The Big 55
My time in Hana was a gift. A big, beautiful birthday gift to me. I turned 55. That makes it sound sort of like my odometer rolled over (do you watch yours when it nears repeated digits, too?).
I guess my odometer did roll over. I’ve traveled a lot of miles in my life.
Or maybe it’s a pedometer. You know, the kind that measures your mileage on foot. That would make more sense, since I have two of those.
On Saturday, I hiked the two miles up the side of Haleakala, the dormant volcano on Maui, to Waimoku falls, which fall from 400 ft above.
(insert cool waterfall shot)
Saturday morning was rainy on and off. The following evening we’d had a long steady rain, so the trail was exceedingly wet…and muddy. I forgot to bring my tennis shoes, so I was wearing my thongs. As I trudged up the hill, I could feel things getting more slippery along the way. I found myself trying to stay ‘clean’. Big smile, because after the fact, I can now see how futile this was!
At the top, just prior to the falls, you have to cross two parts of the creek/river. This didn’t sound like fun in thongs, so I took them off and proceeded barefoot, making sure to put the thongs back on across the way.
On my way back down the hill, I was still trying to walk in my thongs, but it was more slippery by now because the rain had been falling for a bit. Just as I was feeling frustrated with myself and the mud, a group of people going up the hill came into view. One of them was a teenaged girl. She was barefoot. She took one look at me and said, with a smile, “Why don’t you just take them off? I did.” I looked down at her feet and, sure enough, bare feet covered in mud.
I thought about it for a moment, and realized I’d been not fully present to everything around me because I was afraid of slipping and gettingdirty. Here I was in this glorious place and my attention was more on walking than on my surroundings. So I took them off and walked barefoot. The mud was warm and squishy. Why had I been avoiding this?
I felt connected. I was aware. I enjoyed it so much more. I had a deeper sensual experience through my feet.
It was so freeing because by taking off my shoes, I stepped right into what I had been trying to avoid…getting dirty. Suddenly there was nothing to avoid anymore. Why was I trying so hard to avoid the mud?
A similar thing had happened back in January as I hiked in Tilden park. The paths get very muddy there in the winter and spring months, and I would try to keep my running shoes from getting muddy. One day in particular, I was trying to get through a patch of mud and slipped right into it. Once I was dirty, it didn’t matter anymore. I felt lighter, more free and enjoyed the walk much more.
I had realized the same thing on my first full day in Hana. I was swimming at Hamoa beach. My towel and bag were on the sand. It began to rain quite hard. I noticed many of the people there rushing out of the water to get their things and carry them to a dryer place under the trees. I decided to get out and attempt to do the same. We were all trying to keep our stuff dry.
When the rain subsided, we went back to the beach, laid it all out again and went back in the water. Sure enough, back came the rain. Here I was in the water all wet, and I was worried about keeping my stuff dry. I thought about it and realized there was nothing in my stuff that couldn’t get wet. So I gave up trying. I continued to swim and it was quite an amazing experience being in the warm pouring rain while swimming in the warm ocean.
Water, water everywhere.
When I did decide to return to my bungalow, I gathered my things and put on my hat and it began to rain again. My hat was dripping wet, my cover up was dripping wet. My towel was dripping wet. I was dripping wet. Everything was wet. There was no longer anything to keep dry, and it was incredibly liberating. Nothing was getting hurt by getting wet.
In both cases, I let go and relaxed more deeply and immediately into my surroundings. I was more in tune with the sensual nature of the experience itself, and not surprisingly, with my own sensual nature. Without the worrying brain spinning fast, I was available to notice and feel what was immediately present…and the most noticeable thing was freedom, with a gentle joy following closely behind freedom’s feet.
I’ve been contemplating this in my life and wondered how often I hold back on doing things completely for fear of getting wet or muddy (either literally or metaphorically).
Where do I fear jumping in because it might get messy?
How much less awareness is available when much of my awareness is focused on my worry or fears?
I can now feel how liberating it would be to let go this way in everyday life.
Most of our fears are not really fears of immediate danger. They’re more like fears of avoiding things we’ve been conditioned to fear experiencing…like getting too muddy or getting our things wet, lost, broken, stolen, etc.
Avoiding messiness is avoiding life.
The joy I felt when I let go into what I was already immersed in was so much more real than what I had feared.
Life is in the mud, in the wet, in the full-on contact with all that we’re swimming in. When I am in avoidance, I am not living.
Yes, a good pair of pants might get stained. Or not. But,
rediscovering this place of joy is priceless.
the mud washed off.
my pants cleaned up.
i dried out.
pedicure is still mighty fine.
I am changed by it all.
I’d love to know about a time when you let it all go, when you realized it was futile to keep avoiding what you were obviously swimming in…