When I first walked the streets of New York City, right after moving into an apartment in Chelsea, twenty-something years ago, I felt something I’d never felt before: a wave of collective unconsciousness. It was the people I felt. This was long before any spiritual shenanigans were even on my radar. I felt thunderstruck by the collective unconsciousness of the people walking briskly around me, enveloping me like a joyful, rushing wind. It was a one-time event. It didn’t speak to interconnectivity and relationship; it spoke to a giant smear made of individual colors, or a wave made of innumerable droplets. Perhaps it was sweeping me into its fold, welcoming me as another color.
A place like New York is all about where you’re going mentally. You expend your energy on human mental space—career goals, the stock market, the arts, hobbies, dancing, being seen—and not just being seen, but trying to be seen a certain way, whatever that is for you. It’s a life of hustle and bustle, street smarts and go-go-go! You don’t want to sleep for fear of missing something. It’s no wonder I felt the collective smear of humanity—that’s what New York is.
When I first walked the ground of Hawaii, I felt as if everything was alive and inviting in a joyful, playful way. Truly, it was like the TV show LOST come to life. Everything was alive unto itself; every leaf, every grain of dirt, an adventure.
Plus, feral chickens. Hilarious.
This didn’t hit me like a wave, it just was. In New York, human consciousness sculpts and shapes New York. In Hawaii, Hawaii sculpts and shapes human consciousness. In New York, I was bowled over (in a joyful way) by the collective unconsciousness of humanity. In Hawaii, I live in constant relationship with multiple consciousnesses.
New York is unconscious. Hawaii is conscious. New York is people expressing themselves; Hawaii is expressing that which transcends and includes selves. New Yorkers are concerned with where they perceive themselves to be going “in life.” Hawaii is life. If nothing else, Hawaii is a meditation on paying attention to where you are physically, right now. Hawaii disciplines you, which gives you discipline.
New York asks that you repress yourself and squeeze that self through an image to become a cog in the machine. Hawaii is organic and demands that you be you. New York is comprised of millions of people packed together, yet living in isolation. Hawaii recognizes you as family. There are far fewer people and we’re living on an island in the middle of the ocean. We need each other and that means needing to be real with each other, which we can’t be until we are real with ourselves.
When last I visited New York, I only called a couple of friends. I spent most of my time in Washington Square Park enthralled with butterflies. They reminded me of home. And they reminded me that New York is their home. And their home will only be overshadowed by the human shadow for so long.