Gentle reminders and the spirit of aloha

Every winter our family takes a trip together in December to commemorate my in-laws’ wedding anniversary which happens to fall on Christmas Day. This year, they celebrated 50 years of marriage and we all went to Hawaii where the spirit of aloha is everywhere. One of our activities while in Kauai was a private plane tour over the island. It was one of those tiny puddle jumpers that sat six (my sister-in-law and her daughters rode in another plane) and everyone got a window seat. As we soared high above the Na’Pali Coast and Waimea Canyon, I found myself captivated as our pilot, Desi, told us stories of the Ancient Hawaiians who called many of the places below us home. I thought of the way they lived and how things as simple as fresh coconut, a rainbow after a tropical drizzle, the sound of the ocean in a conch shell, and the feel of warm sand beneath their feet were little joys to them that meant so much. I thought of how grateful and cognizant they were of these gifts.

26000907_1970385639948920_3681049406501006604_nGranted, we can’t change technology or modern science and inventions that have shaped the planet in the time since (many of them are needed and do make the world a better place), but we can still learn from the Ancient Hawaiians and their spirit of aloha. The plane ride was a gentle reminder for me that just like the deep azure waves below me, I, too, needed to “flow”. I made a conscious decision to be more mindful of my surroundings and sacred moments (yes, even after yoga class is done) and really try to not let distractions penetrate moments in which I should be more present. What does that mean? For me, it’s things like not worrying about photographing my food or even parts of a vacation for Instagram or Facebook or allowing a phone call to interrupt dinner with my family. It’s focusing on what my husband or children are saying – yes, every single world – without allowing thoughts of what item I wasn’t able to check off on my daily To Do List to nag me. It’s enjoying the scent of the neighborhood flowers on an evening walk and not obsessing over an email I sent to a client. These are just a few examples, but you get the idea.

This isn’t some sort of sanctimonious post about willing myself into always being happy. Part of being present and remembering “flow” for me will be allowing myself to feel things like grief and anger too. I don’t want to avoid or ignore these emotions because that would only amplify frustration. It’s important not to dwell on negative feelings, but I certainly don’t want to judge myself for having them either – we are all comprised of dark and light halves (yin and yang) and need to visit each of them in order to be whole.

Words like self-care and self-love seem to inhabit the lexicon of the zeitgeist right now, but the idea and behavior they encompass have been held dear since time immemorial by many cultures like the ancient Hawaiians. I realize it’s not practical to fly off to the islands every single time any of us need to unplug or decompress, but we can make an effort to tune in and focus on the NOW which may be something as elementary as not allowing ourselves to be bedeviled by worry or stress.

We need to pledge fealty to ourselves. To our wellbeing. To our own spirit of aloha.