The Retreat That Changed Me: A Spiritual Experience

I had just moved out for my first year as a single parent. My kids were 5 and 7 years old and we lived in a 2 bedroom home way up in the Santa Cruz mountains. It took me a good 40 min to get them to school each morning so I woke early to do yoga and make them breakfast. 

I was trying really hard to make my life work. I felt successful in many ways and there was something missing. I felt lost and unsure of my decision. I questioned my ability to meet the needs of my kids on my own. As I continued to push myself, I wasn’t sure how to find my footing into who I was becoming next. 

I was standing in line for the bathroom at a local coffee shop, staring at the announcement board when I noticed a brightly colored flier. It had words on it like “transformation” and “rites of passage” and “higher self”. I immediately felt elevated. It had a Hawaiian theme to it and was incredibly moving. I took down the number because I definitely felt like I was in the middle of a huge transition and needed something to shift. 

I called and spoke with a man who sounded kind and asked me questions about myself and my personal “journey”. The conversation felt expansive and other worldly. I was curious and worried about the cost of the program-  Lomi Lomi Ke-ala-Hoku, a Rite of Passage Journey to the stars. I had no idea what I was about to discover. 

I met Gregory and his kumu, or teacher, Iolani to speak with them both about the Journey. She was amazing, filled with energy and light. Her eyes overflowed with love and her huge smile spanned the majority of her face. Her home was celestial, full of images depicting Beings of light sitting contently among the clouds or perched on a golden throne. There were light pink roses growing outside the windows in her garden. Tapestries and many colored curtains made me feel like I was in an ornate palace even though I was in a neighborhood home. 

I said “Yes” to joining them for an 11 day event beginning a few weeks later that would take place with a small group in the Santa Cruz Mountains above Aptos. We would travel to and from the octagonal building that was designed and built in honor of the Archangel Michael for the training each day. Each day we would return home. I housed a few of the women who were traveling into town for the event from New York, the Bay Area and Canada. We became dear friends from the experience. 

I was already a massage practitioner so when I learned that the training and journey was focused around bodywork with one person on the massage table to practice on, I figured it was in my scope of familiarity. The first day we created the temple. Iolani put out boxes of amazing tapestries, gemstones, flowers, statues and other items to place around the room where we would be working in every day. She stated that this would be our sacred space and to think about the intention we wanted to create for ourselves and one another that would offer the greatest healing for all of us and our ancestors. Hawaiian music was played while we timidly chose items to place and quietly discussed what would go where. It was an astounding collaboration with about a dozen new friends. The room was transformed and held us all so gracefully as we sat in a circle when we were complete to check in and further deepen our intentions. 

The first 3 days we worked with movement and breath. When we entered the temple we would declare what we were bringing to our collective experience beginning our sentence with “I am…” then finding a place to stand with open hands to witness the next person entering. 

It wasn’t until day 4 that we actually got a person onto a massage table. The preparations from the days before and the surreal rhythm and ritual of our time together began to change my state of mind. I held the gaze of others more steadily. My body grew stronger. My heart opened wide. Limitations dissipated. Consciousness altered.  

I began to realize that we were learning a shamanic practice using breath and entering an altered state. We would then transfer this to movement and massage with the person on the massage table as the receiver and central point of energy.  

Iolani and Gregory gave a sample session for us to observe. We stared in awe as the Hawaiian woman in the training was laid on the table and the two of them proceeded to move their arms and hands around her body with lots of oil and deep audible breath. When they were done they sat her up and asked about her experience. She described an out of body journey that sounded like a vivid dream. 

Iolani taught that a rite of passage was clearing out and releasing what was no longer needed and then calling in that which would serve our highest good. The lineage of Lomilomi we were learning had been passed down as a shamanic tradition as part of preparing the young chieftain to be. The kalele was the movement used to invoke a type of trans state and we used it to clear energies no longer needed from ourselves and each other as we all danced in a circle around those lying in the center who were to receive the energy held by those moving and breathing around them. There were tears, shouts, trembling, and rocking. Acceptance and love flowed through and over us all as we shed a layer of the past that had been weighing us down through traumas and experiences that had left us disintegrated from our true selves. 

We called in guides and angels, ancestors and elements to hold us and offer support. The veil between the worlds became very thin as I felt the universe and all its expansiveness calling me to become bigger than my body. I felt full of light with love pouring out of me. I saw God/ Goddess in each person in the room as we sat connecting eye to eye recognising we were all from the same source. 

I touched a part of myself that would never be lost again. I felt my beauty and magnificence and knew that every person on the planet held the same. Today, I still see this. I see and love everyone for the light and higher self they contain no matter how lost it may be.  

The following year I got back together with my ex and traveled to Hawaii for another training. I was given the name Pueo Hulu Nui, the great winged owl, for the owl that flew through the jungle canyon down below us as we learned the sunrise chant. That was the first time I ever went to Hawaii. We hiked through bamboo forests and swam in sacred pools, again deepening in heart and in spirit with all the participants who came to journey all together from all parts of the world.  

I have never had such a palpable spiritual experience in my life. I knew God/Goddess in a whole new way. He/She travels with me and holds me when I hold space for others. I listen to the guidance that comes through in energetic form and in words. I know that I am a channel for those energies to pour through for healing and clearing. I am grateful and humbled beyond measure for the gift of my experiences as I continue to learn and guide others towards finding their highest good as well. 

A year and a half later I split from my ex for good. This time I did it with strength , self love and clarity beyond my past limitations or feelings of guilt or shame. I knew more than ever who I was and what there was to claim next. 

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