Reflections on the Hawaii Retreats

Aloha kaua!

This is the Hawaiian greeting of love and care which is inclusive of everyone, including the speaker (as opposed to aloha kakou which is specific to the speaker and the single person being spoken to).

I’ve just returned from six weeks on Molokai having participated in three very different and equally powerful events. First, I was privileged to be part of one of Paula D’Arcy’s circles and was offered the opportunity to drop the teacher role and move deep into conversation with my own questions. I then co-led our annual Heart of Meditation retreat with Donna Martin in which we used the Mary Oliver poem (copied below) To Begin With, the Sweet Grass, as our text. This poem is more like a sutra. It is vast and deep, so we took a week to move through it, each day practicing with what it called forward. Next we moved from Hui Ho’olana where the first two events were held, to Pu’u o Hoku Ranch where Donna and I led an advanced Hakomi training we called Higher Ground. Pu’u o Hoku literally means “the hill under the stars,” and from that expansive hill we practiced together for 10 days. I can’t even begin to unpack all that happened in a brief blog post, so I will lean on Mary Oliver and offer you her poem and some of my photos. These are a poor match for her amazing words, but they allow me to offer something of my own as you read the poem. I hope you will spend some time with what is evoked for you.

To Begin With, the Sweet Grass
~ Mary Oliver


Will the hungry ox stand in the field and not eat of the
sweet grass?
Will the owl bite off its own wings?
Will the lark forget to lift its body in the air or forget to
Will the rivers run upstream?

Behold, I say — behold
the reliability and the finery and the teachings of this
gritty earth gift.


Eat bread and understand comfort.
Drink water, and understand delight.
Visit the garden where the scarlet trumpets are
opening their bodies for the hummingbirds
who are drinking the sweetness, who are thrillingly

For one thing leads to another.
Soon you will notice how stones shine underfoot.
Eventually tides will be the only calendar you believe

And someone’s face, whom you love, will be as a
both intimate and ultimate,
and you will be both heart-shaken and respectful.

And you will hear the air itself, like a beloved,
oh, let me, for a while longer, enter the two beautiful
bodies of your lungs.


The witchery of living
is my whole conversation
with you, my darlings.
All I can tell you is what I know.

Look, and look again.
This world is not just a little thrill for the eyes.

It’s more than bones.
It’s more than the delicate wrist with its personal
It’s more than the beating of the single heart.
It’s praising.
It’s giving until the giving feels like receiving.
You have a life - just imagine that!
You have this day, and maybe another, and maybe,
still another.


Someday I am going to ask my friend Paulus,
the dancer, the potter,
to make me a begging bowl
which I believe
my soul needs.

And if I come to you,
to the door of your comfortable house
with unwashed clothes and unclean fingernails,
will you put something into it?

I would like to take this chance.
I would like to give you this chance.

(This photo by Cassy Weyandt)

We do one thing or another; we stay the same, or we
Congratulations, if
you have changed.

Let me ask you this.
Do you also think that beauty exists for some
fabulous reason?

And, if you have not been enchanted by this
adventure — your life —
what would do for you?


What I loved in the beginning, I think, was mostly
Never mind that I had to, since somebody had to.
That was many years ago.
Since then I have gone out from my confinements,
though with difficulty.

I mean the ones that thought to rule my heart.
I cast them out, I put them on the mush pile.
They will be nourishment somehow (everything is
nourishment somehow or another).

And I have become the child of the clouds, and of
I have become the friend of the enemy, whoever that
I have become older and, cherishing what I have
I have become younger.

And what do I risk to tell you this, which is all I know?
Love yourself. Then forget it. Then, love the world.