By Suma Varughese November 2004 A first-hand experience of a one-day workshop on huna, an ancient hawaiian system for health and happiness. Some eighteen of us were gathered in a small room in Mumbai’s upmarket Lokhandwala Complex, to learn about Huna, promoted as a practical Hawaiian system of psychoanalysis, healing and self-development. Dr Dayal Mirchandani, a psychiatrist with an interest in the healing modalities of ancient civilisations, spearheaded the workshop. Assisting him and indeed, conducting the workshop, were two enthusiastic women, Leena Thakkar and Fiona Nongrum. Most of us had little or no idea about Huna or indeed, Hawaii, save for a few stock images of beaches, surfing, hula-hula skirts and of course, aloha! But, as the workshop leaders informed us, there is a tremendous depth and wisdom to their way of life, unfortunately invalidated by the dominant Western culture. Indeed, such was the Western resistance that Huna was outlawed by the American government for the last couple of hundred years and has only been reinstated in the last twenty five years. The Hawaiians, like many ancient civilisations, had their bearings stunningly right. Disinterested in material goals and objectives, they lived in harmony with nature and themselves striving for health and happiness. Lofty goals that we are currently struggling towards after centuries of running after the wrong things. Their worldview and cosmology has much in common with other spiritual cultures, including our own. For instance, the Hawaiians were privy to the concept of universal life energy which they called Mana (correlating to the Indian prana). The practice of Huna revolves around accessing this universal energy through breathing and other techniques, in order to rise above narrow self-concerns and negative blocks and relate to others in harmony. Indeed, it was originally called Ho’omana, which meant to make Mana. Access to Mana also helps avert disease, heal disorders and to lead vibrant high-energy lives. However, their agenda was not overtly spiritual for they did not aspire to enlightenment. They stopped at leading an effective and happy life. Those who specialised in accessing Mana to heal and cure others were given the status of Kahuna, wise men. Here at the workshop, dubbed a basic level one, we were taught mainly how to access it for ourselves. While the trainers delivered the introductory talk, I sized up my fellow participants. Most were seekers, a few readers of Life Positive, in addition. There were a couple of film-makers, a script writer, a Narmada Bachao Andolan activist, a crusader for sustainable development, a counsellor, a few businessmen and executives. Surprisingly enough, there were more men than women, a novel occurrence for a weekday workshop; and indeed, for any exercise in self-exploration. The primary tool for accessing Mana is a breathing exercise, which Fiona, a yoga teacher, taught us early on. For ten minutes we were required to breath in deeply through the nostrils, and breathe out through the mouth, making a sigh of expiration. The outbreath had to be twice as long as the inbreath and we had to ensure the lungs filled up at all levels from the bottom to the top. A Huna chant, which apparently has the same vibratory impact as Sanskrit, initiated the process, later settling into gentle music and the sound of breathing. At the end of ten minutes, which, by the way, is an inordinate amount of time, many of us felt charged and invigorated, Mana coursing zestfully through our veins. Our next exercise was to help us to access one of the many talents of the Hawaiians, which was a very well-developed intuition. Apparently, they navigated the oceans without compasses or other equipment, basing their movements on an intuitive relationship between themselves and the higher intelligence. After ten more minutes of deep breathing—I can’t remember when I last felt more ventilated—we were asked to focus on a wall in front of us and to gradually increase our awareness to our peripheral vision and eventually 360 degrees. As swift and agile hunter-gatherers, their lives depended on this ability to be super alert, but for urban dwellers unused to scanning their environment or living in relationship to it, this exercise was a bit of a challenge. But Fiona told us comfortingly that the workshop was only introducing skills that we could develop later at home (it’s another thing that as with most workshops, the enthusiasm fizzled out, and I, for one, am no wiser on the fine art of 360° consciousness) Time for a lunch break and some convivialising among the participants. I learnt that the crusader, Lesley Nazareth, holds workshops to create awareness of a more sustainable society, while the activist, Pervin Jehangir, is bruised from beating her head against the wall that is government resistance. We all shared notes on other alternative approaches explored and journeys undertaken. As always, it was exhilarating to be among fellow seekers. Back to the workshop and it is time to understand a little about Hawaiian psychology. The Hawaiians believed that the human mind consisted of three planes. The first is the High Self or Aumakua, correlating with the Superconsciousness. Then comes the Middle Self, or the Uhane, which is the Conscious Mind, governing reason, will power, imagination. Finally comes the Low Self or the Unihipili, which is the Unconscious Mind governing memory, emotion and controlling bodily processes. Mana is said to flow from the Higher Self to the Unconscious which then relays it to the Conscious Mind. Mana flows via a sticky tube-like substance called aka, which sticks to whatever it touches and draws out a thin aka thread. In other words, you have an aka connection with whatever you give attention to, which could be both positive and negative. This makes enormous sense to me. All of us are puppets on aka strings, reacting, resisting or reaching out according to the way people act and operate. We are enslaved to the world through our attachments and the whole process of self-realisation, after all, is nothing but the progressive withdrawal of our many attachments. Our next exercise, called Ho Opo Puno, was to help us to cut the negative aka threads that bind us to those we hate, resist or resent. We did the ubiquitous deep breathing exercise designed to eliminate negativity from our system, and then Leena guided us through an exercise. We summoned the significant people in our lives, starting from parents and relations to friends and acquaintances, to a stage, and put forward the following question to them, “Are you totally supporting my experience of connectedness with the Higher Self? Those that answered in the affirmative were asked to toodle off and only those with a negative relationship stayed back. We were then required to bathe them in love and ask them for forgiveness until they floated off the stage. I thought it was psychologically very apt that those we had a grudge against should be bathed in love and then asked for forgiveness, as opposed to forgiving. I personally found the exercise quite effective and intend to continue the practice when confronted with people or issues I cannot reconcile with. The exercise that followed was to bring the Mana of the Higher Self down to the Conscious Mind. Deep breathing once again, this time with the hands held over the head, while imagining a red ball of fire over our heads. With every inbreath we were to visualise the Mana merging with the ball, and with every outbreath, we were to bring the Mana down from the ball until it merged with the other two consciousnesses. Once again, the effect was rejuvenating. After a tea break, Dr Mirchandani took over with some marvellous soul journeys. The Hawaiians, like other Shamanic traditions, believed that trauma and psychological damage caused one to lose bits and pieces of one’s soul, and often the Kahuna was enlisted to go on journeys to retrieve them for the victim. The victim could also go on these journeys. As in other Shamanic traditions, it revolved around finding a power animal or plant. To the doctor’s soporific murmurs off we trotted, first to simply recce the spiritual world, and secondly, to find a power plant. Once found, we were to return and introspect on what properties within the plant that could benefit us. Finding the need for stability, I nosed out a banyan tree and took comfort in its manifold roots snaking deep down into the ground, as well as its spreading branches that sheltered so much life. Later, we were asked to commune with our power plant and the banyan tree whispered its secret of endurance. “Just be,” it said, “and let life flow through you.” Others had their own adventures, one finding her power plant in the enduring properties of lichen. Then the doctor asked us to go on a mountain top, meet with a holy man and ask him questions to uncover our life’s vision. This was a marvellous adventure, culminating in some good advice from my holy man, which, as always, is easier to give out than to practise. Nevertheless, I am at it grimly. One participant had the experience of finding himself one with the mountain. This was the culmination of the workshop. In keeping with the Kahuna tradition, money was not charged and participants were asked to pay whatever they felt comfortable with, in order to take care of expenses. One felt, as always, pleasantly stimulated and even changed. One or two insights had been obtained, a few good people met with, some valuable techniques learnt. Huna’s worth saying aloha to, I’d say. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
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