Iʻm nearing the end of a seven-day silent meditation retreat. I find these retreats to be absolutely essential to my health and well-being.
When I meditate, I nurture myself. Iʻve found that the practice of meditation is also the practice of the five expectations that Poʻokela Laʻau Lapaʻau (foremost Hawaiian healing practitioner using plants and spirituality), Henry Allen Auwae set down for his laʻau lapaʻau students.
I was fortunate to study with him for five years, and I ask my serious hula students to practice these expectations in their lives now.
The first is hoʻolohe - to listen. Iʻve found that for me to really listen, I have to pause, become grounded in my body and let any chatter going on in my mind fall away. If youʻre listening to the chatter in your mind, itʻs difficult to hear what is truly happening. After a day of meditation, my mind begins to slow down, and I can practice listening much better.
Second is hoʻomakaukau - to be prepared. To be prepared you must practice. Practice is what youʻre occupying your mind (or body) with all day long. Whatever you practice you get good at. If itʻs judging yourself or others all day long, thereʻs no doubt that youʻll become proficient at that. If you want to be a good hula dancer, you know what to do. On the cushion, I practice coming back again and again to my breath. This helps to cut through the speed of my mind and strengthen areas of the frontal cortex of my brain which, put simply, concerns emotional balance, impulse control, and focus.
Third is hoʻomaikaʻi - to respect all. This involves humility and the practice of "not-knowing". It includes elements of non-harming and compassion towards yourself and others (humans, plant and animal world, the earth, sea, and sky, past, present and future). Speaking directly to people you are having issues with is a good way to practice respect. Meditation is a "non-doing", an act of nourishment and respect for myself.
Fourth is hoʻolauna i ka mea maikaʻi - to sacrifice. When Iʻm meditating, I sacrifice habitual doing: email, Facebook, Instagram, Netflix, the news. I also can watch repetitive thoughts that donʻt serve me and sacrifice indulging in or acting on them. I also can sacrifice "being right."
Fifth is hoʻomanawanui - to be patient. Patience is the ability to be spacious and nonreactive in a situation. Itʻs to act without expectations, to be even keeled when it would be easy to be reactive. Usually when we disagree with another, we disconnect. We can learn real skills to work with difficult people without making them or ourselves defensive.
Patience is working with anger and difficulty and staying, bearing witness. It's having a sense of equanimity and being fair. Itʻs not about winning and losing. It's being patient with yourself. It's a huge spiritual virtue and practice. Meditation helps me with patience.
Every day is an opportunity to practice these five expectations. Itʻs not about being perfect. Itʻs about being open to life and its teachable moments. When we fail, we learn something about ourselves and are grateful for that opportunity.
Hula is life - all of its ups and downs. Every day is a good day. Happy Easter!