Photo: Eric Miyasato
There I was looking up into the magnificent evening skies with wonderment. I lost myself to the stars. There were no thoughts of the past and no dreaming of a future. I was being present. I was sharing these moments with someone I deeply care for in one of the most beautiful places on earth, the island of Hawaiʻi. Each day, the island provided us with opportunities to connect with the ʻāina (land) and with each other. Our senses were heightened by the sweet fragrance of awapuhi (wild ginger), the beauty of the island’s majestic landscape, and the Aloha spirit of its people. This surreal experience was significant. We were living in the moment.
Most of our time is spent on thinking about what “could’ve, should’ve, would’ve” and worrying or planning for the future but rarely do we surrender ourselves to the freedom and peace of the now. Wally Amos embraces this practice and during my interview with him, he shares how living moment-to-moment provides him with a joyful life.
“The only time is now”, says Amos. “Over the years, I have built a stronger sense of spirituality. It has helped me become more aware of my feelings and thoughts, giving me a better chance of remaining in the here and now.”
Amos is an iconic figure in American culture, known as the father of the gourmet cookie industry and for creating the “Famous Amos” cookie empire. He is friendly and very personable, always wearing his signature smile and colorful watermelon hat. When reading his biography, you learn about his most positive and challenging milestones but what you don’t know is his belief system on living life.
He is transparent about his personal life, sharing his experiences with four failed marriages and admitting to not having a close relationship with his children. There is also no hesitation in talking about the collapse of his prior business endeavors. What makes Amos courageous is that he doesn’t use these experiences as excuses to hang onto yesterday. He doesn’t live in the past. Instead, he says “Let’s see what tomorrow brings. Until then, let’s enjoy the now.” Each of us defines success in many ways and for Amos, it’s being able to live in the moment. This realization didn’t happen overnight. It takes practice and after twenty years, it’s become an innate way of living. As a result, “I live a joyful life. I am at peace with myself.”
Amos is also passionate about bringing joy to others through his love of cookies. His childhood experience of being raised by his Aunt Della made a lasting impression. Amos says she gave him “recipes for life”. He returned to his roots and is selling handmade cookies again with his latest business venture, The Cookie Kahuna. The memories of his Aunt Della along with the cookies she made brought comfort to Amos. If making these cookies will bring the same type of positive feelings and memories to others, then he believes that everyone should have the opportunity to experience the cookie.
I grew up on the crunchy and mass-produced “Famous Amos” cookies so when I bit into his handmade cookies, it was a different experience. The cookie was softer, made with whole ingredients, and I craved for a glass of milk – like when I was a little kid. This was the taste that made him famous! All his cookies are made by hand and baked in Hawaiʻi.
There was an instant connection when he first stepped foot onto the island of Oahu. He knew this was where he was supposed to be. “Everything that happens is connected with meaning,” Amos explains. He has made Hawaiʻi home since 1977. Amos is truly living moment-to-moment. He doesn’t hold onto to the fear, shame, disappointment, and pain of the past. My time with Amos taught me that we donʻt have to hurt. When we become more aware of ourselves and quiet our mind, “we let things be exactly as they are,” he says. “It is what it is.” Giving up control is challenging because we fear the unknown. “Let yourself go to experience the freedom and wonder of the present. You don’t know how long you are going to be lost,” says Amos. “And that’s okay.”