Musings on Kauai and Ecopsychology
Perhaps it’s the similarity with the landscape of the land of my birth, Jamaica, that caused me to fall in love with another tropical island. Kauai. Ah, Kauai. Your glorious white sand beaches, the sweet Aloha spirit of your people, majestic Bali Hai - the mysterious mountain of South Pacific fame, the magical North Shore with narrow roads, one lane bridges, hidden beaches, expansive Hanalei Bay, a mini Grand Canyon in Waimea Canyon, the drama of crashing Pacific Ocean waves, reefs teeming with turtles and brightly colored fish, coconut trees, hibiscus, bougainvillea, poinciania trees, mangos, papayas….and reggae music. Hawaiian reggae they call it.
Waking before dawn, we arrive on the beach a few minutes before the sunrise over the ocean. Cloud formations color the sky with yellows and pinks that deepen and sparkle as the sun shows itself.
The resident rooster crows and chases a flock of pigeons away as they all scramble for seed on the grass. A few other guests walk the beach finding shells and crabs scampering on exposed rocks at the water edge. The ocean is wild on this east side of the island. The waters around all the Hawaiian Islands can be dangerous. I find the waves mesmerizing and admire the surfers who’ve learned how to read the ocean’s timing. There is a mystic quality to surfing in this deep communication with the waters of the planet.
In my ecopsychology classes I stress to students the importance of finding a place in nature where they can sink into a sustained and ongoing relationship with the earth. The most important assignment in all my classes is the Special Place Assignment where students have to spend at least a 1/2 hour each week in the same place in nature. Opening their senses, perhaps feeling their feet on the earth (earthing), watching what changes, what other creatures are there, and just….being. Not doing. Part of the benefits in this assignment is stress reduction in mindfulness. Part of it is deepening awareness of the earth and allowing time for a stronger connection with the earth to emerge. Mostly what I have found is that the best benefit arrives when there are signs that this simple assignment has opened the hearts of students to feeling love for this place, whatever place they have chosen. If we are ever going to move into being an ecological society, opening our hearts to our connection with the planet and other species has to be part of the equation. This Kauai trip in August was for me something of an 8 day Special Place Assignment. She opened my heart in immeasurable ways. More to come on this journey to a special island….. Mahalo Nui Loa Kauai.