Host: Pavi Mehta
Moderator: Kozo Hattori
Every Saturday Awakin.org, through its Awakin Calls program, hosts an in-depth conversation with an inspiring guest. People join the conference call from all over the world and later the audio and text are posted online. Sometimes the transcript is also made available on conversations.org. The following conversation took place Dec. 16, 2017.
Biographical note sent out ahead of the call:
Manulani Aluli Meyer (Manu) is the fifth daughter of Emma Aluli and Harry Meyer. Her family hails from Mokapu, Kailua, Kamamalu, Wailuku, Hilo and Kohala on the islands of Oahu, Maui and Moku o Keawe.
Dr. Aluli Meyer works in the field of indigenous epistemology (philosophy of knowledge) and its role in world-wide awakening. She obtained her doctorate from Harvard (Ed.D. 1998)
Her book: Ho'oulu: Our Time of Becoming Hawaiian Epistemology and Early Writings
, is in its third printing. Manulani has been an Associate Professor of Education at the University of Hawaii in Hilo and host to many creative community transformational education projects within/outside UH Hilo for 25+ years. She will be featured in the film Ho Mai Ka Pono
scheduled to be released in 2018.
She is currently the Konohiki (facilitator) of Kulana o Kapolei, a Hawaiian Place of Learning, at UH West Oahu supported by the Hawaii Papa O Ke Ao initiative. She has been a practitioner of ho'oponopono (Hawaiian healing practice to deal with disruption in relationships) for that past 30 years.
: I'm going to go back to my small-kid, Hawaiian roots and just say it feels like one of those days where the surf is perfect, nobody is out, it's sunny with an offshore breeze. I feel so stoked to be on this phone call today with Dr. Manulani Aluli Meyer.
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 who said that in Hawaii they believe there are all these different roles you come to serve when you manifest: some people are servants, some are artists, some are warriors, some are teachers, some 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 has come 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 and the environment. She’s also an artist. She has published a book called Ho´oulu
, that’s a pastiche of poetry, wisdom, photographs, research and ōlelo no´eau
, which are wise Hawaiian sayings. It’s 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
, and 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.
So, Manu, welcome. Thank you for joining us today.
: [laughter] Beautiful. Thanks, Kozo
: I thought, invoking Hawaiian protocol, you could start us off with a prayer.
[yes in Hawaiian - she chants a prayer in Hawaiian]
Hui, Aloha mai kākou a pau.
[Hello, welcome everyone]. Hi, Kozo.
[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?
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
—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 one day one day when I was there to give a talk. And that one is particularly special to me because it talks about this being the time of our own awakening—and let our awakening be infused with this energy—ho´oulu
, to have ho´oulu
, to be possessed in a positive way, so that you are doing things that you never knew you could do before. You’re writing in ways that you never knew you could write before. You’re loving in ways that heal our planet. That’s what this prayer is about.
: Wow! Manu, that is so beautiful! It is so appropriate. Your intuition served you so well there; it’s 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 the same family. Nobody is outside our canoe. We might have to steal it and use it in the beginning of all our Awakin Calls. [laughter]
: Well, the sun is rising here in Hawaii. It’s 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
: Beautiful. So, Manu, I wanted to start with a little about you. I know you’ve had amazing journeys from being a college athlete to protecting the mauna
to being a scholar and doing healing, and all kinds of stuff. So this is open-ended—tell us where you come from and the journey that brought you here. Take as much time as you want.
, Kozo. Mahalo
for this ability to be drawn into the conversation. Because very few people know that I have played sports; it was another lifetime ago. Actually, the awakening began in my body, because in sports you are going for your own excellence. That is what competition was for me, an inward exploration of my own excellence. That’s what I loved about sports, whether it was tennis, running, handstands, skateboarding, surfing, volleyball, basketball, track and field. It didn't matter.
Everything was an opportunity to touch base 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—better than any book, better 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. I appreciated the humility it took to do them well, and the excellence it took to do it collaboratively. And being embedded on the beach of Kailua, that was an amazing opportunity—growing up on the beach, walking to school on the beach and feeling the beauty of our world.
I would run to the ocean after school and on the weekends—just run into the blue, blue waters. I feel like the most fortunate girl on the planet, because I’m educated by beauty.
Then, when I had my accident while playing as middle blocker for UCSB, that was when the journey of self-reflection began, because everything I’d known was gone. I blew out my knees; I had five operations on one and two on the other—then you die, the “you” you think you are, dies.
So it was a really important time. I know you understand this, as you’ve gone through your own journey of death and healing. 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 live past this kaumaha—
this sorrow. That's when I started reading. I decided I might as well decide what I’m meant to do in this lifetime.
What I'm grateful about with sports is the ability to understand my limits and to push beyond them with others, to design a path of freedom so that excellence is an inspiration, not an ego machination.
So I moved to Hilo where my grandparents and ohana
[family] are from. I so appreciate all the lessons learned in the beautiful Hilo Palikū
and all the shorelines and muliwai
[rivers] and the waterfalls. I’ve 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’s like a gift 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 the road now. The sun is rising across the field and it’s just spectacular. Yay! I get to stop now. Yay! Beautiful sunrise, everybody. It's beautiful. Spectacular.
I'm near Kukaniloko in Wahiawa. The sun is to my right. It’s an empty road with two cars just passing. The birds are 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’re now doing is connecting to each other.
You know, we’re connecting because of the needs of our time. I think that is why when I was injured, my mother said, "Manu, God has another plan for you." 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. Sports gave mr this love of a kind of excellence that keeps you moving. I used to vomit before certain races, just turn and vomit. Then I ran my race. You know, you’re so scared, but you just go and do it.
People believe that athletes are just jocks. Interview us forty years later and see where some of us have gone. And if there’s sorrow in there, we go in different areas because we know what a workout is. We know what collective excellence feels like. So it’s inevitable that you’re going to want to serve a larger community because that ends up being your team. Then your team dissolves into a bigger team. And everybody becomes your teammate. It is corniest thing. Really it is.
But I have to say, Kozo, I'm a twin. My twin sister's name is Moana. Moana and I are so uniquely different that you ultimately circle back and see what’s the same. And what’s same just rocks my world because the difference is always external, but the sameness is an internal dive into what’s beautiful about life.
Moana and I are externally different. She’s small and dark. And I'm kind of tall and look like my father whose a haole
[white] from Belleville, Illinois. My mother is from Hawaii. So we’re mixed. 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. It just helped me focus, I guess, even as a child. In a Hawaiian family, as a haole
I had to find my own way.
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’s different from you, what is your purpose in life? She continues to be. She prepared me for this work of difference. Difference is what we have in common.
You know, you go into difference and 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’s what sports did for me, Kozo—the working out process, and the working out principle, that you do over and over and over. That’s 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.
: 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 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 scientists are trying to build a thirty meter telescope on sacred Hawaiian land]. They were handing out leaflets and I grabbed one. I just put it on my desk and it’s been here for years. I never read it. I just brought it home.
And I picked it up the other day and read it. It’s about Kapu Aloha.
I looked and 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 and also the idea that aloha
is our true intelligence.
“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
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. When you love land, when you have the priority of Aloha ´Āina
, the love and care of land, then everything falls into place. You’re not wondering about jobs. You’re 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 it brings to the world, ultimately amplifies its own purpose and our own connection to it—because if love is at the center, then love gets amplified. That’s what kapu
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 actualize it, to practice it. To discipline yourself when people are yelling at you, when there’s a whole society that would rather commodify land as real estate, we have to be steady with the inevitable turnaround of the society. It’s inevitable that we’re 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’s not even a philosophy. It’s not a religion. It’s our center. It’s our cultural norm. 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. Hawaii allows us to have that understanding because of our geography, of our location. But it’s connected to old principles around the planet.
When love is at the center, ego isn't. And believe me, it’s hard for everybody. It's hard for me here in Honolulu when people absolutely want the telescope to be built. It’s 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. Then when it’s 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. The Kapu Aloha
strengthens our resolve to simply put love of land at the center. When you put aloha
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—give us inspiration. The history of a place of the people buried there guides 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
That’s why I think Hawaii will play a pivotal role in world healing. We are committed to this. It’s not like a fad. We’ve 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. 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. It must start within your own practices and your own commitments and your own deeds. That’s why I love Shakespeare when he said, "By my actions teach my mind." I love that because it’s not by our words, it’s by our actions. So basically, stop talking, start doing. When you’re doing, in the vibrancy of what aloha is, then there’s a healing on the planet. When you’re just doing without consciousness and 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’s nothing to compare.
. Manu, you know the Shakespeare quote, give us the Hawaiian equivalent. The one about "if you want to show me you can surf..."
: "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’s the thing about Hawaii. We don't talk about surfing. No, we surf
. Surfing heals us because, yeah, Kozo, you're not out there over-thinking it. You drop on a wave and you’re effortlessly choosing, not choosing, choosing, not choosing. You’re flowing with the energetic pulse of nature. And that’s the most humbling place to be. That’s why good surfers are ´olu´olu
—they’re humble, and if they’re not, they get humbled when they go out. [laughter] You know what I mean?
: I know. I've been humbled many times, many times on the reef.
: I've got brother-in-laws who are excellent surfers, and they’re special people. That’s why I know that good surfers are humble. Excellence is its own reward. You go to surf because you’re on the pursuit of joy, the joy you receive on a good wave. And the joy you give your surfing partner when they catch it. 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?
: Yeah. It reminds of Paul Strauch Jr. 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 was good friends with Duke Kahanamoku. So I was telling him, "Paul, it’s so crowded nowadays." He's full of aloha,
this guy, and I asked, "How do you keep aloha
when all these guys are taking the waves and you don't get a wave?"
He says, "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’s 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.
: Nice! Now that’s a Bodhisattva. I will let you and you and you and you go before me, and I’ll paddle in. See, that is what I’m talking about. You can't be not humbled and be a surfer, honestly. Our natural world is the best teacher for us. And we’re not talking about the ecological literacy part, the STEM part. All those are auxiliary ideas. We’re talking about the relationship that allows us to love the ocean, to love our streams, 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’s why education should turn now to ´āina
-based knowledge—land-based knowledge. Because our kids have no idea. Land is a sidewalk. Land is something to purchase and to exchange through money. We’re losing our capacity to know what loving land means to the potential of our own evolution.
It seems so simple, but it’s not. The ability to be on land gets us off our machines, gets us off our technology and gets us to be in a relationship with a frequency that really is phenomenal. And it’s usually quiet. It’s usually shaped by the dew of the morning, 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. It made me realize that our lands are our best teachers. They really are. The rest is just logistics. You’ll 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 seeing them go through their conflict and get to the other side was a life-changer for me. That’s what put me on my path being a teacher. The land was my
teacher. The ocean was my teacher. The beauty of our mountains was my teacher.
: Beautiful. I know you’re 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 and I was wondering if you could flesh that out for us.
: Absolutely. It’s 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 understand an idea, because interpretation either helps to clarity or muddy the issue.
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? I've used indigeneity as a synonym for continuity. It’s kind of like “common sense” in context.
If you’re common sensical in context, you’re not going to franchise even a good idea that you learn from another island or 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. That’s because common sense in place is going to return. It’s inspiring because it’s 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. The futurists and all of our scholars are heading towards this, the principles of indigenous people that are based on continuity, love of land and service to people. These are the principles that are the priority of an indigenous knowing.
So whenever business people step into discussion, if they’re shaped by their own culture and by their own specific location of land and people, they will discuss things relative to "are we caring for our 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 now. We’re 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’re not seeing labels in each other. We’re seeing each other.
What indigenous means to me is this concept of "do you see me in my difference?" If the answer is yes, then you better be clear about what that difference is. So that difference can synergize with others. Our collective difference then allows for the inevitable amplification of goodness when that difference is centered around aloha.
: Wow. I love that "common sense in context." If that could become a personal practice for everybody, and a political practice of groups—and also a global practice! If you just had 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.
: It’s simple. It’s really simple.
: I have so many questions. One has to do with the divine feminine. What I see coming out of Hawaii now—obviously we have you—and there’s Pua Case, Aunty Mahealani Kuamo´o, Luana Busby-Neff, Aunty Nona Beamer, Aunty Pilahi Paki, Aunty Rayleen Kawaia´ea. There’s this grounding of women who are standing for aloha
, who are being aloha
. There are also the male elders, Hale Makua and others. But I feel this big feminine movement going on. I'm wondering if you’re sensing into that, not just in Hawaii, but in a global context—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?
: Absolutely. The rise of the feminine is on. It’s in every major ancient culture. They have predicted this time. I think two years ago, in Chinese culture everyone said it was the year of the ram. But it was actually the year of the sheep, and the energy of the feminine has descended upon the planet.
What’s inevitable is the yin and yang, the turning of the yin with the yang. So there’s the inevitability of the rise of hina
—our equivalent is hina
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. That in itself is a key to the activation of the divine feminine. I see mareukura
, they call it in Aoteaora. They gave me a symbol, mareukura,
which is the star cluster that’s defined as the feminine.
There are many cultures around the world ushering this time in now because we need both. But when one dominates the circular—you know, it’s not a two-dimensional idea. It’s 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 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
. The mareukura
is turning the whatukura
of Aotearoa. There’s so much to this idea. It’s everywhere in ancient cultures.
So our job is to simply recognize, to understand the principles. In the West, it’s sophia
, for me, and sophia is wisdom, philo-sophia
. That’s why somebody like me has been plucked and thrown into the philosophy field, because of the needs of our time.
It’s not like I woke up and said, "I want to be an epistemologist." That, by itself, is a sign that the articulation of an indigenous or a Hawaiian epistemology was needed. We need 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’re believing that money and separation and competition and accumulation is our intelligence. But that’s not the enduring truth. The enduring truth is something quite opposite.
That’s why the feminine is rising because all we got to do is to be clear. It’s not about other people's un-clarity; it’s about our own clarity now. That’s why the rise of the feminine is so exciting, because of course it is! The wheel is turning inward now. And all we got to do is be clear.
: Beautiful. I think you answered this question already, but I want to bring it up again. At the TMT [thirty meter telescope] 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." Aunty you’ve been at this for years and years and years of trying to protect the land, and those scientists at the University of Hawaii have not listened. What keeps you going? What keeps you at it?
: Kozo, I need to let you know that I’m absolutely—there are so many aloha ´āina
practitioners who I honor and who have been at it for 40 or 50 years. So my years in this opposition have actually been a small addition. But for me, it did change my life because macro-micro—what we’re doing to the land, we’re doing to our bodies. What we’re doing outside, we’re doing to ourselves.
Basically, I went inward and did the practice of ho´oponopono
to enliven a different response. As Einstein said, the consciousness that solves a problem cannot be at the same level as the consciousness that developed it. I learned that early on in my life. So I left the polemic, shouting thing in the 80s. I thought, I'm not going to say that they’re wrong and we’re right. Being right is the booby prize, I always like to say. So we’re right. Big deal. It still doesn't change anything. We have to do this differently. And that is what maintains me.
When it gets impossible… I drive everyday past Pu´uloa
, Pearl Harbor. I see these big, big ships planted in there, polluting. It’s a phenomenon to see and experience the kaumaha
—the heaviness—of Pearl Harbor. So if you don’t maintain a steadiness of light then that light is going to be put out by the predictable negativity of a world gone mad with capitalism and the philosophy it entails. So that’s what I know about my own steadiness. It’s an internal job that I do publicly.
: Wonderful! I wonder if you can introduce our listeners to ho´oponopono
real quickly and how that helps you maintain that light
: Thank you, Kozo, because ho´oponopono
is when you use pono
to return to 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’s a form of wisdom that you express because of your intentionality and your commitment to be of service. 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’s something deeper than what people know it as, because Europe has taken it into a different way.
If you just practice in your life, what is pono
? Do that for 30 years and see where that takes you. That is the practice—just practice pono
. Practice Truth. Practice doing the right thing and listening more, and being of service. Practice that, and see where it takes you.
is when that practice takes you into a ritualized way of communication that helps families and others heal. That’s where I'm at now, and that’s kind of the substructure, even of 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; you don't have to vote for it. It is who you are.
It’s a practice though—a very respected, old practice, and my teachers have been beloved to me in my lifetime. They are still my teachers—Aunty Lynette Paglinawan is one of them. She believes that ho´oponopono
is truly a Hawaiian family practice that’s helping Hawaii evolve.
: Wonderful, Manu.
: 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."
: [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, 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 with less is an individual choice. It’s 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.
You can't get to doing 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. All I know about my own journey is that what you give is what you receive. That’s 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 a follow up question: "What are the Hawaiian insights that help us move from EGOnomy to ECOnomy?"
: 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 that nourishes me from its depths fills my heart.” 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.
: Manu, Kau´i Wright-Peralto from Antioch says, "Welina mai
, Manu. Aloha
Manu: Aloha mai
: Manu, in your way of speaking there is so much poetry that comes through. 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?
: 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, is mo´o
. And the mo´o
, I said earlier, is a synonym for continuity, but I did not mention that it’s actually a reptile.
It’s our reptilian brain, the old, ancient brain that has been covered by the new brain. The mo´o,
, the deity of deities, wrought Kanē, Kanaloa, and Keānuenue, and the retinue of all the mo´owahine
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. 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 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.
: Beautiful. Listening to you on this call, you’ve 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 it’s contagious. Anyone around you I'm sure is tuning in more deeply to what is outside their window right now. 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?
: 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 don't have to have my orientation, but that’s my orientation to awakening. What is yours? You know?
I know it's different because that’s the beauty of the color green in the natural world. I'm looking at about 50 shades of green. So I ask this group of people to find your shade of purpose, your shade of beauty, so that you can be educated by that.
: "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 some way? I don't imagine this is something you wield like a weapon, but has your response to a situation or an event shifted the trajectory of something?
: Absolutely. It shifts my own 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’re going through in your personal life, no matter what you’re 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 don’t maintain the sense of aloha
, then you’re going to fall into anger; you’re going to fall into separation; you’re going to fall into people's lower frequency.
It was Hale Makua who actually taught us. I would sit with him, Kozo. He is just beloved. 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’s so stupid, I catch my breath and I just go, "Oh my God!" Then I breathe it in. It’s like a tonglen
practice. You breathe it in, because the commitment to love is really about loving. It’s not really about love. It is about loving
everything. It has always been a verb.
So, because I'm a recovering athlete, I want to practice it. I don't want to talk about it. I want to practice it. So I'm in a situation now in my personal life, where it has been so helpful to just trust and practice. And no matter what happens, there is only love here for my beloved; 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. That is a discipline that I’m in right now. It’s the fifth principle of Lee Irwin. If you read anything in your life, read Lee Irwin.
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’s hard to do, but it’s a discipline. People sitting next to me are swearing at the guy. And I'm like, “Why are you entangled?” When you entangle yourself in the negativity of another, you’re creating an energetic field we call hihia
. That entanglement really drags you into predictable negative frequency. And why do you want to do that? Don't do that. So that’s a discipline. And you want to give that discipline to somebody who wants it.
It just reminds me of "e kala mai,
" right? That’s how you say, "I'm sorry, forgive me" in Hawaii—"e kala mai,
” which actually means “cut me from this.” You know my Hawaiian name is Makala—the person who cuts, who liberates, who kalas
. So it’s beautiful that your daily practice is that kala
-ing, not getting 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. This learning has 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." I think that is someone who’s resonating with you, Manu.
: [laughter] Thank you. Mahalo nui
. You know, I used to want to take a two by four to people who say, “We are all one.” [laughter] You know, I just wanted to take their knees out. Boom! Because actually we are the same, and we are not.
But you’ve just described when you see others, you see that we are that. And that’s a mystical, very common-sensical idea because you see yourself and that’s 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’re not going to want to neo-colonize me. And I ring my bell every morning for people who are suffering because of good intentions of others.
The challenge of our time is to actually see the other as yourself, but if you do not know yourself, then you’re going to unconsciously neo-colonize, neo-liberalize the other. But if you see me for who I am, then I will see that difference not as a divide, but as union.
But people of culture who have continuity and genesis at the center of their lives are shaped by love of land. In an old way we have to speak, we have to articulate it. Because if we do not articulate something different that’s simplified and relatable in its complexity, then it's going to have a cognitive correctness, but not an emotional connection. And that’s 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.
: Wonderful. I want to pick up on something you mentioned earlier, Manu. It’s this idea of kū
. You have “Kū kia´i mauna
” and also "I kū mau mau
"—this idea that I'm going to stand. It’s a male energy. On the flip side, Hale Makue said the roles of the servant and the artist are aloha
. Then you get to the warrior, which is kū
. And the teacher is kū
. But then he said that in order to be a healer, you have to come back to aloha
. Obviously the ali´i
[chief] is aloha. You know, Pavi gave me this great analogy. She said there’s 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.
: When I say, "kū kia´i mauna
," Kozo. I don't mean a physical place only. Kū kia´i mauna can be to
stand in the reverence of what I believe, stand in the principles I wish to emulate, stand and be activated in that knowing so that my practices, and my expressions of it, are seen and understood. Stand in that.
Now standing isn't a belligerent standing or a polemic standing or an aggressive standing. 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 in how you have been nurtured, be like that.
isn't quite as aggressive as people think it is. It’s basically a synonym for animate yourself in a real and productive way. That’s why, with kū
isn't the soft idea of receptivity. It’s 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.
. Thank you for that. It reminds me. One of the main things 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.
: Well, to bear witness to the horrific death of a beloved is a phenomenon of a lower frequency of society. 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 we realize that our society is useful and, in its own way, ignorant because of its own priorities, it develops more compassion in me, not less. 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. When we do this collaboratively and together, we are evolving. We don't want power. We want equity and fairness. We want love to be shared, and safety for everyone. This is what we are wanting, not a revolution, but an evolution.
: It is hard to close a call like this, 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?
: Thank you for that, Pavi. That’s a great question. I think you’re doing it already. I think the ability to go deep into your own healing process will eventually reach out to the breadth 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’re healing, and you’re in the practice of healing. So wherever you are, whatever you are doing—everybody, do it a little bit different.
If you’re a PhD advisor and you’re teaching your students to defend their thesis, stop using the word “defend.” Stop using every word that shapes separation and change it into to shape 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. They don't have to defend their thesis. They simply have to articulate it and honor the people they learned from.
So everything 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. 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. That is the purpose of your work. I see it and I feel it, and I hear it. And I’m grateful for it.
: Immense gratitude for all you have shared here, Manu. I feel like Christmas is early with all the gifts today. So mahalo nui
: Oh, my goodness, it’s 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'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 we carry in our hearts. Thank you and ever more strength to you and your work, Manu.
: Mahalo nui.