The Most Valuable Lesson I learned on Hawaii: Are you truly safe here?

Why do we often attach our sense of well-being to stuff?

It’s an old question. And whenever I ask myself that, I always come back to the same thought: no matter how much material success I may have in this life, everything I see is temporary.

That certainly doesn’t stop us from attaching our sense of security to what we have attained, especially if it has taken us a significant amount of time and/or effort to achieve. Indeed, attaching our sense of safety to possessions or status is the epidemic of the modern age when, frankly, materialism is the status quo.

But when I think back on my time living on the Big Island of Hawaii, I must admit that even though I was, on paper, under the poverty line, I nonetheless felt quite secure and safe there.

Actually, it began even before Hawaii, when I’d exposed myself to the unpredictabilities, risks, and rewards of solo travel. If you’ve been reading this site for a few years, you’ve already read about many of my adventures. Thankfully, such experiences were overall quite enjoyable, not to mention provided me with plenty of growth-inducing stories that I share with you!

The Most Valuable Lesson

The point is, Hawaii taught me many valuable lessons, but as my time away from it grows, I’ve realized that perhaps the most valuable lesson of all was realizing the answer to another age-old question: “Are you really safe here?”

Well, are you?

Kids playing in Mahana Bay green sand

Kids playing in Mahana Bay (The Famous Green-sand Beach)

I’ve seen so many people try to create a sense of security through outward possessions and attainments. But does it really work? Does it work in the long-term? What happens when rot sets in? What happens when the stock market takes a dip?

Circumstances can change rapidly in life, especially on a volcanic island, and living on Hawaii proved to be a crash-course in the non-permanence of all things. These days, possessions seem more like grains of sand on a beach to me than real objects: they flow in and out of my life at the perfect time.

I moved three times from 2013-2014. And yes, each time I changed spots on Hawaii was a little scary. Moving is never without stress. But I wasn’t alone.

Maybe it was because I’d cultivated good relationships, or maybe it was because the Universe itself was looking out for me, but something always worked out. Even when I decided to move on relatively short notice, a friend of mine was available in the right place at the right time to help me move the few possessions I had with her car. (To her, I am forever grateful.)

What does all this mean?

Well, if I can experience as much (or more) joy and security than someone in a more traditional situation, then is the feeling of well-being and security truly connected to money at all? Many people turn money into their sole power-source, but is that really true at the deepest level? Does the power come from the number or from the energy and set of beliefs that you bring to it? How many people do you know that are outwardly successful but are also worried about losing what they have gained? This is clinging, and it brings suffering.

Where does the true happiness lie?

The truth is, when you align with love, you know that you are safe.

Are you really safe here?

How you answer the question defines your attitude in every area of your life: all of your beliefs, thoughts, and actions.

As for me, I’ve experienced enough to know that I am safe here. What about you? How could your life change if you decided that you were at all times, safe, secure, and centered? There is a lot to consider here, and perhaps I’ll return to this topic at a later date.

Until then, just remember: possessions pass away, but sharing love and bringing light are eternal.

Are you ready to Drop Your Assumptions & Follow Your Path with a Heart?

In Life, there is a remarkable Spectrum of Experience available to you.

And it’s on you to decide how you spend your time — and thusly your Life.

But there’s a next step, beyond consciously choosing what you do.

During my travels on Hawaii, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a fascinating flock of people from all over the spectrum: business owners, artists, wanderers, massage therapists, builders, poets, and of course, vagabonds. Each of them show me a different color of the Spectrum of Experience, and invariably I find the ones who are the most unconventional are the ones I learn from the most. And believe me; saying that there are plenty of unconventional people in Puna is putting it lightly.

For instance, an elder woman of the island told me about a man who travels all over the world doing bodywork, healing people from all kinds of ailments. She said she had been bedridden from a car accident for years, and because of him, she could walk again.

I’ve also met people who simply live hidden in the jungle. The fact that this is illegal (despite the fact that most of the land is in varying degrees of complete uselessness) doesn’t even phase some people; and I know more than a couple people who have done this or are currently doing it. And those who live “hidden away” seem happy with their lot.

Not interested in living in the jungle? You could live in a meditation center. I know a handful of people who lived for months on end at a respected meditation center on the island. They help keep the place running in exchange for a place to stay, good food, and a pretty good meditation hall.

Obviously, this isn’t a great fit for everyone, but for the right person, a consciously-chosen atypical lifestyle can provide much greater growth opportunities (not to mention joy) than a traditional one. In one of my favorite examples, two of my good friends on the island make vegan ice cream for a living. They create some incredible combinations that I’ve never seen anywhere else. (Rose-Petal Pistachio, anyone?) They’re able to pursue what they love, which is making ice cream, in a healthy, locally-sourced way. And their business is growing beautifully.

People choose unconventional living styles all over the world, but I’ve never seen it as obvious and ‘on display’, at least in the US, than on the Big Island of Hawaii. There is a kind of admirable shamelessness about it, and it goes together perfectly with the entrepreneurial vein which runs through the island. There is an attitude of ‘I give from my abundance and you give from yours.’

So how do you choose which path is right for you? Which color of the Spectrum appeals to You?

Colors of the Spectrum of Experience

All of the people in the situations I’ve just mentioned, and indeed dozens of examples I haven’t included here, are bravely pursuing what they feel drawn to do. They aren’t blindly following the script laid out before them. While traditional society might have them get a predefined degree and find a jobby-job at any place that will take them, these people are forging their own way forward.

To be perfectly clear, I’m not saying that getting a degree is necessarily unwise. (I don’t regret mine.) Traditional education can be valuable (and quite necessary) in some fields, but be cautious about following the well-paved path. Who ever said that following a predesigned path ensured a happy destination?

In my experience, happiness and fulfillment isn’t so easily stumbled upon. In the USA, we operate on dozens of assumptions that we don’t even know we’re making. Who said that there was only one path to success? Yet thankfully, in this increasingly entrepreneurial world, the assumptions are changing.

And as tempting as it may be, I’m not going to bring up examples of people who have dropped out of college to go on to become successes, because that’s not even the point.

The point is: You are going to die.

You know this. You’ve been told this. But do you really get this on a deep level?

I thought I did — until 2012, when I had a near-death experience in a car accident. Calling it “surreal” doesn’t do the experience justice. The vehicle flipped. Twice. (I’m not one to half-ass anything, even a car accident.)

The vehicle was totaled, but miraculously we walked away from the accident with only a few bruises. There wasn’t even any guilt attached to the event. I wasn’t driving, and it wasn’t the driver’s fault, either. Perhaps I’ll go into more detail in a later date, but the practical upshot of this was that my concept of my own mortality shifted, in a big way.

Are you Wasting Your Life?

Of course, such moments are bound to change you, and I’m glad to say that it changed my perspective for the better (although perhaps not in all the ways you’d expect). Yes, I value life in a deeper way, but I also understand viscerally that it could end any day, at any time. I constantly remind myself to savor it. But I also feel much less judgmental when I see someone “wasting” their life.

After all, who am I?

Who am I to say how they’re supposed to spend their time?

When I was in college, I used to judge what people picked as majors. Social work? Welding? Cosmetology? I’m not proud of the fact that I felt a sense of disappointment when someone told me that one of the above was their area of study. I placed judgment on certain areas of the Spectrum of Experience.

But today, my attitude is completely different.

I’m not sure if it was the accident, living on Hawai’i for over year, or all that and more; but my values have shifted. Now I see how absurdly short this Earth Experience can be, and I say: Go for it.

If beautifying hair makes you bubbly, do it. If living in the jungle makes you joyful, do that. If all you want to do is make different flavors of vegan ice cream, please for glob’s sake DO THAT. (And thanks Sean & Ashley at Nicoco’s for their incredible vegan ice cream.)

Smarter Than Your Head

How much longer will we blindly follow The Program before we realize it isn’t a recipe for happiness? How many more years? How many more lives?

Have the courage to pursue your path with a heart. No one else’s. Because you will get good at what you do. Sure, it takes time, but the time is going to pass either way.

Don’t misconstrue this. If your heart calls you to get a Ph.D. in Astrophysics, then DO THAT. (And not just because I love astronomy.) Do it because, when you’re dead honest with yourself, you already know your heart is smarter than your head. Choose the part of the Spectrum of Experience that you intuitively feel is right.

If you have the courage to do that, your life will be utterly transformed.

When you are passionate and congruent with your work, you’ll be far more effective, and people will respond. They’ll see that your attitude is in a higher realm (a realm that most people experience rarely, if ever), and it will electrify everyone around you. Remember that everything you see is temporary. Your possessions, your relationships, and yes, your body, are in a constant state of flux. Everything is transient, on some level. It’s just a question of the timescale you take most seriously. But if you come from a place of congruency and something in your life changes (which it inevitably will), your fundamental vision, your Path with a Heart, will guide you beyond that.

Follow the Path with a Heart. Or, heck, if you don’t like that label, then just follow your gut, and it will work out in the end — often in ways you can’t predict.

Perhaps this got you thinking. Perhaps you’re angry or annoyed. All of those are good. After all, even anger is a higher consciousness-level than apathy.

If you support these ideas and want to see them spread, click Like or Retweet below and share this article! And if these ideas don’t resonate with you, then you’d best move on, because it only gets more interesting from here on out.

I’ll leave you with one of the final photos I took on Hawaii:

Potential minus Commitment equals Zero.

“Potential minus Commitment equals Zero.”


Are you completely congruent with how you spend your time? If not, when does Now become a good time to change that?