Joy amidst the Chaos!

We were just about to begin our last retreat when the Tsunami hit Hawaii

March 11, 2011 a devastating earthquake struck Japan. We were among the many people in Hawaii who were forced to evacuate and prepare for a tsunami. Our area was hit early the morning of March 12, with a series of up to 19 foot waves. Fortunately we had a lot of warning and unlike so many dear souls in Japan; we had plenty of time to evacuate. I realize many people had no idea of how hard Hawaii was hit. Here is our story…

tsunami-articleClick here to see the whole image gallery

It was an emotional several days! We were at our retreat house which is right next to the ocean. We enjoyed an incredible week with the ‘Couples’ retreat in February and had just completed our 2nd retreat which was for both ‘couples and singles’ just a few days prior. Several participants were staying one last evening and a number of new people arrived early for our last retreat. My assistant Dianna and I spent the entire day preparing for the upcoming retreat and everything was ready right down to the last detail. We decided to treat ourselves to a lovely restaurant dinner. It was 8:30pm when the waiter came over to our table informing me I had a phone call. “Hannelore, we have just been informed there has been a massive earthquake in Japan and a tsunami is heading for Hawaii …we have to evacuate”. We immediately returned to the retreat house.

Amidst the sirens, which went off every 20 minutes, we packed as much as we could. Everyone rallied together to help. All the participants then moved to higher ground and were safe in their new locations. Dianna and I were the last two remaining. It was almost 1:30am and the police insisted we leave. From a safer and higher location we waited and watched the news unfold.

My heart and prayers go to all the many lives affected in Japan.

We were told the tsunami would arrive here on Big Island, the island of ‘Hawaii’, around 3am – Kauai first, then Oahu, then Maui and then us. There were webcams set up on the other islands so we were able to watch ‘live’ as the waves hit. It seemed it was going to be another false alarm. It was a dark evening so we were not able to see the waves come in. At first light we were shocked to see the amount of debris in our precious bay.

tsunami-article-2Several of our kayaks were floating on the water along with the entire roof of the big blue house from down the road. Included in the debris was what was left of the three story blue house, four other houses, not to mention several vehicles, three hot tubs – one of which was ours – plastic chairs, beds, broken up furniture, including one of my shade canopies and some of my camping equipment. Several other houses were destroyed and have now been removed while others are still undergoing repairs. I heard about one couple who decided it was safe to return. It was still dark as they pulled up to their house. Their car headlights were on when they saw a 19foot wall of water heading directly toward them. They did not have time to turn their car around, got out and ran to higher ground. Luckily the wave missed them, albeit their car was tossed into the ocean. Another couple experienced a similar situation but only had time to run up to a tree and hold on. The waves washed over them but luckily they were not swept away. Many of the businesses in the town of Kailua, Kona on Ali’i Drive were severely damaged and some destroyed as the waves washed through and into hotels and local shops. There are many videos that have been posted on You-Tube.

It was a long wait before we were allowed to return to our house as there was a potential gas leak. It was around 3pm when all was safe. My heart sank when I saw the damage. I have come to this location for 10 years so it is my home away from home with many cherished memories. At first sight, I thought it was beyond repair as many of the major support posts were shifted and severely damaged. The front deck was unstable and collapsing, our gathering room and kitchen were also sinking in. The stairs to the deck were ripped to the side, the main gate and garage door were destroyed and the fridge, washer and dryer along with all else in the garage were tossed like dice. The hot tub was washed away as well as all the shrubs and plants around the house and the water pipes were severely damaged. The beach was full of debris, both on land and in the water. It was a shocking site.

Needless to say, I had to find another retreat location for 16 of us! After numerous phone calls to other facilities, I reached Michael Hammer. I was thrilled to discover he was able to accommodate our group. Within 20 minutes of realizing we could no longer hold the retreat in our beloved location, we were blessed with a new space.

tsunami-article-3Michael owns the Whale Song Sanctuary which is a spectacular location that overlooks the bay. Traditionally all retreat spaces are booked at least a full year in advance! When I called Michael he informed me that his space was completely full up to and including the day before and will be full the day after our retreat was to end. He said it was extremely unusual but for some reason it was available the full week we needed. I had a deep sense of trust that we would be taken care of. What a remarkable example of allowing that trust and to see it manifest....Divine Intervention!

We had many helping hands, sifting thru and salvaging what was left in the debris and in moving to our new location. I am especially appreciative of Dianna and Wendy, who gave of their free time and went above and beyond making our move appear to flow with ease and grace.

I am also, enormously grateful to Dolphin Dave, who is and has always been a huge part of my retreats. David was a tremendous support and offered a wonderful calming effect on all participants.

As much as I was distraught to see the damage and the condition of the bay, I also marveled at how quickly things were cleaned up. It was extremely touching to see how readily the community and people from all parts of the island rallied together. They helped the homeowners who experienced damage to their property and large crowds gathered to clean the debris on the beach. It was not an easy task as there was a lot of rubble under the water and there were substantial waves to contend with. On the scheduled day our group went to visit the volcano, a community clean up was organized. Pictures of this event are included in the photo gallery. What I love about these pictures is that you can see the joy in people’s faces as they were being of service.

I thank my entire group at the retreat as everyone spent much of their free time contributing to the clean up. We all agreed it felt great to be part of that process. I also give thanks to the entire community and to Michael Hammer and his staff for accommodating us at such short notice. We experienced an incredible retreat. I am still in awe of the miracles that unfolded!

I received many calls and emails to find out if we were okay. I thank you all for your prayers and support! Many have inquired about the dolphins and whales.

Here is what I also find miraculous! The Dolphins and Whales taught us that there is indeed JOY amidst the Chaos! Right after the tsunami and during the many days that followed, they were in the bay. The dolphins were playfully spinning and leaping about in the water and the Humpback Whales brought their babies in to rest and to play. A dear friend who was in the water during clean up saw a dolphin with an empty cardboard 6 pack on its fin. He was at first concerned for the dolphin, only to find that it swam around him in circles inviting him to play. It dropped the 6 pack for him to pick up and then proceeded to pick it up on its fin once again. Much the same way they play ‘leaf tag’ with us. I have a video of this play on my Communing with Dolphins website.


I am happy to report our beloved house was repaired. In fact, I always book an additional 3 days after the retreats are complete to allow the participant’s time to adjust before returning home. We moved the entire group back to the house for those last 3 days…albeit still minus a hot tub, but with running water, the foundation posts repaired and an engineer’s stamp of approval. It felt great to return to our oceanfront location which continues to be improved and will be better than ever before.

Life does go on. In every moment we are given the opportunity to choose where to place our focus. We can focus on the devastation, and the incredible loss, or we can choose to move forward and come together as a community and be of selfless service to each other.

My dear friend Shawn Gallaway, who is a singer/songwriter and who also attended our retreat, says it beautifully in his song ‘I choose love’. I invite you to visit his website to watch his DVD. He shares an important message for us to remember as we experience the changes on the planet and in our lives.

Remember – you are the light you wish to see.

Thank you for spending this time with me and for being part of my Spiritual Community.

I will keep in touch,

Much love and blessings,