Sacred Fire: The Heart and Hula of Compassion Retreat a success!
Pulelo ke ahi haʻaheo i na pali.
The firebrand soars proudly over the cliffs.
An expression of triumph. Referring to the glow of volcanic fire on Hawaii.
ʻOlelo Noʻeau - Hawaiian Poetical Sayings and Proverbs #2735
Now Iʻm in the lush rainforest that surrounds the town of Volcano, Hawaii. Itʻs dawn and sunlight is slowly illuminating the tall, thin ʻohia trees that are famous for this area. The native apapane sings first in the deep silence of this place, slowly and gently awakening everyone. A fine mist comes from the East. The dampness of the forest pervades the air. Every cell in my skin soaks up this life giving moisture. I am here for the Sacred Fire Retreat.
Tall tree ferns of varying shades of green greet me. Iʻm amazed and grateful for this rich, vast, intricate and dynamic net of organisms all living together, many connected by invisibly intertwined roots. The mist floats and envelopes the forest in a thin gauze of translucent white.
Volcano! My grandparents lived here when the Volcano National Park was first established in 1916. They named their first born son - the first child born there - National Park (Nash for short) Tahara. I feel such a strong connection to this place.
Fourteen of us came here to participate in the first Sacred Fire: The Heart and Hula of Compassion Retreat. We were in the sacred realm of the Volcano Goddess Pele. On the first night, we made the trek to see Pele in her home at Kilauea in Halemaʻumaʻu. Overhead a huge full moon shone with a multitude of stars twinkling brightly. Pele was unmistakable there in the distance in the form of a great molten lake of bright, red hot lava that illuminated the walls of the crater with an otherworldly red-orange glow. She was bubbling and dancing - filling the cool night air with billowing steam and smoke.
This fire of Pele. How does this wisdom manifest in our lives? My main purpose for this retreat was to focus on becoming more embodied. I hoped we could more fully experience the sacred, exquisite surroundings of the sacred land of Volcano with our bodies and not just our minds.
Joan Halifax says that we live in an age where there are so many weapons of mass distraction. All the electronics we use - computers, smart phones, iPads - keep us disembodied, living almost exclusively in our heads. If we donʻt balance technology with body practices, itʻs a sure-fire recipe for tension and suffering.
Where is all of that tension stored? Yes, in our bodies. It makes sense that as we become more aware of our bodies, we can notice, relax and release this tension into the great Earth. When we relax physically, our small ego-centered self begins to soften and become less paranoid and rigid. We need a deep practice of meditation.
The practice of hula is an embodied practice I love doing. We chant and dance the hula in a place where hula lives. Our hearts and bodies recognized the joy that comes from this. Is sacred fire the same as happiness and wisdom?
We also sat still. Sitting meditation at dawn was deep and strong. We connected with and honored this place by sitting in silence dropping our busy minds and opening to the gentle sounds of this great forest. Cradled in her embrace, we opened to wisdom.
When we practice hula and meditation, we cultivate the sacred fires of compassion and wisdom by opening. We simply open our hearts, mind and bodies to what is.
~ June Kaililani Ryushin Tanoue, Sensei and Kumu Hula