I'm getting to the end of my second week on the Big Island of Hawaii and I am loving it thoroughly. I love my impatient interactions with the millions of mosquitoes as much as I love eating the freshly fallen guavas and avocados I find by the side of the road. The turn to Hawaii came quickly and was completely unanticipated. It was clearly the right turn to take. I couldn't be happier with the decision. My nervous system already feels the effects of the loudest sound in the area coming from birds in the morning and tree frogs at night.
When I made the spontaneous decision to book my trip to Hawaii because I found a ridiculously good deal on the one-way flight, I had no idea where I would stay. I was in discussion with a friend about a volunteer stay at his developing retreat center and tree nursery in the Puna region, but we had not yet finalized the details. So I had a low-cost one-way ticket booked to Hawaii with no real plan.
I checked AirBnB and found some decent options but none were quite what I was looking for. I decided to look at Craig’s List on a whim, thinking I just may find a good short-term deal. And I did! The headline was, “Live in Simplicity & Peace” I hardly needed to read the details but when I did, I knew exactly where I’d be staying for the beginning of my Hawaii experience. We set it up through email and a phone call to “talkstory” as they say in Hawaii, and now here I am, happy as can be.
Akiko’s Buddhist B&B is 15 miles north of Hilo on the eastern Hamakua Coast of the Big Island of Hawaii. The Big Island is the southernmost, most-newly formed and largest of the Hawaiian Islands. It is also the least populated and least developed, with a huge dormant volcano in its center and an active one near the southeastern coast. The B&B is nestled in a small community of about 10 homes on a little side road between a main highway and the jungle. Every Tuesday people from the area come together just up the street for a Foodshare farmer's market. For $15 I was able to buy local fruits and veggies to get me through the week! Food in Hawaii can be expensive if you buy shipped in food - farmer's markets are the way to go.
In the 10 days I’ve been here I’ve created a routine that has me feeling light and content. I awake each morning at 4:45am to sit in Zazen Meditation with Akiko, the B&B owner, from 5:10-6:40am. After meditation and chanting sutras, I walk back to the guesthouse, make some tea and do my Ashtanga yoga asana practice. At 8:00am there is a community breakfast of local fruit, eggs, toast and muesli for all the guests at the B&B. The numbers of guests has varied between three and eight, the community breakfasts are always filled with lively conversation mostly about Hawaii and guests experiences. Yesterday I talked politics with a member of the Socialist movement. I surprised myself by passionately defending Hillary!
After breakfast I walk to explore the area. The jungle is verdant and alive, I feel it talking to me as I walk. There is a strong stream named Kaahakini not too far up the road. She is the most powerful stream I've ever seen. I would have called her a river - but she is classified as a stream. Standing on the bridge over the Kaahakini, watching the water flow furiously toward the ocean frees my mind in a way few experiences can. When I have the energy I walk another hilly mile to the end of the stream where it flows into the ocean. Kolekole is a little national park where two humungo streams end and flow into the ocean. It is a sweet spot to rest at the end of a long walk. I like to take my shoes off and sit on deadwood logs at the rock beach, watching the river run into the ocean and the ocean waves smash into the cliffs.
It is a mostly uphill walk back to the B&B so I rest, stretch and make myself a tasty lunch of local foods when I get back. The afternoons have been less routinized and more varied. A few days I’ve gone out with one of the other guests who has a car to buy groceries, do laundry and a little sightseeing. Most days I stay on the grounds and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere.
After a few days of being here I started doing some small work around the place. It started when I asked Akiko about a place I could do meditation, yoga and qi-gong practices during the afternoons. Her gorgeously lined 70 plus year Japanese-American-Hawaiian face lit up and said she had the perfect place. We walked through the large renovated garage that is an art gallery and common area out into the courtyard toward the back rock garden that houses a red miniature bridge and charming wooden gong wind chimes. She pointed to some dusty, creaky wooden stairs I hadn’t noticed and said this is our Dojo – lets go look.
I held on tightly to the railing as we made our way over leaf littered stairs and swatted through cobwebs. We slid off our shoes and stepped into a large white room with screened windows looking out into the lush jungle gardens. She said, this would be a great space for you to do afternoon practice, but it needs some sweeping and cleaning. And so began my Karate Kids like dojo training in Hawaii.
We went back down the stairs so Akiko could show me where the brooms, mops, buckets and rags were and said to use whatever I needed. I was uncertain how I would carry broom, mop, and bucket up and down the stairs –but knew I needed to try. That afternoon I carried the broom up the stairs, and made a second trip to carry the bucket and dustpan. As I swept I laughed at myself and at the situation. It was so much like Karate Kid. So I put myself into the Qi-Gong stance Akiko had taught me and swept left from my dantien and swept right from my dantien, and then laughed out loud from my dantien. Dantien is Chinese for our center that lives two inches below the navel and in toward the spine. It is a power house center physically, emotionally and spiritually. In Eastern Movement Arts all movement and awareness is supposed to be initiated from here. And so while I swept up the room I would use to practice, I started my practice.
The room is now pretty clean and I go up there most afternoons to do restorative yoga and qi-gong exercises. I’ve also been teaching yoga and relaxation for two of the other guests in the afternoons. It feels great. I’ve been doing individual sessions with them as they each have particular needs. They are both staying here on longer-term healing retreats recovering from cancer, thyroid issues, adrenal fatigue and a host of other issues. There is no question that sharing the healing power of yoga is my deepest passion and I am appreciative for this opportunity to share what I love and know best.
So that’s what I’ve been up to on the rainy side of Big Island of Hawaii for the past 10 days. Next Monday on October 3rd I’ll leave my little peaceful Buddhist haven and go to deeper into the jungle and some more unknown territory that is near an active volcano! You can be sure I’ll be writing more about that as I get settled in over there in Na’Piko near the small town of Pahoa. I'm even playing with the idea of recording it as a podcast - we'll see!
Lizandra Vidal is a poet, writer, and wellness expert. In 2015 she suffered a spinal cord injury and this blog is a space where she shares the story of her experience.