Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Changes

I huli i ke ola, e huli i ke ola
In order to change your life, change your life

(Hawaiian proverb created by me)

Creation, however, whenever, or if ever it began, was and is a process of change. Mythologically, we can speak of the First Wave created by the mating or merger of W√§kea, Chaos, and Papa, Order. That first wave gave birth to all other waves, and all of Creation is composed of waves (at least according to this story).

Regardless of whether you believe that, what we do know is that everything we are aware of is in a constant process of change, whether we call it waves, vibrations, frequencies, or whatever. If it exists, it moves. Water, stone, fire, wind, plants, animals, humans... they all exist in a state of change. Everything that we call stable, or solid, or even dead, is still moving, and therefore changing.
In order for change to produce any kind of experience, it must partake of the qualities of both chaos and order. This results in movement within a pattern, what we usually call waves, vibrations, or frequencies. Another way to say it is that there must be both movement and resistance to movement to produce a pattern.

It's easy enough to see this operating in the physical world, especially at the level of electrons, atoms, and molecules. It's also evident in Nature with the changes in earth structures, the passing of seasons and days, and cycle of birth, growth, and death in plants, animals. and people. It's evident as well in the physical changes in our human bodies. When there is too much movement, as when water gets too hot to remain a liquid or when human hearts beat too rapidly to sustain life, there has to be a change of state--water becomes vapor or human beings die. When there is too little movement, as when water or humans become too cold, there also has to be a change of state--water becomes ice and human beings die. In between, everything has a range of movement or change in which it can maintain it's viability as an entity or organism.

The concept is just as valid, although not as evident at first, in the thinking and behavior of human beings. In order to exist as human beings we must keep changing emotionally, mentally, and spiritually to some degree. In order to thrive as human beings (which is not the same at all as merely existing) we must grow to the utmost of our potential. When we have outgrown the possibilities afforded by one current pattern of living, and if thriving is our intention, then we must change our pattern of living. The time will come for all of us when we have outgrown our individual possibilities for life on earth, and then each one of us will transform into something else. Until that happens, though, we still have the choice between existing or thriving.

When you outgrow the possibilities of any lifestyle, in order to thrive you have to make a major change and a whole new phase of growth takes place. When that becomes stale, you have to change again. I will never forget, after living an incredibly exciting life in West Africa for seven years, the last time I spent an evening with the Berbers of Mauritania in the Sahara, sitting on a carpet on the sand at sunset outside a tent while the men in front of me prayed to Mecca and the women prepared a meal behind me and the camels made their gutteral sounds while they chewed their cud and the stars began to fill the sky. It was wonderfully exotic, and I felt bored out of my skull, because I'd done that too many times. That's when I decided to return to the States, not having any idea of what I would do or how I would take care of my family. Was it easy? No. Was it exciting? Not always. Sometimes it was pretty scary. Did I thrive? Oh, yes.  

Since then I have made many more changes, in where I lived and what I did and how I did it, each time driven by the desire to thrive instead of exist. And I expect to make more changes and thrive some more.

Change will happen, because life is a wave. We can either ride the wave or be pushed by it, but change will happen no matter how much we wish it wouldn't. What will happen? Where will will it take you? How will we cope? We have no idea. When we don't know the answers to those questions and we're determined to thrive anyway, that's called adventure.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Blessed Are The Peacemakers

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God." So says Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount as recorded in Matthew 5:9 by the King James version of the Bible. Like many good sayings in the Bible, however, it needs clarification.

What exactly is a peacemaker? This is a very important question because there are some seriously distorted views roaming around the planet.

In the Wild West of the late 1800s in the United States the term "Peacemaker" was applied to a .45 caliber Colt revolver based on the logic that the way to create peace was to kill whatever disturbed it. Unfortunately, this kind of logic is still applied when nations send "peace-keeping" forces to other nations to quell unrest. While this may be a political necessity at times, it is really "conflict control" rather than peace-keeping.

Peace is a harmonious state of mind, body and society in which conflict is either absent or resolved without violence and in which relationships are mutually empowering and cooperative. A peacemaker, then, is one who facilitates this kind of state.

That means we can find peacemakers in the healing professions among nurses, doctors, faith and psychic healers, traditional and neo-shamans, and therapists of all sorts.

There are peacemakers among spiritual advisors, counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists.
Peacemakers exist in the ranks of management consultants, negotiators, government agencies and businesses which foster peace by providing the means for it through technology and services.

Politics makes strange bedfellows and some of them are true peacemakers. Believe it or not, the military services also have real peacemakers.

The test of a peacemaker is not his or her profession or avocation, but rather the the intent, the approach, and the results.

The intent has to do with what you are trying to accomplish. If, as a healer, your intent is only to kill a virus or prove the effectiveness of a technique, you are not a peacemaker even if a state of peace in the patient comes about. If you negotiate the best possible deal for your company and peace happens to occur between the companies, you are not a peacemaker. You become a peacemaker when creating peace is the framework for your activity.

The approach refers to the means you use, because the means determines the end. Violence may stop or suppress other violence, but there won't be peace without a switch to peaceful means. A war can be "won" with arms, but peace has to come from cooperation.

The results are a matter not only of skill, but also of persistence. A particular application of skill or technique may not work in a given situation, but it is more important that you keep on trying to find a way toward peace that does work.

So you may already be a peacemaker without realizing it; you may decide to alter your life and become one; or you may know that you are one now. Whatever the case may be there is nothing greater you can do.

You may ask why I say that. Instead of a long explanation I'll give you a short Hawaiian proverb:

He ali'i ka la'i, he haku na ke aloha
"Peace is a chief, the lord of love"
(where peace is, there love abides also)

Friday, November 11, 2016

Shamanic Healing In The Wake Of A Disaster

In response to many requests I am posting a shamanic-style meditation for helping all those involved in the aftermath of any type of disaster.

1. It doesn't matter where you are or what posture you are in, and you don't have to close your eyes if you don't want to. If I have to tell you not to close your eyes while you are driving, then you need help, too.

2. Imagine a comfortable place. It could be out in Nature or in a building, it doesn't matter as long as it's comfortable to you.

3. Ask for a symbol of all the people who were hurt in any way, physically, emotionally, mentally, or materially. Let the symbol take the form of a single natural or man-made object, a sound, or a feeling. This allows you to focus on helping many people without strain. If you want to ask someone or something specific to provide you with the symbol. go ahead. Otherwise, just trust and ask.

4. When something new or different appears in your imagined comfortable place, accept that as the symbol. If the symbol needs fixing or healing, use your imagination to fix it or heal it. If the symbol looks or feels fine, do something to make it even better, or imagine filling it with strong, beautiful energy in the form of light or sound. When you are finished, silently say something like "amama," "so be it," or "amen."

5. Next, ask for a symbol of all those involved in helping the people who were hurt, and follow the same guidelines given above. You can do this for as many symbols for as many different things as you want, such as the animals, the plants, and the buildings, but I suggest that you do it for the hurt ones and the helpers, at least.

6. When you are all finished, just say, "Mahalo," or "Thank you," and trust that the good powers in the universe will respond by manifesting your intentions in whatever way is possible.

7. Repeat the process whenever you feel moved to, for this problem or any other that may come up.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Meaning Of Life

In one of my writings I tell the story of a man who searches the whole world for someone who can tell him the meaning of life. Finally, after much struggle, he finds a guru at the top of a mountain who tells him, "Life is just a bowl of cherries." When the man gets upset, the guru says, "All right, life is not just a bowl of cherries."

The purpose of the story was to illustrate the first principle of Huna: The world is what you think it is. Logically, then, life means what you think it means. That, however, is neither satisfying nor very enlightening. Isn't there a better, or at least a more clear, way of discovering the meaning of life? Well, of course there is, because there's always another way to do anything (a corollary of the second and seventh principles). I'll suggest two ways right now.

The first way, however, requires that you give up the notion that the meaning of life can be put into words. The meaning of life expresses itself in the living of life, not in a set of words about the living of life.

It only takes a little observation to realize that life is a process of change and growth, adaptation and renewal, healing and learning, creativity and transformation. When the process of life is expressing itself freely the subjective experience is one of physical, emotional, mental, and/or spiritual pleasure in varying degrees. If you strongly resist any part of the process of life, you will experience varying degrees of physical, emotional, mental, and/or spiritual pain.

There is a natural kind of resistance in life which plays the role of a change agent, or catalyst, to enhance the process. It is natural, for instance, to experience an initial resistance when anything changes in your life, whether for good or for bad. Regardless of the nature of the change, or even what we might term the "volume" of the change, what matters most as far as effects go is the way you respond to the change. In 1967 two U.S. Navy researchers named Holmes and Rahe published a scale of positive and negative events ranging from the death of a spouse to taking a vacation or spending Christmas alone and attempted to correlate the number and type of changes within a year to a person's state of health in the following year. In a follow-up study, researcher Suzanne Kobassa of the University of Chicago noted that some people with high stress scores didn't get sick, and others with low scores did get sick. She also noted that those who had high scores and didn't get sick shared some common characteristics: a life plan with established priorities (3rd Principle); a high level of self esteem (5th Principle); an internal sense of control (6th Principle); and an action orientation (7th principle).

To make this concept more clear, negative effects of stress only occur when the initial resistance to the event is acute (very strong) or chronic (sustained over a period of time). Extrapolating from the information above, this would tend to happen when a person
  1. does not have a life plan or priorities;
  2. has a low level of self esteem;
  3. has a sense of being out of control; and
  4. gets stuck in reactions rather than taking action.
Change is part of the life process, and so is resisting change. That's what creates a wave. Change is only a problem, and only causes pain, when reactions are unnatural, rather than natural. An unnatural reaction, which is probably better called a learned reaction that resists life instead of promoting it, consists of some combination or variation of Fear, Anger, or Doubt. The more fear, anger or doubt you apply to any part of the life process, the more physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual pain you will experience. In short, as you participate more fully in the process of living, then your life will seem to have more meaning, and whenever you go against that process, life will seem less meaningful.

The second way of discovering the meaning of life takes a different approach. In this case, it recognizes that when many people ask about the meaning of life, they are really asking "What is the purpose of life?" And underneath or behind that question is "How can I make my life more meaningful (i.e., important, purposeful, or worthwhile)?"

Unfortunately, the best answer I can give to that question is to start doing something that you believe is important, purposeful, or worthwhile. You don't need anyone's permission and you don't have to live according to someone else's idea of a meaningful life, but sometimes other people do have good suggestions. It will be much more difficult to just start doing something to the degree that you
  1. do not have a life plan or priorities;
  2. have a low level of self esteem;
  3. have a sense of being out of control; or
  4. get stuck in reactions rather than taking action.
On the other hand, if that's the case, then you can get a good start on giving your life more meaning by resolving those issues first.

If you are one of those rare people who are born with a clear purpose, or one of those equally rare people to whom God, or angels or spirits have told you directly what you are to do (and you have believed the message), then congratulations. You are probably only reading this article out of intellectual interest. But, if you are like most people in the world, the bad news is that, while it's not impossible that some external source might someday give you a meaningful purpose that you find acceptable, the greater likelihood is that that won't happen. The good news is that you don't have to wait around for external sources to make up their minds. You can, whenever you wish, screw up your courage, take a deep breath, make a great leap of faith, and choose your own purpose.

So, friend, how are you treating life today?

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Today Is Different

Once I was taking a morning walk through a familiar neighborhood, beside a familiar golf course, along a familiar coastline, past familiar trees and flowers, to a familiar cliff overlooking the ocean. 

My Body was giving me perceptions of sights, sounds, smells and feelings while my Mind was registering patterns and making interpretations. "That's a street, that's a path, that's a tree, that's grass, that's a cloud, that's the ocean...." said my Body. "Ho hum, here's the same old walk again," said my Mind."Borrring!"

Then my Spirit interrupted. "Wait a minute! Look again. That leaf wasn't there yesterday. Those clouds and those waves are not the same ones, either. And did you ever notice that particular ridge outlined in that particular way by the sun? Look again. Today is different."

Suddenly I realized, in a very real and physical way, that my Spirit was right. It was not only a different day, it was, by any meaningful definition of reality, a whole new world. It only seemed the same because I was looking at it through old eyes.

One very useful characteristic of human beings is our ability to recognize patterns, and to apply pattern recognition to our environment in thousands of practical ways.
In the natural environment we can learn weather patterns that will help us to prepare for planting or hunting or sheltering, animal and plant patterns that will assist in our food gathering and production, rock and land and water and star patterns that will help us on our journeys. I have used such patterns on numerous occasions throughout my life for such things as finding my way through the Sahara Desert, navigating across stretches of open ocean, and getting in and out of wilderness areas on Kauai.

In an urban environment we can learn street and traffic patterns to help us go where we want to go, building and address patterns to help us find what we want to find, and people patterns that will help us to define who is doing what and why. In my travels around the world I have encountered people wearing many different kinds of costumes whom I was still able to acknowledge as policemen because of pattern recognition. And this same abiity has enabled me to drive a car in various countries, even when it was necessary to vary the pattern for driving on the left or the right.
We can recognize a forest, regardless of the types of trees that are in it. We can recognize dogs and cats, regardless of the specific breeds. We are really, really good at recognizing patterns.

However, there is a serious potential problem with pattern recognition. The problem occurs when we stop looking at the world as it is, and begin looking at the patterns instead. When we stop looking at people, and look only at patterns of people, we can fall easily into the traps of racism, prejudice, bias and bigotry. When we stop looking at our environment and look only at patterns that we superimpose on the environment, the we lose touch with the power and healing and adventure and awesome variety that actually exists there. And when we stop looking at ourselves, and look only at some perceived pattern of ourselves, we tend to identify with the pattern and become afraid of change.

Perhaps this is the key to the age-old idea that most people are asleep and that a true perception of reality requires that they wake up somehow. If so, then they aren't really asleep at all. They are just looking at the world through old patterns, through old eyes. The solution, then, is not to wake up; it is to look differently.

Not everyone wants to do that, but if you do, here is a suggestion. In some classes I do an exercise which consists of having people look at a familiar environment and find something new in it. To begin with, "look" with any of your senses for something you never noticed before, or use a sense that you've never used in a particular way for a particular thing in that environment. As a variation, when you enter a new environment, purposely look up, down, and in the corners for details that you might normally gloss over. With a lot of practice, you'll be able to sense your world differently more often. And if you forget, as I still do from time to time, trust that Spirit will remind you.

Finally, if you are truly interested in learning how to see differently, it's a good idea to study just enough science and metaphysics to understand that the Universe is changing constantly, even while it keeps repeating patterns. Which means that the patterns are always changing, too. There is power in that knowledge, and if you love life enough you can find it by putting your old eyes aside and using new ones.

Yesterday was, and never will be again. Tomorrow isn't, and can't be reached. Today neither was nor will be. Today is different.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

A Living Philosophy

As important as it is to have a philosophy of life, it is equally as important to have some guidelines for practicing that philosophy. Here is a format that I use every morning to remind myself of my philosophy, to clear my mind and clarify my purpose, to stabilize and harmonize my feelings and emotions, and to relax my body and charge it up for the activities of the day. I do it as if I were a teacher to myself. Sometimes I do it very briefly on a very busy day, but whenever I have the time I work with it for awhile.

Be Aware that the world is what you think it is, so decide what you want to believe today. It is up to you, after all. No one forces you to think in a particular way. It is totally up to you whether you think the world is a place of struggle and pain and danger, or a place of beauty and light and magic. Outside events do not rule how you feel, but the way you interpret them does.

Be Free because there are no limits, so give yourself the right to change your mind. An amazing number of people limit themselves unnecessarily because they feel they don't deserve to be happy or successful, due to something they've done or didn't do in the past. If this is your problem you have to forgive yourself and move on, or forever be bound by the chains you've put around yourself with a lock to which only you have the key. It doesn't matter who else says you don't have the right, or even that you do have the right. You will never have it until you give it to yourself.

Be Focused because energy flows where attention goes, so increase your desire to live the life you choose. You'll probably read this again several times in different forms, but the secret to increasing your desire to live the life you choose is to focus on the benefits of doing that and to decide that those benefits are really important to you. When the benefits become important enough then the focus will be automatic.

Be Here because now is the moment of power, so start right now with some kind of action to be, do, or have what you want. You can't do anything yesterday, and you can't do anything tomorrow. You can only do something right now. But "right now" is like a foreign country to people who spend most of their time dwelling on the past or the future. If you aren't used to it, it isn't easy to stay centered in the present moment, but the way to practice is to consciously breathe, consciously look at colors and shapes, consciously listen to the sounds you can hear, and consciously touch what is in your reach. And then consciously act, even in the smallest way, in a direction of your choice. The past and the future can be interesting places to visit, but you wouldn't want to live there even if you could. Your real home is here and now.

Be Happy because love is the source of power, so enjoy and acknowledge the good that is. If you aren't happy, get happy. How can you do that when so many awful things are going on? Well, "faking it till you make it" is one way, but I'll give you a simpler way that works for me and for thousands of others. A very ancient technique, it's called "count your blessings." You do it by actively seeking out and feeling appreciation for all the good things you can find. This includes all the good experiences you've ever had, no matter how minor they may seem; all the skills you've ever learned, and don't forget walking, talking and dressing; all the beauty and wonder you can discover in the world around you; all the good things that you see and hear about that other people do; and all the good things that you want to experience in the future. I'm not suggesting that you pretend bad things don't exist, because this is a practical teaching, after all. But the more you are filled with an awareness of goodness, the easier it is to deal with the bad.

Be Confident because all power comes from within, so always trust yourself. You can't trust people to always do what you want, because they have their own priorities and agendas which may or may not agree with yours. You can't trust the world to always be the way you want it to be, because there are so many forces and influences at work which may not be moving in the direction you want things to go. But you can always trust that you have the power to change what you can change, adapt when you're unable to make changes, and increase your skills by study and practice. One of the best posters I ever saw was of a sailor at sea in his boat, with a caption that read "You can't control the wind, but you can always adjust your sail."

Be Positive because effectiveness is the measure of success, so always expect the best. Some people believe in preparing for the worst, so they won't get any nasty surprises. There are two problems with that. First, they usually get nasty surprises anyway; and second, they seldom get any good surprises. Other people avoid optimism because they are afraid of being disappointed. Let's take a hard look at that. Disappointment is being unhappy with the way things have turned out. So these people are not planning for success because their plans might not work and then they might feel bad. And they are so afraid of feeling bad that they'd rather not feel good. There's something about that logic that escapes me. Yes, things might not turn out the way you want and you might decide to feel bad. So? If you still want to be effective you try something different and start again. Let me give you a quote from Serge Kahili King: "People don't fail, plans do. People just give up or make new plans."

Friday, September 9, 2016

Blessings

We put a great deal of emphasis on blessings in our Huna work. The "Aloha Spirit" booklet is all about blessings, as an example, and we begin and end all our meetings and classes and workshops with a blessing of some kind. Ancient Hawaiians blessed their homes, their tools, their canoes, and each other abundantly, and modern Hawaiians and residents of Hawaii still bless homes, offices, hotels and other buildings.

A dictionary definition of blessing is "to will good; to bestow favor and benefits; to praise." Even though blessings can be in the form of material gifts and helpful behavior, our tendency most of the time is to think of blessings in terms of words.

Behind all of this is a belief in two things: the power of words, and the power of good intentions. The power of words is that of helping us to concentrate our intentions. The power of the good intentions themselves has a more esoteric basis. It is essentially an expectation that someone or something will hear and respond to our declaration or our action, whether it's because they've heard it with their physical ears or seen it written with their physical eyes, or because it was telepathically received and acted upon consciously or subconsciously.

A blessing is not the same as a prayer, although a prayer may contain a blessing. Prayers are usually requests (the root of "to pray" means "to ask"), but they can actually take many forms. The famous "Lord's Prayer" of the New Testament (Matthew 6:9-13) uses the following formula, which starts out with praise, then tells God what to do, and ends with praise:

Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

Although most people think of this as asking God for something, that is due to a very modern assumption that when you want something from God you have to ask, as if God might or might not grant your wish. This is not how ancient people prayed, because they knew the importance of confident expectation. Instead, they gave appropriate praise to God, or whatever gods they worshipped, and then laid out in clear, confident terms exactly what they expected God to do. The Book of Psalms is full of this kind of prayer, and one good example is the famous 23rd Psalm.

Blessing is found all over the world in one form or another. In doing a little research I came up with these tidbits of information from the Bible which you may find interesting. These quotes are from the King James version. The first two blessings mentioned in the Bible: 1. Genesis 1:3 - And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. 2. Genesis 1:4: And God saw the light, that it was good. The first example of teaching man to bless: Numbers 6:22-26 - And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying "Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying "On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them, The Lord bless thee and keep thee; the Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious to thee; the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace."

The first request for a blessing (as a material gift) and the first granting of a blessing between people: Judges 1:15 - And she (Achsah, Caleb's daughter) said unto him, Give me a blessing...give me springs of water. And Caleb gave her the...springs.

The first blessing of God by man (Noah): Genesis 9:26 - And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of Shem. However, an alternate translation is, Blessed by the Lord my God be Shem, which would change it to the first blessing given to one man by another on behalf of God. And then the first blessing of God by man (Melchizedek) would be from Genesis 14:20 - Blessed be the most high God.
The first indication of one person blessing another with words: Genesis 14:19 - And he (Melchizedek) blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God.

Insincere blessings: Psalms 62:4 - They bless with their mouth, but they curse inwardly.

First blessing of the New Testament (Sermon on the Mount): Matthew 5:3 - Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

The use of a blessing to change reality: Matthew 14:19-21 - And he took the five loaves and the two fishes and looking up to heaven he blessed and brake and gave the loaves to his disciples and the disciples to the multitude....and there remained twelve baskets full...and those that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children.

The last line of the Bible is a blessing: Rev 22:21 - The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

And from Paul we have this good advice related to blessing: Philippians 4:8 - Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are good, if there be any virtue and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Many people bless, but miss the main point of a blessing, which is to wish something good for the "blessee." It does little good to say "Bless you" unless there is an intention for something good for the receiver to be blessed with, and the more specific the intention, the more effective the blessing. Think of the blessing that Achsah demanded from Caleb, for example.

In Hawaiian the word for "to bless" is ho'omaika'i or ho'opomaika'i. Both have meanings of goodness or good experiences and they are pretty much interchangeable, except that pomaika'i(with a macron over the o) carries more of the sense of a state of good fortune or well-being rather than just something good. A typical blessing would be E ho'omaika'i ia 'oe me ke ola - "May you be blessed with good health."

And so I finish by giving you this blessing in Hawaiian: E pili mau na pomaika'i me 'oe; "May you always have good fortune" or, simply, "Best wishes." Oh, yes, one more: Aloha.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Simplicity

One of the most useful lessons I ever learned in my shaman training was that life is really very simple, and so are the solutions to our problems. What makes it seem so complicated is that we get distracted by all the things there are to see and do and think about, and then we get so stressed by the effort to make everything work out right that we get confused and angry or fearful.

Simplicity can be found in the fact that no matter how busy, complex, and stressful things get, living consists of thinking, feeling and doing. That's all. And solving problems consists of thinking, feeling and doing things differently. And that's all, too. When life seems to be too complicated, this is what you can come back to. It isn't like failing to see the forest for the trees. It's more like seeing the trees and remembering the soil that they come from.
Here is is something to do when life gets difficult:
1. Breathe a few times with awareness of breathing.
2. Change negative thoughts to positive ones by noticing something good. Look clearly, listen well. there's always something.
3. Change negative emotions to positive ones by remembering something good. It doesn't matter whether it was this morning or many years ago. Find something to remember.
4. Change negative behavior to positive behavior by doing something good. Give a compliment, rub someone's back, perform a simple act of kindness. It doesn't have to be big.
When you do this you will discover that you can think more clearly, feel better, and act more effectively. It works.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Moving Beyond Patience

The Hawaiian word ahonui is commonly translated as "patience." However, that translation into English can be very, very misleading

Generally, when we talk about patience in English, we mean the ability to suffer hardship, or discomfort, or pain, without complaint. There is a sense of inner strength or courage about it, but it's essentially a passive concept. Something bad is happening to you, but you put up with it bravely for as long as it takes.

As admirable as that concept might be, it doesn't carry the full meaning of ahonui.

Let me tell you a story that will help to illustrate this, one of the stories of the legendary hero Maui. This is a Kauai version, and I'll bring out some of the inner meanings to show the relationship to ahonui.

Once a upon a time, long before Captain Cook, Maui Kupua, who was born on Kauai, of course, was coming back from O'ahu in his canoe when he thought to himself, "Why are the islands so far apart? They should all be closer together." So after he landed he went to his mother, Hina in Wailua and asked for her advice.

Hina stopped her tapa beating and said, "If you want to bring the islands together you will have to catch the giant whale Luehu with your magic fishhook, Manai-a-ka-lani, and you will have to hold on fast for a long time. If you can do this, Luehu will circle the islands and you will be able to pull them together. Take your brothers with you to help with the canoe, but warn them to always face forward no matter what happens, or you will fail."

So Maui gathered his four brothers, Maui, Maui, Maui, and Maui, and told them what he was going to do. They were excited about such an adventure, and when he warned them about facing forward no matter what, they promised that they would.

At last the canoe was ready, the fishhook was ready, and the brothers were ready. During a break in the surf they paddled out into the Kai'ei'ewaho Channel between Kauai and O'ahu and around to the northwest of Kauai to begin their search for the great whale. For days and days they searched, until at last they found the great whale Luehu swimming beside Nihoa, the island to the northwest of Kauai. Maui threw his magical fishhook, Luehu caught it in his mouth, and immediately the whale began pulling the canoe through the ocean at high speed.

For many more long days the Maui brothers held on with determination as the whale pulled them onward, but by carefully tugging on the fishing line in just the right way, and by cleverly paddling in just the right way at just the right time, they caused the whale to circle all the islands, until one day they found themselves again off the coast of Wailua, facing toward O'ahu.

Luehu was tired now, so while Maui Kupua pulled on the fishing line with all his might his brothers back-paddled furiously, and slowly, slowly the islands began to pull together. Just then, a canoe bailer, Kaliu, floated past the canoe. The eldest Maui, in the steersman position, quickly grabbed it and tossed it behind him in case they should need it. Unknown to him, the bailer was really a mischievous spirit, an e'epa, who turned into a very beautiful woman. All the people gathered on the Wailua shoreline exclaimed about her beauty. At first, none of the Maui brothers paid attention, but finally the praises got so loud that Maui's four brothers turned around to see who this beautiful woman was that everyone was shouting about. In that moment, Luehu felt the weakening of the pull against him and gave one last desperate leap to escape. Without his brothers to help him, Maui Kupua pulled too hard, the fishing line broke, Luehu got away, and the islands drifted apart again. And we know the story is true because the islands are still far apart today.

Hawaiian legends always contain knowledge hidden below the surface, usually in the form of names which have several meanings. In this story, the hero Maui wants to accomplish a great task, the uniting of the islands, but in order to do this he has to capture the whale, Luehu, with his fishhook, Manai-a-ka-lani. Now, "Luehu" means "scattered," and "Manaiakalani" is "flower lei needle." The scattered islands have to be brought together, perhaps politically, culturally, or socially, like flowers strung on a lei. Where did they find the whale? The old name of the Kauai Channel, "Kai'ei'ewaho," simply means "The Outer Heights," referring to the high waves of the channel, but it could also refer to the need to go outside of one's normal boundaries. The place where they encountered the whale, "Nihoa," was a very sacred place in ancient times. The name means "jagged, sharp," like a row of teeth, and is part of an old saying: "Ku paku ka pali o Nihoa i ka makani - The cliffs of Nihoa stand like a shield against the wind." This saying refers to someone who faces misfortune with courage.

The most important element in the story is the fishing line, because this is called aho, and it also means "breath, to breathe," and "to put forth great effort." Maui must put forth great effort to accomplish his aim, but that still isn't enough. The word nui means "big, much, many; something extending over time, or something very important." Ahonui is the Hawaiian word for "patience." And, it is also the word for "perseverance." This is not the patience of waiting in a line. It is the persistence of knocking on a door until you get an answer. It is not the patience of waiting out a storm. It is the perseverance of moving through a storm to your destination. It is not waiting to get healed. It is using everything you know and doing everything you can to make the healing happen. Ahonui can also be translated as "many breaths," the act of moving toward something you want for as many breaths as it takes.

Hawaiian legends do not always have happy endings, because sometimes their purpose is not only to tell you how to succeed, but also how to fail. In the story just told, the downfall of the great plan to unite the islands was caused by Kaliu, which means "a leaky canoe bailer." Ka refers to a canoe bailer, but it is also a strong action word used for tying things together, for making or doing things, and even for fishing. Liu, the "leakage," is the leaking away of attention to your purpose, the loss of focus on what is important. In the story, Maui's brothers, representing aspects of himself, get distracted, and as they lose their focus they also lose their goal. Perseverance does not work on a part-time basis.

Fortunately, there are many examples in this world of people who have persevered in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, and who have accomplished more than was thought humanly possible. I have met and talked with a lot of such people, and have read about many more, but one stands out strongly in my memory.

A few years ago I had the privilege of participating in a Department of Education program to teach young people about self esteem, and part of the workshop I gave was incorporated into a video that was distributed in the school system. The best part of the video was not my contribution, however. The best part was the story of a young girl who became a hula dancer. I was mildly impressed when the camera showed her from the waist up dancing with a group of other girls, all moving gracefully with the same rhythm and gestures. When the camera pulled back ... I was stunned. This lovely young girl was a good dancer, yes, as good as the others. And she had only one leg.

Imagine the patience, the persistence, the suffering, the perseverance, the AHONUI that this young girl applied to develop the grace and skill that was also difficult for her two-legged sisters. And what gave her this ahonui? Where did it come from? How did she maintain it through all the fears and doubts and problems she must have endured? There is only one answer. What gave her the strength of her ahonui was the aloha she had for the hula.

What will give you the strength to persevere in the direction of your dreams and desires, plans and goals, wishes and healings, is the love you have for something that you decide is so important, so valuable, so good, that nothing at all can replace it in your mind and in your heart. If your aloha is strong enough, you will have the ahonui to keep going in spite of doubt, disappointment, fear, misunderstanding, and all the people who tell you that what you want is impossible. In this infinite universe, the only impossibility is whatever you never attempt, and the only failure is when you decide to give up.

However, there is something even more important to learn from Maui's story. What do you do when you've done everything you know how to do and put all the energy and attention you have available into achieving what you want and it still doesn't work out? After all, Maui didn't give up on life after his plan to unite the islands failed. He went on to have many more adventures. The answer lies in another Hawaiian word, ha'ule. Often used to mean "to fail, failure," it really carries the idea of losing something. And, in wonderfully Hawaiian style, it has another meaning as well: "to begin to do something else."

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Thoughts On Cancer

My younger brother died of cancer in his early thirties, and my mother died of complications involving cancer when she was in her eighties. And I have had the opportunity to work with many people suffering from that disease. In every case I am familiar with, and according to many medical experts, cancer has both physical and emotional aspects. The strength of each of these can amplify the other, and the healing of either of these can help to heal the other.

My brother had lung cancer. He was a heavy smoker and had a lot of stress in his life. In addition, he fit the personality profile observed in almost 1000 lung cancer patients by Dr. David Kissen of Southern General Hospital in Glasgow: before he was fifteen one of his parents died (our father); there were marital difficulties; and there were professional frustrations. Naturally, a very large number of people may have these particular experiences, but what Dr. Kissen considered significant was how many of the cancer patients reacted to them. Typically, they held in emotional expression and denied conflicts. This certainly described my brother.

My mother had lung cancer. She also lost her father before the age of fifteen, and had her share of marital difficulties and professional frustrations, too. And, she held in emotional expression and denied conflicts as well.

Similar relationships between emotions, experiences of loss or frustration, and all forms of cancer have been noted in many medical studies (two good sources for this kind of information, if they are still available, are Psychosomatics, by Howard R. and Martha E. Lewis [Pinnacle Books, 1975} and Who Gets Sick, by Blair Justice, Ph.D. [Jeremy P. Tarcher, 1988]).

The common thread of emotional response in all forms of cancer (and, I suspect, in all disease), is a frustrated desire to control experience in some way. There is a wide variation in what people are trying to control. Some are trying to control their own behavior; some are trying to control the behavior of others; some are trying to control past, present, or future events; some are trying to control it all. It is not surprising that cancer is often associated with symptoms of depression, but it not always clear whether the depression is associated with the cancer, or with something else that the person cannot control.

In my own experience with and observation of people with cancer, I have noted that the most successful recoveries seem to be strongly associated with major mental, emotional, or physical behavioral changes among the people with the illness. What is major for one person, of course, may not be the same for another. Some people get results from radically changing their whole lifestyle, while others get results from forgiving a longtime resentment. I know of one success where a woman left her family, took up a different religion, changed her clothing and diet, and moved to a different country. Maybe she needed all of those changes and maybe not, but overall it worked for her. I know of another person, a man, who simply stopped trying to outdo his father, and that worked for him.
My brother, however, didn't change his reactions or his life. And my mother, right to the very end, refused to give up grudges she had held for many years against many people. If you want to change something, you have to change something.

Whenever we try to control something by mental, emotional, or physical means, and whenever we fail to control it to the degree that we want, we increase the tension in our body. The more often we try and fail, the greater the increase of tension. Not everyone gets cancer because of this since the specific outcome of excess tension depends on so many different genetic, environmental, and mental factors, but I believe that healing the control issues can be of tremendous benefit in helping to heal cancer and, probably, everything else that needs healing.

The need for control is based on fear, and fear itself generates tension. Control, then, is merely a technique for trying not to feel afraid. Maybe a good place to start the healing process would be to stop trying to control fear, and do something to change the fear reaction, instead.
It is an experiential fact that you cannot feel fear if your body is totally relaxed. However, even though there are hundreds, if not thousands, of ways to relax, such as massage, meditation, play, laughter, herbs, drugs, etc., that does not always solve the problem. The real problem lies behind the tension, and behind the fear. The real problem is not even the idea that something is fearful. The real problem is that you feel helpless. When this problem is solved the fear disappears (not the common sense, just the helpless fear), the need for control disappears, and a huge amount of tension disappears.

Fundamentally, what I'm really talking about is confidence, a kind of core confidence not related to a specific talent, or skill, or behavior, or experience, or piece of knowledge. Lots of teachers and lots of merchants offer ways to get this kind of confidence, and my own works contain many ideas about it, so rather than limit your possibilities by suggesting a particular technique, I'm only going to share a couple of Hawaiian words for confidence whose root meanings may point you in the right direction:

Paulele - "stop jumping around"
Kanaloa - "extended calm"

There is no quick and easy fix I know of that will produce this kind of confidence. It takes internal awareness and one or more internal decisions, but even that will only work if it results in a different way of responding to life.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Fear Of Focus

I was browsing through some very old notes and came across the following piece, written to myself at a very crucial time in my life. It isn't very long, but I think that reading it might be useful to people who might find themselves in a similar state at some time in their life.

"It's time to review and set clear-cut goals. The past few days have been a torment for my Lono because radical changes are necessary and my priorities and directions are fuzzy.

I think I have a very deep issue about commitment to a single purpose. There is also an issue about what's important, about working in the present with trust vs planning/programming for the future, about what I want and what gives me pleasure, about security and service, and about focusing in the creation of an organization or focusing on the spread of knowledge.

From everything I know, success will require motivation, confidence and concentration. Motivation comes from believing something is important. Confidence comes from trusting oneself and the universe. Concentration comes from each of those. You can't concentrate if there's apathy or fear and doubt. In another sense, concentration comes first because there has to be something to be motivated or confident about.

We are back to the issue about commitment to a single purpose. Even thinking about that stirs up strange feelings akin to fear. Probably why I've found it hard to commit to a single technique, also. This is a prime issue. I see that the way I've coped with it before is to shift focus within a broad area or find a distraction. So I shift from peace, to love, to power, to energy, to success, to prosperity, to presence ... all within the context of Aloha International and Huna. Even when I 'make a commitment' to one focus, I either forget it the next day or begin to have huge doubts.

If there is such fear, there must be an anticipation of pain or danger as a result of such commitment. Is it a fear of power and what that might do to me or to others? Is it a fear of rejection or criticism if I'm 'too' committed? Is there a fear based on some other model I've seen or some other life I'm living? Is it a fear of loss from too narrow a focus? Since all of these have come to mind and provoked varying degrees of feelings and releases, it's probably some of each. 

What a complicated interlock! No matter which focus I try in my mind, fears and doubts and excuses come up as to why it's not a good idea.

So it isn't the particular focus at issue, it's focus itself. What would happen if I were to focus exclusively on one thing (I even found it hard to maintain focus on this sentence!)? Right now my head feels funny, my chest is contracted and my shoulders feel heavy. I would say the main issue is criticism/rejection. What would I be criticized for if I maintained intense, sustained focus? Here's a scenario that just went through my head: If I commit I'll be very successful, if I'm very successful I'll be noticed for being outstanding, if I'm outstanding I'll be criticized for being different and egotistical, and if I'm different and egotistical I won't have anyone to love me. Whew!

Lawa! Enough! I hereby commit myself to focus on practicing and teaching the Power of Love, 24 hours a day!"

Note from the Present: Well, I'm not up to 24 hours a day yet, even many years later, but every day in every way I'm getting better and better.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Fearlessness

We were born to be fearless.

We do not inherit fear from our ancestors. It is not an instinctive reaction, nor is it necessary for survival. Caution, yes; recognition of potential danger, yes; but not fear. We have to be taught how to be afraid.

I remember when I was a young boy watching my younger sister walk down a hallway in our home while smashing spiders on the wall with her hand. I thought it was disgusting, my sister thought it was fun, my Mom thought it was horrifying. I can still hear her screams when she saw my sister happily diminishing the spider population, and I remember how quickly my sister changed her attitude and behavior toward spiders after only one intensive spiders-are-awful-be-afraid-of-them training session.

One minute we can be fearless, and in the next we can learn to be fearful. For the moment let's put aside the question of whether fear has any value. The issue at hand is whether it is inborn or acquired behavior.

Here is another example, opposite to the one above. On a sunny day on a broad beach in Africa, when the ocean was like a calm lake, I noticed that my four-year-old and seven-year-old sons were having fun the water, and my three-year-old son was having fun on the sand. No problem with that, except that I also noticed how he scampered out of the way every time the smallest wavelet came within two feet of him. This looked like a job for "Parentman!"

I picked up my three-year-old, talked to him soothingly, and carried him a few steps toward the water. He immediately tried to squirm out of my arms, even though the water was only around my ankles. He was clearly afraid, so I stopped, calmed him down, and took a few more steps forward. Of course, he reacted in the same way. Very slowly and gently, using a classic psychological method of desensitization, I was able to get him to accept being in the water ankle deep, waist deep, chest deep, and, finally, we even ducked under the water together. After that I returned him to shore and let him develop his own relationship to the ocean. After he graduated high school he became a US Navy Seal.

One more example to illustrate my point. I teach a self-help behavior modification technique called "Dynamind," and one thing it is very good for is getting rid of phobias. During a seminar demonstration I had a young woman on stage who said she was afraid of water. We further refined that to be a state of paralyzing panic when facing a swimming pool. Even further refinement produced the interesting discovery that the panic occurred only when the pool was closer than two meters, more than one meter wide, and the color of the water was blue. In fact, regardless of the size or proximity of the pool, the panic disappeared if the color of the water was green.

In the first example above, my sister had no fear of spiders until she was taught to be afraid by our mother. Her first reaction to them was the instinctive one. In the second example, my son was afraid of the ocean, not the water itself. I know this because I had seen him happily splashing bath water all over on numerous occasions. I have no idea what event taught him to be afraid--and he doesn't remember--but his ability to get rid of the fear in such a short time definitely indicates a learned behavior and not an instinctive one. And in the last example, the fact that so many specific conditions had to be met before the debilitating fear occurred is indicative of learned behavior as well.

This would be a good time to define what I mean by "instinctive" behavior, because many people confuse it with "automatic" behavior. Behavior is automatic when you have learned it so well you don't have to think about it anymore. It is basically a stimulus response like Pavlov's dog salivating at the ringing of a bell. For many people, riding a bicycle, using silverware, reacting with fear to specific events, or getting cold symptoms when you get your feet wet in street shoes, but not in beach sandals, are common examples of automatic behavior. Such behavior is linked closely to individual experience and cultural expectations.

Instinctive behavior, on the other hand, is common to all humans and not dependent on individual experience or culture. Breathing is instinctive; breathing rates are learned. Eating is instinctive; food choices are learned. The urges to get warm when you are cold, get cool when you are hot, seek security when you feel insecure, or move toward or repeat pleasurable experiences, and move away from or avoid unpleasant or painful experiences are all part of humanity's repertoire of instinctive behaviors.

Another important difference is that learned behaviors, automatic or not, are capable of being unlearned or modified very quickly, whereas instinctive behaviors can only be suppressed, amplified, or redirected.

It is a fact, supported by abundant research, experiments and experience, that fears can be unlearned, often quickly, without suppression, amplification or redirection. This alone puts them into the learned behavior category.

Part of the misunderstanding about fear comes from early experiments in which babies were tossed into the air and observations were made of their behavior. The instinctive reaction of seeking a connection to something secure was interpreted as an expression of fear. Actually, as long as you don't drop them, some babies get immense enjoyment from being tossed into the air.

"As long as you don't drop them." This brings up the subject of how fear gets learned in the first place. For that to happen, three vital factors must be present: self-doubt, a memory of pain, and an expectation of pain. To be completely accurate, we really don't remember pain itself, but the memory of having experienced pain.

Self-doubt is the most important factor, for without it fear doesn't occur. Self-doubt is also learned behavior, but it can be learned while you are still a fetus. Basically, self-doubt is born when an individual interprets a feeling or sensation as meaning that one has lost contact with their source of power or love. To the degree that this interpretation is repeated with similar feelings or sensations it becomes learned and automatic behavior.

Memories of some kind of pain are present in everyone, but everyone is not affected by them in the same way. Fear is born--and eventually learned--when self-doubt is present at the time a painful experience occurs because, due to the self-doubt, an expectation of pain arises under any stimulus that resembles the original pain. When I was about seven-years-old I was playing with some friends and we decided to climb a tree and jump off a large branch. The other boys did it without a problem. They didn't have any self-doubt, at least in relation to jumping out of trees, so that even if they had gotten hurt in the past from leaping off a branch they had no expectation of pain from doing it again. I, however, had sufficient self-doubt, and a memory of a previous painful fall not related to trees, that I crouched on the branch, frozen with fear, for a very long time. The other boys simply crawled around me and jumped to their heart's content. At long last I suppressed my fear, gathered my courage, and leaped into the unknown. It was my first experience of branch-jumping. Fortunately, I had a good landing and it was so much fun I did it over and over, unlearning my fear in the process.
One of the last sentences in the previous paragraph reminds me of another aspect of fear that needs clarification, the so-called "fear of the unknown." There is no such thing, folks. It's always a fear of the known. Or, rather, a fear of not knowing. If we experience something truly unknown we will either be curious or we will ignore it. Fear only arises in this case when a new experience reminds us of a previous painful experience and we have an expectation of another painful experience because we don't know what to do.

Here is the moral of the story. It doesn't matter if we have self-doubt, or painful memories, or fear of anything whatsoever. We learned how to act one way; we can teach ourselves how to act differently. Self-doubt can be erased by teaching ourselves--over and over and over again--to trust in ourselves and/or in a higher power. To trust, not that nothing bad will ever happen, but that whatever happens we will be able to cope, and that more good things will happen than bad. How do we know? We don't. The future is never fixed, but now is the moment of power. What we do and how we think in the present moment may not control the future, but it has more influence on the future than anything else. There is no fear without self-doubt. Self-doubt begins with a decision. It can end with a decision, too.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Checking Your Values

One day I found myself wondering why we celebrate New Year's Day on January 1st. After all, what's the point? Nothing special is happening in Nature on that day. The winter solstice happens more than a week before. Christmas, of course, is exactly one week before, and December 25th was celebrated as the beginning of the end of winter in many ancient cultures in the Northern Hemisphere, but so what? What does that have to do with January 1st? My curiosity led me into doing a little research.

First I checked out the whole idea of a New Year celebration. I found out that the oldest one recorded took place around 2000 B.C. in Babylon, which was in what we now know as Iraq. However, the ancient Babylonians celebrated the New Year in late March because that was the beginning of their new cycle of Spring planting. Before the planting, though, they spent eleven days in celebrations of thanksgiving for all the good that the gods had provided the previous year. In a very similar way the ancient Hawaiians celebrated the New Year in November, with four whole months of thanksgiving feasting and gaming and getting ready for the next season.

Some kind of New Year celebration has been part of virtually every culture on earth as a means of giving thanks for past things of value, and making preparations for another year of more things of value (hopefully).

Still, why January 1st? It isn't a harvest time or a seeding time in either hemisphere. As a point in the orbit of the Earth around the Sun it doesn't have any particular significance.
As it turns out, my research revealed that natural events are not the only things that humans consider significant.

During the early Roman Empire the first day of the New Year was January 1st. Weirdly enough, their January 1st fell on what we now know as March 25, at the beginning of Spring. Because various emperors and high-ranking officials placed great value on extending their terms of office, they fiddled with the lengths of months and years until the calendar got so out of whack that Julius Caesar had to put January 1st on its proper date again (March 25) in 46 B.C.

Enter the Catholic Church. As the leaders of that body became more politically powerful they decided to establish their own January 1st, in opposition to what they considered a pagan fertility festival. So they created a brand new calendar and made the New Year begin on the Feast of the Circumcision of Jesus, exactly one week after the birth of Christ by their reckoning.

The transition to this new New Year wasn't immediate. From the 11th to the 13th centuries, the Spanish and Portuguese celebrated the New Year on the Catholic January 1st, the British celebrated it on March 25th, the Italians on December 15 (which was Christmas day at that time) and the French on Easter Sunday. Meanwhile, and still today, the Chinese, Jews, and traditional Hawaiians celebrate New Year in their own timing. Because the Gregorian calendar is so widely accepted today, the latter get to celebrate the New Year twice if they want to.

It's time for a valid question to arise. What is the point of this article?

The point is that people everywhere have always acknowledged in some way the ending of an old cycle and the beginning of a new one. The exact timing of the cycle depends on the value--the importance--that people give to the cycle. As described above, some people may think natural cycles are more important and others may think religious or political cycles to be so. In addition, people everywhere have decided that the beginning/ending of the cycle is a good time to reflect on what they consider important in their lives, and to confirm these values or change them.

It doesn't matter whether your favorite cycle begins on January 1st, your birthday, the spring equinox, the winter solstice or Boxing Day. There is something inherently, humanly powerful about declaring that one cycle has ended and a new one has begun, and then using that transition time to give thanks for value received and make plans for value to come.

Your values consist of whatever you believe is most important in your life. Your values themselves have value because they govern every aspect of your personal behavior, and they influence the behavior of the world around you. In any situation in life you will always act according to what is most important to you at the time, no matter what the circumstance or what anyone around you says or does. If you are ever surprised by your own behavior, it's because you are not aware of your own values.

As an example, I was discussing values with my adorable wife and we each discovered something we didn't expect. We value our relationship highly, but during our discussion it came out very clearly that we value personal freedom even more. Our relationship has such a high value that we constantly accede to each other's wishes even when that means doing something we don't want to do, or not doing something we want to do. Since there is so much give and take on both sides, and so much joy in other aspects of the relationship, we consider these restrictions on personal freedom as easily tolerable (although I grumble sometimes just for the heck of it). In other words, the relationship has a higher value than these minor restrictions on our freedom. However, in playing the game of "What if...?" it came out that if these restrictions became "excessive" (by subjective evaluation) then the value of the relationship would diminish accordingly.

The discussion got even more interesting when we discovered that "relationship" and "personal freedom" are very abstract concepts. Behind those abstracts were the things we really valued most: the pleasure of our mutual admiration and respect; and the emotional satisfaction of making our own choices.

Behind all abstract values--love, power, health, freedom, etc.--are the very specific values, i.e., the really important things, that move us emotionally and motivate us behaviorally. At any given moment you will always move toward whatever holds the potential, in your estimation, for the greatest pleasure or the least pain.

In both California and Hawaii you can almost always tell who the carpenters are: they are the ones with surfboards in their pick-up trucks. They bring their boards to work, and when the surf is high enough the worksite is abandoned. The abstract view is that they value surfing more than working. The specific view is that they think the thrill of riding a big wave is more important than sawing wood for someone else (unless they are in dire need of money to pay the rent). They will usually stay on the job when the surf is mediocre, but when the waves reach a certain height...

Another example is the person who works so hard "for the family" that he or she ignores the family to the point where the person ends up alone and confused. Here the abstract value of "family security" is probably based on a very intense personal fear of being criticized for failing to support them. In the pursuit of avoiding criticism the actual family is lost from view.

The value of the discussion between my wife and myself was that we became more consciously aware of what we value. At the same time, because of our Huna background, we realized that it was all arbitrary. With the flick of a thought we can change any of our values that we choose to change. We can make important things unimportant and unimportant things important by our will alone. And the value of that is that we are more consciously aware of, and careful of, those values we choose to live by.

Changing what you value most in life is an act that has profound consequences for you and those around you, because the values you have now also have such consequences. If your life doesn't seem to be working out for you, there might be a problem with your values. If life is working out for you, then values are also involved and it might be a good idea to know what they are.

Any time is a good time to examine what is most important to you, in order to confirm it or make some alterations. Therefore, now is a good time, too.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Modern Shamanism

"You look more modern than I thought you'd be," said the visitor as we sat in my comfortable living room overlooking the ocean that surrounds the island of Kaua'i. He glanced at my large screen TV, the VCR, and the Tabora seascape on the wall with a faint trace of disapproval. Clearly I did not fit his model of what a shaman is supposed to look like.

His remark was typical of many visitors who expect--perhaps even hope--to find me wearing some kind of robe or sarong and living in primitive simplicity in a cave or a forest far away from the amenities of civilization. The general idea is that such a setting would somehow make me more authentic. I have even considered finding such a spot, having a ti-leaf skirt and cloak made, and giving all my visitors a nice show that would comfortably fit their preconceptions. Today I do live in a forest on a live volcano, but with my three computers, iPhone and iPad, Apple TV and hybrid Prius close at hand. Shamanism, however, is not limited to a particular location or style of dress or cultural environment. It is a way of thinking and acting that defies boundaries and limitations of any kind, and yet uses them when it fits a purpose.

In the old and ancient days the shaman--who was a healer of mind, body and circumstances--was right in the midst of tribal or village life. He or she might also play the part of priest/priestess or chief/chiefess if there were no one else to fill those roles, but the primary role was always that of the healer. The shaman took part in the work, play and cultural activities of the village and often used each of those for healing purposes, especially the cultural activities of art, song, dance and ritual. In some cultures the shaman wore distinctive clothing and only engaged in certain activities, while in others it was impossible to tell him or her apart from anyone else unless you were family, friend or acquaintance. When the shaman's services were called upon there was always appropriate compensation in goods or services of some kind, according to the local economic structure. In old Hawaii, for instance, those who made use of the shaman's healing abilities might in return give fruits and vegetables, livestock, tools, mats and/or clothing. Or they might give their services of fishing, farming, handcrafting or cleaning for a certain period. The important point is that the shaman was a part of the community, sharing its life and hopes and dreams and proximity. Isolation of the shaman from the community occurred only in times of religious or political repression, and even then there were always links maintained with a few members of the community.

Now shamanism is experiencing a revival of interest and freedom. Now the shaman is coming back into the community where he/she belongs in a viable, vital, visible way. It isn't necessarily any easier now, but it is extremely important that the new shamans who are remembering and reviving the ancient skills become fully a part of today's society, become modern shamans in every sense of the word.

A modern shaman (or "urban" shaman, as I often say) is one who uses the ancient knowledge in the context of our present social and cultural environment. I will frequently tell my apprentices that anyone can be a shaman in the woods (where there are no people to get in the way); the tough task is to be a shaman in the city. And yet the shaman belongs where the people are. That does not mean the modern shaman must live downtown or in a crowded barrio, or in a fast-growing suburb, but it does mean that he or she integrate with and be accessible to those who are to be helped. The tough task of being a modern shaman is made tougher by the fact that shamanism has only recently begun its revival, and it does not have a strong basis of support in today's culture. In the absence of such support, shamans need to help each other. The success of modern shamans, then, will depend on adaptability, integration, and cooperation.

Shaman knowledge has to do with an awareness of, and the ability to direct, the powers of mind and the forces of nature. Adapting the ancient wisdom to modern society is a fairly simple process because human beings still have the same desires for health, wealth and happiness, and the same emotions of love, anger and fear. And Nature still has the same basic elements of (to use the Hawaiian version) Fire, Water, Wind and Stone. The shaman's healing work is still, as it always has been, to change beliefs and expectations in order to change experience. The wisdom and its application are the same, only the context is different. An ancient shaman in the deep forest of a volcanic island using his hands to heal a wound from a wild boar and a modern shaman in a high-rise apartment building using her hands to heal a wound from a domestic cat use the same wisdom. An ancient shaman diverting a lava flow to save a village and a modern shaman calming the wind to keep a forest fire from burning a suburb use the same wisdom. The shaman skills of telepathy, energy release, manifesting, shape-changing, blessing, belief-change and inner journeying are not affected by time. All that has to be done is to adapt them to existing circumstances.

Integration is more difficult in today's society because of its variety and complexity. Most ancient shamans only had one or very few socio-cultural systems to deal with, and therefore a limited number of beliefs to work on. Today, however, there is such a vast mixture of radically different social, cultural, religious and philosophical systems that the modern shaman must constantly expand his or her knowledge and maintain an exceptional awareness of the prevailing beliefs of his or her community and its individuals through heightened development of the intuitive faculties, as well as by paying close attention to information supplied by the media.

More than ever, there is the need for cooperation among modern shamans in order to maintain and extend the wisdom, to give each other moral and practical support (even shamans need friends and helpers), and to broaden the application of shamanism to modern problems. My solution has been to form Aloha International, a world-wide network of people studying and practicing the Hawaiian shamanic tradition, but there also needs to be cooperation among the shamans of different traditions. It is truly cooperation that is needed, because shamanism is a non-hierarchical, democratic philosophy. There is a tremendous amount of healing work to do, on ourselves and for the world in general. Let us do it together in a spirit of real Aloha.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Teaching Huna To Children

From time to time I am asked whether any books or courses have been designed and presented by anyone specifically for children, or whether I might consider doing one.

In the first place, I think it would be great if someone would do that (and let me know so I can tell people who's doing it). In the second place, I wouldn't do it myself because I think Huna is so simple that anyone of any perceptive age can understand and apply it. As a matter of fact, most of the time when I'm teaching adults I have to make it more complicated than it really is so they'll accept it. It's often the case that when Huna is presented as simply as it really is, scientifically-trained and intellectually-conditioned people tend to dismiss it as not worth pursuing.

When parents ask me if their children can attend one of my courses I always say yes, as long as they are interested enough to participate in the excercises, discussions and questions. The youngest participant I ever had in a Huna workshop was a young boy of five and a half. He turned out to be one of the best students, with the most vivid experiences and some of the best questions. The only thing I had to make allowance for was his meditation technique of quietly rolling back and forth underneath his mother's chair.

Personally, I don't find any need for a special course just for children (although some parents might). Children have the same basic kinds of problems that adults have (love, fear, anger, success, etc.) and the same desire to be happier and more effective. As long as a child has something he or she wants to change, then they are ready for Huna.

Naturally, it's important to tailor your language to your audience. When I'm teaching a group of mostly adults with a few children I make it a point to include examples the children can relate to, and to cut down on intellectual discussions so they don't get too bored. When I'm teaching a group of mostly children with a few adults I include examples the adults can relate to and toss in an intellectual idea or two so they don't get bored. And I allow both adults and children the freedom to come and go as they please, using the theory that you are only going to learn what you are interested in anyway. Part of my job as a teacher is to make it as interesting as possible for all the participants, but I'm not obsessive about it.

If I were going to teach the Seven Principles to a group of children I would probably re-word them a bit. After all, there is nothing sacred about the wording. As long as you get the concept across you are being true to their spirit. So I might state them in the following alternate ways:
1. The world is what you think it is - How you feel depends on how you think.
2. There are no limits - Everything hears what you say and feels what you feel.
3. Energy flows where attention goes - What you want is more important than what you don't want.
4. Now is the moment of power - Things don't happen yesterday and they don't happen tomorrow; they only happen right now.
5. To love is to be happy with... - The more happy you are, the more lucky you are.
6. All power comes from within - There's always something you can do.
7. Effectiveness is the measure of truth - Always do what works (and if what you do doesn't work, do something different).

These are just suggestions, of course. In a particular situation or for a particular group I might change them in another way.

Children (like adults) tend to be very responsive to imagery, and that means it's important to use a lot of descriptive words full of sensory content when you are explaining something or leading a meditation or other inner experience, because the more abstract you are the less impression you make. Take this line from a guided meditation I've heard: "Now you are in a wonderful place where everyone is happy." Well-meaning, but it doesn't really evoke anything. Here's a more evocative alternative: "Now you are in a park where birds are singing beside a waterfall surrounded by pretty flowers, and lots of children are playing games and laughing." The guideline here is to describe something that could be a specific place or event, and not just any place or any event.

With children in your audience (and certain adults) it's also a good idea to allow for more movement than you might ordinarily. Most adults in modern society have been thoroughly trained over many years to sit quietly in a class situation. Human learning, however, occurs much faster and is remembered better when both mind and body are involved in the process, and children know this instinctively. When children are in my audience I let them do whatever they want, as long as it's not disruptive to the class as a whole. Over the years I've learned that some people learn better when they are walking, lying down, looking away from me or just moving rhythmically. Since children are more apt to be this way than adults I give them as much leeway as possible.

Children don't have to be educated differently because they are children. They have to be educated in a way that allows for their language level, their concerns, and their ability to learn in ways that work for all humans, regardless of age.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Hawaiian Facts

As I have discovered in my travels, it is a mistake to assume that people know very much about our fiftieth State, so here are some facts to give you a better sense of the spiritual home of our teaching.

The State of Hawaii is a fifteen hundred mile long chain of 132 islands, reefs and shoals stretching from the southeast at about the latitude of Mexico City to the northwest at about the latitude of Houston. However, 99.9 % of the land area is on a fairly close group of eight major islands around the lower latitude. In land area only, the State is larger than Connecticut. 

There are about one million and a half persons living in the State, with 80% of them living on Oahu. About 23 % are haole, or of Caucasian descent, about the same are of Japanese descent, and about 21 % of Native Hawaiian descent. The rest are from all over. Even those born in Hawaii are not called Hawaiians. That word is reserved for Native Hawaiians and part Hawaiians only. As a side note, there is no such word as "Hawai'ian" either in English or Hawaiian, so please don't use it.

Hawaii, "the Big Island," (or Hawai'i in Hawaiian) from which the State gets its name, has about two-thirds of the land area. No one knows what the name means because it is probably part of a much older name, but one possibility is "Place of the Water of Life." The island is famous for its orchids, coffee, macadamia nuts, and volcanoes. In fact it has five large volcanoes. Mauna Kea (where it snows sometimes) and Kohala (in the north) have not erupted in historical times. Hualalai, overlooking Kona on the west coast, last erupted around 1800. Both Mauna Loa (tallest mountain in the world measuring from sea bottom and also where it snows sometimes) and Kilauea (legendary home of Pele the volcano goddess) still erupt fairly frequently. A new volcano, Loihi, is erupting underwater about twenty miles off the southern coast. 

Maui, the second largest island, is shaped like Tahiti with two volcanoes and a valley between. Many believe it is named after the shaman hero of legend, Maui Kupua. Its largest volcano, Haleakala, last erupted in 1790. Maui is famous for pineapples, Lahaina (an old whaling port and modern tourist mecca), superb sweet onions, and condominiums. Maui also produces some very good pineapple and grape wines. On the northeast coast are the lush jungles of Hana and the Seven "Sacred" Pools (which were used for bathing and laundry and have nothing sacred about them at all except for the fact that they are part of Maui).

Oahu (or O'ahu), third largest, is usually called "The Gathering Place" which may come from ahu meaning "collection" or "heap" or may just refer to it as a population center. However, it if is really named O'ahu, then that refers to a coat or a cape and no one knows what that is supposed to mean. Oahu is famous for Diamond Head, Honolulu, Waikiki, and Pearl Harbor, as well as many military bases. It is "in" to put down Waikiki as a tourist trap, but it still has the best shopping and one of the finest beaches in the islands. The Bishop Museum in Honolulu is a wonderful place to study old Hawaiian culture. Oahu is also famous for some of the best surfing in the world on its North Shore, and sometimes the most dangerous (30 foot winter waves).

Kauai (or Kaua'i) is the fourth largest island. Called "The Garden Isle", its name can mean "The Great Rains." Today it is considered by Hawaiians as the most spiritual place in the islands. It is famous for its magnificent natural beauty, including the Fern Grotto and the Na Pali Coast, for the legendary Menehunes (Hawaiian elves in the very old sense), the high mountain forests of Koke'e, the dangerous and mysterious Alaka'i Swamp, and Mt. Waialeale (wettest spot in the world with 451 inches annually).

Molokai (or Moloka'i), the fifth largest, is now called "The Friendly Island," but a few years ago it was called "The Lonely Island." A desire for tourism prompted the change. I think the name means "to train (ka'i) to tie bundles (molo)" and refers to the training of kahunas, for it is a fact that there were more schools there than anywhere else. Molokai is famous for its former leper colony, its mule rides down cliff trails, its many temples, and its low level of development.

Lanai (or Lana'i) is the sixth largest and called the Pineapple Island because that's mostly what used to grow there. The name Lanai means either "stiff-backed," referring to its single ridge, or "porch" (referring to it as the porch of Maui, perhaps), but Lana'i means a type of sweet potato, a very important crop in the old days. The pineapples are gone now and resort development has taken their place, but there is still a lot of empty land and isolated beaches. The island's population is around 2000.

Niihau (or Ni'ihau), the seventh largest, is called "The Forbidden Island" and a lot of tourist hype is played around that. Actually, it is forbidden because the whole island of 70 square miles is a private ranch, owned by the Robinson family. The Hawaiian name is a type of yam, another important crop. Tourist agencies like to give the impression that the Hawaiians there live in the old ways, but what that really means is that they live in a company town like the plantation era of the 1800s. The island is famous for a particular kind of shell necklace made there and the population of the single village is about 200. Hawaiian is the first language through 3rd grade, according to the last I heard.

The smallest "major" island is Kahoolawe (or Kaho'olawe), only 45 square miles. The name means "The One That Was Taken Away." I don't know when that name was given, but that's how the Hawaiians and the State of Hawaii feel about it today because after Pearl Harbor the Navy took it over for bombing practice and still won't give it back. There is currently a strong movement to make it into a center for Hawaiian culture, and some progress has been made in that direction. The old name of the island was Kanaloa, also an ancient god of the sea, and it was an important place for navigation training.

The motto of the Monarchy, the Republic and the State is Ua mau ka 'ea o ka 'aina i ka pono, usually mistranslated as "The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness," which sounds nice, but makes no logical sense. In context, the statement was made by Kamehamena III on the occasion when the British government restored sovereignty to the kingdom after it had been illegally taken over by an over-ambitious naval officer. A more appropriate translation would be "The sovereignty of the country endures because of proper behavior" (on the part of the British).