Elle Potter

mildly hilarious, exceptionally fun, and usually barefoot.

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The nude beach is no place for amateur fire-dancers.

“I’m going to Little Beach on Sunday night with my brothers.  Do you want to come?”

I had heard about the infamous Sunday nights at the smaller of two beaches in Makena, Maui.  Drum circles, dancing, impromptu yoga and fire dancing – all at the nude beach.

Of course I was not going to miss that.

Christian was my escort for the evening.  A friend of my friend, he had just graduated as a certified EMT and I spent some afternoons at his house where he made me smoothies with fresh fruit from his yard and played the theme to Requiem for a Dream on the harp.  For the record:  cute boys with harps in Maui are never bad company to keep.

He used to spin fire on these Sunday nights, he told me.  But it had been almost ten months since he had last been.  What, with school occupying most of his time, he just had not been able to get his fire dancing practice in.  Understandable.

Little Beach is separated from Big Beach by a big cliff that juts out, cutting between the two beaches.  To get to the naked side, one must climb up a crude stairway dug into the scratchy volcanic rock face.  (It’s not as dramatic as it sounds – but I am a writer and that is how I choose to describe it)  And then there it was.  Sunday night at Little Beach.

I had never been to a nude beach before.  I had also never seen naked adults kicking around a soccer ball, hula hooping or frolicking in the waves like over-sized children.  It was out of my comfort zone, fascinating – and absolutely beautiful.

It was too chilly to convince me out of my clothes (sixty-five is quite cold on Maui) but I enjoyed sitting quietly as others ran about.  I watched the waves breaking on naked bodies and considered the many possible reasons why men seemed to be much more comfortable wandering around naked than women.

The west-facing beach gave the perfect stage for the setting sun, and applause broke out as the sun finally slipped into the edge of the ocean.  If you have never applauded the setting sun before, I highly recommend it.  I don’t think the sun gets as much credit as it should for each of its stunning displays each night.

With the sun gone, the residual light faded quickly and everyone huddled in to supplement the original drum circle with an audience.  A circular arena was left open in the midst of the crowd, a someone set a pair of poi afire.

The first dancer was beautiful to watch and I was mildly hypnotized by the simple arcs of light.  As her fire went out, Christian next stepped into the ring with a long staff, each end lit.  It was incredible to watch, how controlled his movements were within the fluid expression he maintained.  When a man dances subtly while maintaining the utmost sacred masculinity – well.  Whether or not there’s fire involved, it’s simply hot.

He sat down, placing the staff in between his toes, shifting up into a shoulder stand and then winding his way onto his stomach.  His knees pulled up to balance on the back of his triceps and he slowly, with complete control, pressed up from bakasana (crow pose) into a handstand.  With a fire-stick stuck between his toes.  And came back down, releasing the grip of one foot and standing on it, removing the staff from between his toes and one again, spinning it in mesmerizing circles.

Been-ten-months-I’m-a-little-rusty, my ass.

I refuse to keep anything but fascinating company.

The next dancer had what I can only describe as nunchuks.  In retrospect, I am not sure whether it is because of the appearance of the things or just the way he spun them around.  Either way – Christian’s brother and I both took involuntary steps backwards from the edge of the circle when this guy started dancing.  He flailed and wielded his fiery nunchuks around, kicking and spinning himself in circles as well.  His pants were lit on fire three different times during his performance and the circle of onlookers subtly shifted back, making more surface area for him to hop around in.

But as half-terrifying as it was to watch him fling and flail about, no one walked away.  No one booed him.

One of my teachers has said, “When your life gets messy, the Kula (community) puts on its helmet.”  Meaning, when shit hits the fan, rather than leaving you, the people who love and support you the most will brace themselves in order to stand alongside you through the thick of it.  Playing with fire is no easy task.  It takes courage and certain curiosity.  And just like anything, when you begin to learn something new, there is a learning curve that is guaranteed to be a little messy.  When you begin to live your life with your heart set afire, parts of your life are sure to burn away in order to make space for the new.  People who are close to you are in danger of falling debris – but while they step back to give you space, your strongest support systems are the ones who still will not run away.

As we left that evening, Christian let me carry the torch to lead the way for our group and others across the darkened beach.  I had never been on a beach at nighttime before, nor had I ever carried a torch.  I felt like Indiana Jones.  Yet while I felt the power and prowess of the flame, I did not feel the draw to spin it, to disturb the simplicity of its warm glow.  Not yet – but perhaps soon.

I was, however, honored to illumine the way for someone whose fearlessness with their fire inspired me to consider playing with the light of my own.

Posted January 26th, 2011.


a mouthful.

“Between the sun and the food and the people, I just feel… I feel so…” I struggled to find the right words to describe my experience thus far in Maui to my new friend.  “I just… I FEEL.”

Tomorrow begins day one of the Liquid Love Juice Feast.  Over the past week, I have been working with Tarah to make her vision of sharing this guided juice feast with about forty yogis and yoginis across the country possible and … welp, here it goes!

This feast (or fast, if you must) is about letting go, healing, and having a new set point from which to move forward from.  It is a very conscious decision to nourish my body in a new way and thus make space for so much more.  After a week of eating raw foods and soaking up sunshine, I am ecstatic.  My eyes are bright, my skin is clear, my body feels GOOD in a way that I can barely put into words.  I am happy, I am healthy, I am whole – that mantra keeps playing in my head and heart and it feels GOOD.

Anyone who has known me prior to 2007 would be shocked to hear the things I am eating and that there is no more steak or potatoes.  Not that there is a damn thing wrong with meat or cheese or sweet, sweet beer… this is a chance to experience a change in my diet and thus feel more deeply than I have ever felt before.  I took a bite of an apple today at the beach after a dozen dropbacks and some frolicking in the waves and the sharp, crisp taste was so incredibly potent in a way I have never experienced from an apple.

I have for too long fought a difficult battle with food, feeling it was cumbersome and troublesome to have to pause and eat.  That to eat meant to shove food in my face, get that tell-tale heavy feeling in my belly and move forward from there.  But nourishment is so much more than that… and that is what I am learning.  You can throw yourself into a backbend or crank your leg into a complicated yoga pose, but it will only serve you and your body for so long until it starts to damage you, injure you, or make it impossible to live in that way.  The exact same is true of eating – if you take the time to really feel your way from step to step in the best possible alignment, then you end up at the feast and have savored every flavor along the way.

Trust that I will be keeping you in the loop of how I feel over the course of the next few days.  The feast goes for up to seven days, but I am committed to four since it is my first feast.  And please do not confuse this for a fast – hence my use of the word “feast.”  I am going to be divulging in tons of fresh juices empowered by Superfoods as well as other raw soups.  This is coming from a place of abundance and prosperity, not scarcity or lack.  I will not be starving myself – my body will actually be getting more nutrients than it has been getting on my day-to-day diet when I am left to feed myself.  This is going to be good.  This is going to be hard.  This is going to be… well, it’s gonna be something.

I should probably eat another piece of raw love pie (cherry/blueberry/cacao filling on a raw mac nut/date crust) before bed.  Gonna be the last thing I chew for the next four days.

Posted December 7th, 2010.

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I finished the last mouthfuls of my green smoothie, relishing in the sharp taste of cacao.  It’s my third morning in Hai’ku, Maui and my diet has consisted thus far on raw foods.  Yesterday I swam the churning ocean and practiced yoga twice with Tarah and this morning, I felt sore (in a good way) and in need of a little extra sleep. I started doing a little yoga after breakfast and very clearly heard my body ask me to stop.  I sat on my mat and ate avocado and sunflower nut pate sprinkled with cayenne while the girls practiced.  After I felt nourished, I wandered out onto the porch and curled up on the lounge chair, bundled up in jackets and knee-high socks and scarves.  It is winter, after all.

kitten tries to interrupt my hard work

On Tuesday, I begin a juice feast liquid love live-it (vs DIE-t) with my radical friend, Tarah.  This week of raw foods is the perfect preparation for me, and I know it – but it is going to be quite the challenge.  I feel blessed to share the company of others who are participating with much knowledge and support for my experience.  This is already one of the most nourishing and empowering “vacations” I have ever taken – leisurely mornings on the porch, dabbling in a few projects; an hour or so at the beach, taking in sun on my hungry skin; taking sample shots of kombucha (best. Kombucha. EVER.) and munching on new foods prepared in many different ways; sharing stories girl-to-girl heart-to-heart; bending on the mat and opening my heart to the warm scent of flowers.

Yep.  I feel the island welcoming me brightly into its embrace.

At the end of my morning practice at Studio Maui yesterday, I began to rouse my breath in Savasana to transition up.  I had a clear vision of a big red disc, almost a giant button that rolled into view.   It read, “RAW” in big block letters.  A ladder flew in from my peripheral and reached from the darkness around the button right up into the center of it.  I am taking big steps into a new experience, climbing up towards something different and radical.  Something that I expect will leave me raw and exposed – and I am ever so ready to let go of all this needless negativity that still clings to me.  I understand the expense of taking on a raw diet, of spending a few days on just juice.  I understand this is a commitment.  A sacrifice that I offer up into the fire with a big “swaha!” – an exclamation of devotion to everything I have lived, every mistake I have made, every heartache and heartbreak and fear and pain; the pieces of my life that have made me exactly as I am.

I am happy.  I am whole.  I am healing.

Posted December 4th, 2010.

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The thing I remember most about Hawaii from my visit to Oahu five years ago was the overwhelming smell.  It is a difficult-to-identify conglomeration of warm sand, cool salt water, rich earth and sun-kissed flowers.

When I arrived at 11:30 at the Kahalui Airport last night, the second I stepped off the airplane, I recognized the scent.  To my delight, it was raining and that seemed to just intensify the juiciness.  Tarah picked me up in her VW, and after giggle-laced hugs of excitement, she handed me a can of coconut water.  It was perfect for sipping as we drove down the dark roads in the rain.

We sat and played with the kittens as we chatted before bed, watching the little one run around attacking a crumpled up piece of paper with the determined stealth of a ninja.  By the time I slipped into bed, I was ready for sleep to fall heavy on me, like the rain falling on the roof.

I woke up this morning and crawled out of bed into the little adjacent enclosed porch off my bedroom with my sea-green silk scarf across my lap.  The window was open and a breeze dragged through the room and across my face, quiet as a flower-scented whisper.  The atmosphere still was thick with last night’s rain and I sat smiling while listening to the palm leaves play in the wind.  I practiced my pranayama, sometimes unsure of which sounds were my breath and what sounds were the world outside.

And now, Tarah and I are getting ready to adventure.  Beaching and bending is the general consensus.  Make mine a double.

Posted December 1st, 2010.

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