Spreading Aloha Through Photography

As a child, I was interested in photography because my father was a photographer and he had a makeshift darkroom in our basement. My interest drastically dwindled during my high school years as spending time with friends and going to the mall seemed more important. During college, a flame reignited, prompting me to buy a digital camera to document “major” moments in my life but once it broke, I stopped taking photos altogether. Then, I moved to Hawai’i and my partner graciously allowed me to use his camera, which changed everything. Currently, I take hundreds of photos each week, exploring the island and sharing these wonderful moments with the world.

Photography has become a meditation for me, a way to be in the moment while also attempting to convey the magnificence of a blip in time. Photography has made me pay attention to things I have often overlooked, like a bee landing on a flower and the droplets of rain that remain on a leaf long after the rain has stopped. I am fully present when I take photos and more engaged with nature. I am able to recognize the intricacies and complexity of nature while also appreciating its simplicity and peace.

Yesterday, when I was sharing photos of my trip to Kaua’i, I realized that photography is more than just a meditation, it’s also a way to spread Aloha. Through sharing my photographs, I am able to spread the love that courses through my veins with each of you. I am able to express my gratitude for nature. Additionally, I am able to expose people to sites they may have overlooked or have never experienced. The opportunity to share the beauty of Hawai’i is an honor and a privilege of a lifetime.

Mahalo for reading! Please enjoy the photos below:

Sunset 2-28-15

Tantalus Palms

Bee

Rays Through the Clouds

For more photos, please visit my online gallery.

Genuine Compassion

“Compassion sometimes requires us to be firm, to disappoint, and to say no. True compassion is giving from a place of authenticity and integrity as opposed to giving from a place of obligation and expectation.” -Candace Thoth

As a society we praise individuals who sacrifice their lives for the well-being of others. We idolize individuals who continuously give and those who always seem “nice.” For many years, I truly believed that my purpose was to make others feel good even at the expense of my own well-being. This mentality quickly led to compassion fatigue and burnout, but it ultimately allowed me to see where I had been untrue to myself and others. Here are some of the misconceptions I had about compassion:

  1. A compassionate person should rarely say no to others.
  2. A compassionate person should always put others first.
  3. A compassionate person should always makes people feel good.
  4. A compassionate person should always go out of their way to help.
  5. A compassionate person should “fix it” whenever someone is suffering.

The above statements are just a few of the many misconceptions I had about what it means to be compassionate. Contrary to my intentions, operating from these beliefs resulted in being inauthentic and becoming resentful. Giving because we think we should or because we feel obligated to give is not true giving. Taking on the weight of the world and trying to “fix” things to make people feel better is ultimately harmful to ourselves and others. When we are over-responsible for others, we rob them of their opportunity to walk their own path. Additionally, we add unnecessary stress to our lives and sabotage our well-being. Sometimes the most effective way to help someone is by telling them no or even letting them go.

Genuine compassion means being true to ourselves, saying no when we mean no, living with integrity, and respecting people’s path. There is no need to “sacrifice” our integrity or well-being in order to be genuinely compassionate. When we are true to ourselves, we are at peace, which is the most compassionate thing we can do for the world.

Welcome to this Space

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Welcome to this moment, this indescribable space, where everything dwells and no one nor no-thing is turned away. All is welcome here, all are allowed to play. This moment gently invites us to Be, encouraging us to drop our expectations and any thing else that gets in the way…of freedom, peace, and joy. In fact, all of these exist right now, so let’s dive deep into the unknown, only to find that we are supported every step we take.

*images taken during this evening’s silent sitting

Just Let Go

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“Learn to let go without struggle, simply let go, to be just as you are – no holding on, no attachment, free.” -Ajahn Chah

The past few weeks, more often than not, I have felt uneasy. Whenever I am reminded of love, calmness washes over me, but even those moments have been quite fleeting and have had a temporary effect. Last Wednesday, I went to an active insight meditation group and participated in something called Latihan. During the Latihan, we are instructed to freely express whatever arises, whether it be verbal sensations or other movements. Much to my surprise, almost immediately upon doing the Latihan, I received an internal message that said “LET GO!” It continued, “it is not about YOU” and lastly “surrender NOW.” The information was so clear that I had no further questions.  Suddenly, an incredible bliss took over my body and I was smiling from ear to ear. Gradually, sadness appeared, because I knew what it all meant. I had to fully let go of everything: The story of Candace, Candace’s achievements, Candace this, Candace that, needing to be in control, etc. The over-attachment and over-identification to “Candace” (also known as “me”) had to end. I knew in that moment that until I fully let go, I would continue to experience dis-ease.

While I have studied and read many essays about surrendering (my favorite is Bob O’Hearn’s essay), I realized in that moment that I had never actually surrendered, completely, there were always remnants of over-identification lingering (Knowledge means little if we are not applying it fully and consistently). This time, it was clear that not only did I need to completely surrender, but also surrendering is a continuous process that I must do moment-to-moment. Surrendering (at least in my experience) is not a one -time event, it’s something that has to be done repeatedly and consistently. Even after having such a profound experience during Latihan, the very next day, I slipped right back into my habits of feeling like I needed to have control. It wasn’t until I went to the beach (photo aboved) that I received another message similar to the first “SURRENDER!” that I let go again.

I’m reminded of a childhood moment where I was swinging upside down on the monkey bars after school and was ready to get off of them but was utterly terrified to let go. My father kept saying “just let go, Dace, just let go!” I held onto the monkey bars for dear life and suddenly “plop!” I fell to the ground. I hadn’t let go, my legs got tired and threw me from the bars. When I landed, I was shocked that my legs got so tired so quickly but more importantly because all the pain that I anticipated would come from landing wasn’t present at all. Just let go! 🙂

Mahalo for reading! May you experience infinite peace and blessings!

The Universality of Love

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Earlier this week, I was experiencing some anxiety about participating in the Hawaii Wellness Expo because I felt that I had not prepared well enough for it. I remember feeling like I needed to have a big banner and lots of items to showcase (so funny where thoughts go especially when we have a moment of amnesia and take ourselves too seriously!). In the midst of it all, I just paused in order to truly reflect on why I was even going to the expo in the first place. The answer that arose was this is simply another opportunity to spread love and that I needed to drop all other agendas and return to the core. And that’s exactly what I did.

As soon as I remembered why I was going, an idea surfaced to ask my visitors “how do you spread Aloha?” That question led to the most amazing conversations, connections, and interactions. It was as if things became viral. People were smiling, laughing, and hugs were in abundance. It no longer became about asking people to join the mailing list or sign up for courses, it became about genuine connection and love. Over the course of the day, more than 80 people shared with us how they spread love each day. I’m tearing up as I write about it now.

I’d like to send a big thank you to everyone who passed by the booth and shared with us! This experience was an excellent reminder of what truly matters and just how universal love really is.

Mahalo for reading! May you experience infinite peace and blessings!

Just Say Hello

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Today, I had lunch with a lovely woman whom I recently met. We talked so freely and openly that I felt like I was talking to myself (on a deeper level, I was (smile)). Our interaction led me to reflect on how most of the amazing connections that have developed since my move to Hawaii, all started from a simple hello.

When we warmly greet each other, we create a space of openness, which allows for the development of invaluable relationships. Even if we’re not necessarily looking to establish a friendship, just saying hello and smiling at “strangers” makes a huge difference. At minimum, we each can acknowledge our neighbors and give them a friendly nod while we pass each other on this life journey.

The next time you’re out and about, consider “just saying hello.” It may make someone’s day, including yours.

Tribute to Maya

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As many of you know, Dr. Maya Angelou passed away yesterday, and due to the profound impact she has had on my life, I feel compelled to write about her. While I loved her writing and her brilliant way with words, I have been most touched by her presence and her resilience. Despite experiencing multiple traumas, Dr. Angelou showed us that we can choose not to be defined by our circumstances or experiences. She taught us that there is great power in authenticity and in telling one’s story.

Although we are not even defined by our stories and our true identities are far beyond description, sharing our life experiences is an incredibly useful tool. Dr. Angelou’s story is one of resilience and courage, it is one that reminds us that we are far more grand than anything that happens to us. Perhaps what I love most about Dr. Angelou is she reminded us of the importance of love and forgiveness, the importance of keeping our hearts open even when we would rather shut down and close ourselves off from the world. Can you imagine what would have happened if she chose to be mute for the rest of her life or had she decided to hold resentment towards others? I am grateful for this woman’s courage to let go and love.

Thank you, Dr. Angelou for all that you have shown us.

With love & appreciation,

Candace

*Photo courtesy of OWN

Peace Begins with Me

“The greatest thing you can do for another human being is to get your own house in order.” -Baba Ram Dass

For quite some time, I knew that I wanted to help people. As a young child, I wanted to become an astronaut to advance science in order to help us here on Earth. Then, I decided that I wanted to be a social worker in order to link people to resources. As I continued in school, I finally concluded that I wanted to become a therapist, so I embarked on a journey to become a clinical psychologist. But during the middle of my doctoral training, something about becoming a psychologist no longer resonated. I was starting to recognize that my helping was actually a hindrance in many ways. This is not to say that those in the helping professions are unhelpful (I am still in the industry although I am on a different path), it’s simply to say that something changed in me.

I began to realize that I was not practicing what I preached to my clients and that perhaps by diagnosing and trying to eliminate symptoms, I was perpetuating suffering by indicating that there is a right way to be and that symptoms are a problem. I no longer believe that most symptoms in and of themselves are an issue, in fact, I see them as guides to help us look at ourselves honestly and directly (by no means should they be ignored). Additionally, I was missing that 1) in order for the world to be a better place, it starts right at home with me and 2) maybe there is nothing wrong here. When we look around the world and see so much suffering, it seems absolutely absurd to believe that nothing is wrong but as I have continued this journey, I truly see that nothing is wrong. Our beliefs and expectations have deluded us into believing that things should be different from what they are yet in actuality things are exactly how they should be in order to increase our awareness.

Every situation is a call to awareness. We are continuously being called to look within and to take another look at our beliefs and actions that have led to our collective suffering. When tragedies happen, they usually lead to increased awareness, which is further validation of why I do not believe that anything is wrong. Our world is a reflection of our beliefs and our actions. When we look within, we recognize that the external world is no different from what is going on inside of us. These realizations have helped me conclude that the best way for me to be helpful is to be at peace myself. I have found that I am 1,000 times more helpful when I am at peace than when I am focused on changing someone else. I am able to offer my complete presence, which is the ultimate gift. As Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len says “peace begins with me” and I totally understand that now.

Mahalo for reading! May you all experience infinite peace and blessings!

With deep love & appreciation,

Candace

*Note: This post is not a criticism against psychologists. Psychologists can be incredibly helpful and many are committed to helping people become more aware on their path of self-discovery.