noble cause? Isn’t that fulfilling something greater than my own emotional needs or desires?”

“It is a noble cause because you and the people you surround yourself with believe that. It only seems like a selfless act because you are participating in a collective movement. But like I said before, if enough of the same personal desires come together in mass, then it becomes a collective desire: the desire for a political revolution, the desire for free education, for universal health care, for tax  revenue to be distributed equally among the american people through social services; whatever it may be that all of you stand in solidarity for.”

“But how can that be an addiction? I believe in these things because I see a lot of people suffering unnecessarily, and their suffering because of other peoples desire for power and money and control. This whole political movement if anything is a movement away from desires.”

“So is it a spiritual revolution then?”

“I don’t know. maybe. I don’t think people see it that way. Most people think spirituality should be separate from politics or government.”

“Then what’s guiding the politics of a people?”

“Well the people are! Moral principles, economic policies, cultural expectations.”

“Let me ask you something. Where did you get your morals? How do you decide between right and wrong?”

Like many of the stimulating conversations between me in Taapai, this one was evolving fast, like a young tree flowering for the first time in its life. I wasn’t expecting such a philosophical discussion, but I was so very intrigued by all of this, more infatuated with the engagement our conversation was creating than actually taking a stand point on any single argument. We were arguing in a sense, but we weren’t arguing to prove a point, or maybe we were, but we were doing so more to arrive at some point that lay ahead of us. The conversation had a life of its own, and we were the breath, the air or substance giving it life.

I thought about his abrupt question –  about where do my morals come from- and was beginning to understand what he was saying this whole time. I thought about my last blog post about being raised atheist but still indoctrinated with christian values;  how we are all just raised to think and act in a way that is best suited for our environment – whether those years of development were influenced by our parents, or someone else, or some events. Don’t leave your hand over the fire, it will burn you. I learned that. But I also learned not to fear fire because of it. I learned to admire it, worship, see it as symbolic as a giver and taker of life. A source of warmth and safety and protection. A source of danger and death. A symbol of origin. A symbol of creation. Like our Sun. The giver of life. Were these lessons in life shaping my morals? I somehow sensed through these lessons that I was a single being participating in a greater act of life on this planet in this universe, and I was learning this as I exposed myself more and more to Nature and it’s complex diversity of organized and cooperating life.

But what of my moral compass? How do I distinguish between good and evil? How do I as a conscious self-acting agent make decisions for myself to better my life? And is that any different than how we do that as a Society? I meditated on the question in silence after Taapai asked it. It was the first gap in our conversation since it started. A welcomed one. I needed time to reflect on all that was said.

to be continued…. Wednesday’s Training PT II: Always Have a Plan B

 

Wednesday: We Run On

I walked into Starbucks and ran into my friend lindsey. Last time I saw her was at Starbucks. We saw each other and smiled that wide goofy smile of irony, connecting at a coffee shop packed full of people minding their own exclusive digital business. I sat down with her and we chatted across our silver screens like a game of Battleships.

“If you could do anything, what would it be?” She asked me.

Our answers were surprisingly similar; both desiring to work for ourselves. Owning a business that cultivated communities. I wanted to start a bakery/cafe with venue space, freshly baked bread, and a bicycle community hub space attached that could also be used for meetings and activist movements for encouraging bicycle transportation needs and awareness. Her’s was a cafe space with a conference-like room where businesses or organizations could meet. Simple ideas make all the difference.

We chattered away like social butterflies sharing a moment of warm sunlight. We talked about sensory deprivation tanks, how much our own minds dominate the show, and how we both enjoy that aspect of running where the “I” becomes a passive observer of the mind’s thoughts; the thoughts pass by just like the body passes by the scenery on a run.

I said my goodbyes and coincidentally went to join her boss for a 12 mile loop run in the soft rain. There were 4 of us all together, and it was the first time in many moons where I found myself running along side what I guess you could call a gang of runners.

We were all excited to be there, and to share our joy of running. I felt a little giddy, a bit of a chatter box. “Ya’ll ever seen that movie about the poor boy who ran a foot race to win a pair of shoes for his sister?” I started off the conversation of many to come.

We spent the first couple miles along the scenic route, adjusting to each other’s pace and rhythm. It’s a beautiful miraculous thing: syncing up your pace and stride with three other running bodies. You become this one organism, more powerful than the parts that make it up. We became kings of the road. Cars were at our mercy. Passerbys were at our glory. 

The four us sometimes chatted all together, then maybe two of us would break off and have our own conversation. We rotated and blended our talk organically. No one was really paying attention to how fast we were going, even as the gps watches ringed each mile split.

I was caught off guard by a heckling women (“run faster!”) working at the Botanical Gardens we passed by, and nearly tripped over my own foot. She called out something incoherent. “What did she say?” I turned and asked Billy as we turned the bend and started climbing up the ascent. He shook his head and burst into a rhythmic laughter. He kept laughing, couldn’t stop, messing up his form. I’d never seen someone laugh uncontrollably while running like that. I never found out was so funny. I didn’t need to. On that run, we were purely human, nothing more was required.

“You know runners can be a curious bunch,” I said to whoever was closest to me. I reminisced about my race from last week, and how everyone stood around afterwards in this awkward stance of wanting to relate but failing miserably at doing so. “It was like they had this eagerness to relate through running, almost frantic about it. Edgy. They were all talking heads hurling all this running jargon at me. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love running too, but… I’d rather just…—“

“—experience it.” Billy finished my sentence.

“Yeah. Exactly. Just share in the experience of it. That’s all you need.”

We ran on.

Mike the ironman guided us onto an old sugarcane road from the milling days. It was quiet, narrow, and deserted. Old date palms and guava trees arched over the road enclosing it like a  tunnel. Tyler shared his past story being runner in college and dropping out of school in Oregon. “I wasn’t running much. I was a bit depressed. I didn’t really want to be in school. I was lonely. Wasn’t my scene. It was just what was expected of me at the time. You don’t really know these things then. You just sort of sense that somethings not right. That’s what the depression was telling me I guess. I started going to the community college instead. Joined the club team. It was something. Sometimes I wish I had followed through with something. I could have a working wage by now you know? I’m 27. I’m almost past the accursed age of 27.”

Mike chimed in, “ yeah but you know all that stuff was meaningful, from your past. You’re where you are now because of it. You can’t regret any of that. It’s meant to be.”

The rain subtly increased its precipitation. Our four shirtless bodies gleamed in the rain. Our hair collected the rain and our heels kicked rain back up at the clouds. “Yea you’re right. I’m pretty happy with how things have turned out.”

We ran on.

The small road was ending. We turned right and began another ascent. I automatically changed my breathing and shortened my stride in response. We strides across an over pass. We passed through an orchard farm of Ti plants that stretched for acres across both sides of the road. Billy had stopped for a pee and was steadily catching back up.

“Mike, remember that time you were running up here alone and you came across that tourist?” Billy remarked as he rejoined us.
“Oh yea, gotta love those tourists. It was a perfect situation. Beautiful asian women in her flashy mustang rental car. Totally lost. And here I am all on my lonesome way back on this road where I never see anyone. I couldn’t have dreamed up a better scenario” We all breathed out a laugh as we climbed the hill, imagining Mike’s surprise and excitement at the time.

We ran on.

“Hey what’s the workout called when the guy from the back has to sprint up to the front of the line?”
“Oh I dunno, indian something?”

“I really don’t think that’s it.”
“yea definitely not the politically correct name.”
“oh I think I know what you’re talking about, we do that while cycling sometimes.”
“yeah but with running. Is it the same?”
“maybe”

We ran on.

We crossed the highway again, returning to the scenic route. This time Mike drops off to pee. Our conversations have entered a life of their own. No one’s thinking about what to say, it’s just said. There’s a freedom involved with that and running. It’s like we all stepped down from this tower in our minds that is constantly looking out and analyzing our own behavior. We stepped down in to the center of our being. Unconcerned. Liberated. Free to just run and breathe and relate.

We came up around a bend. A lady was standing at a view point admiring the grandness of Onomea bay. She turned around as the four us went whizzing by and quite impulsively expressed her pleasure over her new view. “oh oh oh oh!” were but all the words she could utter through the ecstasy.

“I think we just made her day.”

We ran on. We ran in a wide row, covering the whole road. We ran single file hugging the curves. We ran criss-crossed weaving between each other like water snakes crossing a river. We joked with light hearts. We reflected with deep thoughts. We shared wisdoms of science and nutrition and training and awareness. We sprinted short gullies, cooperating in competition. We slowed and relaxed, allowing for compassion. We covered it all, in those 12 miles.

And none of it was expected or planned. Just born from moment upon moment. One stride after another. Nothing more.

We run on.

Saturday: A little Dense on the Running

I sunk into sleep just past midnight after enduring the last attempts at cohesively writing about Barhma and spirituality. Sleep took me quickly. My alarm rang out in what felt like only moments after.
I did not want to get up. It was cold, and I was mighty snug and comfortable under the sheets. The night was dead silent. Why in the hell did I set an alarm to disturb such peace and tranquility? Oh yea, I forgot I convinced myself the night before to go on a little adventure: a 21 mile bike ride to a foot race starting at 7:30am.


My mind interjected with surprising haste and authority

Nope, you’re not doing it. Courageous idea, but not practical. You’re tired. It’s cold out there. Go back to sleep. Enjoy the rest and serenity and safety of your warm bed. There you go. Just like that… ease back on your pillow…

I closed my eyes, obliging to that voice inside my head. But before I could fall back to sleep, my bladder also had something to say.
I got up and told my mind I’ll just have a pee then return to bed as per instructed. I relieved myself then found myself standing in front of my pre packed bag for the planned trip, complete with steamed sweet potatoes, a ruby red grapefruit, leftover lentils, clothes for town, and my Lono Kukini head band. It was all there. Bike was was ready to go, my safety lights were set. I slept in my clothes so I didn’t even have to spend time dressing.

Damn it. I did everything possible to ensure I had no reasonable excuse not to go. I checked my watch. 0450. Plenty of time to get to the race. Yup. This was happening.

Committed, I snatched an old jar of brewed coffee, downed it, zipped up my coat, tightened my straps, grabbed my bike by the handlebars and walked out into the night sky.

The air was cool. Delightful. The moon was lighting up the sky, and the most steadfast stars filtered through. I walked past Aunty’s house and heard Beebs the dog get up from her lanai to investigate. It’s only me Beebs. I walked up to the long driveway and made my way to the paved road. The wet grass dampened my shoes. I heard the sound of scattering hoofs all around me and watched a few dark figures scamper across the driveway, dashing between moon shadows of the mac-nut trees. The late night was alive with activity and I felt my body awaken to it.

Pavement. Feet hit the pedals. Hips swing over the saddle. Legs crank and bicycle glides down the hill to the highway, guided by the silver light of the moon. I reach the intersection at the bottom, a dim yellow streetlight buzzes softly above me. I unclip my pack to check the rear solar light. It’s not flashing. No charge.

Shit. I’m about to bike on the main highway up the Hamakua coast and my red rear light isn’t working. Not a good omen. I was troubled. Now I had a good reason to be hesitant about making the journey. But I also already biked 4 miles down a long hill. I committed my mind and body to this. I didn’t want to give in.

I quickly check in with myself. I have a lot of reflective gear on, and so does my bike, so at least the light from cars behind me will light me up. The sun will be coming up in about an hour so it won’t be the whole time biking in the dark. And I’ll just have to be extra careful and make sure I’m way over on the shoulder. That does it. Good enough for me. I turn on to the highway.

It was hell. It was the highway of hell. Apparently this is the hour of the day all the trucks are driving around the island. Truck after truck blew past me. I could hardly see in front of me. The sound of the monstrous vehicles was excruciatingly loud and disorienting. Knowing my back light wasn’t working, I felt extremely vulnerable. The worst were all the bridges I had to cross. I lost my shoulder lane on these bridges, and there was only a extremely narrow pedestrian raised path where I had to dismount my bicycle and push it in front of my with one hand as I used the other to hold myself to the bridge, hitting my shin every few strides with the pedal.

I had never cursed so much in my life. I cursed the highway. I cursed the cars. I cursed colonialism. I cursed my idiot self for putting myself in this position. I cursed the sun for taking so damn long to rise. I cursed my bike. I cursed my bowels. I cursed the gods. I continued on.

Every time a car or truck roared past me I shouted at it with the rage of 10,000 wild beasts. But I edged onward, not willing to be conquered by this nightmarish scenario. The steady climb from Wainaku to Papeeko gave way to a decent into Hakalau where I gained speed riding along the shoulder. It was still dark, but it felt good to be going fast. I wanted nothing more at that moment than to get to my destination as fast as possible.

I tensed up trying to focus on the pavement zipping past in front of me, looking out for any debris lying in wake while simultaneously paying attention to any traffic that might be passing me by. At first I was frightened, but then I convinced myself I was in an x-wing fighting tie-fighters and implementing evasive maneuvering tactics. The force is with me, I found myself saying.

An hour later the sun had risen. I calmed down a bit. I pulled out a sweet potato to munch on as I pedaled the last few miles. Relief settled into my shaky bones when I turned-off the highway onto the Old Mamalahoa Highway. I was greeted by a yellow sign that read: caution, runners on the road.

I pulled into the parking lot of Waikaumalo park where a number of people were already standing around. It was 0700. I had 30 minutes to spare. I signed in to the 7 mile race, paying the 5 dollars in all quarters. I got some comments but promptly ignored them. I was feeling shy and a bit tired but warmed up from the bike ride. I kept my distance from everyone, nibbling on my remaining sweet potatoes.

30 minutes later, my shirts off, my sandals and Lono headband are on, and it’s time to run. We take off and within the first 100 meters it’s apparent to me that no one here is going to take the pace out. So I take off. I’m feeling good. It’s still nice and cool out, and my muscles are loose from the stressful bike ride.

The race is on the old highway, following the natural contours of the Hamakua coast which is basically a number of watersheds connected by a myriad of streams and rivers that have carved out steep gullies. The road ducks down into a ravine, then ascends back out, over and over again. It’s a fun course made up of these curvy ups and downs. We hit our first descent into the gully, shade and dampness prevails. I cross the small bridge over the stream and kick into a higher gear to climb out on the other side, reaching the exposed sunlight and cresting point of the road before dipping back down into the next gully. I feel relaxed going into the first mile. I check my watch, 6:15. Not bad. Faster than I wanted, recalling my 1 mile intervals from a week ago were at about 6:15 pace, and that was a distance of 5k. This was roughly a 10k with no rest.

I slowed a little, relaxing more into it, feeling alive and good. It was quiet up front. I couldn’t remember the last time I lead a race, and probably never by this margin, although I didn’t bother to look behind me for anyone. I didn’t sense anyone so it wasn’t really on my mind. I just kept running.

Mile two came up quickly. 13:10. I had eased the pace down to 6:55. Now I was going too slow, or the mile sign wasn’t accurate, which could be the case. It didn’t feel like I had slowed down that much, but I decided to pick it up a little bit anyhow. By mile three my pace had gone back down to 6:11. These splits felt really inconsistent. First time back in a race environment for over a year. I was okay with it. And since I was leading I didn’t really have anyone to help regulate my pace, which by the way, running consistent splits is as any runner knows a talented and intuitive skill to have.

I was starting to feel tired by the time the turnaround approached. My chest and shoulders started to get tight, and my breathing had become more erratic and less controlled. It looked like the 2nd place runner (a fellow named Alan who is an excellent long distance runner, beautiful to watch. He runs with very controlled and comfortable form. Very graceful), had gained on me, although this is always deceptive at turn around points because it looks like they are moving twice as fast as they actually are. But even so I started to worry he was picking up speed and would eventually catch me. And when I worry I get stressed and when I get stressed my body tightens. The next mile was no fun.I tried to maintain a pace that didn’t feel comfortable. It was too much work and I could feel the energy draining from me. My heart rate went up and my lungs gasped for more oxygen to keep up with the rate of combustion required of my muscular tissue.

I battled through the anxiety and fought hard to control my breathing to help relax my upper body. Running is so beautiful because in order to do it well you HAVE to be in tune with the various systems communicating and interacting inside of you. It’s a lesson I’ve been learning for a long time and only now beginning to get in touch with. Running is the practice of making constant micro adjustments here and there to maintain efficiency and harmony between energy input and energy output. It is essentially the art of transferring energy into a forward momentum and using every aspect of the body’s mechanics and energy systems to accomplish this, which very much includes the mind’s will on the autonomic nervous system through breath control. Pranayama. The control of Prana; subtle life-force current.

For example, by mile 5 in the race, my right shoulder froze up and my form got all sloppy because the range of motion in my shoulder seized. I started to move my body laterally; less energy was being directed in a forward momentum, which then meant I had to burn more energy to maintain the same pace, which meant sucking in more oxygen for combustion. This isn’t very comfortable, and is the very reason a lot of people don’t like running. It doesn’t feel good, people say. Running never gets easier, people say. My body just isn’t meant for running. Wrong. I see all shapes and sizes running. Even ultra marathon distances. That’s not why people don’t like running. They don’t like running because to get to a point to enjoy running you first have to learn how to run and that takes time and patience and listening to your body. It takes constant adjustments and people just don’t want to be mindful while running.

Yes. that’s my opinion, and I’m aware I am piling everyone into my bias and that’s okay because I’m just trying to illustrate a point. Of course there are many other reasons people don’t like running. I’m just stating one major causality that often goes unlooked.

Back to the race. My form is all messed, I’m no longer running efficiently. It’s uncomfortable and I’ve got that death feeling. Well then let’s do something about it. So here’s the beauty. My shoulder has already acted up and if I was a really mindful runner, I would have prevented it before it got to this point. But I didn’t, and the consequence is that there’s only so much I can do while still running. I start putting my attention back into my breathing, and then my breathing into my shoulder. I imagine pushing that air into my shoulder and creating space for the allostatic energy to be freed so the muscles can loosen up again and move in accord with the rest of my body. It works, to a degree. I can feel my body aligning. I begin to pick up momentum. In total it took about a whole mile for the results of this breathing technique to kick in, but it was enough, and my last mile turned into my fastest at sub 6:10.

I’ve never been a great runner. Never been all that fast, and definitely not consistent. But I have been running since I was 8 years old, and every time I go out for a run I am thankful I have something in my life like running, something that never fails to teach me something new about myself, life, and the universe.

Friday: Ah Christ, You’re telling me God IS real?

The wind had calmed down since the hours before when I drifted asleep in my swaying hammock underneath a bustling tarp. I could just hear the grinding and rolling of large smooth stones being pushed and pulled by the constant turbulence of waves mingling with the shore. A rhythmic constant penetrating my ear drums and reverberating in the cavities of my body. The stars were brilliant speckles piercing through the Ironwood and Kamani canopy cover. The dark loom of the steep valley walls enveloped my peripherals. Two words dripped from my lips in a steady repeat, “Remember Brahma. Remember Brahma. Remember Brahma.” I caught myself uttering this strange chant coming into full consciousness, shaken awake by the verbal resonance.  And in that moment a vivid memory of my dream came flowing through the ether, passing through my vision like light projecting through rolling film.

I’m standing in the middle of some bazaar. There is business and commerce happening all around me. I feel like a passive observer. Not quite “there”. Like its just a hologram. I’m trying to see if I recognize anyone in the crowd, my curiosity about this unfamiliar place is growing. It doesn’t take long before I spot my father standing out in the open, and next to him is my stepfather. I cock my head. Huh, that’s strange. I never see them together. But it feels good, seeing them standing next to each other, my two fathers. They smile warmly and beckon me to join them, I do, and soon it’s apparent I am to follow them. They are taking me somewhere.

My fathers lead me down into some underground passage. It’s dark and damp, but it doesn’t feel scary. Water is dripping from the tunnel’s ceiling. We come out into a basement. On the other side of the room are two old women with white hair and gowns standing in front of some stairs leading up from the basement. It looks like they are guarding it. I look to my fathers. They nod their heads and the guardians step aside with grace. We head up the stairs into a well-lit room. It looks like some kind of workshop, unfinished projects lying everywhere covered in saw dust. A very old and ancient man with the widest smile and deep rosy cheeks is present. He turns to me and says, “Now,  you must meditate on Brahma.”

Mid life crisis. The little Death. Initiation. Rites of Passage. The Belly of the whale. The Night Seas. The abyss. Cocooned. Metamorphosis. Mythology. Dreams. Symbology. Meaningful suffering. The significance of life. Participation in the sorrows of the world. When I dreamt that deeply symbolic dream in the Valley of Waimanu, I knew I was being sent a message. And I was excited, for messages are signs, a direct communication, a guidance, from nature; from the soul, the subconscious, to the cognitive prefrontal cortex in which I measly go about living out my limited days.

The soul communicates through our dreams in the form of images, an expression of visual dram images of the energies that inform the body and when our conscious self is particularly open and aware of the deeper existence of our whole being, those dreams become powerful messengers of divinity.

Yeah. You bet I was stoked. I did a little fist pump slumped back down in my hammock fell back down into sleep muttering the words remember Brahma…

The morning came, the wind was back, and my companion friend was already up, meditating on the rocky beach. I waited for him to finish, like a dog on it’s best behavior. I was eager to tell him about my dream. Especially because I knew nothing about the word Brahma, except that it sounded familiar, yet foreign. It reeked of spirituality. Daniel would know. He is well versed in spiritual thought.

“It’s sanskrit. From the Vedic texts. Brahma. Brahma is God, the creator, the destroyer. He is sort of the source of everything, and everything is an expression of Brahma.” We sat down to break our fast. “Here this might help. This is a prayer I say silently before every meal I eat. I’ll say it aloud this time…

Brahmarpanam Brahma Havir 

Brahmagnau Barhmanaahutam

Brahmaiva Tena Ghantavyam

Brahmakarma Samadhina…

“It translates to this, ‘The act of offering is God, the oblation is God. By God it is offered into the Fire of God. God is That which is to be attained by him who performs action pertaining to God….’ It’s a powerful concept. It’s said to believe that the very cosmos evolved out of his being, Brahma, and that atma, your soul, is the expression of Brahma…” He drifts off, as if he’s not sure how much more he can really say about this Brahma deity, diving into his own contemplation on the matter of Brahma.

“I see,” I said, wrinkling my forehead, trying to grasp what Daniel just shared.

“You said you dreamt this?”

“yea… I was told by an old man to meditate on Brahma.” I related the rest of my dream to Daniel. Afterwards we continued on with our morning routine in silence, cleaning our camping dishes, packing up our hammocks, scraping the fungus out from between our toes. 

“That’s a powerful dream, whatever it means.” Daniel finally said.
“yea,” I replied. “I think I’ll let it sit for a while.”

1 year and 4 months later, I’m sitting up late into the night, wide awake and I can’t stop thinking about the dream. Tomorrow I plan to wake up at 5am and bike 20 miles to a 7-mile running race. But right now, at this moment, there’s a symbolic dude with rosy cheeks smiling in my head telling me to meditate on some personification of the entirety of the universe. Well fine. Lets do this.

Time to research.

I type in “Brahma” on Google, and read the subsequent Wikipedia article.  I write some notes down:
Brahma… gender specific…masculine…emerged as a deity, the conceptual personification of Brahman, a visible icon of the impersonal universe… Brahman is the ultimate formless metaphysical reality and cosmic soul in hinduism… from the Bhagavata Purana: Brahma is drowsy, errs and is temporarily incompetent as he puts together the universe… he becomes aware of his confusion and drowsiness, meditates as an ascetic, then realizes Hari (vishnu) in his heart, sees the beginning and end of the universe, and then his creative powers are revealed… Brahma thereafter combines Prakrit (nature, matter) and Purusha (spirit, soul) to create a dazzling variety of living creatures and tempest of casual nexus… he is attributed with the creation of Maya…wherein he creates for the sake of creating…perpetual cycle…on going… imbuing all things with good and evil… the material and spiritual…a beginning and end…Barhma is depicted with four heads looking in the four directions…creator of the four vedas…mounted on a swan… is of the Hindu trinity; Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva.

Pause. Pen taps the notepad. I bite my lip in contemplation.

Contextual information. Nothing more. This isn’t mediation on Brahma. This is meditating on thoughts and ideas representing the concept of Brahma. I’m just researching Brahma. This can’t be what my dream message means me to do. I’m supposed to be Searching, not researching. But researching is what I know how to do. It’s a good skill, it’s just…limiting. But it’s all I have to go by. My intellect. My supple, yolky, tangental intellect. Oh Intellect, how thee connects dots and organizes patterns. How thee extracts reason from rhyme. Lets see what sense you make from all this. Lets see what conclusions you come to. I bet, my sweet sultry Intellect, that you’re going to arrive on the other side of analytical attempt dissatisfied with the answer you find. Here it goes.

Time to process.

I hope you’re ready for this. It’s a special invitation into the greased mechanics of my mind.

To start, the masculinity aspect seems significant here. Connection with my two fathers in my dream and Brahma being associated with the masculine energies. For me it seems masculine energy is a invitation into the descent. Okay let’s put that aside for now.

Moving on, what’s this Brahma/Brahman relationship? Gotta zoom out and do some theological/metaphysical didactics. Might get stuck on this thread for a while. Bear with me…. So Brahma is a God… ok what is a god? Well if we look at the majority of religions (not including Christianity, Islam, Judiasm, they’re the exceptions, funny enough), the commonality is that a god is some kind of personification of an energy form. Essentially, god is the collectively agreed upon imagery of a culture for the individual mind to grasp. It’s a metaphor to describe something actual. It’s not the actual, because the actual transcends our mind and the thoughts stored within. It’s just a model to help explain this transcendental thing we cannot apparently see or sense.

If God is human’s interpretive tool to help perceive different kinds of energies, then what are these energies and why create these allusive and mysterious mythologies surrounding them?

Ahhhhhhhhh. This is a good question is not! No this is really good. I think I’m starting to get somewhere. But before we move on, let’s distill this down just a little more. We’ve now learned the distinction between Brahma and Brahman. It’s the same distinction as Metaphor and Actual; A representation of a thing and the actual thing. Take that cup of coffee in front of you. The cup itself, on it’s own, is a just that: a cup. That’s Brahman. But the word “cup” that you attach to the actual object, that’s Brahma. Okay now let’s synthesize that with what Daniel told me a year and half ago. He said atma/soul is the expression of Brahma in each of us. The cup in front of you is the object. The concept attached to the object is the subject. That subject doesn’t exist in any means that we can see, it exists in our mind, a.k.a the ether. But it’s very significant. Just like you yourself are significant, right? Your body is the object; matter existing in nature, but you, well you are the subject. You are the soul. That’s Brahma. Your body belongs to Brahman, your soul belongs to Brahma…. you are the creative expression of Brahma, in your own way, an unraveling unique story with your very own plot; your own life.

Now here is where things start to get real interesting. Brahma was a concept created much later in the whole history of the Vedics; the ancient texts explaining the universe and how it came to be. The sanskrit verb root is Brih: to expand, conveying the Vedic concept of divine power of spontaneous growth bursting forth into creative activity. What this boils down to is that the universe continues to exist only by means of lifeforms appropriating energy to further create life. That’s why we’re god’s children. Think of your kids, or future kids, as an example. You create them, and thus their existence is the continuing evolutionary cycle of perpetuating life! It’s why phallic  and vaginal symbols are prolific in many cultures, because fertility as regeneration is the only thing that keeps our temporal universe in eternal existence. 

But none of that matters. None of that means diddly squat to hear nor to understand because get this – the essence of who we are, what we are, does not want to be handed the answers. This extinguishes the flame of life. It removes us from the Maya. Life is a mystery for a very important and vital reason: to keep us alive, to keep us living. And this so called God wants us alive because without us, God has no means in which to express itself. And religion and mythology and stories and songs and art and poetry, all these things that represent the truth behind the curtain, behind the illusion, that realm beyond the enclosure of maya, that’s all here to motivate us to keep on living, to keep searching, to keep creating. Whether you’re a monkey or a human or a polyp.

Just look at a good story. A well told story does not tell you straight up what the story is about. It doesn’t sit you down and spell out what the character’s qualities are, their flaws and faults and gifts and strengths. No. As the viewer, you have to go on a journey and discover it for yourself. You have to earn it through the guidance of the telling of the story by means of its structure and form. The structure and form are the symbology; the secret hidden meaning only to be revealed as it is expressed through the telling of the story. We hunger for these stories because it gives us flashes of insight into our own story, our own life. For a moment we see a greater truth, and we’re tricked into thinking we found it ourselves, and it is that moment of gratification from watching or listening to a well told story that parallels our own puzzling life. Our life tiny lives are placed in a  greater realm of existence, one not bound by the physical confinements of a body in space and time. That experience is healing. It motivates us to continue to pursue our own life; our hopes, our dreams, our purpose.

So my psyche told me a story. I don’t know where my psyche got it from. I don’t know where it extracted the symbology of Brahma, or why it decided that would be a good symbol to use for me in particular. That understanding is beyond my intellect’s computational powers (Sorry old pal). I don’t know what all the parts mean, but I’m starting to grasp the overall message. It’s something like this:

It’s time to become a man. It’s time to come into my full being. To do this, I have to jump into the void of life, the underground. All I have to do is face all that I fear, all the pain and suffering and sorrow, I must use my creative energy to see past the guardians of the gate to the tree of life; the workshop; and embrace it with a rosy cheeks and joy and wonder and a cosmic desire to be closer with God – those tiny invisible particles and waves of energy informing my life of its nature and purpose. Now I just have to do it. I must participate in the sorrows of the world, as Buddha eloquently puts it. I must sacrifice the safety of my nest and go out and create a life for myself. And by doing that, I will be enacting the divinity in which our very universe is comprised of. Brahma. Not to shabby yea?

May I rest soundly, indubitably knowing that no matter how much I crave the truth, I will not find it by meditating on the concept of Brahma… only by meditating on Brahma himself… not the idea of god, but God itself.


And in the wise words of Yoda, I bid you good night

Premonitions, Premonitions… these visions you have…Careful you must be when sensing the future… the fear of loss is a path to the dark side… death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force. Mourn them, do not. Miss them, do not. Attachment leads to jealousy. The shadow of greed, that is… Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.