To think – yesterday at this time I was swimming in an azure blue sea, gazing up at the cloud-filled sky as I back-stroked through the caressing tropical ocean off Castaway Island in Fiji.

Why was I there? To head up the non-fiction group for the Maui Writers Retreat (www.MauiWriters.com)

It started with a helicopter ride from the main island of Fiji.

Up, up and way. Have you ever flown in a helicopter? If not, how can I describe it?

It’s how you fly in your dreams. Effortless. Gliding forward through the air with a calm confidence – no fear, just joy. The helicopeter hovers forward, much like a hummingbird, as it swoops over the hills, villages, streams, islands, white sand beaches, surfing resorts – and there, our pilot tells us, is Tom Hanks’ Castaway Island. I sit up front with a sweeping 360 degree view, my head on a swivel, taking it all in, reveling in the birds’ eye view of the landscape below.

We land on a lush green helicopter pad, no larger than half a tennis court, and descend into the tropical, tree-covered island.

THere are no phones or internet on Castaway Island so you leave the outside world behind. No newspapers with screaming headlines of man’s inhumanity to man. No emails to answer, phone calls to return, crises to mediate. No people walking by talking into their Blue Tooth, no people furtively (or openly) checking their Blackberries during dinner.

What’s left?

Sleeping in until your body tells you it’s time to wake up.

Strolling along the stone path to breakfast. Deciding to go for a hike around the island on the white sand beach, snorkeling above the acquarium-like, life-filled reef, or reading a book on an ocean-front hammock. Or not.

We had our workshops, strategizing and editing sessions on the main island the week before. My group consisted of a woman who’d just been named one of the top 50 women in finance in the U.S., an international leader from EO (Entrepreneurs Organization), a chiropractor from Australia, a sonographer from Hawaii who passionately believes maternal intuition needs to be blended with medical intelligence, and others with equally fascinating projects. A gifted group.

At Castaway though, we are free to do anything we please . . . or nothing at all. No pressure. No worries. No stress. Just bliss.

Getting hot? Walk into the cool, refreshing ocean any moment of the day. Eyes getting heavy? Nap in your thatched-roof burree or on a lounge chair by the pool.

Time for dinner? Just head to the sound of the music. Islanders playing guitar and ukule, strumming, humming, crooning island melodies while you feast on fish caught fresh that day and papayas plucked from a tree that afternoon.

But most of all, join others for far-ranging, free-roaming conversations.

Yes, conversation – the lost art of human connection. It happens naturally here – people from around the world, producers from Hollywood, executives from Google, the “Tree Diva” from Maine, best-selling thriller writers Steve Berry, James Rollins, William Martin, a psychologist from USC, all sharing experiences, insights and observations in this relaxed setting.

Ready to call it a night? Stroll back home along the moon-lit beach or find your way along the meandering path. Lost? Don’t worry, a resort employee will magicallly appear (as he did for me, could it have been the mai tais?) and show you the way home with a flash light.

Go to sleep to the chirp of your friendly, good-luck gecko and the sounds of the trades ruffling the fronds of the nearby palms.

Wake up – do it all over again.

Time to go home? Look around. Imprint, vow to carry this serenity home with you Vow to sustain the centered sureness of what matters – the connection with nature, the connection with others, the connection with yourself.

What POP’d out this week? What I’d like to call Castaway Clarity. A reminder of how life can be, a life that’s a lot closer to how it’s suposed to be.

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