Hawaii Day 5 – Beach 69 – The biggest humuhumunukunukuapua’a you will ever see!

I got to celebrate my birthday at one of Jim’s favorite beaches here in Hawaii.  Beach 69 is a beautiful beach that has ample shade and snorkeling right off the shore.  I went out 3 times, once with Jim and twice by myself.  After a while, rather than swimming past the fish, I stayed in one spot to watch how the citizens of the reef conducted themselves.  It is a beautiful beautiful world to see down there.  To think that this abundance of life happens so close around us… it’s quite amazing.   While I snorkeled I did the circle center practice Sensei Noha taught us.  The third time I went out, the ocean was a bit more rough.  I felt so at home there and such a sense of calm though.  I rode the swells as I snorkeled out and was surprised at how far out I went.  Exerting a tiny bit of common sense, I swam back to shore.

While I snorkeled, Jim set upon building a sand castle.  This was a castle of a different color though… He set upon building Hawaii’s state fish, the humuhumunukunukuapua’a.  This takes a lot of water, a big shovel and various other types of tools to carve out the sand.  You can see his masterpiece here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/markdeso/sets/72157630620703552/

Driving back we went to a fish market and picked up some ono for dinner.  Jim and Leah cooked up ono, beats, rice, and green beans and a white pineapple salsa.  This was the perfect way to end my birthday.  Quiet, with friends and their children.

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Hawaii Day 4 – Pololu Valley and the city of Hawi

Today was nothing short of amazing.  Jim and I started early and got to the start of Pololu Valley a little after 6am.  This is quite simply the most breath taking scenery I’ve ever seen. I’ve taken MANY pics and have a link to them here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/markdeso/sets/72157630598473752/

We came down the trail on the north end to the beach and stayed there for a bit.  We did a T’ai Chi set and hung out for a bit.  I turned my back for about 5 minutes and Jim had set upon building a huge stone tower.  He had it at about waist high and continued till it was almost up to his nose.  He would take a big flat stone, place three smaller stones on it and then stack a slightly smaller one on top of the three stones.  He did this smaller and smaller till the tower spiralled up.

We crossed the beach into the forest and made our way up the south side.  This was very muddy and it turned into being a very slippery walk up.  We didn’t make it to the top… I pooped out and asked to turn around.  I was a little worried about the descent but Jim grabbed a walking stick for me and suggested a meditation on the way down… concentrate on right foot, then left foot.  That was it.  I found that by really thinking of right foot/left foot/right foot/left foot, it helped me slow down, be grateful for the solid footing when I had it and gave me the ability to be very mindful about the many muddy turns on the way down.

When we came back, there were a lot of people that started to come down.  EVERYONE that walked by and noticed the stone tower took pictures.  It was truly a remarkable piece.  Jim rocked it!

We came back into town and had a bite to eat. At the coffee house we got a couple of egg sandwiches.  There was a saxophone player we were talking to outside the coffee shop and he was setting up for a set with a guitar player.  I decided to stay in town, listen to some music and mingle for a bit.  I listened for a bit, did some gift shopping and found a little gallery that sold ukuleles, guitars and other musical instruments.   Outside the gallery was a young man with a huge beard playing the ukulele and singing.  I asked the shop owner if I could grab a guitar off the wall to play with him and she gladly agreed.  So, on the outskirts of town, I got to sit and play with an awesome ukulele player.

We finished the day quietly, a board game with the family (sorry Jim, it looked interesting but I think I may need to go to a class for this game.), nice tacos and now my blog entry.

This was such a beautiful and wonderful day.  Again, the people I encounter here… they are heart felt and genuine.  The rain is coming down in buckets right now.  I’m thinking I want to go out there and enjoy the storm…. Till tomorrow, aloha!

Hawaii Day 3 – The Farmer’s Market

I spent the early morning and afternoon with Jim and his family at the Farmer’s Market in Hawi.  We started early, a little after 5am packing up the van and the trailer with various tables, heating and serving implements and food stuffs.  Jim has a booth and he and Leah serve up wonderful Puerto Rican food made with all organic and locally grown veggies, meat, rice and beans.  He whips up a mean plantain!  I was happy to help.  I didn’t know what I was doing but I was able to check on customers, clear plates, serve and wipe down the table.

The people here are stellar.  I got to meet some very spectacular and special people.  A chocolatier, a couple that made raw vegan pastries, a guy who marinated his pork for 4 weeks to make the best char sui I’ve had in a while.  I got a chair massage from a crazy beautiful massage therapist (swoon), and just loved practically everyone I came in contact with.  There was a man who had picked awupahi ginger and came over and talked to me about it’s cleansing qualities.  He took one of the bulbs and squeezed it into my hand for me to feel what pure awupahi ginger felt like right off the bulb.  People seem to be much more genuine to strangers here.  Their warmth and generosity of spirit inspires me.

I talked to the chocolatier a bit throughout the day.  I enjoyed her company.  When I said good bye to her, she said to me, “Our lives have been enriched by you being here.”  Normally I would think that that was just something people said.  But I felt that she deeply and authentically meant what she says.  It makes me think about the people that come into my life in the fleeting moment and how my life is enriched that much more by those small but ever so meaningful interactions.

I was grateful for the opportunity to help Jim’s family out with their lively hood.  I hope that I didn’t get in the way too much.   The kids would play with the others, the baby would sit in her seat or be held by one of the kids or adults.  I got a chance to hold the baby quite a bit today.  I loved holding her and can’t remember the last time I held a baby that small.   Today, day 3, was all about my friends here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/markdeso/sets/72157630578948446/

This was an awesome day.  Leah and I went back to the kava bar.  She brought the baby with her.  It was nice to spend time with Leah and the little one there.  I am happy for my friends Jim and Leah that they’ve found each other.  She has so much love for him and it’s evident in how she talks about him with every word she says.

Tomorrow, Jim and I will go on an adventure.  We will go to the Pololu beaches for a hike.  This is some gorgeous terrain and I’m looking forward to photographing it, as well as some beautiful and primordial spots along the way.

Hawaii Day 2

Today started very early.   We were out the door by 6:00 for coffee and a bagel down at the local coffee house, I met a man who wrote children’s books and two other men who raised and trained carrier pigeons. We went near the birthplace of King Kameyameya.  His mom decided to give birth to him on the north shore of the big Island facing Maui.  Near his birthplace was a Heaeu, a sacred place or temple that was built entirely out of rocks.  The structure is quite an amazing thing to view.  I took pictures of the inside and outside of the structure and posted them here:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/markdeso/sets/72157630562423478/

The ancient Hawaiians did in fact practice human sacrifice and the heaeu was the place that this took place.  In the flickr set, there are several pictures of Hawaiian liei and gords for drumming.  This was the location that the sacrifices took place.

Jim and I walked around the structure and found a nice big lawn to practice T’ai Chi.  We took a few minutes to run through our form.  It was a special moment to be able to stand with the wind, ocean in near this amazing structure and practice.

This afternoon we went snorkeling at Mahukona Beach Park.  This was a location that sugar cane was processed and shipped out.  There are old buildings from the railroad when it used to go through that part. The location is a harbor and there is a ladder that drops off into the water.  From there, you can snorkel out pretty far.  This was the first time I had ever snorkeled.  We saw yellow tangs, parrot fish and the official fish of Hawaii, the Humuhumunukunukuapauaa.  It was funny to have the feelings I felt. For some there it is a daily venture to snorkel.  For me, having never done it, it was all wonderment.  It was beautiful, scary, enchanting.  There was so much color and life flashing before me.  We went out into about 40 feet of water.  It was impressive to see Jim swim to the bottom and back up.  Not something I think I could have done.

On Saturdays the town of Hawi has a farmers market and Jim and his wife set up a booth and serve Puerto Rican food.  I helped Jim put the food, tables and cooking gear into a trailer and then we set off for pizza.  The place we went to was packed and when we ordered, they told us it was going to be 45 minutes.  Jim said that he had the perfect excursion for 45 minutes and we jumped in his van and went east.  As we drove he told me about the way that the Hawaiian people divvied up the land.  There was land division from ravine to ravine that started at a watershed.  We made our way through 4 breathtaking and very lush areas before we got to where the road dead ends.  The area here was spectacular.  The Polulu Valley is just beyond here and as you look out near where the road ends, you can see the cliffs on the shore.  This is an amazingly beautiful site.  I am going to plan a day to hike down onto the black sand beaches and take pictures of this amazing place.

Pizza was pretty darn good!  After the pizza we went to a kava bar.  I’ve never had kava.  It was described as a taste between Novocain an dirt.  The affects are interesting, mild, very relaxing.  The people in town are very warm to begin with but this place had a really nice vibe.  We sat down to found a jenga set.  As Jim started to put it together, there were 3 girls, probably 7 to 9, that came over.  We ended up playing them (i won!).  Oh!  The gal I sat next to on the plane.  She was at the Kava bar.  We struck up a conversation and as it turns out, her father is one of my old bosses from Broderbund, Nick Robins.  It’s a small world after all!

One last thing we did… we went and set up the tent for their place at the farmer’s market.  It was a busy day.  Very fulfilling.  Lots of stuff got packed into the day.  Tomorrow, the farmer’s market where there will be music, food, and fresh produce.  Sunday I think I will try to do the hike down to Polulu beach and take pictures of the lush ravines along the way.

 

Hawaii Day 1

My friend Jim Land moved to Hawaii 3 years ago and extended me an invite to come and visit him.  The last few months have been a pretty turbulent time in my life, and I took him up on his offer.  I flew out today  on an Alaska Airlines flight and sat with Nick, a partier/owner of a local deli here, and Peregrine, a young woman who was coming out to do “Wwoofing”.  I have not heard this term before and almost asked her if she meant she was going to inhale paint… apparently, Wwoofing is fairly common in Hawaii and some south American and Asian countries.  Wwoof = World wide opportunities on organic farms, is an unofficial work / share program popular with the environmental crowd that allows them to work in exchange for room and/or board.   I had some nice conversations with both of them.

I arrived at around noon Hawaii time and was picked up by Jim’s daughter.  It was a lovely drive, about an hour long to his place in Hawi, on the Big island of Hawaii.  Jim came home shortly after we got there and he needed to rush back to a job.  He does landscaping out here and needed to move about 150 feet of fence and water some young coconut trees.  I happily volunteered to help and did the watering while he prepared the fence.  While I watered, I did body weight squats in the Hawaiian sun to count out the amount of time I needed to water each tree and logged them in my fitocracy.com prfile.  Then we put the fence stakes and ran electric wire on them to keep the goats (there are 3) away from the coconut trees.  It was good to show gratitude to my friend and I will look forward to doing some more stuff like that while i’m here. We came home to his house and enjoyed a steak dinner with his lovely wife Leah and his 4 daughters.

I am staying in his guest house.  The rain is coming down as I type.  I got to shower in his outside shower.  It is too beautiful to describe and do it justice.  There are orchids growing around the shower and one peering into the actual stall.  It is truly glorious here.

Tomorrow Jim will be taking me to where King Kamehameha lived and we will do some T’ai Chi on the beach, and hopefully watch the sun rise.  My friend and coworker Marilyn is on the island and will be close tomorrow so I may get together with her and her friend for dinner in a town close to here.

Tomorrow I hope to post many pics. 🙂

Starting my meditation practice

I’m finding that my meditation practice is as important as any work out. I wanted to share my thoughts about it and what some of what it’s doing for me. First, thank you to @leobabauta, a member of fitocracy.com for posting an excellent article on how to meditate: http://zenhabits.net/meditate/

I have made a gentle practice of this, starting for 2 minutes a day. On Tuesday, 5/1. I hit my second straight week.  At that point I doubled the amount of time I spend in meditation from 2 minutes to 4 minutes.  I will work incrementally till I get to the 15 minute mark.  The point right now for me is to build up a good habit of this.

I’ve not delved in deeply about the MANY vast meditation techniques, but am trying to go by instinct and a small bit about what I’ve read.  The closest thing I can relate to about “what” this is, is that it derives from a zen form of mindfulness meditation.   I say derives from because for my crude level of understanding, what I do is as close to what I understand mindfulness meditation to be.

The practice is fairly simple.  I sit cross legged and give soft focus to the floor in front of me.  I give focus to the carpet pattern or beige rug depending on where I am meditating and start to become mindful of the creaks of the house, the birds outside, the cars starting or pulling in, footsteps outside, people talking, whatever sounds that are happening at the time.  I focus on the inhale and exhale of breath.  When I catch myself thinking about what I’m going to do 5 or 10 minutes or 2 hours or 3 days from then, I try and draw attention back to the sounds outside and inside, breath, what my body feels at the time.  I try and relax into myself, feel the totality of the body, the inside of myself, my toes to head to hands to heart.  This is a lofty goal for 2, 4 or 10 minutes but this is the practice.  I guess I could call it “presence practice” as well.

There are some interesting similarities to exercise but there are some vast differences.  The similarities for this or any thing else we want to become proficient at are consistency to build up a good habit, practice to become skillful, and endurance to practice of a sustained amount of time.  However, unlike other things that we do, sports, learning a skill or craft, martial arts, there is nothing to actually “do”.  The emphasis is to in fact “not do”.  It is simply to be and accept.   The simplicity of the practice is also it’s most profound.

There are some interesting things I find are happening even now as it’s only been 2 and a half weeks in.  I am trying to not be as multitasking at work.  I am focusing on one task at a time.  My business problems will still be there to solve whether I answer a question within 15 minutes or 2 hours.  If there is an emergency then someone will call me.  So I focus at the task at hand.

I just completed a 5 century work out today.  I was happy to see my progress.  A “century” is 100 reps, and I broke that up into the following 5 sets: 20 kneeling pushups, 20 sit ups, 20 kettlebell/bodyweight squats, 20 kettlebell curls, and 20 kettlebell swings.  I would rest 2 / 3 minutes between sets and continue, moving each exercise up in position and dropping the first one of the last set to the last position.

What I found myself focusing on during the last sets was not the 18 or 15 more exercises I had to do after I finished the one I currently was on, but the one I had to do NOW.  The others would have their chance to be done but they could not be done until I got the one done now.  I was surprised at how effective that was.  Those would wait for me when I got there, they weren’t going anywhere, but I didn’t have to worry myself if I was going to finish the 18th, 19th or 20th.  I just had to worry about the one right in front of me.

I’m grateful that I’ve started this practice.  I am happy to see that even in such a short time incremental change is happening in my life.   We strive for progress, not perfection and I can make the choice to be happy right now.

Mastugatsu agatsu katsuhayabi – True victory is victory over one’s self, right here right now! – O Sensei Ueshiba Morehei

Interesting Variation on “Chop Wood Carry Water”

I recently looked through my posts and noticed that I had a draft post that i started writing in 2009, shortly after my friend Linda Eskin took her 6th kyu test (LInda is now 2nd kyu).  It had to do with a conversation between her and myself.  The context was right after her test and the question was essentially “well now what do I do?”

I had a nice online conversation today with Linda Eskin. She is a friend on twitter and facebook and she just took her 6th kyu test today. you can view it here: http://www.aikiweb.com/blogs/my-path-17246/6th-kyu-exam-video-3632

linda eskin 10:40 PM
Aaughh… Yeah. That’s the hard part.
mark anthony de souza 10:40 PM
you’ve heard the story about chop wood/carry water?
linda eskin 10:40 PM
I’m really good at knowing how things are “supposed” to be.
41:09
I know the book title… not sure about the story. Short enough to share?
mark anthony de souza 10:42 PM
sure… basically, a young monk asks what types of things he needs to do whilee he works on attaining enlightenment. The abbot says, “chop wood, carry water.” He asks the abbot, “well what about after I attain it?” The abbot responds, “chop wood, carry water.”
linda eskin 10:43 PM
Love it.
43:31
Feed donkeys, water trees, around here.
mark anthony de souza 10:43 PM
so… you will do shiho nage as 6th kyu. You will do shiho nage as 1st kyu. You will also do it when you are 4th dan, or shihan.
linda eskin 10:43 PM
Yep.
mark anthony de souza 10:44 PM
it may change, it may improve, it may give you insight to other techniques, but there’s never going to be a time where you aren’t going to do it as you go about your practice.
45:21
so, the “long way to go”… i would hope you have a long way to go. If you don’t have a long way to go, then your time is coming up.

This is relevant to me today for a couple of reasons.  Last month I took my shodan test and kind of had that same “so now what do I do?” question.  We trained hard the prior couple of months both physically and mentally to take our tests and then… it was over.  “So now what do I do?”  The answer is simply, train.  Katate tori ikkyo, ryote dori tenshi nage, taino henko, kokyo dosa.  Train.  Train in the spirit of Aiki.  Train softly, train hard, help those less experienced, learn from those more experienced, learn from those less experienced, help those more experienced.  So I got that.  And I can do that.  And I’m happy to do that.

Unfortunately, the reason I wanted to finish writing this is not for the above reason.  I said I had “a couple of reasons”.  Reason number 2… well, kinda sucks.  Over the weekend I hurt my knee.  I don’t know how I did it but it started really bothering my Saturday after morning class.  We didn’t do anything two strenuous.  It was a light weapons class.  But somewhere between class, Target and Pier 1, my knee got blown out.  This is the same kind of pain I felt when my knee was at my worst.  This was the same pain I had that made me hobble instead of walk.

The significance of this is kind of tragic.  I worked really hard for a year, (yep… it was a year since March of 2011) to overcome pretty much the same type of pain I’m now experiencing.  Physical therapy, stretching, exercises that I was told to perform everyday.  I got to the point where I was virtually pain free for the last 2 or 3 months.  I was able to take my test, and felt that I performed gracefully.  Sensei told me that of the things he liked watching, was my knee work, Probably not because I moved like a big stocky gazelle, but more because he knew what I went through and saw the progress I made.

But, that all got erased.  The wood that I chopped fell off and rolled hither and thither to the bottom of the hill, and the water I carried, well… spilled as I dropped the wood.  This was a big pile too.  And I had a lot of water… So, I guess I have two choices. I can belly ache about this, or I can simply rest a couple of days, and then start all over again.   I think that the point being is I can choose.  I can choose to be attached to my helplessness, or I can choose to say that this is something that happened and I will need to address it.  So, stretching, physical therapy exercises, being easy on myself.

So this is kind of how I process.  I have two ideals I put forth.  Venting/writing/processing about this, putting this out there for the world (or the 2 or 3 readers… cmon, who do I think I am… ) to read, kind of holds me accountable in a sense.  But more so, it just let’s me examine my thoughts in a public and open way.

I’m not quite sure what I am going to do.  I know the choices laid out in front of me.  Yesterday I chose to wallow.  Today, I’m choosing to write/process/write/process.  I think that that is ok.  I think that it’s ok to realize that I have choices.  Yesterday, not so much.  Today, maybe a little bit more so.  Tomorrow?  Hopefully, one day I’ll get to the point where  I can not look at something and say, “this is good” or “this is bad”.  One day I would like to get to where I can simply say “this happened and I need to do something about it.”  I’m not there yet.  But by understanding my choices I am closer.  So, progress, not perfection is a good thing.