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Lessons about the body from the island of Kauai

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.

Body’s decision

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.

 

Picture from my personal archives. View from the Kalalau Trail.

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.

 

Picture from my personal archives. Kalalau Trail.

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.

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mental inner game

Mental Inner Game: Mind - Opening Frames for Peace and Creativity

Mental Inner Game: Mind - Opening Frames for Peace and Creativity

 

“You can not open your heart, it is already open. It is the mind that is closed, and which must open to the heart.”

Peter Russell.

Right at the moment when I started writing this article I came across this powerful quote by Peter Russell, and it connected all final dots in it.

Indeed. Your mind may never get quiet, but make it flexible and the heart will get in. Zen Buddhist tradition says “to open the hand of thought”.

Multi-layered perception of the ongoing reality is at the core of many spiritual traditions; in fact, all of them. Although mostly shamans (or curanderos) are associated with trespassing dimensions, as this is from where they heal, the state of “between-the-planes-of reality” is natural to all greatest spiritual influencers of this planet. It is innate, and often unconscious, in many geniuses and people who change the world with their thoughts and actions. It is also a well- known “after- effect” of many mind-broadening “techniques”, which, however, has to be properly integrated in one’s personality.

The unconscious mastery of “mental inner game” of shamans, remarkable teachers and geniuses is so high that we tend to say: “they are looking from the heart.” Either through ancient books, in person, or even through the different versions of ourselves — we all have met these “geniuses” at least once. And we always remember. They lack judgement and yet the level of their moral integrity is nonpareil. Of no doubt, they know how to put it into verbal messages. Their messages are always manifold yet can be very simple in wording. They come from the interplay between the world where everything is solid and defined, and the world where nothing has its own meaning: and it’s fluid, and makes no sense, and perfect. Whether in the form of poetry which cuts through your aesthetic frontiers, cleaning out your juicy drama, or in the form of guiding quotes, these messages send you into a new orbit of existence. Messages that trespass your old structures.

Roberts Dilts wrote a book “Cognitive patterns of Jesus from Nazareth” where he made a deeper structures analysis of the language patterns of Jesus Christ to demonstrate this.

We can argue whether such people are “being all love”, as they often feel a bit “at a distance” which is natural for the multilayered vision. However, we definitely cannot argue that either in real presence or through texts these people feel vastly open–minded. Using Castaneda’s terminology, the balance between their first attention (in the now) and second attention (the position of the observer of the observer), is so perfectly calibrated, that their lens of perception bears minimum distortion of a subjective nature but remains inseparably connected with the present moment. Siberian shamans have a rule of “not splitting the attention” or “one focus at a time”. Meaning that your attention is priceless, as it gives power to wherever you put it. But the essential part is keeping one focus at a time, but being in the position of the observer simultaneously, and thus remaining spacious.

This article is based on my interest in shamanism (mainly Huna), Zen Buddhism, and ancient texts of different heritages. It’s an interpretation of several perspectives that are common for many spiritual and mystic traditions and can be viewed as mind — expanding “frames”.

 

Mastering the "mental inner game"


Wherever you are is the entry point. 

Kabir

From the shamanic and many spiritual traditions’ view nothing has its own meaning. Meaning is something we create ourselves. Meanings are all derived from our internal “maps” of the world. In Zen Buddhist tradition we are only here, because our world is here. When we pass away, our world vanishes with us. There is no world left outside of us. Different internal worlds, or maps, will give different meanings to the same experiences. The depth and intuitiveness of our internal maps underlie such human virtues as broad-mindedness, whole-heartedness and the ability to provide space to other people at wherever they are.

Creating meanings is an intricate process, but quite often it is very deeply patterned in us. You can compare it to having a photo lens and always choosing the same settings for it, simply because you don’t know your lens has any other. The settings we are applying for our lenses punctuate our experiences in the present moment.

In that sense, acknowledging that you have a choice of lenses through which you are looking at something, is mindfulness.

Playing with these “settings” is a brilliant example of how you are co-creating any experience. Sometimes it is the only way to comprehend something. Although at a certain point it can become a natural state of your being, which most probably is not even realised by you, mastering this game can take time. And it is NOT about what’s going on in your head, but about the whole “state” where it puts you. At least this is when it has real power and healing potential.

Below are only five of them, but they are enough.

1. Playing with timelines. Of course — time. The first thing to mention about a shamanic vision and the inner game is knowing how to go out of time. Both pain and pleasure can be all-consuming within a short-term frame. Expand the timeline to include more months, years or even lives into a moment, and observe how your experience will change its significance and meaning. We each have our subjective feeling of time. When this feeling suddenly expands, we experience awe. Whether it is a shocking event, a mind-bending psychedelic trip or witnessing the vastness of nature elements, the sudden expansion of time makes us small and humble. It can be healing and terrifying at once. Keeping this “time aperture” wide-open, and yet being fully in the present moment, is natural for shamans and spiritually-awakened people. Keeping it too wide open for a prolonged period of time, without grounding, can cause a psychosis. Play with it mindfully. Time is a gentle healer. Time is also a gentle killer.

Acknowledging a timeline for any event in your life will alter the perception of its tempo and direction. If you have one hour for saying goodbye to a lover in an airport, your whole experience will have different accents, colours and sounds from the same experience if you only have 5 minutes. Most of our lives we don’t realize that we have no control over how much time we have left for something (in both directions). Respecting this unknown changes any context.

2. Creative limitation frame. Any kind of limitation is a possibility for creativity. We create by having less options, less choices, less opportunities. Creativity is being born out of “HOW”. All limitations open co-creating opportunities. If Beethoven had 64 notes instead of 7, MoonLight Sonata would never happen.

Whenever you think you are lacking something or have lost something — there is a new road hidden nearby. You have to make a guess how to unveil it. The limitation onset is a point of uniqueness, where you create the new choice.

This frame is second to none when listening to someone’s criticism. Critique as an art was born in ancient Greece to diversify the way of looking at things as well as to refine eloquence. However, in its less artistic expression, it takes forms of judgements and sometimes traumatic verbal interchanges. Criticism in childhood is often a source of trauma; in a shamanic language, it causes a soul loss. Many have experienced, but not consciously realized, that if there is no “how” in the criticism, it has an effect of hypnosis. It puts you in a trance-like condition because linguistically it is structured as an equivalence statement. “This is bad.” “You are wrong.” “Your work is useless.” These kinds of statements presuppose that someone knows 100% that something is equivalent to something else. These statements don’t give you any chance for feedback, neither are they providing any insight that can help. The only option they suggest is saying “yes” or “no” to it. In both cases, the effect such statements are producing is shutting you down and thus making you controllable.

To an even greater extent, all the above refers to your self-critic. If your judgmental self-narrative is not offering you any “how”, you are hypnotizing yourself into your own victim.

Instead, offering any question with “how” in response (how do you know this is true? How can I stop being “bad”? How do you define “bad”? etc.) re-directs you towards the state of creativity.

Wise criticism always challenges the richness of your mental map and offers the ways to create flexibility within its rigid parts.

You may notice this across many different spiritual traditions. The answer to the “how” question is often embedded in the language patterns of people who know how to go out of context and play with lenses.

3. Depth of field. Depth of field is a photography term that refers to how much of the image is in focus, and the priorities between the objects within the image. The “depth of field” of our own vision — the same as in the photo camera glass— varies constantly … but much less predictably. Every time you are about to form an opinion about something, especially someone, remind yourself that you are only seeing 2 % of it; hardly more. Richard Moss said that the distance between ourselves and others is precisely the distance between ourselves and ourselves. Can you measure this distance between yourself and yourself? Is it constant? Is it fluctuating? Does the feeling of this distance come in diverse demeanours? Or always the same?

So many peculiarities to “measure” about your own inner territories before you think you can “see” others. This is probably why judging in general is at the angle of mindfulness. Because most of the time we only see such a small fraction of anything. It is good to remind ourselves about it from time to time. 

Also judging is a sheerly human trait. Imagine your dog judging you silently for not keeping up with her expectations… Or a tiger judging the other tiger for not preying skilfully enough. Only humans have given themselves this privilege. 

In fact, it is what, how and why we judge that reflects the richness of our inner world. Just think of how many things we have no cognisance, but we make ourselves believe that we do — death, birth, God, Cosmos — to name a few. The major part of what we know is only what something IS in our own world. If the depth of this “knowing” is crossing at a point of someone else’s depth — we are lucky to meet each other … 


And the last two that are powerfully interconnected. 

Later echoed by some psychotherapy schools, they take roots in ancient spiritual traditions.

4. Everything has a positive intention.

Eckhart Tolle said that the ultimate goal of everything is finding peace.

Whether you realize it or not every action is pointed towards a favourable outcome. The favourability of the outcome may not be straightforward for everybody involved, since it depends on the interpretation, but the intention is always to bring change needed. From a broader perspective, we can say that the intention of every action is ultimately peace. Peace on our terms, or peace of a higher meaning depends on the level of integrity of the individuals involved. But peace is the only intent at the core of any interaction, including your inner dialogues with your higher and lower-selves. However, the well-known proverb about the road to hell that is paved with good intentions, is also hinting exactly at this postulate. All wars are looking for peace, on someone’s own terms. 

5. People make the best choices available to them at any given time.

It is an illusion that we could have done better. As a consequence of the unique juncture of our personality with the facets of reality we live in, every given minute of time we are making our best choices. Our choices are always a reflection of our “inner maps”. Even when we make mistakes and realize that we could have made a different choice, it’s exactly at the moment when we realize it, that we can make a “better” (a different) choice. But not BEFORE that. It is these “mistakes” that refine our inner worlds. Thus, we are always “right” to the best of our abilities. The only time when we are wrong is when we think we could have been doing better. The same is true for everybody.

The combination of these two together is offering the following: We are making our best choices every given moment of time with the ultimate purpose to find peace.

Nothing else to add …

Although the list of such “frames” can go on, even applying only one of them into your worldview can eliminate patterns that don’t serve you any more. 

In the end, it’s an illusion that there are many wisdoms to learn and new things to discover. Everything is already in front of our eyes — seeing it is the key.

Change how you see — and see how you change.

Zen Proverb

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