This is the second year that our yoga teacher has scheduled a week at a new location on the north end of the island. The retreat house is slightly more rustic than your usual Hawaiian mega-resort hotel but is graceful and comfortable, with the feel of a sprawling Mediterranean villa. The guest rooms are simple and painted in rich deep colors. A stand of pines separates the back of the hotel from a a cliff overlooking the ocean. Nearby a small herd of goats wanders and forages, and in our yoga room, facing the ocean, we can hear the occasional lowing from nearby cattle. Colorful birds flit around the open-air dining area, hoping for crumbs.
And nearby there are special stones…
According to local lore, King Kamehameha convened his council in the ravine that is now a short walk from the hotel, to develop his strategy for uniting the islands. There, a ring of irregular massive black stones, half buried in the earth, circle around a mound. Other stones dot the rolling terrain, including a special grandmother stone which sits apart from the council group.
I was told that this is a site where the veil between worlds is very thin. The stones, they say, speak, give counsel. It is best, we were told, to approach the stones with a question.
I am of many minds about these types of beliefs. I am a skeptic, but I try to keep an open mind. After all, holy sites exist all over the world, representing a plethora of religions from the well-established to the obscure. Miracles and answered prayers are their mainstays. The Catholics have Lourdes; Buddhists make pilgrimages to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery; the list goes on and on.
I was curious. How do the stones answer? Did they put words in your head or mumble on the wind? Would there be a vision? Would it be like the Oracle at Delphi, where an obtuse phrase would be delivered and might give an answer, or might not?
A fellow yogini who seems to be very intimate with the stones approached me after breakfast on one of our last days. “The stones told me that you should go down,” she said. “I’ll go with you and show you the stone that is special for me.”
I admit to entertaining some irreverent thoughts at that point. I envisioned the stones with cartoon talking balloons over their heads, saying things like, “You tell Steph to come on down.” But it really didn’t seem like an invitation I could refuse, so I followed her along the rutted grassy path down into the ravine.
I leaned back and settled against my stone where she had directed and left me. Did I have a question? No, all I had was the familiar bruising jagged ache that has accompanied me since I lost Mark. The morning was fine and breezy, the rock face capturing the warmth of the sun. I closed my eyes and breathed deeply. The world came wildly and fully alive, with the chittering of birds, the rhythmic cooing of doves, the buzz of insects. Wind rustled the grasses, and I could hear the distant groan of farm equipment engines. After about twenty minutes, I strolled back up the path. Well, I thought, no stone conversations for me.
And yet…something changed. Since Mark died, every recollection of my last hours with him, as his breath abandoned him and I sat, stunned, next to his lifeless body created a sharp stab of pain that was almost impossible to bear. I think I was having a post-traumatic stress reaction, because these memories came with a rush of adrenaline and horror. But after my visit with the stones, just then, I realized that I could remember those hours with sadness but with a new peace. It may not sound like much, but it was a tremendous change.
So did the stones do this for me? Or was it the entrancing Hawaiian setting, showcasing the vitality of the life of the planet all around me? Or was it my week with loving, joyful, accepting people? I don’t know. I just know that I am healing now, and that, in itself, feels like a miracle.