Journey to the Center of the Universe

Generally, I’m not the type of person that uses the word, energy. You know what I mean. You can feel the energy, maannn.

Kaua’i has a large population of people who use the word, energy. Excessively in some situations.

“Sorry, bro my energy is a little off today.”

“Whoa man, your energy is really negative.”

“Wow, you are such a goddess, I love your energy.”

“Try these goji berries, they will really open up your energy.”

Parading from beach to street, crystals dangling, they will give you a pachouli-scented hug and tell you that they will “see you in the flow.” You give them a friendly smirk and find yourself wondering how many consecutive years they’ve been Couch Surfing, and how many times they’ve said namaste in regular conversation. But I think they are on to something with the energy thing.

I am a believer of energy.

There is so much energy in this world that we take for granted. We have inner energy that ultimately controls our actions, our emotions and our own happiness. We are so focused on our outer energy and interactions with others that we fail to understand why we feel at all. In Western society, harnessing your Chi is a joke; a sarcastic remark.

Chi is real, yo.

Chi or Qi is life force. It’s energy that fills all living things. It is the fundamental principle  that everything has a vital energy that flows under the surface. The interesting and legitimizing factor is that almost every ancient culture in the world has a word for this vital energy that fills us. Called prana in Vedantic philosophy, Shakti in yoga practice, Lüng in Tibetan Buddhism, and mana in Polynesian culture. According to Wikipedia, we even have our own type of life energy in America, which is of course called The Force. Sorry, Star Wars fanatics, I’m not going to go into details but yes, even George Lucas has grasp of this concept.

Chi is real, yo.

In Hawai’i, mana is very real. People speak of it regularly. The beauty of the islands make it easy to feel surges of energy while surrounded by waterfalls and green mountains. Even tourists who find themselves speechless at a mesmerizing lookout or waterfall feel it, whether they know it or not. Although mana fills all things, the mana of the land and ocean is very strong here on Kaua’i. Different places have different types of mana. Some sacred places have a heavy, pressing mana interpreted by light and dark, yin and yang, hina and ku. You might now understand why people say, “dude, that was heavy!”

Mana is something that you feel but cannot see.

Some people have a hard time grasping this concept because it is entirely intangible. I highly recommend that if you have any doubt in your mind about what mana feels like, a journey to the Piko will open your mind. This is place is heavy, dude.

Piko means center in Hawaiian. Geographically, Mt. Wai’ale’ale’s crater is almost centered in the middle of Kaua’i but piko refers to the energy center of the island. It means center in a deeper context. Wai’ale’ale translates to “rippling water” and is the source of life-giving waters on Kaua’i. Known as one of the wettest and rainiest places in the world, this crater has many names. Some call it “the crater,” or “blue hole,” “Pu’u Wai o Wai’ale’ale” which means the heart of rippling waters, but I will continue to call it the Piko.

To get to the Piko, we drove up through Wailua Homesteads, past the Hindu Monastery Temple, to the end of Loop Road (since “loop road” is not actually a loop.) At the end of the road, we geared up with tabis and long pants (uluhe ferns will scratch your legs to smithereens.) We packed plenty of food, water and headlamps just in case. I secured my camera in a plastic bag inside of a water-resistant pack. We knew there was not a chance in the world that we would stay dry on this hike. We prepared to be gone for the entire day. Although, only approximately 7 miles in distance roundtrip, this is one of the more challenging hikes on the island. This hike is for advanced hikers only. We did not see another soul during the day. You could easily break a leg or get lost.

I was lucky enough to experience this adventure with two of my favorite people in the world; my dear friends Samantha Hamilton and Shawn Yokote. Both are very competent hikers (who still fell on their asses a lot.) We followed the stream, climbing over boulders and rock hopping, using arms as much as feet, for a full body workout. Shawn, who grew up on Kauai,  guided us, leaping from boulders, pausing to make sure we hadn’t succumb to the slickness of the stream.  Although he has made the journey over 6 times, pig trails can play tricks on even the most experienced minds. Another reason to practice caution. A little more than half way up the river we bathed in a deep pool (sometimes also called the “blue hole”) to cleanse ourselves of negative thoughts and the exterior grime of civilization. Invigorated, we carried on as steep green walls and the tallest waterfalls I’ve ever seen emerged into view. Some poured from the top of Kawaikini ridge, others spurted straight out of the rock as fresh water springs. Some were so tall, they disappeared before reaching the ground, merging into suspended clouds.

Think Avatar sans the computer-generated imagery overload.

Eventually, the stream cliffed out into a large waterfall and many recent landslides made for loose ground that we avoided by climbing the huge mound to the left of the stream. Climbing over gnarled ohia trees we followed pig trails until we found the main trail that someone had marked with neon pink and green flagging. We followed the main trail over a few more ravines until the landscape opened up into a rocky area which gave us a clear view of the Weeping Wall or Pu’u Wai o Wai’ale’ale. We joined hands before entering the sacred waters and chanted E Ho Mai (oli,) already drenched from the mists of falling water all around us.

E hō mai (i) ka ʻike mai luna mai ē
ʻO nā mea huna noʻeau o nā mele ē
E hō mai, e hō mai, e hō mai ē (a)

Give forth knowledge from above
Every little bit of wisdom contained in song
Give forth, give forth, oh give forth

I did my best to remember all the words (some of the little Hawaiian I know) though my mind was overwhelmed by the mana of this place. We left our bags at the end of the dissipated trail and scrambled over slippery black rocks and tree ferns to bathe in the water that flowed from the top of Wai’ale’ale. Although the cold water chilled our bones, a euphoric sensation filled us. Nothing else seemed to matter in this moment. Suddenly, the world felt right. We were at the center of the universe. The Piko of it all.

Photos do not do this place justice but this one is pretty close!

Photos do not do this place justice but this one is pretty close! Arial view of Pu’u Wai o Wai’ale’ale. The Piko.

You may not yet be a believer in mana. Perhaps it will take a trip to a place like the Piko for you to understand how energy flows unseen in all places, things, and people. Experiences like this, make me think that there is something more important than our interactions, the things we own, and the preconceived notions we have about the world. Experiences like these, solidify the feeling that everything is connected. That there is something bigger than you and your own experiences. That there is more to life than meets the eye.

No matter your religion or spiritual beliefs, the feeling that there is something more than science can explain or society accepts is very alive here in Hawai’i. This feeling can be found anywhere in the world, and for me, here, it is undeniable. You might think it’s crazy that one hike could change your vision of the cosmos, but go and you will find out. This journey is not for everyone, but while keeping an open mind and heart, you may gain a glimpse of eternity.

There is not a doubt in my mind; the Piko o Kaua’i has opened my perspective of existence on this planet.

The cleansing waters of Wai'ale'ale through the vision of Mr. Matt Feeser.

The Weeping Wall. The cleansing waters of Wai’ale’ale through the vision of Mr. Matt Feeser.

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13 responses to “Journey to the Center of the Universe

  1. What a fascinating place! Amazing photographs and a very interesting perspective on “energy” too 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks, Jessie! Come to Kauai, Sam and I will take you (preferably when I get back to the northern hemisphere.) Glad we can read about each other’s (mis)adventures! Cheers, lovely!

  2. Wow! You are an amazing woman Elisa, thanks so much for sharing. I just read this out loud with my mom. Love.

    • Awww that makes me so happy to think of you two reading it aloud! I hope you are enjoying the beautiful Garden Isle. I am there in spirit. Thinking of my inspiring Keene ladies! 🙂

  3. Pingback: Journey to the Center of the Universe | travel adventures·

  4. Elisa,

    I’m speechless because reading this put into words what I’ve felt about energy within myself, people and the world we live in. I’ve subscribed to the thought process of vital energy for years but could never grasp what I was feeling and sensing when I go into the mountains, talk to people, a glance, a quick exchange of words or even looking at a picture someone posts ;). But what you write about here resonates at a deafening frequency but penetrates me with the most sublime peaceful wavelength at the same time … If that makes any sense.

    So again Namaste Elisa 🙏 (funny what you wrote about namaste … I don’t use it regularly and not with many … But feels very appropriate here ☺️) thanks for sharing your writing!

    • Thank you so much for your insightful comment, Johnny! Makes perfect sense 🙂 I believe we tap into a vibration of higher source energy when we go to beautiful and awe-inspiring landscapes. We have the power to feel this alignment all the times, and in landscapes like these, we cannot help but feel that power. Namaste!

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