Ua hala ka ‘ino, ua kau ka mālie.
– The storm has passed; calmness is here.
Like many people I feel I have had a lot going on, recently this seemed to be more than usual. Perhaps it’s a common condition of modern living. A lot of things have been vying for my attention –things which seem to cover the most diverse areas of my life. Some of these things are things I am keen to give a lot of attention to for pleasurable reasons, other things I give attention to out of wanting resolution and to sort out particular situations.
With a lot of ‘stuff’ going on around, it is easy to get caught up in it all, like a feather in a storm – being blown around at the behest of the billowing winds. When this happens, it is easy to feel discombobulated, fragmented and not at the peak of ones’ abilities and powers. It can bring about a sense of loss of connection to your core and result in feeling like being ‘temporally scattered’ – with the main focus of attention on the implications of past actions and what might happen in the future.
At these times, one common reaction is to think you have to do even more of it to keep up, the result of which is overwhelm and complete lack of effectiveness. Years ago in a similar situation, I recall dropping my regular daily meditation practices as there was ‘just too much to do’. As I recounted this to a mentor I had at the time, I was reminded of what many students throughout the world have probably heard in similar situations – this is precisely the time when more meditation would be useful! It seemed counter intuitive at the time, but in my experience, as I persevered with my practice, it proved absolutely right.
It is especially at times like this, I like to remind myself of the seven principles and use them as a focus for reflection, which, as well as being calming in and of itself, offers some useful insights. It’s helpful to remember that we can consciously direct our focus of attention and that we can take time to connect with our place of power – which is inside us.
Another useful notion is that of ‘presence’ and ‘being present’. One of the seven Huna principles is Manawa – the simple translation of which is ‘now is the moment of power’. This simple phrase provides a doorway to a powerful way of experiencing the world. Of course, this is not unique to Huna – most of the spiritual traditions of the world, for example, Buddhism, Hermeticism and Taoism emphasise the value of being in the now for centring as well as a basis for more esoteric practices.
Although when caught up in the melee of life it may not seem to be so, the only place from which we can act is the present moment. It truly is the moment when we have the power not only to act, but to choose not to act and to be calm if we so wish. While there is value to dwelling on past memories and focussing on future expectations in order to achieve certain effects, doing so to the extent that any focus on the present moment is neglected, can be detrimental.
It is interesting to reflect on how much of an average day you spend focussing on the past or the future and how much you focus on your present experience. For some people this can be quite revealing and I urge you to give it some consideration.
Techniques to Centre in the Present
Taking time to centre in the present is an excellent way of becoming calm and grounded no matter what is going on around you. The simple act of bringing your attention to your present experience and environment has a natural calming effect on the body and mind. If you are someone not used to spending much time in the present, it is useful to undertake activities to develop the habit within the Ku to take time to be more present. There are many varied and different ways to do this and I offer a few that I have found useful.
1. Bringing attention to a part of the body. Choose a part of the body, for example your left hand and bring your attention to it, where it is located, how it is feeling etc. Do this as much as possible with the same part of the body during the day to develop the habit of noticing your body in the present moment.
2. Stop! At random points during the day just tell yourself to ‘stop!’. When you do this, stop any activity you are engaged in and freeze where you are and bring all of your attention into the present moment and silence any self-talk. As you do this, first notice without effort, what you see around you, then notice any sounds and then notice any feelings -internal feelings and/or external sensations. Spend at least 15 seconds on each element. Then continue with what you were doing before. If you want, you could set a timer for random times throughout the day to remind you to stop. I have done this exercise with a group where group members randomly shout stop and everyone in the group stops and the effects have been good. Obviously only do this exercise when it is safe to do so!
3. Eye of the storm meditation. I developed this simple meditation which has a calming and centring effect. From a Huna perspective, it uses various elements including symbolism, metaphor and a type of grokking. It involves the metaphor of a storm where the ‘eye’ is the calmest space in the centre and beyond that there is the ‘eyewall’ which marks the area of intense storm activity. The process is as follows:
- Take a few deep piko piko breaths in whatever way you prefer. For this exercise I tend to start inhaling with attention on the crown of the head and exhaling at the bottom of the feet, then after a few rounds change the focus to alternating between inhaling with attention on the crown of the head and exhaling at the navel and inhaling with attention on the bottom of the feet and exhaling at the navel. Notice your body where you are.
- Imagine that you are at the eye of a storm- a place of relative calm. Notice that regardless of anything else around you, you are at the centre in a place of deep calmness. Feel into the calmness and stillness. Use whatever visualisation to enhance the experience as appropriate.
- When you have sufficiently built that calm and centred state, hold onto it and imagine that outside of that place is the ‘eyewall’ and the edge of the storm which can symbolise the busyness is your life, to do lists, deadlines, ‘stuff’, dwelling on past memories – everything that has the potential to make you feel scattered and bring you out of the present moment.
- Whilst retaining the calm focus in the centre point, slowly extend your attention to include not only your calm centre but also the outer edge of the storm. Notice that it is all part of you.
- As you do this, allow the calm feeling to spread out from the centre into the edge of the storm and as this happens, imagine the storm gradually calming more and more. Again, use whatever visual and auditory symbolism you want to enhance the experience (two examples I have used are, seeing symbols of aspects of my ‘busyness’ swirling around in the storm and gradually the rate of movement slowing down; and a colour flowing from the centre and filling all of the storm with that colour).
- Do this until the metaphorical storm subsides, calmness prevails and you feel more centred (in some cases I do it until what is outside the eye of the storm seems to completely disappear).
Pete Dalton ©2018
This article first appeared on Aloha International.
Pete Dalton is an Alakai of Huna International living in the UK. For more information on his work visit his website www.urbanhuna.org