Breathe into the Transition

Writing has long been my passion, but I have been an avid yoga student since I was a teenager. Now a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT), I still consider myself a lifelong student as I am constantly in awe of the world around me.

I write this after a day of snorkeling and soaking up the sun while on vacation in Hawaii. While snorkeling today, I was enchanted by the coral, urchins, giant turtles and myriad of fish. I saw creatures that have only existed in my imagination, the aquarium, or a beloved deck of cards from Long John Silver’s from when I was a kid (who knew Rainbow Fish were real?!). I spent hours leasurely exploring the reef and all it had to offer. Physically, I was weightless. Afterward, I felt such a sense of peace and belonging that I haven’t felt in a long while.

On a walk this evening, I was sharing my experience and realized that it was the same stillness I feel when I meditate regularly. Where all thoughts and feelings fall away and I simply am lost in the experience. I noticed the rainbow fish, Ther black one with the iridescent stripe and the school of bright yellow diamond shaped fish. But I didn’t think about them. I was the observer–for hours–and it was amazing.

As a writer, I often have a handful of stories weaving their way through my thoughts at any given moment. Plots and character arcs and titles and the correct use of its or it’s is forever orbiting like the stars in the sky, sometimes present, but often invisible. 

It’s nice to turn of the mind chatter, be it in life or in writing. Not only is it a break, but it’s so energizing to run on my default setting for a few hours. Some of the clutter has fallen away, but there is also some clarity–in life, and in my writing.

The Fly

Putting my rear on a chair and writing for hours is a whole lot easier in the winter, when it’s too dark and cold out to really enjoy being outside. Right now, with nearly fifteen hours of daylight and access to the Columbia River, waterfalls, hikes and wine on my friend’s front porch, writing is a dedicated task. Yet I know all too well the itchy, antsy feeling I get when I’m not writing.
So the other day I sat: rear in seat. Mug of coffee ready to go. Laundry and dishes done. Door closed to the rest of the mess. And I started to read. I’m in the editing phase of a novel, which is my least favorite part. I love the creation of the characters, building a world, tearing apart their dreams and hiding the bodies. I don’t so much like cutting words, chopping out characters and cleaning up the blood. It’s just not fun. 
I was trying like hell to stay on task when I noticed a spider web in the corner of the room– gasp! Then I noticed that a fly had gotten caught in it and was thrashing about, trying to get free. My first thought was: good, the spider will be so busy with the fly that it can’t launch itself across the room and attack me. Then I thought about the fly. Could it get free if it fought long and hard enough or would it just exhaust itself? Do I tangle my characters in a proper web, making sure there aren’t any huge holes for them to slip through, so they really have to want to be free? If the web is editing and I’m the fly, will I give up the struggle and succumb, or break loose?
It may not be a profound thought and fighting for one’s life is sure different than writing. But…if writing is what feeds my soul and the option of NOT writing is torturous, isn’t it a bit like fighting for the life I want every time I put butt to chair and pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard)? I think so.
As a side note, I’ve relocated and have yet to find a writing community. If you have an online writing community (or want to start one), please contact me!

Transitions

If the slow pace of Hawaii wasn’t enough to slow me down, the absolute lack of not only WiFi but any decent connect to Internet ensured that I unplugged. These forced brakes always cause moments of panic for me, but the bliss I experience during them and the residual calm inevitably result in a solemn resolution to purposefully take these breaks on a regular basis. Then life happens.
Two of the most amazing experiences I had in Hawaii happened underwater: snorkeling and swimming with dolphins. There I was enveloped by warm, tropical water and fully emerged in a water that was entirely unlike my own. It’s an entirely new visual and audio sensory experience than I’ve ever had. I swore I heard the dolphins clicking underwater as they swirled around me. 
To top off the amazing experiences, I reflected afterward on just how peaceful I felt. I wasn’t thinking about paying bills or what to make for dinner or how to kill of my antagonist. I was simply being in the moment and experiencing it without trying to interpret, gauge or direct my thoughts, feelings or those of others. It was the a gem of meditation time and I hadn’t even sat down on my mat.

Earlier this evening while out running, I felt the same euphoria. Now, I was breathing so hard I could power a hot air balloon because the hill I was powering up was just that. dang. steep. It wasn’t that I wasn’t anywhere new– I’v been trying to tackle the same hill for moths. But instead of dreading the hill, I was just running it. Running and breathing, with an empty mind.

Afterward, I was able to return to a problem I was trying to figure out before my run and had instant clarity. I can still imagine scuba diving and the gorgeous underwater world and feel a sense of calm, which instantly uplifts me. During difficult scenes or chapters, I sometimes switch gears completely and move to another project or bake cookies and when I return, it’s usually a lot easier for me to find the right words. 
In yoga, I often remind my students that just as important as the asanas (poses) are the transitions and pauses between poses and breaths. I invite you to join. Me to breathe into the spaces in between, to revel in the transitions, and let them signal the end of one thing and beginning of another.

Hawaiian Adventures

I just returned from a week-long stay in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii with family and only had one thing planned and everything else I decided to leave to chance and the people around me.

The quick list of what I did: snorkeled, watched a sunsets from the top of Mauna Kea, swam with dolphins, visited the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, black sand beach, Akaka Falls, body-boarded and explored an outdoor market in Hilo. I ate at Chubby’s, Java on the Rocks and too-expensive places in Kona that I don’t remember the names of. I drank Kava and felt an overwhelming calm.

We stayed on the big island, in touristy Kona. It was dry and warm, reminding me of sunny Southern California and not at all like the tropical paradise I’d imagined. Part of our group loved the area and I’m sure many other vacationers do—there are great areas for snorkeling (even for the kiddos), it’s easy to navigate and it’s all but impossible not to slow to the pace of life there.

Before our trip, we reserved snorkeling gear with Boss Frog’s. They had prescription-strength masks for those that wear glasses and the option of regular boogie boards or those with a window, which was great for the kiddos that weren’t quite ready for snorkeling, but still wanted to be on the water and see the fish. At a better price than elsewhere and the option to reserve gear (enough for our 13-person group) ahead of time we’re definite pluses, but their customer service was lacking and they tried to charge us a late fee, even though we turned in our gear earlier than the paperwork said it was due.

I’m big into supporting local economies and was a. Bit saddened to see that all the Hawaiian themed goods (shirts, jewelry, wine holders) were actually made elsewhere, even at the outdoor markets in Kona.

Hilo, on the wet side of the island, was by far my favorite part of the trip. We stumbled across a huge outdoor market and got to see people actually making the jewelry and goods that they were selling. For those of you that like spicy things, I highly recommend looking at Big Island Peppers (bigislandpeppers.com) for their wide array of sauces, from mild to ridiculously hot, as well as their cheese puffs. The owners were extremely friendly and let us sample everything. When we realized that the size of the bottles exceeded the limit for our carry-on, they said they’d mail them the following day and we paid a small flat-rate box fee; the box arrived the day after we got home and the sauces are just as delicious as we remembered!

We braved the downpour and walked to Akaka Falls, which worth being soaked to the bone. Other people had umbrellas and ponchos, which would probably have been a good addition.

The most amazing experience I had was swimming with dolphins. We booked an early morning trip with Sunlight On Water. Everyone on our boat got to see dolphins, both in and out of the water, and at one point I was close enough to touch them. It was such a surreal experience and as with snorkeling, I felt such a lightness of spirit on the trip. If that wasn’t enough, the crew was both funny and knowledgable; they ensured everyone on our boat from age seven to sixty was having a good time, had snacks, and was safe. Part of our group was so impressed that they booked a nighttime manta ray swim with Sunlight On Water and had a great experience as well. Not only did the crew take care of our group, but they also lent out their lights (which they’d said were close to $50k when we asked) to another boat that wasn’t having as much luck with seeing the manta rays. This was by far one of the best all-around experiences I had with customer service on the trip and admire the generosity of this group.

Sunset from the top of Maunakea was the nighttime highlight of the trip. We booked an all-day trip with Hawaii Forest & Trail, traveling with a small group. We had a picnic dinner that far exceeded my expectations, and our guide Maka was personable and knowledgable—by far the best guide I’d ever had. Partway up the volcano we stopped to see a rare Silversword plant in bloom. There’s something surreal about standing above the clouds and watching the sunset dip so quickly below the horizon. Afterward we did some star gazing and had brownies and hot chocolate, which took of the chill of the high elevation—I never would have guessed it snows in Hawaii!

Usually a solo traveler, this was a very different experience for me; I’m used to waking up and grabbing a quick breakfast then am out the door to explore the area. I usually rely on locals to tell me good places to eat and hidden gems to explore rather than rely on tourist handbooks or websites. I loved the dolphin and volcano experiences, but exploring the town of Hilo (with random sightings of giant turtles, eating fruit I’ve never seen before and talking with the locals) was also a highlight.

There were a few things I wished I’d done, like toured the coffee farms and mastered boogie boarding, but overall it was a good time and what struck me most was how relaxed and happy everyone looked- tourist and locals alike.