Lessons about the body from the island of Kauai
My airplane landed into a showering rain amidst lavish greenness of one of the Hawaiian islands. A visit to a place that was never on my map of the world became unexpectedly real — I was at Kauai. Too windy and wet for April, this island felt not welcoming at all.
Luckily, I was wearing jeans, a sweater, and leather Nike shoes.
An hour later, I was night-driving along the only civilized road, surrounding Kauai, in a white Jeep Cherokee, the rental company gave me instead of Opel Corsa (thanks a lot!). Kauai is eighty percent off-road. Anything less than Jeep is a questionable option here.
There are some places on this planet where you can’t just go on vacation. They happen to you. You have a bond with them. The first minute you arrive — something flashes on.
Kauai was that place. You will need less than 2 hours to drive around the whole island. It is miniature. But not a single second while you are here reminds you of how small it is. It has colossal energy.
The island is believed to be a cradle of ancestral trauma healing. Grounded, even heavy, severe and wet. Kauai is feminine. Kauai is Her.
Experiences, whatever diverse they are, can give you little against your will. But Kauai is kind of imperative. It does put you into a “receiving” mode. I could almost sense the umbilical code between me and the island. And as I was giving credence to this recognition, it honored me back with lessons.
Kalalau Trail is an 11-mile gem that leads through the mountains and hanging valleys along the magnificent Napali Coast. Renowned for its breathtaking views and numerous legends, it is believed to be a place where you “get initiated” by Kauai. An adventure not for the faint-hearted. In some places, the trail is a narrow ledge — sheer cliffs and razor-shaped vertical folds drop 1200 m down into the ocean straight at your feet.
The entering sign warns about falling rocks and steep dropoffs along the way.
Right the moment I parked my car near Kalalau Trail entrance it started showering. The whole island drowned in the sound of drumming.
High winds, torrential rain, the muddy ground under my feet, one of my flip- flops ripped up. Impressive start of the adventure!
Not many people were on the trail with me. All wearing “proper” shoes (with a rubber sole) and rain jackets. I decided to go bare feet. Not surprisingly, it turned out to be VERY slippery.
I tried several steps looking under my feet, but in the pouring water and stormy winds, I could hardly see anything at all. Heavy from wetness, my jeans and sweater moulded over my limbs like a clay, fingers were freezing, nose running.
Here I was — standing barefoot at the starting point of one of the most dangerous hiking trails in the world, trying to figure out how to “receive my initiation” from Her.
O v e r w h e l m e d, my brain turned off all the noise. The only nagging thought left was about freezing fingers which became almost numb. Next moment my feet started running. Naturally. Very lightly, not exactly jogging. Rather taking small flying jumps, somehow landing softly on the slippery mud of the trail.
I am a trained dancer, I know something about the conscious competence of the body — this was NOT it. Only seeing silhouettes of the trees and rocks around me I was suddenly racing along the cliffs of Kalalau Trail.
The farther, the more extreme were the conditions. High winds became stronger as I was getting up in the mountains, and the point where I could turn back safely faded away.
Actually, running barefoot proved to be much less painful than trying to walk. But the major part of it all was that it was not even ME doing this. The first time in my life, like a passenger on a back seat, I was watching my body in complete trust.
Each time my feet were grounding back safely on to the flooded mud, making their way through avalanches of wind and water along the trail, where a single erroneous step could be dramatic.
And yet my body was tranquil. As if strung along the chain of predicted flowing moves, it perfectly knew where to step, how fast to go, where to turn and which angle to choose not to hit some edgy rock or — worse — slip down. Surely, my feet did slip now and then, but each time the opposite side of my body was catching it up and returning to balance with no sign of disturbance.
(Slipping down on a trail like that was a deadly trick. Firstly, you most probably hit people in front of you as you slide down the curvy line, secondly, in some places, the trail was indeed so narrow that dropping down into the ocean abruptly seemed the only option.)
The time felt ephemeral. My system was reviling no sign of physical weariness. But on my way back I started slowing down. It turned out that my back was all aching, shoulders and arms were frozen, ankles got stiff. My clothes were all hanging down on me from streaming water.
I finally reached the exit point, rushed to the car, switched on the engine, and leaned back. My body started shaking. Tens of images about how many times I could potentially slip down on that trail flashed in front of my eyes.
Thankfully, my idyllic decision to do camping that night was well- supported by Plan B.
Ancient wisdom about the body
In Ho’omana teaching, or teaching of Life Force (later called Huna), the heart and the body are the same sources, in the Hawaiian language, it is the Ku.
To be even more precise — being in touch with your subconscious, or the deepest memory database. Huna says, ancestral memory is all over our bodies, on a cellular level; learned memories, including all the emotions we ever went through, and the memories of our present lifetimes are stored on different muscular levels.
The Ku, your body, or subconscious, has no imagination. Whenever you are experiencing something new, your body-mind retrospects what it knows about a similar kind of event (including genetic material), and constructs an experience based on the patterns that already “worked”. More importantly, Ku’s main principle is “towards pleasure — away from pain”. Or “choosing what has already worked to move you away from pain”. How can you NOT confide in it? …
For ancient people, the body was their best advisor. What Polynesians were capable of doing naturally ages ago, seems like an outstanding performance today. Suffice it to recall that surfing was greatly cultivated and connected with Gods and Spirits in ancient Hawaii.
Polynesians, both men, and women were prodigious surfers. Although their surfboards were heavy and not waxed (like today), their visceral “knowing” of waves’ strength and dynamics was so integral, that they could surf miles and miles across the ocean to reach another shore.
Polynesians believed that if a man and woman rode in on the same wave they became intimately bond. (Their society was well-known for advocacy of sensualism and gender equality, by the way.)
Today we say “we know it on a body level”. We also say “we know it by heart”. Clearly, it should be the same thing. There is no “why” for your body. The reasoning is a prerogative of your mind.
Serge Kahili King, Ph.D., a master shaman in the Hawaiian tradition, doctor of psychology, and author of Instant Healing, and Kahuna Healing wrote, “What the Ku knows it knows well, and that includes everything from how to heal itself to how to perform skills it has learned”.
He also mentions three types of relationships with the body: controlling, cooperative, and laissez-faire (uncontrolled).
In a controlling mode you tell your body what to do — often irrespectively whether you know anything about what you are doing or not. Overly controlled bodies can be a chronic consequence of trauma. But sometimes we tend to exert too much control over the body when we are learning new things.
We don’t know that our bodies already have some memory about everything, and letting those memories be revived is a part of learning. We are hopelessly cyclical. Any new experience is just a recollection.
Cooperative relationships is a mature kind of relationship with your body, when you trust its flow, still keeping the relaxed and stable focus on where you want to arrive. This type of relationships is closely allied to a feeling of curiosity and presence. Neither rushing ahead of your own body, no dragging it behind “what your mind thinks”. Presence and trust are the two premises of this body-mind state. Sometimes (and more often then we think) your body will override your mind and catch its flow to keep you safe in unusual circumstances.
It will not even start what is not safe for you if you don’t let your mind intervene too much. And vice versa — your body will take you into the most fulfilling experiences if you rely on it.
Laissez-faire, uncontrolled, is a state when your body is out of the vicinity of your mind. Another proper word for it would be dissociation. We say “I was not all together”, “ I was out of my body”, “I was all over the place” when we talk about this kind of “connection with the body”. This stands for not being present, intuitive, sober, trustful.
All these expressions are lacking the same quality — gravity. Gravity is something we can only experience in relation to the body. Gravity gives us touch with life, opens up sensory qualities of all things around us.
We “gravitate towards each other” when we are passionate and embodied.
And we don’t gravitate towards each other when we are too mental and ungrounded, and whatever is going on between us is only in our mind.
Likewise in this kind of body-mind style of relationship: mind and body don’t see each other. While the mind is busy with itself or other external stimuli, the body is wandering around looking for a “place to land”.
What are your relationships with your body?
Do you know its voice?
For the Ku, the present is the only time. Whenever a memory comes with a tide of sensations, these sensations become your “current” state. The body has no idea it is re-experiencing what’s not present anymore. Anything that makes your body feel is REAL. It doesn’t differ imagination from an actual event. When we are fantasizing our bodies record it as a memory. By using full sensory imagination we can “create” memories that will teach the body, heal the body, or … make it ill.
Sometimes we see dreams where our bodies are exploring new things. They feel overwhelmingly physical, and often we are superb experts in what we are doing in those dreams. This is how our subconscious is teaching us through recollection.
All kinds of divinations are another example of how your body is reading the present. When casting runes, tossing cards, scribbling for answers in remote viewing, you are fishing for information from the field where your body has much better access then your mind. It is the connection of this field and the body that gives you the answers — not runes, cards or scribbles. Any divination is a reflection of what is in your subconscious right now, not in the future. Your body knows there is no time except for the present.
Kauai is filled with threads into ancient wisdom. My visit was short but far-reaching. I remember sitting on the airplane back to San Francisco thinking of the main thing I was taking with me from the island.
And the main thing was the lesson: your body is measured, your body is wise, there is no “why” for your body.
Your body — is your planet.