I’d had this retreat planned for two months – three days in a secluded vacation rental two hours, and a dozen landscapes, away from my daily life.
The idea was to get half of my outlined manuscript onto the page.
The plan was to write.
Ardently. Passionately. Prolifically.
But life has little regard for plans.
On Monday midmorning, I arrived at a quaint vacation rental in the tiny town of Hawi (ha-vee) at the northern end of the Big Island.
After settling in, I felt kind of unsettled. Here I was, alone, mind ablaze with recent experiences, and completely unable to focus on writing.
So I read, The Wisdom of Compassion by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Then I napped, expecting that after I woke I’d be salivating to jump on my keyboard, brilliance flowing through my fingers.
Consciousness returned, but inspiration didn’t. So I went to town, and bought a birthday present for my darling friend.
I’ll get some lunch at this grocery store and head back to write, I thought. But when I entered the musty mart, there wasn’t much to satisfy an appetite except dry ramen and suspect fish.
Lapping the oddly stocked aisles, I took a chance on the poke – spicy ahi – because if it’s not so fresh the sauce usually makes it palatable. Knowing I needed a little more sustenance (and a backup plan) I snatched a bag of green beans, snagged some jalapeno kettle chips (I don’t even like potatoes!), grabbed a three pack of nori, a green tea and hoped for the best.
The best, as it turned out, didn’t taste so good. I abandoned the fish and opted for a lunch of raw green beans, hardboiled egg, and potato chips. Tomorrow I will buy lunch from a restaurant, I decided.
Flustered yet determined to settle my carbonated spirit, I embarked on a rigorous yoga flow and bathed outside in the three-headed delight of a shower surrounded by monstera and crowned by towering monkey pods.
But not even that motivated me to my computer.
Giving up, I sought out an old friend. Pen and paper. I wrote pages in my journal. I drank wine and read poetry for hours – gorgeous, dripping prose that wrapped itself around my heart and squeezed.
And I fell to sleep thinking, Tomorrow, I will write.
In the morning I woke, deliciously refreshed, but no closer to inspiration. So I read pages from my journal, reflecting, absorbing the wisdom that I still hear. As my best friend so kindly said, “I think we will take our issues to the grave, and I’m beginning to like the idea of it.” Like they are our sweet lifelong companions.
Finally, after having read pages of entries, I opened my computer, scrolled to the end of the manuscript, and began to write. TERRIBLY.
After a few paragraphs I actually typed, This is shit. This is shit. This is shit.
And it was. But I persevered, because sometimes you’ve just got to get into the flow.
However, Flow, that prickly muse, wasn’t showing up.
So I shifted. I let go. I relinquished my expectations of the retreat. Apparently I would not be writing that book on this retreat. It’s meant for something else.
In the wake of that acceptance, I decided to explore places I’d not been.
The Kohala coast is a powerful place. King Kamehameha the Great was born there. There are Heiaus galore, and the landscape is a wild tangle of raw strength and unyielding persuasion.
Driving south, I overshot my intended destination, but used the detour as an opportunity to explore more. Turning down an old factory road, I pulled onto a dilapidated sugar cane dock. From there, I dove into clear motley blues where the chill of fresh water snaked around my legs.
Sufficiently cooled, I headed towards my original destination, driving through a wind farm, hanging a left at the ‘airport’ and hugging the coast on the ochre dirt road that would lead me to the heiaus.
I gave myself over to the deliciousness of experience and the delight of adventure. I walked, explored, danced over rocks, and trespassed on government land to find a seat on a rocky outcropping at the edge of the world.
Maui sat wide and alluring across a white capped channel, and perched on these lichen strewn rocks, I witnessed the coast as something absolutely untameable and because of that, utterly exquisite.
Seeing a vehicle crawl towards the end of the road, I decided it was time to leave my clandestine cluster. Heading north along the same dirt road, I passed my original turnoff and found a sweeter place, less mana, but still powerful. I parked and climbed a small mound set back from the cliff. From there I sang into the wind – a low moaning melody, from whence I know not came.
Then I wrote some bad poetry, and thanked the goddesses for the day.
All in all, it felt very pagan, and unquestionably appropriate.
Upon my return to town I ordered a sandwich from the café (lesson learned), and returned to my hale.
I napped and showered under the trees and read succulent posts by admired authors.
In letting go of the expectation, I found a sweet solitude in myself that I hadn’t seen in some time.
This retreat was a coming into instead of an outpouring of myself. It was a remembrance of the pleasure of pleasure, alone and lovely.
At times it was lonely. But mostly it was a release – a splendid retreat for my soul.
Sometimes you have to sit with the demons in order to let them go. Sometimes you have to relinquish your ideas in order to see the purpose.
Sometimes you have to just be, for nothing other than for being’s sake.
So often being is more potent than doing, and its potency can be uncomfortable.
Being can shake loose your stuck spots and conjure all the feels to the surface – where it takes a mighty will not to action yourself away from them, not to push them to the side and hurl threats – Get out of me you sadness, doubt and fear. Be gone loneliness. Leave me confusion and contradiction!
It’s tempting to beat them back.
But those feelings are part of an emotional rainbow, without which love, light, joy, and happiness have but a tenuous foothold on life.
As a joyful person, an optimistic soul, I don’t much like the shadow side, but as a deep feeler, a sensitive woman, I know they’re equal parts me. I signed up for all of it when I accepted the role of human being.
And because life is no longer an emotional roller coaster (thank god!), I can spend the time to feel the feelings and not let them scare me (so much).
I’ve learned not to fight against them with jaw set and fists clenched, and because of that, I open to myself, and have so much more to contribute to the world.
Perhaps the purpose of that retreat was this gentle reminder: Spend the time. Feel the feels. Find the pleasure. Be with yourself – there are treasures worth finding there.