In the nearly eight weeks since my arrival on Maui, I have witnessed something quite interesting: My screeching halt into the Here and Now (aka: The Present Moment) has giving birth to the plural form. In fact, I can now refer to these events as “halts.” And, truth be told, the screeching has been replaced with grace … for every few days I experience something that is challenging to sometimes articulate effectively. It is as if Maui insists I sit still and do more of, well, “nothing.”
No thinking. No doing. No … thing.
This, I have come to realize, is a curious learning curve to adapt to for a child of Polish refugees and someone who has spent a fair amount of time looking for acceptance and relevance outside of himself, and—Dear God!—a good chunk of time pursuing the bright lights of fame, fortune and Hollywood acceptance. More or less. But when the Universe opens up the living room door of your psyche and, basically, invites your “Look At Me, Look At Me!” evil twin to leave the premises, it’s best to follow orders.
When the life you have been living no longer is the life you are designed to keep living, in essence, the jig is up. For me, it went down like this: “Greg, get out of your mind or go out of your mind.”
Alas, there were times I feared that I had already arrived at the latter destination.
So, in between babysitting young olive trees in Kula, burying sacred birds, breaking up a family of Gekkos, and walking sacred labyrinths—oh my, it’s all about integration and implementation!—I began delving more deeply into Hawaiian culture. Specifically Maui’s culture. By chance—there is no such thing—I met a Mainland transplant (from long ago), Gale Wisehart, who invited me to his authentic Hawaiian choir practice. I soon realized that he and his partner helped launch the choir nearly a decade ago and, to my surprise, there had never been an authentic Hawaiian choir on Maui. That a Caucasian man with musical savvy would have the wherewithal to delve into this, and help the choir thrive over the years, intrigued me. I was also made aware that Maui’s reputable Kumu Uluwehi Guerrero was the choir’s co-director.
One week, on a Tuesday not long ago, I sat in one of the pews in the rear of the historic Ka’ahumanu Church in Wailuku for choir practice. There, I witnessed something remarkable unfolding—a mix of steady graciousness and profound depth from the singers, a mix of native Hawaiians and longtime residents. The group was rehearsing for an upcoming fall show and, also, a Christmas performance—tears flow when you listen to Christmas songs sung in Hawaiian, by the way! I returned for choir practice the following week and absorbed more, paying closer attention to moments in some of the songs that were performed by Kumu Uluwhehi, who is commonly referred to as Ulu. His powerful vocals stand out, however the man seemed to be channeling some magic from the Gods and the reverence he exuded for the songs was quite something. In witnessing him, Maui had, once again, reminded me that there is a significant difference between doing and being. Let’s face it: Individuals who are able to be in the moment stand out. There’s a there there. In the absence of a racing mind, there is presence.
What would be possible, I thought, if I allowed myself to be “in the moment” more often? What would happen if “The Need To Know How Everything Is Supposed To Turn Out” simply was not so active in the mind—or active at all? What would happen if, in the midst of profound life transition, you decided to incorporate the “have” part in “Have Faith?”
Was this my primary lesson to learn here on Maui?
Later, I learned that Ulu was going to teach a beginning hula class. So, I signed up. When on Maui … after all.
A week later, on a Thursday, I was in my first hula class—ever—and eager to absorb something I did not quite know how to actualize on a consistent basis: Peace? A kind of letting go? A “go with the flow?” I noticed that I was one of several men taking the class. The rest of the students were females, however Ulu had two male assistants. We learned three steps during that first class: Káholo (a stepping side to side motion), Kao (swaying side to side) and Hela (one foot placed 45 degrees, knee bent on the opposite leg). Most of us faired well—and for a guy who grew up stumbling over Polka steps, I did good—but what stood out was something that Ulu expressed, which I heard from other locals here on Maui …. that when it comes to hula, it is not about you. In fact, you are simply there to express the story (through movement) that is being projected through the instruments and/or song. In that respect, you—your body—becomes somewhat of a vessel for which a Hawaiian story can be told. You, your mind—all that—has no business being in a hula performance.
Later, I was reminded that every movement, expression and gesture in the hula has some specific meaning. These movements can represent animals, plants, other things in nature. An art form with one specific requirement: that you get yourself out of your own way.
Now, where have I heard that before?
Getting out of your own way? Practiced well, it could become an art form.
This week’s hula class approaches—oh, there’s a sublime Hawaiian blessing that occurs before you enter the room—as does another opportunity to take myself out of the equation … for every so often, I look to the sky and ask the Gods: “Now what? What happens after Maui? After this?”
Most of the time I hear nothing. Sometimes I see a shooting star.
And in that quiet space, inevitably, I realize that I am left with this. That this is all there is. That this is not that and that that is not this.
To which I ask myself: “Dearest Greg, can you really get used to this?”