It hit me on the plane from Vancouver to Hawai’i - I am job-less, car-less, Blackberry-less and....cat-less! When reality sets in, one starts to question what brought them to that reality in the first place? I needed reassurance. At the last minute, I picked up this month’s issue of Surfer Magazine before boarding the plane to Hawaii. I read the following wise words that have resonated with me ever since. This quote encompasses the very reason why I am embarking on this little adventure.
‘Aloha is the breath of life, the energy of life. I think we all have X amount given to us, and the only question is: how did you expend it? Surfer terms are so applicable: did you drop in to be seen or did you sit deep and take your wave? The tube of life and the tube of the wave, same thing: it’s risky. And yet, for the guy who gets there and experiences it, it’s the highest. ‘
- Kahu Billy Mitchell
Like most visitors to Hawai’i, I assumed ‘aloha’ just meant ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’ and ‘welcome’...so, I was surprised to learn that there is much more to it than that; it is a way of life, a part of the Hawaiian people’s lifestyle and culture; a religion, even. Someone told me that in ancient times, Hawaiians used to greet each other by touching each other’s foreheads and breathing into one another’s mouths to symbolize and remember the importance of breath and that they are all connected, living aloha. This means extending warmth and kindness to others without return for us to exist in harmony. When explorers arrived from other countries and did not greet Hawaiians with this intimate ‘handshake’, they were deemed ‘haole’. The term, Haole, (pronounced ‘howly’) translated means ‘ha’, as in ‘breath’ and 'ole' meaning 'without’. Tourists to Hawai’i who do not respect the meaning of ‘aloha’, can expect to receive this title, which can also mean ‘dead’, ‘soulless’ and ‘unwelcome’.
Since my announcement that I would be quitting my very comfortable and secure job and leaving my life in Vancouver to pursue an adventure on the other side of the world, I have barely had a moment to stop and think about how exciting all this is and how lucky I am to be able to do this.....let alone, just breath.
On February 19th, the day I left Vancouver, I went to pick up my malaria pills and observed the people around me going to work, shopping, minding their business and perhaps just having an ordinary day. For a moment, I panicked. Maybe I too wanted this to be just another ordinary day - no plane to catch, no important documents to scan, no visas to apply for or itinerary to plan...no stress. But then I reminded myself, isn’t that exactly WHY I wanted to leave in the first place? Do I not have the rest of my life to be ‘normal’, ‘comfortable’ and ‘secure’? Every day was starting to feel like the same day. I was Bill Murray in Groundhog Day...playing a much less exciting character..a B movie release. I was getting a little too comfortable with rolling out of bed, putting on my slippers and going to work...in my living room. All day I sat in front of my laptop, eating and drinking coffee. All night, I sat in front of my laptop, eating and drinking tea. All the while, my neck, back and wrist were screaming at me to make a change already! I was always finding excuses not to attend a yoga class or a social event because I was too busy with my ‘Tracey To Do List’. I am/was always SO pre-occupied....my mind always reeling. I don’t remember being this way pre-Vancouver. Is it because my passion for photography had grown exponentially after moving to a city where I barely knew another living soul? Did I occupy myself at all times so I didn’t have to feel how alone I really was? One thing is for certain, I don’t remember the last time I was bored or wondered what I could do to keep myself busy.
Photography is one of those passions that you just want to keep learning about. The more you shoot, the more questions you have about the ever changing technology, lighting, lenses, editing software and on and on. Not only that, but if one wants to make a career out of being a photographer, one must also market themselves, which is what I hope I will now have time to do.A reoccurring issue that has come up in the last year or so is the fact that I don’t really breathe. My shiatsu practitioner said that I hold my breath, even when I speak. My massage therapist started working on my diaphragm because she felt it was tighter than normal. I even had a psychic tell me that the root of all my health problems could be rectified, if I would just ‘breathe’. I discounted all of this of course. How could I not be breathing? Is this not an automatic process for everyone? And, if in fact I didn’t breathe, would I be here to write about it? Finally, I started reading about how women are naturally shallow breathers which may correlate with having heart attacks early in life. SO, I started to go to yoga on a regular basis to FORCE myself to breathe as I had caught myself on several occasions sitting at my desk, a zombie, barely moving oxygen in or out.
There is a theory that people who don’t breathe are trying to cut off the emotions they feel in their gut so that they don’'t have to deal with them in their head. Sometimes emotions are hard to deal with and if there is a way to not have to feel the bad ones, then by all means, why wouldn’t one try to cut them off? That seems like a good short term plan but then where do these emotions go if they are not felt or dealt with and what are the consequences? I don’t plan to find out.
So this brings me back to ‘aloha’. The past 2 plus years of my life, I have been literally feeling like a bit of a ‘haole', if you will...coming up short on breath and connecting with nature and community. I'm ready to start breathing, riding that tube of life and living ‘aloha’!
'With an attitude of Aloha we can gain from the wisdom of the wind and the wisdom of the water and the wisdom of the soil and the wisdom of the trees and learn from the truths and revelations presented by the non-human community.'
- Curby Rule