Hawaii’s Secret To Happiness In 5 Words

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Whenever I travel, I try to learn about what defines happiness in a particular culture. In Bali, they bless both the good and bad in life, while in Italy they take great pleasure in the act of doing nothing at all. So, when I went to Hawaii earlier this month, I was curious the locals’ philosophy on the topic. Well, I quickly learned they had a lot to say.

Unlike the English language, Hawaiian is filled with a number or words to describe all aspects of happiness, fulfillment, and peace. Even simple phrases like “Aloha” have a much deeper meaning to them. Discussing feelings and focusing on the foundation of happiness is just as much a part of the daily discourse as saying “Yo! What’s up?”

Fascinated by the effortless use of such impactful words, I decided to do a bit more digging and found a few words that stood out to me. Here is Hawaii’s secret to happiness in 5 words.
 

Hawaii's Secret to Happiness:


1. Manawa: “Now is the moment of power”
Our lives are broken into three sectors: past, present, and future. The Hawaiians believe the most powerful of three is the present. While they are a culture of tradition and honoring ancestors, they don’t believe the past necessarily determines who you are right now. We often use our pasts as excuses to behave a certain way currently, but your future starts with your next thought. Every second is a new moment of creation and every habit can be changed. That’s more powerful than anything that’s happened to you in the past.

2. Makia: “Energy flows where attention goes”
This may be a philosophical principle, but it makes total scientific sense to me. Just as a conduit harnesses electricity and allows it to flow in a particular direction, so your thoughts are harnessed and directed by your ability to focus. If you choose to focus on the negative things in your life, those negative feelings will only increase. But, if you choose to focus your attention on being grateful and your passions, those feelings of positivity will only grow.

3. Niele: “Be curious”
The Hawaiians believe everyone has a purpose in life; that’s a given. So, it’s important to be curious and explore different avenues to figure out what that is. This sense of curiosity makes the present moment more exciting as you’re constantly on a journey of finding fulfillment.

4. Mahalo: “Be grateful”
You’ll find locals dropping “mahalo” constantly. While it is used as a common “thank you,” it has a much deeper meaning of being grateful. Be thankful for every breath, every interaction, every relationship, every opportunity, etc. The Hawaiians are in a constant state of thanks. Feeling grateful for what you already have is the richest we can ever be.

5. Hamau: “Be quiet”
I found this one to be particularly interesting. So often we fill our lives with noise whether form technology or people or even our own voice. The Hawaiians believe that your path and your purpose are deep within you and if you don’t take the time to hush all of the extraneous noise, you’ll never be able to tap into that. Only when you are silent can your intuition speak to you.

Small Change = Big Gain

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If you've been reading my blog or following my newsletters, you'll know that one of my biggest philosophies is to start making small changes in your life that eventually will lead to big ones. This is the basis for my with with individual clients when we determine how to achieve whatever goal it is they seek to accomplish. And it works.

Sometimes, we just need a little reminder about the basics. So, here you go.

If you're trying to lose weight, for example, you will never succeed if you say you're going to cut out all carbs and sugar and go to the gym 5 days a week. It's too lofty of a goal. Instead, if you just commit to walking 10,000 steps a day and adding greens into at least one meal, you'll start to create the building blocks of a healthier, more active lifestyle that will ultimately lead to weight loss.

A few of years ago if you had asked me if I was a morning person I would have said "Hell no!" After my father died and I was looking for ways to start my morning off on the right foot, I would go for walks with my husband and I fell in love with how quiet the city was before 8am. Those mornings turned into workouts or sometimes they remained walks. I slowly became a morning person and am much more fulfilled that way. I feel like I'm getting the most out of every day even if I'm in bed by 10pm. 

Whenever I get the chance to share this tiny piece of wisdom, I jump on it. So, when Elysium Health included my two cents on the topic in an infographic, I was thrilled! Elysium takes more of a scientific approach to healthy habits, as shown by the graphic's focus on cellular metabolism as well as the company's own research into NAD+. Check out what they unveiled about the major impact small changes can have on your life.

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Do Bad Things Always Happen To You? A Balinese Lesson In Embracing Negativity

How many times have you said, “Why do bad things always happen to me,” or, compare yourself to someone else saying, “Nothing bad ever happens to them”? I’ll admit, I’m guilty of this at times. Many of us believe that in order to live a happy life, there can be no negativity.

But, what if instead of fighting the negative things in our life we embraced them?


That was a lesson I learned during my most recent trip to Bali. Our guide took us to the Tirta Empul (Holy Spring Temple) near Ubud where we watched locals go through a series of ritual baths. As we walked around, the guide explained the significance of the various baths, alters and areas of the spiritual compound. At one point I was asked to tie my hair back so as not to be confused with Rangda, the demon queen who has wild crazy hair. I obviously obliged.

Later, I saw a statue of this demon queen and people leaving offerings the same way they were for Barong, the leader of the hosts of good. Confused, I asked our guide why people were praying to this evil spirit. “It’s important to recognize and praise both the good and evil in our life,” he told us. “Life doesn’t come without negativity and without it, we wouldn’t be able to recognize all the good. If you fight Rangda, she’ll get fiercer. But, if you acknowledge her, she’s not as scary.”


He was so right. So often when bad things happen or negativity comes into our life we try to fight against it through anger and fear. If we instead simply acknowledged that bad is just as much a part of our life as good then it can prevent us from falling into the rabbit hole of “everything bad always happens to me.” There will always be ebbs and flows, highs and lows; none of us are immune. But, rather than make things harder when those lows do happen, simply acknowledge the negativity, pay it some respect, and know positivity is not far behind.  

Turning A Trip Into A Honeymoon

“I wish we were going on our honeymoon,” I said to my husband as we boarded a plane to Bali. “Who says we can’t pretend,” he responded. It was this tiny comment that completely reshaped the way I ended up thinking about our 10-day trip to Indonesia turning it from just a vacation into a paradisiacal getaway.

As a travel writer and health coach, I’m extremely lucky to have travel as a part of my job description. I’m even luckier to have my husband tag along with me often. We’ve been able to see parts of the world and share new experiences together we might not otherwise get the chance to. But, often those trips are work related meaning I’m taking meetings, writing up posts and never truly disconnecting from my 9 to 5.

So, when I got asked to lead some meditation classes on a cruise through Indonesia in July, I had the mindset it was going to be that mix of exploring and working again. That was where my honeymoon comment came in.

 IN THE SERENGETI ON OUR ACTUAL HONEYMOON.

IN THE SERENGETI ON OUR ACTUAL HONEYMOON.


Ross and I opted to go to Tanzania for our honeymoon in January 2016 and it was one of our favorite trips of all time. Not only did we get to check off bucket list items like going on safari, but we also completely unplugged and embraced all things romantic (private dinner under the stars in the Serengeti? Yes please!). Honeymoons are the one time where everyone at work encourages to take as much time as you want off and not worry about answering work emails, and everywhere you go people are pampering you. Not to mention, for some reason honeymoons just spark that urge to say “I love you” to your significant other like every 10 seconds.

But, even though we’re not newlyweds and already took an official honeymoon, who says we couldn’t behave like we were? So, we did.

Though I was technically working on the week-long cruise, leading a handful of meditations certainly wasn’t an imposition to our honeymoon plan. Yes, I did have to wake up early a number of days, but when I wasn’t working we went hiking, took naps, and laid on the beach without checking emails constantly. Then, after the cruise, we decided to extend our trip by spending a few days in Ubud, Bali and that’s where the honeymoon feeling hit a new high.

 WE STAYED IN THE REGAL VILLA 2 AT THE VICEROY BALI.

WE STAYED IN THE REGAL VILLA 2 AT THE VICEROY BALI.


We stayed at Viceroy Bali and the moment you enter the intimate resort situated in the heart of The Valley of Kings, you feel transported. We were greeted with welcome drinks, flower necklaces, and cool towels, just like a couple of newlyweds. We enjoyed a drink in the restaurant overlooking the jungle before heading to our private villa (side note: it’s a villa only resort and there are only 25 total). When we walked in and saw our massive room, spa-like bathroom, beautiful thatched-roof ceiling our hearts began to pitter patter. Then it got better.

We looked out the window to see our own private plunge pool, lounge chairs and mini garden with unobstructed views of the jungle. Oh, and there was a natural waterfall serenading us in background. Even if you entered this place in a bad mood, you had no choice but to fall into the romantic swing of things. As soon as our valet left, we looked at each other like yup, this is a honeymoon alright.

We had arrived in the morning so we literally spent the entire day never leaving the room. We took a nap, lounged outside, went swimming, took a bath, talked, and everything else you want to do on a honeymoon. The staff took care of our every need and were happy to accommodate when we wanted to switch our five-course tasting dinner to that evening instead of the following.

 THE BEAUTIFUL DESSERT AT CASCADES RESTAURANT.

THE BEAUTIFUL DESSERT AT CASCADES RESTAURANT.


The first time we left the room was for that dinner, which was just as romantic. Their restaurant, CasCades, is one of the top fine dining spots in the whole area and overlooks the valley from a bird’s eye view. We ordered a bottle of wine before settling into our decadent meal that, of course, was lit by candle light. The chef came out to greet us and even changed a course for me to make sure I was totally enjoying the dining experience. The staff kept apologizing about the rain that night, but for us it only made it more romantic. After the meal, we retired back to our villa and fell asleep to the sound of the rain in the jungle. Hello any romantic movie ever!

We woke up the next morning feeling more relaxed than ever and opted to go sightseeing that day with one of the guides from the hotel. They let us design our own private half-day tour so we could see exactly what we wanted without the hassle of a group. We visited the rice terraces, the Holy Spring Temple, did a coffee tasting, and went shopping all before heading back to the hotel where we kicked up the romance even more by doing a two-hour treatment at their Lembah Spa.

 THE VIEW FROM THE SPA AT VICEROY BALI.

THE VIEW FROM THE SPA AT VICEROY BALI.


The two of us love a good massage, but they’re usually about 10 minutes at a nail salon in NYC. Getting a full pampering session happens once in a blue (honey)moon. We were massaged, scrubbed, and moisturized with yogurt. It didn’t end there. We then enjoyed a shower together followed by a rose petal-filled bath, steam room, and hot tub. To say we were relaxed and totally gushy for each other is an understatement. At that point, we couldn’t even fathom being with other people and opted for room service in bathrobes instead of dining out.

Sadly, we had to check out in the evening the following day, but still managed to enjoy a late check out, dinner, and pool-side lounging. By the end of our stay at Viceroy Bali, our mission of treating our trip like a honeymoon was a success. Even if we weren’t newlyweds, it was taking that mindset and making a few indulging, out-of-the-ordinary, decisions that really brought that feeling to life.

Obviously, we can’t always go on luxurious vacations, but we can make more of an effort to adopt that attitude of disconnecting from the world, reconnecting with each other, and embracing romance. With that mindset, we can perpetually be on our honeymoon.  

How To Make Every Day An Adventure

June kicked off a particularly busy summer of travel. In the past month, I was lucky enough to visit London, Amsterdam, Bend, Oregon, take a cruise on board the Queen Victoria, and I’m currently en route to Bali. While I loved each destination for a different reason, it is the layover in Seattle that sticks out in my mind.



Like any traveler, budget is a concern. I try to keep costs down as much as possible and that often means enduring things like long layovers. That was the exact scenario when I flew with my husband to Oregon a couple of weeks ago and we had to kill about 11 hours in Seattle. While we could have looked at it as a delay in getting to our final destination, we instead embraced the time, using it as an opportunity to add to our trip.

In those 11 hours, we had coffee and doughnuts at Pike Place Market, watched the famous flying fish, visited the gum wall, headed up to the top of the Space Needle, and ate at Eater-approved restaurants. And even though it was raining the entire time (obviously, it’s Seattle) and we arrived after midnight in Oregon, we had so much fun visiting a new city.

We continue to seek out long layovers, looking at them as opportunities to explore a new city, meet new people and get a taste of a new culture. We visited the Munch museum in Norway on our way home from Sweden, climbed the Great Wall of China on the way back from Australia, and will explore the temples in Guangzhou returning from Bali.


We tend to look at those “in between moments” as lost hours or wasted time, but they’re just as precious as the final destination itself. That day in Seattle could have been simply looked at as a stop along the way. Instead, it became part of the journey.

Whether at work, home or on the road, the more value you can give to the smaller in-between moments, the more life will feel like an adventure.

Turning Misadventure Into Adventure

Each month when I sit down to write this newsletter, I take a look back at where I traveled to see what lessons I’ve learned. Normally, I’ve met a cool chef or was inspired by some vista, but this month was a little different. When I reviewed the last four weeks the word that came to mind was “misadventure.”

 Yes, I was lucky enough to check off a bucket list item of attending the Kentucky Derby and I got the chance to stay in a vintage hotel in the Catskills complete with a bowling alley. But, I wouldn’t exactly say they went smoothly.

At the risk of sounding like a spoiled brat, I will keep the list of privileged woes to a minimum. Let's just say there was a driving rain storm, muddy swollen feet, lack of sleep, inexplicable stains, smells and cigarette burns, and an exploding hair dryer. 

I think you get the gist.
 

Now, while this seems like a rather depressing newsletter, I swear there’s a point. In all of these situations I could have spent my time complaining, but I didn’t. When I look back on each of these “misadventures” all I see is adventure.

My feet were killing me, but I got to have breakfast served by Bobby Flay at the Derby and tour a distillery. I was exhausted after a day of unexpected detours in the Catskills, but got to meet a really cool couple at dinner that actually booked a night in the Catskills hotel because they read an article I wrote about it.  


Each little unplanned bump turned out to be the catalyst of what would otherwise be typical vacation into a true adventure. After all, how lucky I was to even be having these hiccups? It’s all about perception.

Life doesn’t come without mishaps, big and small, but it’s how we react to them that truly defines our narrative. That’s not to say you can’t cry or get frustrated, but don't miss out on adventure by focusing on the misadventure.