Lessons from Kaho’olawe

Here is the story of how I fell in love with a broken heart.

I was 19 the summer of 2009 when I met JL. He was my first serious partner, through innocent friendship and flirting, to dating and falling in love. Our relationship was a challenge from the start with outside influences weighing in as my young soul was still discovering who I was without anyone controlling me.

JL was my safe place after a lifetime of journeying to independence. In our relationship I learned so much. We were together for four years and became engaged midway. Our love felt like a fantasy.

During this time many situations arose where I was mistreated. As most abusive cycles go the mistreatment was alternated between apologies and deep passion.

Leaving felt impossible and we separated many times, only to be drawn back to each other like gravity. Finally, with him sitting across from me in my bedroom, I shook with an anxiety attack and told him not to talk to me anymore. I saw him one last time at an event and then he vanished for four years.

Then he came back.

I got a message on my phone about half a year ago from him. I always thought when I spoke to him again I would yell at him and rage out from the pain he caused me. Like usual, I immediately was kind and forgiving. We spoke often from then on, processing our past and sharing how much we had grown and changed since then. It felt exactly how I wanted it to, like reuniting with a best friend. It felt like healing medicine to the parts of myself that he had hurt.

We made plans to connect in person as he was traveling my way. And then, he ghosted me.

Fresh blood poured from my little beating heart. How. How. Why. Why would this person hurt me, again.

I was furious.

After all those years and talks, this person who I have felt immense amounts of love with chose to hurt me AGAIN. All the excuses in the world went through my head, none of them sufficient.

While visiting Maui for a meditation course last month I stayed on a property that looking west had a view of the smallest of the eight Hawaiian islands called Kaho’olawe.

This island is known as a sacred area to the native Hawaiian people. Through colonization the land has rode many ups and downs. In World War II American military used Kaho’olawe as a bomb range and military training site.

Today the land and surrounding waters are an island reserve and is protected by law to be used for cultural, spiritual, and preservation purposes. It is said to potentially still have explosives and the only way to go on the island is to volunteer with the Kaho’olawe Island Reserve Commission.

I watched the sun set over this island every night. During the day the red color of the land would sparkle in the sun. Such a beautiful island, so mistreated in the past is now protected.

One night while in silent meditation I felt how furious I was at JL for hurting me. I picked at my dinner and then huffed off, pacing around the property. As I walked in circles along the shore, sweating with the heat of my rage and pain, I thought about this island that I faced across the waters. I thought about it’s story, and I felt a connection to this part of my heart that JL touched.

I started thinking of my heart as a preserve. A land that had been through a lot, and so was cherished to the point of having boundaries to keep it untouched. My heart was hurt and so it deserves a place of peace. Others who did not know its value may have stomped on it, but no more. Likewise my own energy has not always been helpful, so I am protected also from my own influence. This part of my heart is to be seen and respected.

In thinking this way I felt a softness come over me. Knowing that these boundaries protect me allowed me to forgive myself for allowing the patterns of pain to continue.

Now I sit and watch this part of me. I love it. The sun setting over my heart reminds me that I am safe.✨

Blessed Full Moon

Blessed full moon, this cold moon. The last of such fullness we see before Yule, after which the wheel turns another cycle towards longer lighter days.

The seeds I have been planting every moon, seasons turn, and celestial shower are starting to grow.

What wonders a heart that knows what it wants and eyes who see beyond time get to become, when paired with patience flowers bloom.

There is a certain darkness that shows a new layer. A stillness that offers deeper reflection. A breathless moment that lasts for what feels an infinity reminds me that I am so much very more than I can imagine.

I Didn’t Talk for 10 Days, and I Loved It!

When I received an invitation to attend Quepasana — a ten day silent meditation course practicing the meditation style of vipassana — I knew by the tears that began streaming down my cheeks and the fire in my belly that I had to be there.

The course is completely volunteer led, financially supported by donations and the founder Jorge Yant. This means that attending is completely free. All you have to do is commit to show up and follow the rules, which include handing in all electronics as well as practicing noble silence for ten days.

Jorge Yant, photo by Carli Grau

Noble silence is the practice of pretending as if you are completely alone even if you are surrounded by 50 other people. All speech among guests is forbidden. Eye contact is discouraged. If you have a need then you can write a note to one of the course leaders and they in turn may allow you to speak with them.

Despite working my way through anxiety the days leading up to my arrival, when I made it to the Quepasana property I was greeted with so much warmth that I immediately felt safe. The first day was spent settling in and getting to know the people I would be sharing the next 10 days with. After lunch we had our first meditation and I found my nerves relax as I had begun tapping into the peaceful place inside of me.

My days began at 4:30am, awoke from a dream state by the ritualistic bell ringing throughout the property. I slept in a large canvas tent on a cozy air mattress, sitting atop the hill in a lightly wooded area. While the stars were at their brightest I made my way to the Shala for some awakening yoga and then our first hour of seated meditation. A couple times I saw the moon set over the ocean like a salmon colored orb sinking beneath the horizon. One morning I paused before entering the Shala to look up at the heavens and saw a shooting star, giving me a little boost of strength for that day.

After morning meditation I typically scrambled to get dressed for the beach and then quickly ate breakfast so I made it to the truck in time to climb in the back with a dozen other silent people. I carried the meditative state in my heart as I became one with the morning wind on my face. No matter how dry my towel felt in the midday sun of yesterday it still felt moist and cold around my shoulders from spending a night in the tent with me on tropical Maui, a long way from my desert home.

A trip to Little Beach where we run naked into the waves is not typical of a traditional vipassana course, yet I certainly was grateful for the intimate connection to the clear blue waters and smooth sand. The sun began to peek over the trees and I floated, one with the elements. There were a couple days when I skipped the beach trip and went back to bed instead, those days were deeply divine as well. Rest is powerful work.

In the afternoons we had yin yoga. Yin yoga was a precious deviation from sitting upright. With peaceful and uplifting music holding us in our poses I let go on cellular level. When the Shala grew so hot that almost thought I couldn’t bear it it was then that I would hear the continuous spray of the yin angels coming closer to me. I felt so thankful to receive a refreshing spray of water and cooling essential oils on my skin. Other times the servers would assist me in a pose or offer massage and energy work. The love I felt from their hands would make me melt into tears; my eye pillow often had two round wet spots when I took it off to switch poses.

Early afternoon was the time of day we most often were gifted with rain. The slow pitter patters would tap on the tent roof and soon a downpour would come to wash away what had surfaced in my heart. the coolness that came from the rain was welcome, and I would slip into a place of completely letting go.

Quepasana November 2019

Being so in my own world despite being around many people revealed to me how much of my story is projection. Thoughts can sway from love to judgment in an instant, wether towards myself or others, and in a moment I can switch right back. Meditation is the practice of coming back to center. I will sway, that is the beauty of life, and still I return to center again and again.

Many different emotions came up during the ten days, and I found that I had not much else to do than sit with and feel everything that came up. Traumas from years ago resurfaced like crashing waves onto my shore. Other times tears bubbled over me during a sit and I let my body rock with the storm, finding comfort in the sweet rhythm.

Now that I have been home for a couple weeks I can see which changes have stuck. Particularly with my emotions it seems that I feel them in a deeper place, which allows them to be safely looked at and felt. I feel a sensitivity from all parts of myself have increased, creating a gentle approach to life. Walls that I had become so used to melted in the safe arms of Quepasana and now I can move freely.

I have known for a while the power of meditation, and have benefitted from it greatly. This experience was a high dose of meditation medicine. It is really special to have a place to go where I can be taken care of while I do the magical work of being present with myself.

I am lit up with passion for this work and so I am launching a 30 day meditation course to help us create and support a regular meditation practice. Learn more here.