Friday, February 9, 2018

A Different Point of View

As we know from the first principle of Huna, there are many different ways to think of anything. In this brief article I am going to explore a different way to think of how we experience life.

According to this point of view, we have direct experience of this world in two ways: through physical senses and emotional feelings.

We probably don't even think twice about the fact that we make contact with the world through our physical senses, because that seems so self evident. With our eyes we see light in the form of color, shade, intensity, contrast, shape, size, and texture; vertical and horizontal distance; movement and patterns. With our ears we hear sound in the form of tone, intensity, harmonics, loudness, dissonance; and blends of frequencies that enable us to recognize individual people, objects, and sound sources. We experience touch in the form of pressure, texture, heat, cold, movement, and more. Taste and smell have their own ranges of physical perception as well. What I am proposing here is that we make a parallel contact with the world through our emotional senses. 

When you experience anything you have both a physical perception and an emotional one.
Some philosophies have used the concept of an "emotional body" to get this idea across, and the idea that we sense emotionally through our aura or energy field is intriguing, but we can instead simply say that you have two sets of senses, or two main ways of perceiving the universe.

In addition to the physical perception of sight, there is an emotional perception of sight that occurs at the same time. It's important to understand that I am not talking about an emotional reaction to what you see, but to an emotional perception that is related to the act of seeing. I'll bring up the subject of reactions a little further on.

To help you understand what I mean, think of it this way: physical seeing produces an image; emotional seeing produces a feeling. To use an example, when you look at a sunset, your physical perceptions include the ones I mentioned in the third paragraph above. At the same time you may have emotional perceptions of beauty, expansion, happiness and the pleasure that comes from a release of tension. So, looking at something produces both an image and feeling feelings about that image. The same would be true for our other senses. Each one would produce a physical perception as well as an emotional perception. And perceptions relate to awareness, not to reactions.

Reactions are separate experiences that occur as a consequence of perception. Of course, when reactions become habitual it is very difficult to make that distinction. However, perception is a characteristic of our senses. Reactions are learned, consciously or unconsciously.

It is possible to simplify our understanding of the physical and emotional reactions themselves by recognizing two categories of reaction for each set. All of the physical reactions can be described as varying degrees of pleasure or pain. All of the emotional reactions can be described as varying degrees of insecurity or confidence.

Recognizing that all your emotional reactions fall into one of these categories can be helpful in dealing with them. Fear, anger, hate, jealousy, anxiety are all expressions of insecurity with their own parallel to physical pain. The body tension that accompanies them is a well-intentioned but poor attempt to regain security. Happiness, joy, true pride, and the sense of accomplishment are all expressions of confidence, which is akin to physical pleasure. The names that are given to emotions based on insecurity or confidence merely reflect the thoughts in our mind at the time.

It is curious that in English we use the verbs "to sense" and "to feel" both physically and emotionally. French is more clear, with sentir used more for physical sensing and both se sentir  and ressentir used for emotional sensing. Hawaiian equivalents are too complicated to go into here.

Staying with English, like many animals we can sense danger, fear, friendliness, confidence, and that mysteriously compelling awareness of what we call charisma.

The main thing to note, to contemplate, and perhaps even do something about, is that, just as we can train our physical senses, so can we train our emotional senses. Further, just as we can develop our physical skills , there is the possibility of developing our emotional skills, as well.

Monday, January 29, 2018

The Hula Experience

As an avid observer of life, I find it very interesting to watch people watching hula. Typically, the locals are completely focused on every part of every performance, and the eyes of the malihinis, the visitors, glaze over after three or four dances.

In researching the whys and wherefores (by asking a lot of questions) I have finally concluded that the real problem is one of understanding. Most visitors, and a surprisingly large number of residents, simply don't understand what the hula is all about. So, this article is designed to inform all those who wonder what the fuss is about... what the fuss is about.

First, the word, hula, means "dance" (sorry, guys, it doesn't mean "shake those hips"). Since it's a Hawaiian word, it refers to Hawaiian style dancing, which is usually divided into three types: kahiko, which refers to a more traditional style of dancing with traditional costuming; 'auana, which is a flowing style generally using modern Hawaiian costuming; and hapa haole style, also affectionately called "hotel hula," which may feature coconut bras and blue-spangled faux grass skirts made of plastic.

Let's continue with just a little bit of legend. This is a very simplistic overview to show that not all Hawaiians agree on how the hula started.

On Molokai the story is that hula came to these islands a very long time ago from Tahiti, brought by a man named Laka, assumed to be related to the male god/hero Rata in the South Pacific.

On Kauai the story is that hula came to these islands a very long time ago from Tahiti, but one version says it was a woman named Laka who brought it, and another version says it was brought by a set of twins, male and female, both named Laka.

On the Big Island, the most popular story says that hula was invented right here by a human woman named Hopoe, who taught it to her goddess friend, Hi'iaka, who taught it to her elder sister, Pele. I like this one in particular, because it is a rare legend of a human teaching something to the gods.

Hula as a dance consists of a relatively small number of steps, each with its own name. The dancer also uses a kind of sign language to illustrate the meaning or purpose of the dance. Kahiko hula is typically accompanied by chanting and traditional instruments, like skin and gourd drums, bamboo rattles, and sometimes castanets made of stones. 

'Auana hula is usually accompanied by singing and a band playing guitars and ukuleles. The locals who focus so intently are probably doing so for one of two reasons - or maybe both. First is the skill of the dancers, chanters or singers, and the musicians. The dancers especially are subject to intense scrutiny for the way they place their feet, how they move their bodies, the positioning of their hands, and the direction followed by their eyes. The second reason is the content, and how well it is expressed. 

The content of kahiko dancing is mostly concerned with legends, ancient gods and goddesses, chiefs, and royalty. That of 'auana can be virtually anything, from romance, to gossip, to praise of people and places, to simply telling about a great party, picnic, or adventure someone had. For those who understand Hawaiian, hula is a special treat, because the chanting or singing will most likely include word-play, innuendo, and hidden meanings. 

At competitive events like the Merrie Monarch Festival, the dancing follows a strict pattern, for the benefit of the judges. First, there is the entrance, called kaʻi, which is usually chanted by the dancers; next is the dance itself, and finally there is the exit off stage, called hoʻi, which is a kind of procession accompanied by chanting or singing. If you have an opportunity to see the Merrie Monarch Festival, in person, on television, or on a DVD, don't miss it. There is nothing else like it in the entire world.