Plans vs. Flow

I have learned a lot about myself in the last 7 months of living in Hawaii. One thing I have learned is that my New Yorker roots run deep. I grew up just outside of Manhattan and I was trained to plan things far in advance because there were always 10 million other people who might be planning the same thing. Over the years I have become very skilled at planning and incredibly committed to keeping my plan. Following my plan was like following a sacred agreement that I had made with the universe. With hindsight I realize that the universe has been teaching me to let go of my plans for a long time. I planned to go to Duke University when I was in 8th grade. I worked my tail off and I got into Duke. I knew I was going to meet my husband there and I thought I had. We were together for 6 years and we moved to San Francisco together from the East Coast in 1994. A few years later our relationship was floundering. He wanted to move to Seattle and I wanted to stay in San Francisco. When he ended our relationship and moved, I literally thought I was going to die of a broken heart. I remember lying in my bed and thinking that my life was over. I couldn’t go back to Duke to meet my husband, so my life was ruined. My plans had failed, which meant that I had failed. I remember people telling me that it would all make sense someday, but I didn’t believe them. They told me that time would show my true path, but I thought they were lying to make me feel better. But as I celebrate 19 years together with my husband, I know that the universe had a much better plan for me than I could have come up with on my own. I’m so grateful for Eliot and for our 3 children, and I know that they would not be in my life if my version of my life plan had worked out. So why, I ask myself, when we moved to Maui, did I think things were going to go according to my plan?

We moved to Maui in September 2016, which is the last time I sent out a newsletter. Within a few hours of our arrival, my husband was caught in the middle of a dog fight between the two dogs that lived in our new back yard. We spent our first evening on Maui at the Kula Hospital, but we smiled through it and talked about how nice the nurses were. Our second day in Maui included flash floods, which wiped out one of our favorite places to visit. ‘Iao Valley was closed that day and remains closed due to the incredible damage that was sustained due to the floods. Later that week our car, which we had shipped from California so we wouldn’t have any car issues, broke down. Within a week of our arrival I started to feel my plans disintegrating and I became very overwhelmed. I wanted to return to the feeling that the island had called us there and that we were going to have a wonderful time living on Maui, but something had shifted for me. I tried and tried, but I never felt at home on Maui. I wasn’t just homesick for Santa Cruz…it was stronger than that. I wanted to get the hell off of that beautiful island. I tried to convince myself that I was being ridiculous, but my gut was talking to me. My plans were in my head, but my truth was in my gut. I finally realized that going with my gut was not a “failure” and it didn’t mean that our school year in Hawaii was “ruined.” I consulted with my family and we changed our plans.

We moved over here to the Big Island in February. We have only been here for one month but the feeling in my body is completely different. I still miss Santa Cruz and look forward to our return home in June (yes, June), but I feel held here and inspired here, which is something I desperately tried to feel in Maui. Since we got here I have been thinking a lot about my tendency to make plans and to try my best to stick to them. My plans are always well-intended but I realize now that they do not allow for real-time feedback from my spirit. I make my plans with my mind and they are always my best guess at what’s in alignment with my spirit. But when I execute the plan I also need to listen to how the plan feels so that I can FLOW and change the plan if necessary. I always thought that only flakey people talked about flow. I thought flow was an excuse to not follow your word. But living on these islands has taught me that living in the flow allows us to try to align our lives and our spirits in every moment.

And as I have lived on this Big Island, I have experienced many examples of the island teaching me about flow. I had the good fortune to be on a beach recently where green sea turtles beach themselves to rest. I was sitting on the sand and looking at the water when I saw what I thought was a coconut floating in the water. I watched and then the coconut went underwater and then came up again. I soon realized that it was a green sea turtle trying to get to shore. It was coming up right where there was a reef, and a wave suddenly turned the turtle over on its back. I expected to see its legs flying as it desperately tried to right itself, but it didn’t fight. The turtle stayed on its back calmly until the next wave came in. Then with a flick of its tail and very little drama, it flipped right-side up. The turtle disappeared from view and I imagined that it had abandoned its plan. But a few minutes later I saw it coming up a few feet away where there was a bigger opening in the reef. Soon I had a green sea turtle lying on the sand a few feet away from me, and I realized that I had just witnessed that turtle flow and adjust its plan to work with its environment and get its needs met. What a beautiful teacher.

I have also learned about flow from the volcano goddess, Pele, who is believed to reside in Halemau’uma’u Crater in the Kilauea Volcano. We have visited Kilauea twice and we see photos of the eruption almost daily since it’s constantly in the news here. Kilauea has been actively erupting for 34 years, but unlike the images I held in my mind of lava shooting in the air with people running and screaming to get away, Kilauea’s lava flows gently down its slopes towards the ocean, at least most of the time. Although nothing can contain or stop lava when it flows, this lava flows so slowly that people have a heads-up when it’s coming. People can hike in to see the flow and they can stand only a few feet away from new earth that is being created in front of their eyes. My kids have enjoyed walking on land that is younger than they are and we have all watched in awe as the lava flows into the ocean, causing the ocean to boil and the lava to explode. My dear friend Tony who has lived on this island off and on for 40 years remembers sitting on his surfboard in Kalapana Bay in 1984 as he watched the volcano erupt in the distance. That bay is now filled in with lava, and the oceanfront homes near the Bay are now ¼ mile from the ocean. Tony says that everyone learns to flow with Pele as she teaches them how their lives need to shift. Although he loved his favorite surf spot, now that it no longer exists he has had to find others. He has learned to flow, as have all of the people on this island, as Pele teaches them what they need to change. None of our plans are stronger than lava. Pele is a great reminder of who is in charge.

Despite the reminders that I have received about flow, we still live in a world that requires plans. We have plane tickets and plans that bring us back to Santa Cruz in early June. The five of us are excited to reconnect in person with the people and the places that we love. And I’m excited to be back in my office! Although working by phone and internet has been fine to bridge the gap, I have missed being able to hug my clients and see them in person. I have learned so much here and I still have 2 months to continue to learn and grow. I plan to do retreats here on the Big Island in the future. I know that I’ll return here many times to continue to learn from the fire and water that have worked together to create this amazing place in the sea. But this adventure has also taught me a lot about the meaning of home. I’m glad to be coming home soon.


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