Awakin Calls » Dr. Manulani Aluli Meyer » Transcript
Dr. Manulani Aluli Meyer: Healing through Indigenous Wisdom
Guest: Manulani Aluli Meyer
Host: Pavi Mehta
Moderator: Kozo Hattori
Kozo: I'm going to go back to my small-kid time, Hawaiian roots, and just say I'm so stoked today. It feels like one of those days where the surf is perfect, nobody is out, it's sunny, offshore breeze. I feel so stoked to be on this phone call today with Dr. Manulani Aluli Meyer. Just a real quick intro.
I consider Manu what in Hawaii we call ali´i. Ali´i is often referred to as royalty, but I'm using this word in a specific way. There was an elder named Hale Makua and he said in Hawaii they believe that there are all these different roles you come to serve when you manifest. Some people are servants. Some people are artists. Some people are warriors. Some people are teachers. Some people are healers. The last role is the ali´i, and Hale Makua said the ali´i is somebody who has mastered all the other roles and now comes to serve the community. To serve the lahui, the whole group.
When I think about Manu, she is a servant. She serves the mauna. She serves the ´āina. She serves the mountain, the land, the environment. She is also an artist. She has published a book called Ho´oulu, that is not just a book, it is a pastiche of poetry, wisdom, and ōlelo no´eau, which are wise Hawaiian sayings, and photographs, and research. It is just a beautiful conglomeration of all these different traditions. She is also a warrior. She was a college scholar athlete. She played volleyball for UCSB. She is also a teacher. She teaches for University of Hawaii. She is also a healer. She is a long time practitioner of ho´oponopono—we'll get to some of that in the conversation.
All these things she has mastered and learned from. From that she became what I consider, what Hale Makua considered ali´i. Somebody who comes with all that mastery to serve the larger community. And she has served in so many ways which we will get to in the conversation as well.
So, Manu, welcome. Thank you for joining us today.
Manu: [laughter] Beautiful. Thanks, Kozo
Kozo: I thought, invoking Hawaiian protocol, you could start us off with a prayer.
Manu: Ai [yes in Hawaiian]. [Manu chants a prayer in Hawaiian]
Hui, Aloha mai kākou a pau. [Hello, welcome everyone]. Hi, Kozo.
Kozo: Beautiful. Maika´i. [Good] Mahalo [thank you] for that beautiful oli [prayer]. Maybe we can just start there, Manu. Two things, why is it important to start with a prayer or a chant? And what particular prayer or chant was that? And why did you choose it?
Manu: Mahalo [Thank you]. Thank you, Kozo. What an honor to be here. Hawaiian style you always kāhea [invoke, greet]. You always knock at the door. You always say hui—I'm here. We are coming. That is called a kāhea, kind of a wehe—it is an opening. You always bring an offering to the gathering in prayers, songs, or poem.
And that one was given to me by my friend Pulama Collier of Maui. She sang that when I was there one day when I was giving a talk. And that one is particularly special to me because it talks about it is the time of our own awakening and let our awakening be infused with this energy—ho´oulu. And to have ho´oulu, to be possessed in a positive way, so that you are doing things that you never known you could do before. You are writing in ways that you never known you could write before. You are loving in ways that heal our planet. And that is what that prayer is about.
Kozo: Wow! Manu, that is so beautiful. You know it is so appropriate. I think your na´au, your guts, your intuition served you so well there, because it is so appropriate for this space, this call, because, as you know, this is called an Awakin Call. So it has got the awaken in it, but also the kin. We are all in this together. We are all kin. We are all the same family. Nobody is outside our canoe. So that is such an amazing prayer for this call, for Awakin Calls in general. We might have to steal it and use it in the beginning of all our Awakin Calls. [laughter]
Manu: Well, the sun is rising here in Hawaii, and it is a beautiful, beautiful morning to have this discussion with everyone. There are soft pinks around Waianae, and the blues are beautiful softened with the clouds. Good morning, everyone. Aloha ka kakahiaka.[Good Morning]
Kozo: Beautiful. So, Manu, I wanted to start a little bit about you. I know you have had just amazing journeys from being a college athlete to protecting the mauna to being a scholar and doing healing, and all kinds of stuff. I just wanted to let you choose. This open-ended question. Tell us where you come from and the journey that brought you here. Take as much time, talk story as long as you want.
Manu: Mahalo, Kozo. Mahalo for this ability to be drawn into the conversation. Because no one, very few people know that I have played sports, because it was another lifetime ago. Actually, the awakening began in my body, because in sports you are going for your own excellence. So that is what competition was for me. It was an inward exploration of my own excellence. And that is why I loved sports, whether it was tennis, running, handstands, skateboarding, surfing, volleyball, basketball, track and field. It didn't matter.
Everything was an opportunity to touch basis with the synchronicities of your body in space and time. And I loved it. I loved it. I loved it. I loved it. I think that was the best preparation for my adult life than anything, than any book, than anything.
It was an involvement in the world in a way that was thrilling, in a way that compelled me to work well with others. Team sports were my favorite, and I appreciated the humility it took to do it well. And the excellence it took to do it collaboratively. So that is something that I loved. And embedded in the beach of Kailua, that was an amazing opportunity for anybody to grow up on the beach, to walk to school on the beach, and to feel the beauty of our outdoor world.
I would run to the ocean after school and on the weekends. Just run into the blue, blue, blue waters. I feel like the most fortunate girl on the planet, because I am educated by beauty. One of my favorite educational opportunities is to walk the beach and spend my solo times when I wasn't running or jumping and learning those things.
That is why when I had my accident while playing as middle blocker for UCSB, I blew out my knee, and I've had five operations on one and two on the other, then you die. The you you think you are dies. And that is when the journey of self-reflection has to begin because everything you know is gone.
So it was a really important time. I know you understand this, as you have gone through your own journey of death and healing. It is significant. So momento mori became my mantra, remember death, remember death. Death was my focus, not in the morbid sense, but in the living sense. How am I going to survive? How am I going to live past this kaumaha—this sorrow. That's when I started reading different reading. I decided that I might as well decide what I am meant to do in this lifetime.
So that is what I'm grateful about with sports is the ability to understand your limits, push beyond them with others, and design a path of freedom so that excellence is an inspiration not an ego aberration or an ego machination, where inspiration turns inward.
So I moved to Hilo where my grandparents are from and where my ohana [family] are from. We are from Hilo. And different aspects of the Big Island. And I so appreciated all the lessons learned in the beautiful Hilo Palikū and all the shorelines and the muliwai [rivers] and the waterways and the waterfalls. I have been raised in the last thirty years in some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world in Hilo.
I feel like I've been given such a gift in this lifetime through the natural world and through my interests in the inward infinite space of our own possibility. But you got to push through the karmic belief that conflict is negative because it is not. It really isn't. It is like a gift that the world bestows on you for you to understand your own capacity. And when you do, it's a wonderful, wonderful experience.
I'm going to pull off to the side of the road now. The sun is rising right over there across the field and it is just spectacular. Yay, I get to stop now. Yay, beautiful sunrise everybody. It's beautiful. Spectacular.
I'm near Kukaniloko in Wahiawa. We have a meeting, and the sun is right to my right. It is an empty road with two cars just passing. The birds are just fluttering all around. There seems to be rain coming. I hope so. We can always use rain here in Hawaii. I'm just so grateful that the work that we are now doing is connecting to each other.
You know, we are connecting because the needs of our time. So that is why I think my mother said when I was injured, she said, "Manu, God has another plan for you." And I remember thinking, "That just really sucks." Your first take on conflict and sorrow and pain is "No, I don't want it." But it ends up being the elixir of your own evolution. The promise of your purpose and you yourself did not or could not know until you're challenged because a spiritual understanding not practiced under fire is without value.
So I didn't know I had a spiritual practice until it was tested and tested and tested. So that is what sports gave to me is this love of a kind of excellence that keeps you moving. I used to vomit before certain races, just turn and vomit. Then you run your race. You know, you are so scared. But you just go and do it.
You know how people just believe athletes and sports...we are just jocks. Interview us forty years later and see where some of us have gone. And if there is sorrow in there, we go in different areas because we know what a workout is. We know what collective excellence feels like. So it is inevitable that you are going to want to serve a larger community because that ends up being your team. And then your team dissolves into a bigger team. And everybody becomes your teammate. It is the corniest thing. Really it is.
But I have to say, Kozo, I'm a twin. And my twin sister's name is Moana. And Moana and I are so uniquely different that you ultimately circle back the difference and you see what is same. And what is same about difference just rocks my world. Because the difference is always external, but the sameness is an internal dive into what is beautiful about life.
So Moana and I are externally different. She is small and dark. And I'm kind of tall and look like my father whose a haole [white] man from Belleville, Illinois. And my mother is from Hawaii. So we are mixed. And I grew up with everyone going, "You look just like your father." You know, in a Hawaiian family, it was very difficult to keep hearing that. So I felt that it just helped me focus, I guess. It was a necessary inward...even as a child...in a Hawaiian family, as a haole person in it to find my own process, to find my own way.
And Moana was always there. She just wanted to be my friend, and I just wanted to dump her in the bushes. You know, just throw her into the naupaka [shrubs]. I'm telling you, she became my mentor. If you don't love what is different from you, what is your purpose in life? She continues to be. She really is. She prepared me for this work of difference. Difference is what we have in common.
You know you go so into difference, you end up at universal principles and we all share that. But you don't get to that unless you really work that out. So that is what sports did for me, Kozo, the working out process and the working out principle that you do over and over and over and over. That is how I got to my scholarship work with Hawaiian epistemology.
You listen to the people who give you guidance and you go, "Oh my gosh, Aloha is our true intelligence? Really, Aunty?" Wow! Freedom! That one changed my life. Aloha is our true intelligence. That is amazing. That one changed me forever. Yep.
Kozo: There is so much there, Manu, that I would like to delve into, but I think one of the things you said is if you are not here to love difference, then what are you here for. That really brings to mind Kapu Aloha and I'd like to talk about Kapu Aloha.
It's funny, Manu, a couple of years ago, I went to a Hawaiian gathering here and there was a table for Kū kia´i mauna [an activist movement focused on "standing as guardians" for the mountain (Mauna Kea) where developers and scientist are trying to build a thirty meter telescope on sacred Hawaiian land] and they were handing out leaflets. And I grabbed one, and I just put one on my desk. It has been here for years. And I pulled it up the other day. I never read it. I just brought it home.
And I brought it up the other day and I read it and it is about Kapu Aloha and I looked at the bottom it said, "by Manu Aluli Meyer." It was by you. So I just want to read this about Kapu Aloha and maybe you can talk about that. Also the idea of how aloha is our true intelligence. But let me read this first.
"A Kapu Aloha is a multidimensional concept and practice inspired by our kūpuna [elders]. It has been used within a Hawaiian cultural context for many years, but this may be the first time it has been brought out into the public sphere. It places a discipline of compassion on all to express aloha for those involved, especially those who are perceived to be polar to our cause. A Kapu Aloha helps us intentionalize our thoughts, words, and deeds without harm to others. It honors the energy and life found in aloha—compassion—and helps us focus on its ultimate purpose and meaning. It is a synonym for ahimsa, non-violence, and peaceful consciousness. It helps us re-center Aloha ´Āina [love of land] once again so we can see, really see, the beauty that nourishes, inspires and teaches us how to best be in the world. Let us rise to this practice of compassion and reverence! Kū kia´i mauna."
So there is a lot there, Aunty. I invite you to go wherever you feel called to go, but can you help us understand and embody this Kapu Aloha?
Manu: Yeah, kū kia´i mauna, Kozo. Mahalo nui. Thank you for bringing that kū kia´i mauna—stand in reverence to our mountain, stand in reverence to the things that inspire us, stand in reverence to what love means. We are dedicated to bringing awareness to what loving land [Aloha ´Āina] means. And when you love land, when you have the priority of Aloha ´Āina, the love and care of land, then everything falls into place. You are not wondering about jobs. You are not wondering about anything but care for land. And everything follows from there.
In order to do that well. In order to do that in reverence to what we are learning from our beloved land is to practice the Kapu Aloha which is that ahimsa, that steady awareness that love and the capacity that it brings the world ultimately amplifies its own purpose and our own connection to it. Because if love is at the center, then love gets amplified. And that is what kapu means. Kapu Aloha means reverence for love, reverence for compassion. Kapu in this instance means reverence.
So to have reverence for love and reverence for compassion is to actually actualize it, to practice it. To discipline yourself when people are yelling at you, when there is a whole society that would rather commodify land and view land as real estate, we have to be steady with the inevitable turnaround of the society. It is inevitable that we are going to get along better because we have these principles. All we have to do is emulate, practice, and discipline ourselves with them, around them, and because of them.
The Kapu Aloha has been a synonym for Hawaiian epistemology or Hawaiian philosophy of knowledge because aloha is the center of our culture. It is not even a philosophy. It is not a religion. It is our center. It is our cultural norm. And when you make love the normative expression of a culture, those principles are shaped therefore by your geography, by the energy of your location in the world. And Hawaii allows us to have that understanding because of our geography, of our location. But it is connected to old principles around the planet.
When love is at the center, ego isn't. And believe me, it is hard for everybody. It's hard for me here in Honolulu when people absolutely want the telescope to be built. It is not that we are against science, not at all. We know and love astronomy. We just want them to heal that place up there, take down the observatories that are not used, and take care of Mauna Kea. And then when that is proven that people can take away their trash, then the discussion begins again, not before.
We have to stand for love of land or else we stand for nothing. And the Kapu Aloha strengthens our resolve to simply put love of land at the center. And when you put aloha ´āina at the center of your thinking, then knowledge flows from there. The knowledge of a place that nourishes us, the mo´olelo—the stories of a place that give us inspiration. The history of a place of the people buried there guide us. Psychically, spiritually, energetically, we are guided by our elders, present and past. We are guided by our purpose in life when it is connected to aloha.
And that is why I think Hawaii will play a pivotal role in world healing. We are committed to this. It is not like a fad. We have used the Kapu Aloha for many, many decades now—in the protect Kahoolawe movement, in the movement to understand cultural practices with our youth. The Kapu Aloha has now gone public. And people will say what they do, but it does not matter what other people say. It never did to me.
We are dedicated to the purpose of what love means in this lifetime. And it must start within your own practices and your own commitments and your own deeds. That is why I love Shakespeare's quotation when he said, "By my actions teach my mind." I love that because it is not by our talk or by our words, it is by our actions. So that is a very cultural statement. Basically, stop talking, start doing. And when you are doing in the vibrancy of what aloha is, then there is a healing on the planet. When you are just doing without consciousness and you are doing for different ends then karma will bite your ass.
There is something very special about doing when you have land at the center. That collective doing when it is done in love there is nothing, nothing to compare.
Kozo: Mahalo. Manu, you know the Shakespeare quote, give us the Hawaiian equivalent. The one about "if you want to show me you can surf..."
Manu: "Hō a´e ka ´ike he´enalu i ka hokua o ka ´ale"—show your knowledge of surfing on the back of a wave. That is the thing about Hawaii. We don't talk about surfing. Can you imagine if people just go, "Yeah, I surf"? No, we surf. You go in the water and surf. Surfing heals us because yeah, Kozo, you're not out there over-thinking it. You drop on a wave and you are effortlessly choosing, not choosing, choosing, not choosing. You are flowing with the energetic pulse of nature. And that is the most humbling place to be. And that is why good surfers to me, they ´olu´olu—good surfers they are humble, and if they are not they get humbled when they go out. [laughter] You know what I mean?
Kozo: Yeah, I know. I've been humbled many times, many times on the reef.
Manu: I've got brother-in-laws that surf and that are excellent surfers and they are special, special people. That is why I know that good surfers are ´olu´olu, are humble. Excellence is its own reward. You go to surf because you are after something. When you are on the pursuit of joy, that is its own gift, the joy you receive on a good wave. And the joy you give your surfing partner when they catch it. It is like, "Yeah!" you know?
Good surfers support each other to catch great waves. They are not "hog cheese" [pigs] on a wave. They offer their friends a wave. I love that. Surfing is beautiful isn't it?
Kozo: Yeah, it reminds of...I don't know if you know who Paul Strauch Jr. is, but he's a kapuna surfer from Hawaii. He used to surf South Shore, Waikiki way back in the day when there was nobody out there. He is good friends with Duke Kahanamoku.
So I was telling him, "Yeah, Paul, it so crowded now days." He's full of aloha this guy. So I asked, "How do you keep aloha when all these guys are taking the waves and you don't get a wave?" And he says, "You know, Kozo, you go out there if you don't get a wave, you don't get a wave. There is always tomorrow. There is always the next day. You don't have to get a wave." The idea that you have to get a good wave, that is an illusion, right? You don't have to get a good wave. You should just be grateful that you paddled out, you know? That the ocean let you get out.
Manu: Nice! Now that is a Bodhisattva. I will let you and you and you and you go before me, and I will paddle in. Now see, that is what I am talking about. You can't be not humbled and be a surfer, honestly. Our natural world is the best teacher for us. And we are not talking about the ecological literacy part, the STEM part. All those are auxiliary ideas. We are talking about the relationship that allows us to love the ocean, to love our streams, to want to take care of it, to love our land, to want to take care of it, to love our sky.
Love allows us to expand our possibilities and if we don't know land, then we are not going to be able to nurture and care for it. That is why education should turn now to ´āina-based knowledge—land-based knowledge. Because our kids have no idea. Land is a commodity for them. Land is a sidewalk. Land is something to purchase and to exchange through money. We are losing our capacity to know what loving land means to the potential of our own evolution.
It seems so simple, but it is not. The ability to be on land, gets us off our machines, gets us off our technology and gets us in to a relationship with a frequency that really is phenomenal. And it is usually quiet. It is usually shaped by the dew of the morning and the cool of the evening and the heat of the day. And your own discomfort that you have to figure out.
I was a wildness instructor for Hawaii Bound, Wildness Hawaii, and Outward Bound. And I have to tell you after instructing for those schools in those beautiful places in Hawaii and in Florida, it changed me. And it made me realize that our land are our best teachers. They really are. And the rest is just logistics. You will get interested in whatever, but if you don't get exposure to land in all of its glory and conflict, then you will not have a relationship with what love can mean for caring for these places.
So the wildness instructor in me was so grateful to have those experiences with kids and adults in very challenging situations. And to see them go through their conflict and to see them get to the other side was a life-changer for me. And that is what put me on my path being a teacher is the land was my teacher. The ocean was my teacher. The beauty of our mountains was my teacher.
Kozo: Beautiful. And you talk about aloha ´āina and I think a lot of people on this call might not be familiar. So there is a project in Hawaii called the TMT [Thirty Meter Telescope]. They are trying to build another huge telescope up on Mauna Kea which is one of the highest mountains on the Big Island of Hawaii. It is sacred land for Hawaiians. They have already got tons of telescopes up there and they want to build another one. There has been a huge movement by native Hawaiians to prevent it, to stop it, because it is sacred land, and to take care of the land first.
Like you said, nobody is against research or science, but take care of the land first. It just brings to mind your idea of Kapu Aloha, I was watching the protest where they were standing and stopping the trucks from going through. And practicing Kapu Aloha, you saw these young Hawaiian like Kaho´okahi and you saw these big old Hawaiians, and you could tell they wanted to "beef"—move and like football stop the line from going through—but they practiced Kapu Aloha. And they receded and they chose to love the police that were coming up the mountain. And it was this beautiful connection through conflict.
I know there is a lot there, but I wanted to get to something that you are a specialist in.
Kozo: I know you are a specialist in indigenous wisdom. At one point you said something like indigeneity is not a racial distinction, but a synonym for continuity. I love that. I'm not kanaka mauoli [Native Hawaiian]. My family is from Hawaii, but I don't actually have Hawaiian blood in me, so I loved when you said that—indigeneity is not a racial distinction. It's not like "I'm Hawaiian; you're not Hawaiian." But it is a synonym for continuity, and I was wondering if you could flesh that out for us.
Manu: Absolutely. It is my work at the University of Hawaii at West Oahu to help indigenize the university. So our job is to be clear. For me, synonyms always help people to understand an idea, because interpretation either helps to clarity it or muddy it depending on what form of clarity you use.
Indigeneity is not a racial distinction. We just think it is. For me, indigeneity is a synonym for the concept of mo´o. And mo´o is the root word of mo´opuna [our grandchild], mo´okūauhau [geneology], and mo´olelo [our stories]. So the mo´o is this concept of continuity. What is the idea practiced in principle that allows continuity to come forth? So I've used indigeneity as a synonym for continuity. Kind of like common sense in context.
Because if you are common sensical in context, you are not going to franchise even a good idea that you learn from another island or you learn from a place 50 miles up the road. You must stay specific to your place because around that place are people with names, stories, and history of that place. So indigeneity ultimately means continuity because of contiguity. The ability to touch in spacial dimensions stories, land, and people and their histories.
This is why the indigenous philosophy is going to save the planet. And that is because common sense in place is going to return. It is inspiring because it is not about race. I will know the people around me where I live in Nu´uanu . In 25 years, I'm going to have more things in common with them. This is where the futurist and all of our scholars are heading towards. Is what are the principles of indigenous people that are based on continuity? That is love of land and service to people.
Love of land and service to people, these are the principles that are the priority of an indigenous knowing. So once they start asking us to step into discussion...whenever business people step into discussion if they are shaped by their own culture and by their own specific location of land and people, they will discuss thing relative to "are we caring for land, sky, ocean, and water? And how are we serving the people of that place?"
These are the simple, yet complex priorities that allow us to all connect to each other. People think indigenous means a racial discussion. It used to. But we are all mixed. We are all in some kind of diaspora moment in the world. So I've had to use it as a synonym for practices and principles. And it makes sense to me. However, if people use it and say, "Hawaiians aren't indigenous; therefore, I feel indigenous..." If you use it in the political sense, you've dropped it from its higher frequency. It is not a political description.
Continuity is a cultural and spiritual idea that I'm trying to set forth. And that continuity is the frequency that develops resonance. That develops collaboration through creative means. That develops the evolution of our society because we see each other. We are not seeing labels in each other. We are seeing each other. And that is what indigenous means to me is this concept of "do you see me in my difference?" And if the answer is yes, then you better be clear about what that difference is. So that difference can synergize with others. And our collective difference then allows for the inevitable amplification of goodness when that difference is centered around aloha.
Kozo: Wow. I love that "common sense in context." If that could become a personal practice for everybody, but also a political practice of groups, but also a global practice! If you just had common sense in context. Common sense at all times with your neighbors. A lot of people can't have common sense with their neighbors, much less with somebody who is racially different or politically different or religiously different. I love that—common sense in context.
Manu: It is simple. It is simple. It is really simple.
Kozo: I have so many questions. One I want to ask you has to do with the divine feminine, Manu. What I see coming out of Hawaii now, obviously you have you, Pua Case, Aunty Mahealani Kuamo´o, Luana Busby-Neff, Aunty Nona Beamer, Aunty Pilahi Paki, Aunty Rayleen Kawaia´ea.
There is this grounding of women that are standing for aloha. That are being aloha. You also have the male elders, Hale Makua and others. But I feel this big feminine movement going on. And I'm wondering if you are sensing into that in not just in Hawaii, but in a global context and maybe the necessity for an attention to the divine feminine in this time where the male mind has brought us to the brink of destruction. What are your views on that?
Manu: It is absolutely the rise of the feminine is on. It is in every major ancient culture. They have predicted this time. I think two years ago, the Chinese culture they ushered in everyone said it was the year of the ram, but it is actually the year of the sheep. And the energy of the feminine has descended upon the planet.
What is inevitable is the yin and yang, the turning of the yin with the yang with the center of yin. So that the inevitability of the rise of hina—our equivalent is hina. Ku and Hina. Ku is the activating principle of life. Hina is the receptive principle of wisdom.
Sophia arises when people recognize the centrality of earth. Sophia, Hina, Yin arises when we recognize our role in how to care for earth. And that in itself is a key to the activation of the divine feminine. And I see mareukura, they call it in Aoteaora. They gave me a symbol, mareukura is the star cluster that is defined as the feminine.
So there are many, many cultures around the world that are ushering this time now because we need both. But when one dominates the circular...you know the Town and Country, the Yin and Yang label, it is not a two-dimensional idea. It is a sphere. Kozo, can you imagine a sphere of that whole energy just pushing in on itself? The center being dark, which the yin, and the outside being light which is the yang.
And so the yin turns it. The center is just as dense as the outer. But now the yin is turning yang. The hina is turning ku. And the mareukura is turning the whatukura of Aotearoa. There is so much to this idea. That it is everywhere in ancient cultures.
So our job is to simply recognize, understand the principles, and in the West, it is sophia, for me. And sophia is wisdom. And philo-sophia, philosophy, that is why somebody like me had been plucked and thrown into the philosophy field, because of the needs of our time.
It is not like I woke up and said, "I want to be an epistemologist." So that is by itself a sign that the articulation of an indigenous or a Hawaiian epistemology was needed in order for me to actually see that if we do not understand that "aloha is our true intelligence," then what are we understanding? Oh, that's right, we are understanding that money and separation and competition and accumulation is our intelligence. But that is not the enduring truth. The enduring truth is something quite opposite.
And that is why the feminine is rising because all we got to do is be clear. It is not about other people's unclarity, it is about our own clarity now. And that is why the rise of the feminine is so exciting because of course it is. Because it is energy and energy begets energy begets energy. The wheel is turning inward now. And all we got to do is be clear.
Kozo: Beautiful. I think you answered this question, but I want to bring it up. At the TMT hearings, at a certain point, you said, "I'm tired." And you were really emotional. You said, "After 20 years of trying to protect the ´āina, I'm tired." But then in the next sentence, you said, "No matter what the outcome of this hearing, we always do what we do." My question is...Aunty you have been at this for years and years and years of trying to protect the land and have those scientist, have the University of Hawaii not listen and just go build their telescopes...and just degrade the land. What keeps you going? I know you get tired. I know it is hard a lot of times. But you have been at this a long time. You have seen a lot of losses. What keeps you at it?
Manu: Kozo, I need to let you know that I am absolutely...there are so many aloha ´āina practitioners that I honor and lift up during this time that have been at it for 40-50 years plus. So my years in this opposition has actually been a small addition. But for me, it did change my life because micro, macro, micro, macro. What we are doing to the land, we are doing to our bodies. What we are doing outside, we are doing to ourselves.
Basically, I went inward and did the practice of ho´oponopono to enliven a different response. Because Einstein said the consciousness that solves a problem cannot be the same consciousness that developed it. I learned that early on in my life, and I thought, "Wow." So I'm not going to be polemic in my...I left the shouting thing in the 80s. No, I'm not going to do this. I'm not going to say that they are wrong and we are right.
Right is the booby prize, I always like to say. So we are right, big deal. It still doesn't change anything. It does not push our society into healing, into safety for all, into abundance for everyone. We have to do this differently. And that is what maintains me.
When it gets impossible...I drive everyday past Pu´uloa, which is Pearl Harbor. And I see these big, big ships planted in there, polluting. And it is a phenomenon to see and experience the kaumaha—the heaviness—of Pearl Harbor. We call it Pu´uloa here on O´ahu. And so if you do not maintain a steadiness of light then that light is going to be put out by the negativity, the predictable negativity of a world gone mad with capitalism and the philosophy that it entails.
So that is what I know about my own steadiness. It is an internal job that I do publicly.
Kozo: Wow. Wonderful. Wonderful. I have one last question that you brought up in that last answer. I know this is an impossible task, but I wonder if you can introduce our listeners to ho´oponopono real quickly and how that helps you maintain that light. How that helps you from being overcome by the capitalism and by the pilikia [conflict, trouble].
Manu: You know, thank you, Kozo, because ho´oponopono is when you use pono to return to pono. Pono is the Hawaiian ideal of Truth, of healing, of rightness, of doing the right thing, of doing what is meant to be done because of the needs of that moment. Pono is a type of reality shaped by aloha. So it is a form of wisdom that you express because of your intentionality and your commitment to serve and be of service.
When you use pono to get back to pono, it has been my humble practice to be a learner and a teacher of this healing modality. Many people know it in a certain way, but it is something deeper than what people know it as, because Europe has taken it into a different way.
But ho´oponopono...if you just practice in your life what is pono, and do that for 30 years, see where that takes you. And that is the practice. Just practice pono. Practice Truth. Practice what Truth delivers you. Practice what doing the right thing and listening more and being of service. Practice that and see where it takes you.
So then, ho´ponopono is when that practice takes you into a ritualized way of communication that helps families and others heal. That is where I'm at now, and that is what is kind of the substructure of even this interview.
Once pono is in the house, then you have an easy capacity to be present with someone because truth is recognized. You don't have to fake it, or you don't have to vote for it. It is who you are.
It is a practice though, and people are reading a getting a lot from different people, but it is a very, very respected old practice and my teachers have been beloved to me in my life time, and they are still my teachers—Aunty Lynette Paglinawan is one of them. And she believes that ho´oponopono is truly a Hawaiian family practice that is helping Hawaii evolve.
Kozo: Wonderful, Manu.
Pavi: We have a comment from the web. Charles says, "Greetings from Munich, Germany - with snowflakes in the air. To meet the "Climate Crisis," how do we learn to live with less (on the outside), while discovering the richness within (more within)? I teach sustainability at the university here, so your answer will be a gift for us."
Manu: [laughter] Ai [yes]. Aloha mai [greetings] Munich! Such a pleasure to have snowflakes in my disposition here in Hawaii. [laughter] You know, we have a "Hoea Ea" Movement here which is our food sovereignty movement. As a Hawaiian philosopher, I believe the only thing interesting to me nowadays is really planting food. How people do it in their own context should not be a franchise-able exchange.
What we do here in Hawaii is unique. I'm guerrilla planting. I'm planting food everywhere, along the streams of Nu´uanu, along various spaces that people allow. Just plant food. We are planting ulu [breadfruit]. We are planting mango. We are planting mai´a, our banana.
But how to live less is an individual choice. It is only gained through a spiritual practice of awakening. All your students, I would hope, are going through their own self-awareness. So to get to awareness is a discipline that I call the trilogy. The hologram which is physical, mental, and spiritual trilogy.
You can't get to doing less with more...you do it less with more, because the more is an inside activity shaped by joy and giving. If your students start to give more and expect less, they are in the "aloha mai, aloha aku" [love given, love returned] mode, the simultaneity of what aloha does when you give it. That is all I know about my own journey is that what you give is what you receive. That is an old idea that comes from every culture.
And blessings to you in your work of being a teacher. That is a great question. Mahalo nui [thank you so much].
Pavi: Thank you for that. Charles actually has another follow up question to that: "What are the Hawaiian insights that help us move from EGOnomy to ECOnomy?"
Manu: Well, Charles, we have ´ōlelo no´eau or proverbs. One of my favorites is "Ma keia´āina pūlama, mai i loko o ku´u na´au." It means the land which nourishes me from its depths fills my heart. So to have sayings from your people that teach you the reverence of loving land is key. To have proverbs and ancient ideas from your kāpuna [elders, ancestors] that teach you how to love better. These are very helpful for my students, and these have been absolute guideposts in my own life.
Kozo: Manu, Kau´i Wright-Peralto from Antioch says, "Welina mai, Manu. Aloha!"
Manu: Aloha mai! [laughter]
Pavi: I wanted to ask Manu, in your way of speaking there is so much poetry that comes through. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about...I know there must be so many stories as well that are living in you both that you have received from your ancestors, as well as stories from your own life. Is there a particular myth or legend or story from your tradition that you return to often?
Manu: Yes! Yes! I've actually moved into an area that is beloved to the Mo´o clan. We have our ancestral clans. Many of us know that our aumakua, our mystical connection to our kāpuna [elders], come from the natural world. And my ohana, my family, ours is mo´o. And the mo´o, I said earlier, is a synonym for continuity, but I did not mention that it is actually a reptile.
It is our reptilian brain. It is the old ancient brain that has been covered by the new brain. The mo´o, the Mo´oinanea, the deity of deities, wrought Kanē, Kanaloa, and Keānuenue, and the retinue of all the mo´owahine that ended up being our kia´i, our guardians for our muliwai [stream] where the fresh water meets the ocean. We are fresh and salt water ourselves.
So stories of Mo´oinanea thrill me because they have come to me in my dreams. They allow me to enjoy water as much as I do. I swim in our stream Nu´uanu as often as I can. And I so love running water.
So around where I live there is the punawai [spring] and all the healing ponds, so I feel connected to these healing ponds. And when the rainbow comes right out of Nu´uanu and I pull over and I start to sob because Keānuenue, the sister of Kanē and Kanaloa, is the rainbow. And there it is coming from Nu´uanu.
So these are elemental forms. These aren't people. They are energetic fields. And so the ability to understand what this notion of mo´o means is my inspiration. So yes, we have many stories that inspire many of us in different ways.
Pavi: Beautiful. One of the follow-up questions I have is, you know, listening to you on this call, you have stopped at different times to tell us about the sky, to tell us about the sunrise, and you have that love for the land, for the natural world that seems to just emanate from you, and I imagine its contagious for people in your sphere. Anyone around you I'm sure is tuning in more deeply for what is outside their window at this time.
But I'm wondering, do you have any guidance for those who may not have grown up with this deep connection or understanding of the land? How do you begin to cultivate that?
Manu: I believe the awakening comes in every form. So the love of land is my childhood teacher, but my adult awakening has been through Ramana Maharshi to people like Ken Wilbur through people like Teilhard de Chardin. You can find your inward land, your inward place of comfort and inspiration. Mine began externally and went internally. It doesn't matter.
"´A´ohe pau ka ´ike ka hālau ho´okāhi"—not all knowledge is taught in one school. You almost like don't have to have my orientation, but that is my orientation to awakening. What is yours? You know?
And I know it's different because that is the beauty of the color green in the natural world. The color green, I'm looking at about 50 shades of green, and that is what I ask this group of people is to find your shade of purpose, your shade of beauty, so that you can be educated by that.
Pavi: "Find your shade of beauty." I love that. So many questions that are bubbling up here. A question that comes back to stories, is the conviction with which you speak, I feel like it rests on so much lived experience embodying these values. I was wondering if there are any stories you have to share of the practice of Kapu Aloha or these other practices that you have shared. Are there any stories that come to mind of how that has played out in a way? Of how you have...not used that approach. I don't imagine it is something you wield like a weapon. It is more like a flow, but where that has been your response to a situation or an event and how that shifted the trajectory of something?
Manu: Absolutely. It absolutely shifts my trajectory almost daily, Pavi, because when you really choose aloha, when you really choose love as the center of your life, then no matter what you are going through in your personal life, no matter what you are going through in your professional life, you have to express it in a way that people just look at you and ask, "How do you maintain that?"
I go, "I can't help it." Because if you do not maintain the sense of aloha, then you are going to fall into anger. You are going to fall into separation. You are going to fall into people's lower frequency.
And it was Hale Makua who actually taught us. He's such a beautiful...he is the uncle of my friend. I would sit with him, Kozo. He is just beloved. And he would say, "Truth is our highest goal, but aloha is our greatest truth." So the activation of that principle is actually a dailyness. When I'm in a meeting and someone says something. And I catch my breath because it is so stupid. I catch my breath and I just go, "Oh my God." Then you breathe it in. It is like a tonglen practice. You breathe it in, because the commitment to love is really about loving. It is not really about love. It is about loving everything. It has always been a verb.
And so, because I'm a recovering athlete, you want to practice it. You don't want to talk about it. You want to practice it. So I'm in a situation now in my personal life, where it has been so helpful to really just trust and practice. And no matter what happens, there is only love here for my beloved. And there is only faith in the purpose of what love is meant to do.
So you don't try to manipulate anything. You don't try to even think about what the possibilities are pro and con. You just basically love. And that is a discipline that I am in right now. And it is the fifth principle of Lee Irwin. If you read anything in your life, read Lee Irwin. And his book is just fantastic. So I'm in the fifth principle now on the purpose of love as a spiritual principle and the path of spiritual understanding.
Manu: So there are many stories. Every single day is a story. A person cutting in on the freeway is a story. I absolutely have no qualms when people cut in and do this and that. I send them love. Not like it is hard to do, but it is a discipline. People sitting next to me are swearing at the guy. And I'm like, "Why are you swearing? Why are you entangled?"
That is ho´oponopono to me is when you entangle yourself in the negativity of another, you are creating an energetic field we call hihia. And that entanglement really drags you into predictable negative frequency. And why do you want to do that? Don't do that.
So that is a discipline. And you want to give that discipline to somebody that wants it.
Kozo: It just reminds me of "e kala mai," right? That is how you say "I'm sorry, forgive me" in Hawaii—"e kala mai" which actually means cut me from this. Kala—to cut. You know my Hawaiian name is Makala—the person who cuts, who liberates, who kalas. So it is beautiful that your daily practice is that kala-ing. Not to get entangled.
We have a comment from David Doane. He says, "When dealing with difficult others, I remind myself that we are one, whatever culture, color, gender, religious belief, etc. We are each and all an extension of one source, and so called others including difficult others are me. Learning that resulted in my increased moving across the great divide of otherness, to use Jean Houston's phrase, and into increased compassion which I think is sacred love. I know my attitude toward so called others has changed -- I know I need to put that thinking and attitude into more action. I commend you for the action, work and projects, you do." And I think that is someone who is resonating with you, Manu.
Manu: [laughter] Thank you. Mahalo nui. You know I used to want to take a two by four to people that say, "We are all one." [laughter] You know, just want to take their knees out. Boom. Because what they do when they see difference in the 80s and 90s is we are all one and if you do not see me for who I am then the we are one is actually we are the same and we are not.
But you have just described when you see others, you see that we are that. And that is a mystical very common sensical idea because you see yourself and that is because you know who you are. So the work of our time is to really know who you are. Do you know who you are? When you do then you are not going to want to neo-colonize me. And I ring my bell every morning for people that are suffering because of good intentions of others.
This is the challenge of our time is to actually see other as yourself, but if you do not know yourself then you are then going to unconsciously neo-colonize, neo-liberalize, just do the new thing but in a somehow more acceptable format. But if you see me for who I am that is because I do, and then I will see that difference not as a divide, but as union.
But people of culture that have continuity and a genesis at the center of our lives that are shaped by love of land. In an old way we have to speak, we have to articulate it. Because in the next change, you guys, if we do not articulate something different that is relatable and that is simplified through its complexity then it's going to have a cognitive correctness, but not an emotional connection. And that is what I felt from you, that comment, that we are resonating with each other because I am you, my difference you do know it. And I appreciate that.
Kozo: Wonderful. I want to pick up on something that you mentioned earlier, Manu. It is this idea of kū. You have “Kū kia´i mauna.” You also have "I kū mau mau." This idea that I'm going to stand. It is a male energy. Like "You come over here, I'm going to kū." On the flip side of that you have...Hale Makua said the different roles that we play, the servant and the artist, they are aloha. Then you get to the warrior which is kū. Then the teacher is kū, like when you have to defend a dissertation.
But then he [Hale Makua] said that in order to be a healer, you have to come back to aloha. And obviously the ali´i [Chief] is aloha. You know, Pavi, who is on this call gave me this great analogy. She said there is a difference from taking a stand and holding sacred space.
So I'm wondering how you balance those two. You have to "kū kia´i mauna," you have to stand for the mountain. But also you have to be receptive and hold sacred space and Kapu Aloha. And I'm wondering how does that balance out in your life or in your practices.
Manu: When I say, "kū kia´i mauna," Kozo. I don't mean a physical place only. That's a place, kū kia´i mauna, stand in the reverence of what I believe, stand in the principles that I wish to emulate, stand and be activated in that knowing. So that my practices, my expressions of it, are seen and understood. Stand in that.
Now standing isn't a standing...a belligerent standing or a polemic standing or an aggressive standing. It is basically...when we say "kū i ka māna"—stand in how you were nourished. Māna is the masticated food that our mothers would chew and give to their children. So when we say "kū i ka māna"—stand, be animated by, have reverence for, articulate, express, and be that which you have been taught or that which how you have been nurtured, be like that.
So kū isn't quite as aggressive as people think it is. It is basically a synonym for animate yourself in a real and productive way. And that is why, kū and hina, hina isn't the soft idea of receptivity. It is a nurturing, animating...wisdom is not for sissies. Wisdom is an expression of our own excellence. When we say kū, it doesn't mean stand and resist. It means stand and be animated in that capacity.
It is many different interpretations for the idea that needs to be explained.
Kozo: Mahalo. Thank you for that. It reminds me of one of the main things that we remind ourselves in ServiceSpace is "be the change you want to see in the world." That seems to be a type of kū. Don't stand in opposition, but be the aloha, the Kapu Aloha, you want to see in the world.
It reminds me of this story you told that brings me to tears every time. Queen Lili´uokulani who was the reigning monarch when Hawaii was illegally taken over. She was imprisoned in her own palace. You tell the story of how she had to watch her grandfather being hung. And even in the face of that, when the land was being taken over, she said, "No bloodshed, no fighting." She practiced Kapu Aloha. I was wondering if you could.tell us about that.
Manu: Well, to bear witness to the horrific death of a beloved is a phenomenon of a lower frequency of society. So this is why Hawaii is going to be completely...Wait. Oh, you guys. Howzitt? Wait, go away. go away. Hele aku! All right, we'll see you in a bit. [Manu, calls out to friend who are gathering for the ceremonies at Kukaniloko birthing stones. This is classic aloha–honor those who are in front of you, even if you are on an important phone call.]
The Kukaniloko guys have arrived, but I just want to say that the societies that we are in. Krishnamurti said it best when he said, "It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society." Isn't that amazing?
So when realize that our society is useful and it is in its own way ignorant because of its own priorities, it develops more compassion in me, not less. And that where we are at right now. If the society brings you to evolution instead of revolution, then we have the capacity to do this collaboratively.
Because indigenous cultures and practices around the planet are ready to help us heal. And when we do this collaboratively and together, we are evolving. We are not revolving. We don't want power. We want equity and fairness. We want love to be shared and safety for everyone. So this is what we are wanting, not a revolution, but an evolution.
Kozo: A comment just came in on the webform from Anna Hali´a. And she says, "Mahalo nui, Maunulani." She is just very excited about this call.
Pavi: It is hard to close a call like this. I just feel like I want to listen for the rest of eternity. But Manu, the question that we ask all of our guests is what can we as the ServiceSpace/Awkin Call greater community do to help support your work in the world and further your vision for the world?
Manu: Thank you for that, Pavi. That is a great question. I think you are doing it already. I think the ability to go deep into your own healing process will eventually reach out to the breadth that you folks are doing right now.
And then the third principle of mālamalama—the extension between depth and breadth—will connect by its own accord when you are healing and you are in the practice of healing. So wherever you are, whatever you are doing, everybody, do it a little bit different.
So if you are a PhD advisor and you are teaching your students to defend their thesis, stop using the word defend. Stop using every word that shapes separation and change it into its natural evolution. Because when the PhD student is at their level of defense, it is actually a party. So your job is to nurture that evolution.
So it is an honoring when people come. They don't have to defend their thesis. They simply have to articulate it and honor the people that they learned from.
So everything that we can reconstruct to deconstruct should be done with Aloha, with love, with wisdom at the center. And when that is, our language will change. Our priorities will be articulated. And you will begin to know your ancient-self, your mo´o self that connects you to all people because love is at the center; feeding is at the center; taking care of our land is at the center.
When we do this and we do this collaboratively, we will inevitably be of service to a world-wide awakening. And that is the purpose of your work, both of your work. And I see it, and I feel it, and I hear it. And I am grateful for it.
Kozo: Wow. Wow, Manu. We have another comment came in that sums it up for me as well. It says, "Aloha Manu...mahalo nunui loa to you for all you are and all you continue to do and share with our people and the world!! The EVOLUTION is here...Kū Kia`i Mauna!!"
I think that is a beautiful summary, just the mahalo, just the gratitude.
Manu: Who said that, Kozo?
Kozo: That is Kau´i Wright-Peralto.
Manu: Oh! Hi, Kau´i. Nice. Mahalo nui.
Kozo: Immense gratitude for all you have shared here. You've shared the beautiful landscape of Hawaii with us. I'm sitting in my bedroom in Cupertino and I got to experience the Hawaiian sunset. You've shared the indigenous wisdom of so many different cultures. You've shared your journey. You've shared Aloha, Kapu Aloha, and Ho´oponopono. You've shared all these practices and these wisdoms and these gifts from your kūpuna, and so generously, Manu. I feel like Christmas is early with all the gifts today. So mahalo nui.
Pavi: Oh, my goodness, I think you summed it up beautifully. I just feel like it is such a gift to be listening to someone who stands so firmly in the reverence of what she believes. You've passed on that Aloha. You've rekindled that spirit in the hearts of all our listeners. I speak for Kozo and myself and the web of people around the world who are tuned in. Thank you so much.
I couldn't help but think that I'm so glad that you are a teacher. And that you have these opportunities to be speaking to young people and to be reminding them of these tremendous capacities that we carry in our hearts. Thank you and ever more strength to you and your work, Manu.
Manu: Mahalo nui.
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