I often call him Eeyore – you know that droopy eared, sad-sack donkey in Winnie the Pooh. His real name is Bob, and he’s my husband’s step dad – the only grandfather our kids ever knew on that side of the family. Seldom, if ever, the life of the party, Bob’s a quiet man who verges on stubborn and grumpy more frequently these days. And yet, sometimes he surprises me.
At age 62 myself, I’ll have to live another half of my current age to catch up to where Bob is now at age 91. That’s a long time to live! He sleeps and takes some of his meals at a very nice senior home in Santa Barbara, California. He’s just recently had to give up bike riding, and his long walks have gotten much shorter.
He drives home during daytime hours to the house he lived in with Cliff’s mom for so many years. Our son Shankar and his fiance DD who now live there, welcome him daily with good cheer. They always seem able to find the humorous side of Grandpa Bob. Well, not always. Shankar finally had to set Bob straight about being curt and demanding to the waitresses when they went out for dinner together. Bob has since mended his ways on that front… most of the time!
Finding subjects of conversation with Bob is not easy for most of us. He holds politically and socially opposite viewpoints from every other person in the family – so that closes off most topics regarding the daily news. Shankar and he like to occasionally travel to Los Angeles to take in an A’s baseball game. Not being a sports person, I lack that area of dialogue that Shankar shares with him. Oh dear, what to talk about?
Bob is intensely interested in the weather, and keeps a rain gauge at the house. As a professional scientist and a former sailor who spent many happy summers taking friends on boating excursions, Bob studies weather news intently. So at least there’s that. When I call him every Sunday morning, I get a lengthy description of the changing temperatures and general drought conditions there in California. Of course the Santa Barbara flooding (rare) and fires (frequent) add spark to those conversations, especially when Shankar is out fighting those fires. He’s so proud of his grandkids.
The recent volcanic activity on Hawaii island fascinated him when he came to visit the last couple weeks. Bob wanted to track the lava flow mile by mile when he was here visiting. We even set up a trip for him, accompanied by a much younger friend of ours, to helicopter over Fissure 8 and see the lava flowing down to the sea. He loved that!
He most enjoyed going to work with our younger son Govi to his construction job sites. Our usually taciturn Bob was so thrilled about spending time with Govi, being part of the workflow, he came back to the house saying he’d just spent 2 of the best days he could remember in years. He was jubilant!
It’s rough being a widower. Cliff’s mom Sue was the sunshine of his life, and she’s been gone now for nearly four years. He’s managed to keep himself on a pretty even keel, psychologically and physically, by assiduously following his routines of getting out and about. But he’s still quite a loner. Even living in the senior home for all this time, sharing his dinner in the dining hall at tables with other residents almost every night, he still hasn’t managed to learn the name of a single other person in the facility. He’s just not what you would call a cozy, easily approachable guy.
Then there’s the matter of his health, which he frets over constantly. He keeps up a constant regimen of doctors appointments, checking his own blood pressure daily. He self-diagnoses all the time and then takes himself to the emergency room for “consultations” as he calls them, when he thinks it will be too long until his next appointment. Of course, he always thinks he knows more than the doctors do, so that can lead to interesting developments. And who am I to say? He’s made it into his nineties with a sharp mind and functioning body!
On the last day of his visit here, the rest of the family was all off island for Govi’s paddling race. I was determined to devote the majority of my time to making it a great day for Bob – on my one day off of the week, and yes, I was feeling like something of a martyr and feeling ashamed of myself about that. Anyway, I planned a trip to Bishop museum, a nice drive, a good dinner somewhere…. Some things we could enjoy together.
Bob started the day with the papaya he had asked me to buy as a special treat he never gets in Santa Barbara. He found that delicious. And that was the last enjoyable part of the day.
He next asked to be taken to the emergency room for a “consultation”. When I came to pick him up, they told me he was back in the emergency room because he had undone a procedure the doctor had performed to begin with. No time was left in the day by the time we got home, and of course he was tired, poor guy. After dinner, he asked for a third E/R visit of the day, which got us out shortly before midnight. (He’s doing fine now, thanks for wondering.)
We left for the airport the next morning at 5:30 am to put him on his flight home. Here’s when I got surprised. He apologized for leaving such a big mess to clean up – I wasn’t expecting that. Then our normally non-demonstrative Bob gave me not one but TWO big bear hugs, thanked me for being such a good hostess and told me he loved me!!!
That from Eeyore. Wow. I like it when people don’t easily fall into my expectations of them.
When I told our son Shankar this story, he was not surprised by any of it, including the happy ending. Shankar summed it up: “He has the redeeming value of being a great grandpa. He may not get along well in bigger groups but one-on-one it’s not hard to see he has a pure soul and heart of gold.”
And so I continue on my journey to more fully understand the human heart.
Dancing in Joy and resting in Stillness with you,
And you, dear reader?
Just hit Reply – I always love hearing from you.
Murat comes across with an unassuming, almost humble, old-world air when you first meet him. Then you discover he’s actually outrageous, earnest… and a remarkably self-confident, fun-loving professional devoted to people’s fitness and self-esteem! This unusual combination of qualities allows him to cultivate his students’ and clients’ confidence – whether he’s teaching Turkish bellydance, Pilates, foam roller or he’s coaching personal fitness. He’s comfortable in his skin, and people simply look and feel their best when working with Murat. We celebrate his multi-faceted contributions to Still & Moving Center and his enthusiastic boost of camaraderie to the Honolulu bellydance community.
We applaud Murat for recently bringing his mentor, the internationally acclaimed dance teacher and Pilates instructor Roxy Menzies, to Still & Moving for 10 days of workshops and private bodywork. Murat has also served as a choreographer for Still & Moving upon request for private parties, and has now added personal fitness coaching and private bellydance to his offerings here.
Murat and his dance students appeared on Ala Moana Mall’s Center Stage this Spring in front of three stories of onlooking shoppers. Performing bellydance to slow-paced Korean music, Murat sought to break through typical stereotypes about bellydance with this message: You don’t have to shake and shimmy all the time, you can just DANCE. Not using traditional mid-eastern music, he bridged two cultures while emphasizing the quality of the dance itself.
At our 7 Year Re-Birthday Celebration in March, Murat with his bellydancers and Kumu Malia with her hula dancers joined artistic talents in a single musical piece! Murat sought to demonstrate his respect for the dance tradition of the native culture, as the two groups took turns dancing to the same Hawaiian song.
When the Middle East Dance Association of Hawaii (MEDAH) put on their Hafla this Spring with many bellydance teachers and their students performing, Murat was there cheering everyone on, with enthusiastic support for all.
When I asked Murat how he learned to bellydance, his learning seems to have been completely organic, as if through osmosis. His mother and especially his aunt were beautiful bellydancers in Turkey where he was born and raised. He loved watching them dance, and even though he did not actually dance with them, when the need arose later in life – as you shall read – he knew instinctively how to perform and teach bellydance.
For those not graced with learning bellydance through their mother’s milk, so to speak, Murat gives a systematic presentation of the basic elements of Turkish bellydance in his classes, assigning numbers to the various moves, so that students can progress as if in a school course. As of this year, Murat is in fact offering three levels of instruction: Turkish Bellydance for Beginners, for Fitness, and for Performers. His dream is to eventually offer instruction online to reach his students back in Turkey, as well as many others. He hopes to eventually offer international teacher training.
Few people here, perhaps, know Murat’s unique life story in Turkey. As a child and through college, Murat did gymnastics. People became so impressed by his gymnast physique, they eventually convinced him to start show dancing – not bellydance – to DJ music at the biggest, poshest nightclub in Istanbul when he was 20 years old. Soon he was dancing with European dance teams.
A high-end fitness studio in Istanbul then hired Murat to teach his own style of nightclub show dancing. Between his teaching and his performances, Murat became so popular he was featured on a magazine cover. He meanwhile became a personal trainer.
Up until that time, Murat still had never publicly bellydanced. One day, a well-known bellydance teacher at the sports club was suddenly absent and management begged Murat to sub for her. Suffice it to say that he was such a big hit with the students, they insisted that the club add Murat as a regular bellydance teacher.
Backtracking to another couple threads of Murat’s life story, we find that this guy has a bright mind to go with a beautiful body! About the same time he began show dancing in the nightclub, Murat also entered law school in Istanbul, which he successfully completed, and then passed his bar exam. Once he became national news as a dancer, the conservative Turkish bar said he had to either stop doing dance shows or stop being a lawyer. Murat is not one to be thwarted. He simply went underground with his dancing: no interviews, no videos, no social media postings.
As a lawyer, Murat specialized in branding and franchising, eventually deciding he needed his own brand. On vacation, Murat ate his first fortune cookie in San Francisco Chinatown – it was a completely new experience for him. So he opened a fortune cookie factory when he returned home, the first in Turkey, first in Middle East. He used the name he had already well branded for himself dancing, so everyone ordered cookies from him. He made a fortune with his fortune cookies, then sold the company.
Murat came to Hawaii in 2016. I recognized a talented teacher as soon as I met him at one of our Sunday Satsangs, and hired him instantly. He’s been a valued member of our faculty and community ever since, unsurprised by his classes’ ever-growing popularity. We love this guy!
Our current guest trainer Carmen designed AIReal Yoga™ to use an aerial hammock as a yoga prop. She also became the first to offer an aerial yoga teacher training recognized by Yoga Alliance. After the birth of her second child, Jude, Carmen was determined to heal her body from the extreme sport of gymnastics, as well as heal her spirit from abuses she had suffered along the way. The practice of aerial yoga became her saving grace.
Carmen never expected to have her own studio or brand… it all arose out of her impulse to be of service. Growing up doing highly competitive gymnastics, she endured physical, mental, emotional and sexual abuse from her coaches. Then going to UCLA on a full scholarship for gymnastics and competing on the National Championship team, Carmen experienced coaching as loving support – a complete change of approach that showed her how teaching and mentoring should really be done.
Carmen emerged from being a victim to being someone who is both more resilient and more compassionate as a result of her many life experiences. She gives special credit to two of her teachers in life. Her coach Valorie Kondos at UCLA gave Carmen and her teammates the safe space to grow into strong women and strong leaders to others. Gurmukh of Golden Bridge Yoga taught Carmen that the purpose of life is to love and serve. Service – it’s the greatest love.
Carmen is joined by her husband Gregg in this shared inspiration. As they give-back to others, in 2012 Carmen and Gregg opened The Aerial Studio in Ventura, California, offering classes in AIReal Yoga™, the aerial performing arts and theatre, acrobatics, dance, parkour, trampoline, and yoga. A unique and inspirational space, The Aerial Studio is a place to enjoy fun, health-filled forms of fitness, as well a place to train to become a professional cirque performer. At a deeper level, their studio is a haven for community, for people to laugh and learn together with loving, supportive teachers.
Carmen and Gregg also adore being parents and consider Zoe and Jude to be their best gifts to the world!
Carmen is offering 2 workshops at Still & Moving Center this August:
Being in the aerial hammock calms the nervous system with a deep feeling of full support, security, like being hugged in your mother’s arms. I like to say, “Love is in the air!” You may also experience a feeling of weightlessness, freedom – both physically and psychologically.
Aerial Yoga promotes a pain-free body. Whether you are a newcomer to yoga or well-practiced in the art of asana, Aerial Yoga assists you in alleviating common aches and pains and preventing injury. It reduces anxiety, depression, insomnia and migraines. By increasing circulation, aerial yoga decreases inflammation and aging processes. It moves you on your journey to deeper self-healing.
The hammock develops your balance and stabilizing muscles. Used as a spotting device for your yoga practice, the aerial hammock makes poses accessible by supporting your weight, encouraging weaker muscles to strengthen, lengthening tight/inflexible areas, expanding your range of motion, and providing traction.
Aerial Yoga teaches healthy breathing techniques. You develop a nourishing breath that calms the mind and fuels the muscles. Using the hammock as a supportive prop helps take your focus off the struggle of the asana or perfection of form and turns your attention to the cadence of the breath, releasing distractions of the mind. The hammock helps you find peace instead of worry.
Face your fears and conquer them! Postures such as inversions and backbends can feel terrifying. Using the hammock as a prop to safely enter into and out of them helps build confidence in yourself, awareness of your strength and ability, may allow you to eventually perform the posture without the aid of a prop, and certainly helps you overcome the fear of falling.
Carmen is offering 2 workshops at Still & Moving Center this August:
Mālia and I agree that we may never again in our lifetimes experience hula performed at such a high caliber, on such deep underpinnings as to what it all means. The costumes, the sheer numbers of dancers presenting such powerful, complex, fast choreography, the incredible variety of chanting styles, the artistry… absolutely over the top.
The people who put on the 5th (and final) World Hula conference in Hilo on the island of Hawai’i have a profound understanding of what’s behind hula, and an incredible generosity of heart in sharing it. Throughout the conference, the hula descendants of Aunty Edith Kanaka’ole and their hula school, Hālau O Kekuhi, shared their learning with us as profusely as Madame Pele’s contemporaneous lava flows.
We were fortunate to spend one anahulu – a 10 day Hawaiian week – with 900 other participants at the conference. Along with our field trips on this VERY LIVING island that is growing by acres a day, we enjoyed opportunities galore, experiencing hula combined with the elements of nature we were chanting and dancing about.
To give us a sense of place on the evening before the conference, Mālia drove us up Mauna Kea, a magnificent, dormant volcano from which we got a tremendous view of the sunset. This vast mountain rises up 33,000 feet from the seafloor! Our tiny – yet important to us – presence within such a grand vista signified to me something of the magnitude of attending this last-of-its-kind conference.
Arriving at the Edith Kanaka’ole Stadium for our first practice for the opening ceremony felt overwhelming, partly because it spans the size of an airplane hangar and partly because it hosts the Merrie Monarch Hula Festival every year. With Kumu Mālia were her 13-year-old sons Waiea and Kaiehu, fellow hula students Kai’olena (Elaina Malm) and Ka’ike (Alex Miller), plus myself – a merry little band of six ourselves!
From our early morning hakikino (literally “break the body”) warm-up hula practices to their late night performances every evening, this family never stopped sharing hula with us. They, with their associated kumu hula and students, presented us with many dozens of workshops on hula and related Hawaiian culture, history and language, as well as field trips all over the island of Hawai’i. The giving never stopped. The hula they danced and the oli they chanted, so far from light-duty tourist performances, were rich, intense, breath-taking and sacred.
For months, I had been steeling myself for the possibility of not qualifying to participate in the opening ceremony, yet I committed to doing my best to prepare for it. By the end of two extra days of practicing the Hawaiian chants and hula dances for the opening ceremony, I was a big knot of aches and pains, especially from the literally derrière-kicking squat turns that we danced to enter the stadium on the concrete floor, in addition to kneeling on the same surface for our ipudrum hula.
My strong attempts at memorizing the chants were less than 100% successful, although I made great strides in understanding what they meant. So I was quite nervous going into the final rehearsal on Saturday, knowing that Keali’i Reichel might again walk through the group inspecting our lips for accuracy. To my huge relief, I made it through the rehearsal and was allowed a place in the next day’s ceremony.
Mālia had been wondering how on earth we were going to find the palapalai ferns she wanted to use to make our head and necklei for the ceremony. When she woke up one morning, the word Kalōpā imprinted itself upon her mind. It felt like a miracle – she was remembering back to her childhood when she once collected ferns with her hula halau at Kalōpā Native Forest State Park. Sure enough, when we drove an hour north into the hills, we found a beautiful forest filled with exactly the ferns we needed. After years of sweeping our hands in dance through the “deep, dark forest” of ferns, it felt magical to literally see and touch these delicate plants. Wearing them the next day was an itchy honor!
We danced into the opening ceremony, a golden sea of olena (turmeric) dyed costumes, arriving wave after wave onto the stadium floor, some four or five hundred strong. I felt surrounded by support: Kumu Mālia was on the stage behind me, all three of our young men arrayed directly in front of me, and Kai’olena above in the stadium cheering us on. Hawaiian voices chanted in thundering unison all around me as we faced the altar that had been specially assembled and draped with many lei of native Hawaiian plants. The slow, ceremonial passing out of coconut cups of ʻawa, in addition to the hula and chanting, signified the creation of sacred space for the passing on of knowledge. And per Hawaiian tradition, everyone in the stadium was generously fed.
The conference continued with days of workshops, 25-30 offerings a day, and field trips all over the island. We learned so much I’m tempted to create a giant video of the event, but I’ll leave that to professionals!
The entire conference was an absolute tour-de-force by the hula descendents of a “Living Treasure of Hawaii” from 1979, Aunty Edith. Her daughter, Aunty Pualani Kanahele, largely spearheaded the conference – with support from other traditionally trained hula masters: Hōkulani Holt-Padilla, her sister Nalani Kanaka’ole, her daughter Kekuhi Keali’ikanaka’ole and her son-in-law Taupōuri Tangarō, even while mourning the loss of conference cofounder Leinā’ala Kalama Heine.
So there you have my window into the events of Ka ʻAha Hula ʻO Hālauaola, the 5th World Hula Conference. In keeping with the tradition of Hawaiian newspapers in the 1800’s, I’m afraid we will need to hold you in suspense until a future edition of Life at the Center, when I can recount what it all meant to me – the real heart of my story. Until then, a hui hou!
Dancing in Joy and resting in Stillness with you,
And you, dear reader?
Just hit Reply – I always love hearing from you.
The act of widening our eyes opens us to wonder, to awe, to taking in a broader field of experience. It’s how babies and little children learn about their world.
Physically, the very act of relaxing the eyes into a more open position releases strain and tension in the head, neck and shoulders, relaxing the body, and instantly changing its chemical/hormonal composition.
Emotionally, I’ve found that I cannot hold a grudge or feel anger or depression with my eyes wide open.
The Brown Belt training level in Nia encourages us to expand our peripheral vision. It’s even possible to focus our gaze without narrowing it… Try it! I find that I can still see the item of focus without losing its context. Good metaphor for life, eh? I still need to consciously remind myself to let go of the squint, the furrowed brow, and to expand my visual horizon.
We take a different approach to life when we mindfully use our eyes to truly receive what it has to offer. We let in its magic.
Brought to us by Bess Press
How cool is it to publish local books by your favorite authors and then open a mortar and brick bookstore to sell them from?!? In business for 39 years as a family publishing company, Bess Press has recently decided to do just that, debuting da Shop in Kaimuki.
Whether it’s history with Hawaiians of Old—Nâ Kânaka Maoli o ka Wâ Kahiko, or keiki picture books such as Twinkle, Twinkle, Small Hōkū, or local language manuals like Pidgin To Da Max, Bess Press prints it. I’m the proud owner of a gorgeous, memory-capturing tabletop book of theirs: Mālama Honua: Hōkūleʻa – A Voyage of Hope. Bess Press stands as one of the major publishers of curriculum in Hawaiian and Pacific Island studies.
And now, as of March, Buddy Bess and his ohana sell all this good reading material to us in a comfy, family friendly space called da Shop!
Their kids section that takes up half the store, but never fear, adults! Besides a great selection of Hawaiian texts and Hawaiiana literature, da Shop constantly updates their selection of New York Times best-sellers.
If you can’t find what you are looking for, you will surely locate it in their easy-access digital database: browse over a million titles, purchase them in the store and they’ll ship directly to your doorstep.
Come on in, bring the little ones, chill out in a lounge chair or bring a buddy to attend an event with a famous local kine author!
3565 Harding Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96816 Tuesday - Saturday, 10a - 6p | Sunday, 11a - 4p 808.421.9460 Easy parking
Doing Hakikino at World Hula Conference & Celebrating 20 years as LMT
Our kumu hula Mālia Helelā made all of us proud at the close of the 5th World Hula conference when she took the stage at Edith Kanaka’ole Stadium on June 23rd. There she described and demonstrated, along with other students, what their class had learned in their 3-day workshop on the art of hakikino, taught by lomi teacher Keola Chan. Mālia was also joined on stage by her son Kaiehu, with whom she demonstrated the art of walking on each other!For Mālia, lomi and hula are two sides of one life practice.Used exclusively by hula schools to limber up the students for dancing, hakikino, also known as hakihaki, is a specific form of Hawaiian lomilomi massage that Keola Chan is helping to revive. Hakikino is so connected to hula, practitioners even use certain limbering movements in time with the ipu drum beats. For Mālia, assisting her lomi teacher at the Hula Conference in Hilo was a perfect blending of bodywork and dance.July 2018 marks Mālia’s 20 year anniversary as a Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT). She has gone from humble beginnings as a child doing massage at home, to becoming a sought-after trainer of those wanting to learn the Hawaiian art of lomilomi.When I met Mālia in 2011, she had been doing massage at the Outrigger Hotel spa for a decade and was ready for a change. Fortunately for us, that change was moving to Still & Moving Center to teach hula, head up our massage program and help me manage the center.
Since that time she has given lomi to hundreds of clients and further developed her own techniques through advanced training. She is currently in her final year of a 4 year lomilomi program with Keola Chan. As part of this year’s work in the community, Mālia has created and is leading a 13 month program teaching lomilomi to residents and their children in Women’s Way Drug Recovery Program by the Salvation Army.
At Still & Moving Center, Mālia now provides 16 hour lomi massage training courses to local and international students who wish to learn this ancient Hawaiian technique for restoring the body. Her entire lomi program lasts 64 hours, and presents lomi in the context of the Hawaiian language, landscape, hula, chants, lei-making and knotting practices – the full cultural setting of its origin.
Cliff was a mountain man when I met him in college, fresh off Mammoth Mountain where he lived during high school. He used to love telling me about his naturalist hero John Muir merrily heading off on a trek through the Sierra – which might for last days – with only a loaf of bread in his rucksack. Cliff so convinced me of the beauty of hiking, that we spent our California honeymoon backpacking through Kings Canyon. All that dust and campfire smoke… romantic, yeah?!? 😉 And yet, let’s not forget the panoramic mountaintop vistas and spectacular sunsets!
After I stopped climbing trees as a kid, I became first a bookworm and then a gymnastics junkie in the gymnasium. Not a lot of outside time. Until I met Cliff. Everything I’ve learned about hiking is from Cliff: simple things, like toe first on the steep uphills, heel first going down the trails. He taught me how to identify a number of the forest trees and plants, including miners’ skunk cabbage, wild onions and gooseberries – edibles that had helped him survive a summer-long hike with his cousin.
Through some crazy logic I’ll never understand, at age 14 Cliff convinced his mom to let him hike hundreds of miles along the Pacific Crest Trail for an entire summer, alone with only his cousin Mike, a mere 16 year old. It is true that they had been well-trained by Cliff’s Uncle Vic. As good Boy Scouts and with their parents’ help, the boys carefully stashed food supplies near access points along the trail that they judged they would get to about every other week. They planned to supplement these staples with their fishing. Food caches in place, the boys blithely set off on their hike.
Sometimes scaling several mountains per day, they never able to consume as many calories as they burned. Their pre-planned menu would feature fish on the nights they expected to come to a good fishing spot, say, Bub’s Creek. Invariably, those were NEVER the nights they caught fish.
They did successfully catch a chipmunk once, using a bandana tied to fishing line on the four corners. They used trail mix in the bandana as bait, then jerked the bandana up with the chipmunk inside. They let him off on a little island in the creek and enjoyed watching him scamper back to shore. Never thought about eating the little fellow – it was all about the creative entertainment value with no TV to watch, no stereo to play their records.
When the boys hungrily arrived at one of their supply caches, it had already been raided by a bear. Later, another stash of food had been ruined by kerosene from a lamp leaking onto much of it… They gobbled it down anyway, and I don’t know how they didn’t die from that! Cliff says sometimes they’d just eat dry powdered Tang, or they’d fry up skunk cabbage and onions for dinner. Always hungry, they were two very skinny boys by the time they finally wrapped up their adventure. But man, oh man, were they wilderness wise by the time they got out! Cliff is more self-confident about his survival skills than most people I’ve ever met, stemming in part from that long hike in his 14th summer.
Something about hiking – especially long, wilderness hikes – seems to steady the character. Teenage years in modern society can be filled with so much JUNK… It’s a big bad world out there, and many teenagers want as much as they can get of it, or maybe they just have no way to shut it all out.
For several years Cliff and I served as Pathleaders for a wonderful youngsters group called Pathfinders. Whenever we took the kids backpacking in the Sierra, they would spend the first three days in withdrawal: from their transistor radios, Pac-Man games, and Walkman tape players. (Look up the history of that equipment and you’ll see how long we’ve been addicted to our personal distraction devices!) None of that stuff came into the backcountry with us, and we marveled at the amazing human beings who emerged once the kids dropped the trappings of so-called ‘civilization’ and truly entered the world of Nature. The way they talked softened a bit. Their eyes widened.
Sometimes on these hikes, Cliff had the youngsters climb sheer rock faces, often bringing on tears of fear and frustration. His encouraging, unshakeable confidence in their ability to make it to the top ignited their own willpower, so that even the frailest ones managed to successfully hoist themselves hundreds of feet above solid ground. The view was grand. The kids were jubilant at their success! Overcoming hardship and clear physical danger seemed to give perspective to the petty dramas of life in junior high school, and they came out of the mountains invariably calmer, more clear-headed.
Hiking became an important family activity once we had our own kids. Govi celebrated his tenth birthday with us eating freeze-dried ice cream sandwiches on top of a mountain peak. But he worried every time Cliff would leave our cramped tent to sleep under the stars. Govi had heard that marmots would eat people’s socks when left in their hiking boots overnight, and he was terrified that they’d chomp on Cliff’s sock-covered feet as he slept outside. Fun family memories!
For our daughter Sandhya, the mountains became such a natural part of her life, she chose a college in the Rockies still lives in Colorado; no week is complete for Sandhya without a good hike through her beloved mountains. Older son Shankar had his own long, grueling summer hiking through the Montana wilderness during a time of teenage turmoil and the results were transformative. The next summer he and Cliff reprised much of the Pacific Crest Trail hike Cliff had done with his cousin so many years ago, but they RAN – rather than walked – 256 miles of it! It was quite the father-son bonding experience!
I suspect everyone has their own times of wonder in the mountains or woods – experiences they can’t even put into words. I’ll do my best to tell you about two experiences indelibly pressed into my memory. On a Pathfinder hike in the Sierra, we met up with a river flushed with snow-melt powerfully tumbling down the slope beside us. That river was so mighty, so clear and sparkling with sunlight, I felts as if I were in the presence of a great teacher – in the form of a roaring river – pouring out compassionate wisdom that we could all drink from. I wish I were more capable of conveying the awe I felt so that you could share it, too.
On the last day of that same trip, the Pathfinders and Pathleaders all rose before dawn (which the kids were never willing to do the first days of liking!) We assembled in a large clearing, each child with an inspirational quote to share, as well as a personal reflection on the week’s hiking. As they spoke, we heard the thoughts of old souls, uncovered and undisguised after their time in the mountains.
Then hush fell over us all as someone pointed to a ridge crest just behind us. There, illuminated by the rising sun behind it, was a magnificent deer with a stately rack of antlers. His presence was so stunning, so magical, I don’t believe any of us breathed until the buck disappeared into the sunlight beyond. He had given the crowning touch of mysterious grandeur befitting our time in Nature, and we took our awe back with us into our everyday worlds.
Dancing in Joy and resting in Stillness with you,
And you, “deer” reader?
Comments? Email me! – I always love hearing from you.
Seldom has Still & Moving Center seen as dedicated a student as Truc Holt-Nguyen, our first person to “Get to the Center” by taking 1,000 classes! Also the first to climb up the wall into the stratosphere of 1,100 + classes! Her husband Courtlin has also faithfully attended classes, with a total of 645 visits to date. More important than numbers is the monumental life changes we have watched them make during their time with us. It is with fond sadness that we bid these dear members of our ohana “A hui ho!” as they move to Truc’s homeland, Vietnam.
Courtlin and Truc’s long journey with Still & Moving Center has tracked many important lifestyle adjustments, as they have regained their health through moving meditation, connected with the land and wholesome food, reduced stress in their work lives, and established deep, meaningful friendships.
This couple came to Still & Moving Center with serious health issues. They were seeking solutions that were less invasive, less destructive, less expensive and more effective than what standard Western medicine had to offer.
Courtlin was spending far too much time on the computer in his investment management job, sending him into searing back pain. At a Dr. Zunin’s office in 2013, Courtlin was given three options by nurse practitioner Christine Lee: “We can do surgery on your spine, or shoot needles into your back with pain relievers, or YOU can do yoga and pilates and get to the source of your problem. If you choose the last option, there’s a place called Still & Moving Center with just what you need.”
Courtlin chose Door Number Three and Truc came with him. Truc struggles with autoimmune conditions. Previously working in an underground room with no windows in Vietnam, then in a high stress finance position in Honolulu, Truc had quit her job and was still suffering from intense headaches.
Per instructions, they took Pilates (from LiSi Yang), quite a few yoga classes (from teachers including Claudia Castor and David Sanders), and added Feldenkrais (with Eva, Eve and Brigitte). Truc sampled a little of everything. After one of my Nia classes, she commented, “Every teacher here has taught me to be more aware of my body,” and I was elated by that comment confirming the core of what we do at Still & Moving. Truc’s headaches largely went away and Courtlin’s back pain abated entirely.
Jerry Punzal taught an excellent Tai Chi program here until his farm in Mililani demanded his increased attention. Truc, Courtlin, Cynthia Murata and I were some of his faithful attendees. Jerry imparts a deep sense of calm; anyone who listens carefully can glean a lot from his wisdom and life experience. Practicing with Jerry was a great antidote to Truc’s anxiety, and provided a tremendous focus to counteract the scattered, frenetic energy of Courtlin’s work world. They both learned to relax, not to try so hard, to get out of their heads, and not to over analyze it.
Kumu Malia’s classes were like a sweet, soothing balm to Truc, unlike the regimented hula she had taken under other kumu hula (hula teachers) elsewhere. As Courtlin says, Malia’s hula is like “tai chi with music and rhythm: you learn balance, weight shifting and awareness so as not to crash into people around you!” Through Kumu Malia, Truc connected for the first time with the culture and language of Hawaii, and especially with the ‘aina, the land.
Courtlin and Truc have stayed very close to Jerry Punzal, eventually going into partnership with him on his farm, continuing to improve their wellbeing by working the land. Jerry has been interested to see their organic growing practices for veggies and Vietnamese medicinal herbs. To initiate their new little company, Buddha Belly Farms, Truc learned from Kumu Mālia the protocol to ask permission to start the project, even chanting a blessing in Hawaiian. Jerry’s farm has been another peaceful influence in their lives.
Meanwhile, Truc has been able to return back to work in a flexible manner that adjusts to the needs of her health, often helping others with theirs. She has been working as a medical and legal interpreter in Federal and State courts, and at Queen’s Hospital translating for people with cancer or needing surgery. As Courtlin comments, “It’s scary enough if you understand if you can people coming at you with needles and knives; much worse if you don’t understand the language.” So Truc’s services have been much appreciated.
Courtlin left investment management for a less intense career, now heading to Vietnam for a job that has been offered to him. Jerry will no doubt keep their young company going until whenever they may return.
The hula halau has provided Truc with strong friendships, in addition to those she has made in classes with students such as Surapee Surapai, Joyce Nakauchi, Linda Awana, and Cassandra Tengen. No matter where this couple go, their classes here may stop but not the friendships, says Courtlin. That has been the biggest benefit to their time at Still & Moving Center, and those friendships will continue on.
We’ll look forward to hearing their progress in Vietnam and to the time when Truc and Courtlin can return to visit us here! Until then, “A hui hou!”