Friday, November 14, 2008

Catching a New Wave

I've been through many emotional ups and downs, especially this past year, when I found myself jobless in Hawaii. My writing career suffered a setback when my second novel got declined for publication. It's been a most humbling fall season. Suddenly this overachiever was underachieving and, I must admit, I spent some time wallowing in self-pity. That dark time is over, though. As I'm learning what it means to be human, I'm also finding that your attitude toward life greatly affects your experience of living. Life can be hell or it can be an awesome adventure. You can see nothing but dark clouds or see that scattered showers lead to plenty of rainbows; it just depends on your viewpoint.

Living in both Texas and Hawaii, I have the best of both worlds. In Texas I'm surrounded by a large family, lots of friends, and I'm very grounded in the business world. In Hawaii I get a more spiritual perspective on life and get to escape the rat race for a little bit. I get to study with spiritual teachers, like Kahunas who are not affected by the ups and downs of the stock market. And they don't place one's self-worth on financial success. In Hawaii, it's much easier to live in the moment and experience peace in your heart. There are so many places to commune with nature--beaches, rain forests, mountains. Endless summer and eternal sunshine. Here there are a lot of surfers. Their bliss is catching the next big wave. Even though I have yet to learn to surf, I am gaining a lot just by watching how they live. They are showing me that even though life, like the turbulent ocean, can toss you around and send you plunging, the surfers just shake their mops of wet hair like a dog, smile big, and yell something like "Whoa, total wipe out!" Then they get right back on their surf boards and courageously face what life offers them next. Sometimes they catch the wave's peak and ride it smooth, feeling at one with the Universe. In the surfer's mind getting wiped out is just part of living. It's okay to make mistakes. Wiping out doesn't mean it's the end of the world. You can always catch the next big wave and next thing you know, you're riding high again. Kowabunga!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Following One's Bliss

How to follow one's bliss? That is an existential question I keep asking myself as I explore the mystical woods of the Great Unknown. People often ask me what motivated me to move to Maui. What got me here was a strong determination to make a change in my life. Something big! Something positive! "Follow your bliss," I kept hearing from friends, teachers, books, billboards. I finally got the message that I was being nudged by the powers of the universe to change the way I was living life, even change my career.

Once I got it in my heart it was time to move, my radar was scanning the map for what places felt like they were pulling at me. Immediately cities across the U.S. began to shine on the map--Austin, TX, Ashville, NC, Phoenix, AZ, and ... Hawaii! I couldn't imagine moving that far away from Texas. No way. Austin, maybe, but never Hawaii. I did a lot of meditation seeking answers. I visualized living in each place and felt what that area of the U.S. might be like. I even considered Costa Rica for brief moment, then decided better to stay where I'm a citizen and know the language.

I listed my values--surrounded by nature, warm weather most of the year, lots of sunshine, spiritual community, plenty of activities that involve the outdoors, exotic locale, friends nearby, dolphins, bikini girls, etc. Then I went on a retreat in Hawaii and just fell in love with the energy of the islands. I had already been to Kaui twice, Maui three times, and the Big Island twice. The Hawaiian islands matched my values and more. A good buddy of mine and his girlfriend were already living on the Big Island and encouraging me to move here. While retreating on the Big Island I meditated some more just to be sure I was making the right decision. For me this was such a monumental decision, because it was my first move away from my family: parents, sister, grandparents, and cousins, most of whom live in Texas.

As I meditated, I got a strong inner feeling, a deep knowing, that this would be a good move for me. On a beach staring at the ocean, listening to the surf crash against the rocks, I made the decision. "I'm moving to Maui." Even though I was on the Big Island at the time, Maui was calling me very strongly. The rest was me overcoming all the fears and obstacles that wanted to keep me in Dallas, my comfort zone. I had a fifteen-year video business and several established clients I was leaving behind. My closest friends and clients all pulled at my heart strings to stay. You just don't realize how much you're loved until you tell everyone you're uprooting.

Leaving Dallas was much harder than I thought. I was raised a Texan since the age of two and thirty-six years later I was leaving behind my cowboy boots for flipflops and hula girls, oh yeah, and bikini girls, too. But more than just heading off to some kind of tropical paradise, this was a spiritual decision for me. I was on a quest of self-discovery and knew that staying for other people was not allowing me to grow. As I writer I felt it would be good for me to expand my horizons. So I sold everything, said many tearful goodbyes, and flew West to seven tiny dots on the Pacific Ocean.

I'm often asked, when following one's bliss, how does one know they are making the best decision? You meditate until your thoughts are clear and your inner voices have stopped chattering, and then you feel into your heart as you ask very specific questions. Also helps to get away from the noise of the city and commune with nature. When the true answer comes your heart fills with joy and the idea of doing this next new thing motivates you to hop out of bed in the morning. Following one's bliss is an ongoing exploration. It's not a destination to reach, but an attitude of just doing what makes you happy.

Road to Hana

Aloha, it's been several weeks since I last posted. Like most people, I was affected by the downturn of the economy when the stock market took a plunge. Maui felt a huge hit on the tourist industry which has tightened everyone's belts around the island, especially the video industry, which I still work part time. While it's been harder to find video projects to produce, I also went into a rut creatively with my second novel (a.k.a. experiencing writer's block). I haven't been writing very much as of late. Frankly, I just haven't had the inspiration to write on my blog or the novel. It happens from time to time. My Muse takes a vacation. I'd love to always be in the flow of words and great stories, but I learned long ago I'm not a writing machine. Not like Stephen King or Dean Koontz. They write every day and output at least a book a year. That's phenomenal considering what it takes to stay focused. I bow to writers like them with up most respect. I have human characteristics that have kept me from being as prolific as I'd like. Namely, I get distracted easily and I don't always want to spend my time alone staring at a computer. I have another Muse, the Great Outdoors, which calls me often to come out and play. Not that I'm complaining. I'm grateful when my Writing Muse does flood me with fresh story ideas, adventures to explore, and new characters to flesh out. I'll get my groove back just as fast as you can say Lemony Snicket. So during times of adversity and downward turns in the economy, I find it's best to commune with nature. Clear the mind and boost the spirit. When you're out in nature, worldly problems seem to dissipate. Maui has plenty to offer in things to do outdoors. I especially love sharing the adventure with new and interesting people. I met a woman, Margeaux from Philadelphia, who was here on vacation. She invited me to Hana, so we drove the famous winding road which snakes along the north east coast of the island. It's about a three-hour drive from Kahului, so best to fill up the car and bring a picnic lunch. Here are some photos of our day trip to Hana. Most of these were taken by Margeaux.

We passed lots of waterfalls along the way.

In Hana there's a secret path that leads to Red Sand Beach. The path cuts through a Japanese cemetery. These graves are on the side of a cliff and I noticed a couple of tombstones had tumbled into the ocean. My imagination was running wild, coming up with short story ideas about Japanese ghosts haunting fishing boats who anchored near these cliffs.

Margeaux at Red Sand Beach. The water was so blue.

Next went to the Venus Pool. It's an oasis that has still water that's perfect for swimming. Because the water is deep, people jump off the cliffs. It's by far the most beautiful place I've found so far on Maui. You can find out how to get there in the book Maui Revealed. I also discovered a couple of caves back in the trees to the right of the next photo. I climbed into one of the caves by myself. At the back was an altar where someone had burned candles and performed some kind of ritual. On the ground there were piles of palm seeds that looked like shrunken heads. Freaked me out, I must admit. That's what I get for putting that kind of voodoo stuff in my books.

Next we went where all the tourists go: The Seven Sacred Pools.

Near the seven pools there's a park. While enjoying lunch at a picnic table, two mongoose decided to come nearby and forage for food. The mongoose, which are native to Africa, were brought over to Hawaii to handle the rat problem. Now we have fewer rats and a lot more mongoose. Wonder what predator they'll bring if the mongoose get out of control . . .

Cute, isn't he?

Just don't get too close, Buster.

Here's a banyan tree. I can't remember where we saw this, but there are several around the island. The largest and most famous you'll find in downtown Lahaina.

It was a full day. The long, winding road back offered plenty of spectacular views of the coast. By the time I returned home the market hadn't changed much, but I sure felt better. My horror writer's imagination was once again alive with Japanese ghosts, mysterious cave altars, and killer mongoose run amok. Perhaps I'll take a break from my novel and write another short story.