In early December, my husband and I traveled to sunny Quintana Roo, Mexico for two weeks of warmth. This was our first trip to Mexico. The plane ride was surprisingly short - just 3 hours from Chicago. I found the warm sunny climate to be very similar to Hawaii.
Renting a car was easy and economical. Most people speak English and I tried out my high school Spanish (mahalo Mrs. Montgomery!) whenever possible. We drove a half hour past Cancun to a smaller fishing community called Puerto Morelos. We checked into to a basic hotel right on the beach. Then we walked outside to swaying coconut trees, the cry of seagulls and the sandy beach. Inhaling the salt drenched air was the first thing that really made my heart soar as did seeing the blueness of the sea and sky.
The wind was brisk and the ocean choppy. Black Iwa (frigate) birds glide about in the air currents. There were mounds of sargasso seaweed on the shore emitting that special aroma that comes from being in the ocean. Every morning, Mexican men came to pick it up using machines and rakes. By afternoon the seaweed was back.
By the time we left there 10 days later, the ocean was calm and the seaweed had stopped piling up on the beach leaving clear shores with gently lapping water. We saw many different kinds of sea birds: sandpipers, pelicans, herons, cormorants. There were gorgeous bright bougainvillea trees, delicate naupaka blossoms, and lovely plumeria trees. We saw magnificent sunrises and sunsets.
Our hotel was a block from the central square of Puerto Morelos. There was an abundance of restaurants, shops and one small bookstore laid out around the square. There was also one Catholic church - Iglesia de San Jose. We were there for the Feast Day of our Lady of Guadalupe so I decided to go to mass that day.
I got to the small airy church early. There were only a few people so I sat up front near the altar. Pretty soon the deacon, an American from Indianapolis, came up to me and asked if I would be willing to do a reading during the mass. I said sure, though I felt a little funny since Iʻm a Buddhist. But I did go to St. Joseph High School in Hilo so I was familiar with mass. He told me to read a passage from Revelations that was on his ipad. It was entitled, "The Woman and the Dragon." He pointed to the podium where I was to read with a microphone.
My Buddhist name is Ryushin which means Dragon Heart. My husband, who is also my Buddhist teacher, named me that because of the way I performed Hawaiian chants so of course I loved the title of the passage.
The mass began. I was the first one to do a reading. I walked slowly up to the podium which was near the altar. The deacon gave me the microphone and his ipad.
I faced the congregation which had filled up with quite a few Mexicans families by then.
I began to read, " A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head..." Suddenly, tears sprung to my eyes, and I choked up. The image was so beautiful! I managed to get through reading about the dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads and how itʻs great tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth and its encounter with the Woman.
After the mass, I thought about the line that caused my tears to spontaneously arise. What were those tears about? They definitely had to do with the heart and beauty. I finally realized the deep abiding love that Our Lady of Guadalupe represents is in each one of us, whether we see it or not.
For me Hula and Zen are the practice of this love. Hula and Zen practice include lifeʻs joy, anger and sorrow. It requires patience and forgiveness, generosity and wisdom. The practice nurtures and opens the sore and tender parts in our hearts to ourselves and to others. Thatʻs how we heal.
We who dance together are like a family because dancing is a very intimate thing. Itʻs hard to dance when we hold mistakes, grudges, anger and insecurity in our hearts and thus close off to life. These qualities freeze us into a certain mindset and keep us from finding our true purpose in this life.
Finding our purpose and meaning is a deep spiritual practice and requires an intentional cultivation of patience, forgiveness and wisdom. The foundation of all these blessings is aloha (love). Honor the cracks in life, for they let the light in.
Best wishes for the New Year!
Malama pono (take good care of your body, mind, heart),
June Kaililani Ryushin Tanoue
Kumu Hula and Sensei
P.S. Warm up with our slideshow of photos from our trip to Mexico and the beautiful Carribean ocean! Hauʻoli Makahiki Hou (Happy New Year) to you and your ʻOhana (family)!