Hawaii reveals itself in layers, like a beautiful flower bud that uncurls petal by petal. It’s not just a gazer’s paradise; I found Hawaii has an effect. The longer I stay, the more I learn about myself. And that knowing also unfolds in layers. Big chunks of my time are spent in Hawaii. When I first arrived, I was a tourist. Most people visiting Hawaii come and go. However, If you stay, or stay longer, or re-visit, something changes. At first you’re not sure if it’s Hawaii that’s changed or if it’s you. It’s you. Hawaii doesn’t change all that much, but Hawaii does inspire change. Over the last decade, Hawaii worked it’s magic on me, for sure. And now, I’d like to inspire you with five lessons I learned from Hawaii.

Slow Down

Impatiently waiting in line for the cashier at the “quick” check-out to ring up my two items at Long’s Drug Store, I started to toe-tap. The cashier recognized the person she was serving and began to “talk story”. That’s usually a long talk. You know, a catch-up of family details, island news, and what’s for dinner. Looking around, I was frustrated to see every register was about six people deep. I was stuck, and I was about to experience what I now call a Hawaiian Moment. Finally! The cash register drawer closed, the friends said their goodbyes, and the next customer moved forward. Great, I”m next! Oh, shit. There’s a problem with the register. The ink on the receipt is messy and the customer wants a readable copy. I’d happily throw a $20 down for a $15 bill just to end my wait, but… not so fast. Something was happening. The cashier was smiling, and looking out at all of us from behind the counter. Total eye contact. She said “It’s going to be a few minutes to fix this. The manager is coming”. And then she started to sing. Beautifully. She sang “Hanohano Wailea”. Everyone within earshot stopped what they were doing, turned, and listened with pleasure. My impatience, frustration, and stress melted in this Hawaiian Moment. A spontaneous performance to calm, entertain, and inspire a desire to wait in those of us who needed it was also a reward for being in the right place at the right time. Just as she finished her last notes, the manager hit a button on the register to print a clear receipt. Everyone clapped, and I learned to slow down. If you don’t know how to slow down, Hawaii will gently show you with Aloha.

Flow with Nature

Big Island is group of volcanoes surrounded by ocean and covered with 11 or more different climactic zones. It’s all here, from tropics to desert, mountain to ocean. Nature gives life, love, and abundance. I find that communing with nature daily is natural therapy. The natural beauty of the island burns itself into the minds of those who’ve seen it. Ocean vistas, colorful flowers and fish, birdsongs, yellow butterflies fluttering across black lava fields, fern forests, red-hot lava pouring into deep blue ocean, rolling green hills and pastures, bright geckos, and I could go on. Sunrise and sunset are celebrated. Many people get up at the crack-o-light over Hualalai to swim, surf, paddle, run, walk, hike, fish, meditate, or attend yoga class before breakfast and work. That’s right, before work! Days end early, too, between 3 and 5 p.m. and many gather along the coast and roads to watch the colorful sunset. The first time I saw a bunch of cars suddenly pull over to the side of the road here at sunset, I thought I didn’t hear the ambulance. People got out of their cars and faced West for a one-on-one communion with the sun. It’s a sacred moment that marks the end of the day and the beginning of the night when stars appear all the way to the horizon line. The sunrise and sunset create a rhythm and in it everything is perfect.

When I first arrived here, I would wake up to my to do list and get busy. Now, I wake up and see what the ocean is doing before I decide what I’m doing. Sometimes, I’ll reorganize my schedule to get in some time with the ocean, be it minutes or hours. From Hawaii, I learned to let myself flow with nature, and include it as part of my day, everyday.

Care For Each Other

You know it when you feel it! The Aloha Spirit is a subtle, powerful vibe of unconditional love and care, and it’s why visitors feel so good when they are in Hawaii.

I remember trying to make a left turn on a road with a lot of oncoming traffic years ago when suddenly a car stopped to hold traffic back for me as I made the turn safely. Try that in Los Angeles. I was so grateful. Simple. Easy. Costs nothing. Kindness to strangers is great karma. Last visit, I was listening to a band play Hawaiian music, and at the break I spoke to one of the musicians expressing how much I loved their music. He thanked me, turned around, took something out of his bag, and presented it to me as a gift. It was a mango. Not any mango, a perfect mango. Mangoes are prized here for their fruit and their wood. Beautiful colors, ripe, fragrant, unblemished. What a gift! Just like that (snap), a guy whips around and pulls a mango out of his bag to present as a gift! It’s like magic, but it’s not. It’s Aloha, and it happens often.

I see people in Hawaii help each other in both small and big ways. Living on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean means that, if there’s a real problem, be it a hurricane, tsunami, volcanic eruption, flood, or earthquake, no one from the mainland is going to get here real quick to help. All we have is each other, and nobody survives alone. Hawaii taught me how important it is for all of us to care for each other, in big and small ways be it a smile, hug, a kind word, a donation, a check, or whatever. When you care, it’s all good!

Live with Less

Should I wear my good flip flops or my crappy flip flops today? I always wanted that to be the big question of my day. In Hawaii, it pretty much boils down to the bare essentials. You need flip-flops and occasionally, you need good flip-flops. Barefoot is also a viable option. When I first came to Hawaii, I was working as a private art dealer. I scheduled appointments with potential clients and arrived dressed for business. Hair, make-up, manicure, dress, heels, art-to-wear jewelry. Kicking off my shoes at the door to take a meeting never crossed my mind. Imagine my surprise when I was requested to do just that! There I was, taking a meeting with people I just met, in my bare feet. Didn’t take too long to get used to it. So, right off the bat, Hawaii taught me that I don’t need a lot of shoes to go with that dress. And it taught me, more importantly, to take a good, hard look at all my “stuff” and ask, “do I really need this?” What I need and what I want are two different things. Need is basic. Want isn’t a need, but somehow things we want turn into things we think we need. Big mistake. Stuff has energy. Every record, book, shoe, chair, glass, lava lamp, picture, ring, appliance, photo, quilt, car, decoration, gizmo, gift-you-never-used, has energy. Living with less energy surrounding you allows your energy to expand. Clutter eventually equals exhaustion. Clear it out! Make room for you, what you need, and a couple of things you want or want to keep around because doing so brings joy into your life daily. Listen, I’m a collector, I hear ya. I know. It takes an effort to do it, but once you do, ahhh, freedom. And cash in the bank! Over the last 2 years, I went through every closet, drawer, and box and forced myself to let go big-time. Feels great! And something changed in me, too. I have less desire for the things I thought I wanted. A win-win. Hawaii taught me that I really don’t need all that much but maybe a couple of pairs of flip-flops, and that it’s empowering to live with less.

Work to Live, Don’t Live to Work

Work-a-fucking-holic. For decades. I worked constantly because I absolutely loved my work with a passion. I was good at it, and it more than paid the bills. I loved to work! Couldn’t wait to get to it. When the economy dumped, I decided it was a good time to get out and do nothing. Going from 1,000 mph to 0 is quite a shock to the system. After I scratched off the last item on my what-to-do-when-I’ve-got-nothing-but-time list, I traveled. And then I started spending big chunks of time in Hawaii. I rested. I was still on full speed ahead though. Locals would say, slow down, go with the flow, surf’s up (wink), come to the party – plenty for everybody. An electrician I hired to do some work called to say he was going surfing and couldn’t really make it over to my place. Oh. OK. I’m starting to understand. Work to Live. Hawaii is right. Right about then someone called me to work on an art project. That was the moment I realized, I had burned myself out loving my work. I felt like I wanted to cough up an old hair ball. I didn’t want to do it anymore. Done. Over. Sell the art history library. Enjoy life. Put the iPhone down and have a conversation with a stranger in a line at a shop. Lay down on the sand and soak up a little sun. Let my mind wander around in the surf. Read a book under a tree. Listen to the birds roost just before sunset. And reinvent myself so I have the wonderful life I dreamed that includes work I love and time for life. And so, I have.

Slow Down.

Flow with Nature.

Care for One Another.

Live with Less.

Work to Live, Don’t Live to Work.