I was drawn to Hawaiian Sanctuary by my desire for self-exploration, yoga experience and space away from the world I knew. I expected Hawaiian Sanctuary, the eco-retreat center where I applied and participated in a yoga internship, to be full of old people.
When I arrived, the situation not only surprised but exceeded my expectations. With my yoga studies I dove deeper into the studies of Ashtanga, as well as the yamas and niyamas (living principles) of yoga.
While there, I was deeply inspired by my many fellow interns, who, contrary to my expectation, were young adults from France, England, Peru, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Colorado, Tennessee, California and Oregon.
I learned many things from them, but one of the most inspiring things was the story of David Sonshine. He was 27, had a really good position at Google with benefits and a comfortable salary. Driven by his desire for self-realization, he quit his job and gave up material possessions to travel the world and live in communities.
Hawaiian Sanctuary permaculture interns harvest all the food from the land. Leif, the permaculture director, taught a really inspiring “Permie 101” classes where he explained how the principles of permaculture applied to his personal idea of “Apreculture,” Utilizing the land with a sense of appreciation and understanding.
He emphasized that we are all united because we are all composed of water, earth, fire and air. I was also intrigued by his concept of “social permaculture” where he would constantly remind us that the way we communicated and lived in our community was not that different from the way the plants were living together.
Leif and his wife Sarah came to Hawaii from the Ojai Foundation in California where there are many councils to discuss the well-being of the community. Sarah started a women’s council the week I got there. In Women’s Council, about 10 girls from within the community and a few other women from town would gather in a circle with pillows, chocolate, candles and talking pieces. Each week had a different topic that all of the women got to talk about and have the experience of listening from the heart, sharing from the heart and being spontaneous.
It was a really healing experience where everyone involved felt really understood and heard. When Sarah left she requested that I lead the women’s council. Leading it and watching young women open up and transform was a really rewarding experience that I won’t forget.
There were many opportunities to try new things in the open-minded Pahoa community. Ecstatic dance, trance dance, past life exploration, partner yoga, non-violent communication classes, “Auntie Classes” about hawaiian spirituality, waterfall cleanses, guided meditation, chocolate tasting, cooking lessons, viewing wild dolphins and participating in full moon ceremonies.
We also had inspirational experiences involving Sri Prim Baba, a spiritual master from india, Laura Dawn famous raw food founder of Happy & Raw, and Kozo, the man who is curing his own cancer with love.
The Big Island held many adventures including waterfall rappelling, hikes to hidden beaches, camping under the stars, jumping off at South Point (45 feet) and The End of the World (50 feet), climbing behind waterfalls, swimming with river currents, going up the mountain Mauna Kea, tide pools, one of the world’s only green sand beaches and warm pond swims.
From the moment I arrived in Hawaii I was informed of the healing that people experience on the island and the goddess of the island, Pele. They say that the spirit of Pele resides in the lava flow.
Local legend also says that 21 days after a visit to the lava flow, your life will change.
Joe, manager of Hawaiian Sanctuary and also our adventure guide, took the other interns and myself to the lava flow the weekend I arrived. The 3 mile lava hike in the dark with fear of the lava rock cracking beneath us, was well worth it. Putting in letters and tea leaves as offerings to Pele felt magical.
Surely enough, in 21 days, something wild happened to me. I had walked into the small town of Pahoa to get lunch with my little sisters who were visiting. It was a good day spent eating ice cream at the pool, but afterwards they were exausted.
Hitchhiking is much safer and acceptable in Hawaii, so I decided that would be the best option for us. Instantly, a young beautiful woman picked us up, moving the car seat and Target groceries around to make room for us. Her name was Jade. On the ride home she told me that her and her husband had moved to the island 5 months earlier and were starting up a retreat center. Very grateful for the ride,I waved goodbye and thought nothing of it, not realizing the impact that this woman would have on my life.
Two days later I saw her and her family at the Wednesday night market, and she gave me her number. One thing led to another and next thing I know I was having dinner at her house and getting offered a job to be their guest coordinator. She said if I took the job she would want me to start instantly and not go back to school.
Jade and her husband both went to universities and had well paying jobs, when they realized that they didn’t want to be caught up in the “rat race” of society and they moved to Hawaii to start fresh. They opened my eyes by pointing out that you don’t have to do things the way everyone else does and you don’t have to rush into college, spend a ton of money and time studying, to find out that your happiness might be somewhere else.
Astonished, surprised, delighted and confused, I left that dinner without giving her an answer. The idea of working with people and watching them transform made me feel warm and fulfilled inside, but I didn’t know if I could avoid the pressure I’d put on myself to finish my education.
After meditating and consulting my closest friends, family and unbiased strangers I gained clarity in my decision to go home and complete school. Although I rejected the offer, Jade gave me the gift of an open mind and a new perspective of a world where there are many different ways to live.
After my time with Hawaiian Sanctuary I went to live with Jade for two weeks. Every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday a lovely lady named Venus would cook fresh healthy dinners where we would all sit down and converse. During these times I met many interesting people that were passionate about their theories on Aliens and Reptillians, lizard people who they suspect run the world. Others had intriguing theories on partner meditation where you could have the same image as another person and travel anywhere through a blissed out mind.
The week before I left I would go across the street from Jade’s house where the ocean splashed against the cilffs spraying onlookers with salt water.
On one of these occasions I was doing yoga, but as soon as I started I saw something jump out of the water only yards in front of me. Suddenly there was a pack of dolphins jumping and doing tricks. It was one of the most magical things I had ever seen, the playfulness and joy that they displayed was like nothing I’d ever seen. Dolphins are also an omen of peace, harmony and inner strength, and in that moment I found closure for my time on the Big Island.
Filled with gratitude and awe, I left with excitement for the future as well as love for home and the opportunity to share the lessons I learned with loved ones.