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What a Posse of Hawai'ian Gods Can Teach Us About Psychology

Ancient Wisdom For Modern Life

By Francis BriersPublished 3 years ago 5 min read
What a Posse of Hawai'ian Gods Can Teach Us About Psychology
Photo by Buzz Andersen on Unsplash

The fields of mindfulness and embodiment have become hot-beds for psychology research and practice in the past few years, but as with so many of these things, they are rooted in ancient wisdom. It sometimes feels to me like the modern world is playing catch-up.

One amazing example of this is in indigenous Hawai'ian wisdom. There is an incredibly rich mythology there, and lots I could explore - and I feel like in my studies I have only scratched the surface. But there are three figures in particular, three Hawai’ian Gods, who give us an interesting take on the relationship between the different aspects of our psychological selves. It’s an insight I have found incredibly useful, both in my own life and in my work as a coach and spiritual counsellor.

Did you know, there are three Gods which, in indigenous wisdom, can symbolise different facets of our psyche?

They are called: Lono, Ku and Aumakua.

Lono is the conscious mind, Ku the body-mind, and Aumakua the higher-self.

The deep spirit of the body

By Christopher Campbell on Unsplash

Let’s focus on Ku to start, the body-mind. Ku moves towards pleasure and away from pain. If there is more than one pain, he/she will move towards the lesser pain. But sometimes the way Ku interprets pain is that the pain of physical illness is less than the pain of emotional distress. Equally, Ku will experience something like surgery as an attack, and may not help the healing process if he/she doesn't understand what is going on.

The challenge with Ku is how to listen to what he/she has to tell us, without being unconsciously 'run' by the pure instinctive drive to chase pleasure and avoid pain.

How can we help Ku understand when we need to experience pain to move towards healing or wholeness? And how can we get clear messages that we can understand from this raw, often quiet, instinctive creature within?

Sometimes, I have shared this insight with people before they have surgery. By having an internal ‘conversation’ with Ku before the surgery, they have gone into the procedure feeling much calmer, having helped themselves to see what can otherwise be a scary process where we feel out of control, as a process by which they move towards healing.

If you've got a problem... and no-one else can help.

By Olivia Bauso on Unsplash

To focus on Lono then, the conscious mind, he/she is motivated by problem-solving. The conscious mind is very skilled at that and Lono, if he/she doesn't have a problem to solve, has been known to invent problems, so that he/she will have a problem to solve!

Have you ever experienced that?

I remember when I was at University, becoming very aware that if I woke up not feeling so great, within a relatively short space of time my mind would have connected not feeling good with a reason not to feel good and pretty soon I'd feel worse. And I'd be entrenched in the story as well! Lono can be like this, telling stories to keep him/her-self busy, even if they are not helpful stories. When I interrupted this process, I started to find that sometimes I would wake up feeling low, but there wasn’t a reason really, it was just one of those mornings. By not getting attached to the story and investing in it, I could let go of it more quickly and bounce back more quickly.

The key to working with Lono is working out how to wield the insight wisely but not let Lono sit in the driving seat. Lono always believes he/she is right and likes to be in charge. Lono's quest to fix things and find certainty can give birth to incredible incisive thinking but can also get you into lots of trouble! How can you have the insight without the upset?

Interconnected web of wisdom

By Nicolas Picard on Unsplash

Last of the three, Aumakua is the higher self, but in some ways more than that. We could see this as the marriage of the sub and super-conscious mind.

The Hawai'ian's, like most indigenous cultures I have explored, believe in an animistic universe, where all things are alive. Accordingly, all things have an Aumakua - a spirit self. Beyond that though, groups of things have a group Aumakua. So a coherent group of people will have a collective Aumakua, a spirit-self of the group entity, as well as having their own individual Aumakua's. A valley will have an Aumakua of place, as well as every plant, rock and creature having their individual spirit selves. All the Aumakua speak to each other, commune and communicate.

Whether you believe in that or not, there are also various scientific foundations exploring the interconnectedness of all things. That’s a whole other rabbit-hole I could dive down, but quite apart from the interconnectedness of our global ecosystems that many of us are becoming more aware of due to the climate crisis, famous physicist David Bohm spoke of an ‘implicate order’ and theorised that all things are intimately connected at a sub-atomic level.

The challenge then, with Aumakua, is finding our connection to this numinous layer of awareness and being. The gift is the potential to feel more connected to ourselves, each other, and the vast interconnected web of consciousness of all beings. That sounds pretty good to me! Ideally you want your Aumakua to be in the driving seat of your psyche, the part of you that can feel your connection to a bigger purpose or consciousness. Lono might want to be in the driving seat, but Aumakua is better at balancing the big picture, Lono might do better being the map-reader!

How then can we embrace this connective force, represented by Aumakua, and invest fully in our sense of a living universe? How can we keep connected to a sense of higher purpose? You could start by saying good morning to a rock, or your car, or your computer!

This might sound silly, but sometimes these symbolic acts help to wake up a sense of playful connection that can serve us well.

Looking in the eye of Kanaloa

By Mathis Jrdl on Unsplash

So, as I have written about these three Hawai'ian Gods of the psyche: Lono the conscious mind, Ku the body-mind, and Aumakua the higher or super-conscious self; I feel I should finish their story. I will finish with Kanaloa.

When Lono, Ku and Aumakua fully integrate in our psyche's it becomes possible to meet Kanaloa. Kanaloa is a very powerful God figure, sometimes considered to be a fully integrated blend of the other three I have described. The saying goes that ‘if you look in the eye of Kanaloa you will be completely healed.’ If you take the meaning of healing to be 'wholeness' then that makes a lot of sense. True psychological integration, wholeness.

One of the stories of Kanaloa was that he and Maui, the mischievous trickster who was always helping humankind out, were walking buddies. They would walk about the islands chatting. Kanaloa carried a walking staff, and the story goes that wherever he planted his staff, a new spring welled up.

So, whether we can manage to become fully integrated or not, I get curious about the potential to find the small, maybe newly-made springs of integration in us and drink from them deeply when we find them. No matter how psychologically whole or broken you are feeling on any given day, where can you find the little wellsprings of life and aliveness in your psyche and each moment of the day? And how can you drink more deeply from them?


About the Creator

Francis Briers

By day - facilitator, consultant & coach; by night - word-wizard & storytelling nonsense monster!

I love learning, creativity, books & chocolate. I come here to play & try things out.

More about me here:

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    Francis BriersWritten by Francis Briers

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