Yesterday I walked up the tallest mountain in the world. And it wasn’t that hard. A bit of panting, a few stops to rest and boom – I saw Akaka Falls, a waterfall twice the height of Niagara tumbling down the side of said mountain.
No, I haven’t suddenly inhabited the body of Wonderwoman. Or lost my mind (although that could be a topic for further discussion!).
I walked up Mauna Kea, a million year old, now dormant volcano in Hawai’i. Mauna Kea when measured from sea base to peak, is 500m taller than Everest.
The thing is most of it is underwater.
It got me thinking about how we see ourselves. All of the unseen potential, all of the gems inside us are mostly unseen. Underwater. Unknown, even to ourselves.
Hawai’i has been so surprising. I have visited and stayed on three of its islands, and each one has been an experience so different from the other that I’ve felt like I’ve visited three nations in the span of a week.
My Hawai’ian adventure began on tiny Lana’i, where the supply boat (bringing EVERYTHING from cauliflowers to clipboards), only visits once a week. Very little is grown on the island, and much of it appears a desolate wasteland, a legacy of a now abandoned pineapple industry that once supplied most of the world’s pineapples.
There on Lana’i, I attended a retreat with Linda and Dan Popov, the Founders of the Virtues Project. I first encountered the Virtues Project 25 years ago when my daughter Mary was little and I was really struggling with the “hows” of raising a child, one whose gifts were so wrapped up in the crippling blanket of anxiety. That retreat was life-changing for both Greg and myself, and helped us raise our daughter (and ourselves!) using the language of the virtues, calling ourselves to recognise moments of Patience, Helpfulness, Generosity, Kindness and so many other gems of character, instead of shaming for what was yet undeveloped.
Twenty-five years later, on the tiny island of Lana’i, it was as if I was the child who was called to remember those gems within, some of which were, (like most of Mauna Kea), submerged under an ocean and invisible, especially to myself. I saw my own childhood through a different lens, and all the pain and betrayal and loss of that period became swathed in compassion and understanding.
And there was joy! With my sister and my friends, I laughed so hard that Laughter on Lana’i is now a treasured memory of my first experience of Hawai’i. (Oh, and I also swam with the little colourful fishies, and narrowly escaped eating vegetables cooked in blood. True story.)
I’m now on the Big Island, in a little town called Hilo. On this island, I’m surrounded by nature that’s pulsing with life. Lush, tropical nature, the kind you think of when you think of Hawai’i. The kind I hadn’t seen until now.
Green lizards wrapped around bright red flowers. Black, moss-covered rock walls bursting with tiny ferns through the cracks. The fast-flowing Wailuku river outside my window, and butterflies and a hundred different types of palm trees everywhere.
And yesterday I walked (partly) up the highest mountain in the world, past giant banyan trees growing on land that’s a million years old.
I’m at Retreat #2 with the lovely, kind and brilliant writer, Alexandra Franzen.
I came here to write and to learn from Alex. Or so I thought.
Alex has made this retreat a treasure box for the mind, body and spirit. I am incredibly grateful to her, as my body relaxes from the rigours of work and travel, and my heart expands.
Delicious meals appear without any effort on my part whatsoever. I am forbidden to do anything for myself. While writing this, I was handed a glass of cold coconut water by a magical fairy called Kate, fresh out of a coconut, and there were purple floating petals on it. I might have died and gone to heaven, which would also explain THE MOST AMAZING massage I’ve ever had. Ever. And I haven’t even mentioned my bedroom, the massive beautiful 4 poster bed or the Big Magical Window that I am currently sitting in front of, listening to the birds and the Wailuku River below. Or Alex’s skilful, gentle teaching, where she helps us remember and write who we are. Uncover what we offer.
Discover how we’re all the same and yet so deliciously unique.
Today we had to answer the question, “if you had a billboard on Times Square that you could say ANYTHING you want on, what would it be?”
Now, I’ve been to Times Square! It’s an insane place. My sensitive, introvert soul felt the crushing weight of so many humans’ dreams and desires, pushing and shoving, all those billboards demanding to be seen and heard.
I could never add my voice to that noise!
But, what if I did? If I could? What would I say? What would be my one message, the one I believed strongly enough in that I would add it to the noise of Times Square in the hope that someone, even just ONE person, would see it and be encouraged.
It would be this:
Make YOUR art.
Change your life.
We ALL make art in so many ways – when we cook, create gardens, paint, make pots, crochet, make movies, arrange our homes, create little tiny humans, teach, sing, write, dance. Most of it goes unnoticed. But when we name it art, when we use the creative impulse with intention, its power magnifies and grows. Something in our spirits recognises the ancient magic of creating beauty when before there was none and rewards our efforts by expanding our consciousness and amplifying our awareness. We come home, just a little more, to ourselves.
And Hawai’i, pulsing with so much of nature’s creative magic, from the green lizards wrapped around pendulous bright red flowers, to the raging rivers, swaying palms and mighty waterfalls, has wrapped itself around my heart and invited to come home at a deeper level than ever before.
I’m returning to Perth very soon, where, on July 6-7, I’ll be running Finding Your Way Home, a two-day art retreat where I share how you might find your way home – to yourself, to your creative, strong centre. This journey is one that I believe we all take multiple times in our lives. And ART is one of the most powerful ways of doing this.
So, I have brought together some of the creative elements that I have found to be most powerful in doing this – the soothing calm of the Swan River, replete with the occasional dolphin, nature’s wonderful creation. The gentle, restorative yoga with the incomparable Chioni, who teaches yoga with love and calm centredness. (Her yoga reminds me of how the body recreates itself constantly, especially when we honour it with this sacred practice.) Reflective journaling, one of my most treasured creative tools; inspiring words and stories, and of course, step-by-step guidance for you to create nine glorious paintings (each) that come together to capture your journey home – no matter what your experience or lack of experience is with art. This workshop is gentle, powerful and forgiving, and teaches us to be those very things to ourselves.
Come. There’s room. And there’s still time to find your way home.
PS You can find out more about why I called this workshop “Finding Your Way Home” and see the art students have made and what they thought of the experience, and book your spot (3 left) OVER HERE.
PPS If it calls to your heart, but your finances don’t permit it, please reach out to me anyway. I want you to be to there and I gift at least one spot in most of my classes. It could be to you.
PPS and lastly, here are some images from my journey to these surprising islands, to make you happy (or to laugh at my dorkiness!)