The picture in this week's blog, a beautiful rainbow, was taken from my hotel balcony the last day of my recent trip to Maui. Sadly, the image was too big to upload on my website. However, I was able to upload it on my regular blog; you can see the picture if you sign up to receive my blog (go to our home page on the top right to sign up). To me, the picture symbolizes the epitome of pleasure and what Hawaii represents: the spirit of Aloha. Many people don't understand what Aloha actually entails. My experience of Aloha in Maui paved the way for this week's blog post.
As Landess Kearns, Associate Editor for HuffPost Hawaii explains so eloquently in her article titled, 5 Ways to live life with more Aloha (2015), while Aloha means hello and goodbye as well as a moral code, it is also "an expression of love and a connection to nature." Kearns adds that those who live in Hawaii know the idea of Aloha well and those that are repeat visitors are drawn to the islands because of the spirit of Aloha.
As cited in Kearns' article, the late great teacher of Hawaiian spirituality Haleaka lolani Pule described Aloha beautifully. She said that Aloha is ..."our innate sense to love things unconditionally...It's a symbiotic relationship and the acknowledgment of that symbiotic relationship that you have with everything in the universe around you and recognizing exactly your space within it."
Aloha is something that is felt, like feeling the warm hug from a loved one, or experiencing the savory taste of a delicious fruit in your mouth, or being the recipient of a kind gesture.
Aloha reminds me of how I felt in Maui as I made the mindful, intentional, and very conscious effort to experience daily pleasure and by this I am not referring to sex (although I realize that we are sexual beings, and, as Patrick Carnes so poignantly says, "Sexuality is our most meaningful expression of our spirit. You cannot touch one without touching the other" (2009)). I am referring to something much deeper than the pleasure experienced solely from sex.
I am referring to the spirit of Aloha that lives inside each of our hearts, that gives us a sense of pure, unconditional pleasure, love, and joy.
As the owner of a very beautiful and busy healing center, I realized that prior to going to Maui I had lost my sense of Aloha; my daily pleasures. I found myself experiencing symptoms of compassion fatigue, which is a common response experienced by many healers in the helping profession. As someone that wears many hats (business woman, forensic evaluator, and therapist to name a few), people sometimes forget that I too am a human being who has feelings. Folks at times can be downright abusive, slanderous, and mean, including making public attacks as a distraction to their own suffering. The last couple of months were fraught with this type of painful energy and while I practiced daily meditation in an attempt to stay grounded, brought in a Reiki healer to clear our work/healing space, exercised daily, attended my own therapy, and practiced my daily mindfulness techniques and reframing, by the time my trip came, all the negativity had really taken a toll on my spirit.
My spirit of Aloha, my bank account for experiencing the little pleasures that have historically brought me peace, joy and happiness, was feeling pretty empty. I needed a deposit and fast.
For me, I needed to get away from my day to day environment. But the Spirit of Aloha, of experiencing daily pleasure, can happen where you are at any given time.
The biggest thing I learned in Maui that helped keep me connected to the spirit of Aloha (the art of pure joy and pleasure) from any location, is to take a moment and look up at the sky. I know this might sound cheesy but for me, the most consistent thing that I have, something that is always there, is the sky. Whether I am in Maui or Utah, the sky, with all of its fluid movements and artistic elegance is always above me moving along with me in each moment. Isn't that magnificent?! The beauty the sky offers, be it in the gift of the morning sunrise where the sky is filled with an array of fiery colors, or after a rain when a delicate rainbow appears, or at night, when the stars come out and all the constellations appear to remind us of the mystery of life. That is sheer pleasure! That is the spirit of Aloha. It is also really grounding.
Some may say that connecting to the earth with bare feet such as walking on grass or hugging or climbing a tree connects them to the spirit of Aloha. Connecting to earth in these ways feeds our spirits, our inner children, and believe it or not, allows us to experience pure and innocent pleasure. Try climbing a tree with your children and watch what happens!
Embracing nature is indeed a key element to staying attuned to Aloha. As I am typing this, I am outside on my patio listening to the orchestra of crickets as they play their beautiful harmonious symphony that echoes through the trees. I can hear the faint sound of thunder in the background and feel the slight breeze on my cheek. That is Aloha, that is pure pleasure. It also keeps me right here in this moment, which is very calming (for those of you reading this that have a lot of anxiety, try this).
Other ways to experience Aloha (joy and pleasure):
- Eat a piece of fruit such as an orange. Take time to slowly peel it, feeling it in your hands, then taste each bite, letting the sensation sit in your mouth for a moment before devouring it. Let yourself be present to how savory this experience is. Do it with your loved one and see what happens.
- Embrace a loved one or someone you care about in a warm, loving, kind hearted hug. Be open to giving as much as receiving.
- Cultivate strong and loving connections with people you trust. These reciprocal relationships will be life long and can give you joy, love, and so much Aloha.
- Love unconditionally. Easier said than done as we are all judgmental (I know, that is hard to swallow but true). Start by loving yourself for all your flaws and all your wonders. See yourself with the eyes of love no matter what! Watch what happens when you do it (it is pretty amazing). Then practice loving others without conditions or judgment. It is pretty amazing.
- Be optimistic; see the rainbows and silver linings in all things, even the haters, happiness-crashers, and judgers. We see what we believe so what if you changed what you believed and practiced being more positive?
- Express appreciation. If you practice gratitude every day, I promise you that your life would be full of Aloha and daily pleasure. Try this: On nights when you can't sleep, go through a list of all the things you are thankful for and let yourself fall into a deep and lasting slumber. I practice daily gratitude in a journal; I strongly encourage folks do this-the outpouring of abundance that comes is amazing!
We are living in a very challenging time in America and across the globe. Healing for all is needed now more than ever. Many folks with addiction issues are unable to regulate discomfort in their bodies so they seek out escapes via orgasm, porn, people (hookups), substances, food, video games (all of the above), etc. Regardless of the addiction or affliction you are facing, finding the spirit of Aloha, the little pleasures and joys of daily living, with love that is unconditional and lasting, will create and internal sunshine that no one can darken. This is a key part of your healing process. If you can master this, you will have lasting recovery. And with practice, your entire experience of the world around you will shift, you will have more peace, more joy, more pleasure; more Aloha.
With that being said, dear ones, always know you are worth it.
Picture: by candicechristiansen© 2016
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