'Olelo No'eau - Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings, #574 Collected, translated and annotated by Mary Kawena Pukui
Spring is here! After coming out of a long, hard winter, the sun and warm weather are especially welcome! I just completed another seven day sesshin - silent meditation retreat. Some people cannot imagine being quiet for more than a few minutes or maybe an hour, but never a whole day. It takes getting used to. When I first started doing sesshin some fifteen years ago, I didn't know that it would become something that I would love doing today.
Our sesshin is not complete silence. The precaution is no unnecessary talking because talking can be a distraction. Sesshin is a time to shine the light inward and do some listening instead.
Our Zen Center does three of these sesshins a year. It's one of my favorite ways to come back to my true home - something like coming home to Hawaii. Home is also wherever you are.
You can get so far from home, from your center. We get involved in too many activities and are constantly too busy doing things. There seems never to be enough time in a day to get everything done on the ever expanding list. Yet important things like taking care of ourselves always seem to fall by the wayside.
Many of us can have a gnawing sense of insecurity that we are not good enough, and, as a result, we spend a lot of time propping up who we think we are or should be. And this takes a lot of energy too. Because of this we find that we hate to be wrong or at fault, and we always want to be right and look good. We work very hard not to be criticized, and, if we are rebuked, our world is crushed.
Regular meditation helps me work with these feelings of shame or low self-worth. It builds resilience and courage. Asesshin absolutely brings me home to my true essence. I see clearer and am more focused. There is more space between my emotions and me. Sitting quietly every day is critical for my well-being. It strengthens my insight that we are all deeply connected - humans, trees, birds, squirrels, sky, elements - everything.
This sesshin followed our first major collaboration with the American Indian Center of Chicago (AIC) in a performance called "Many Traditions - One Heart, An Afternoon of Native Dance, Song and Storytelling." It was part of AIC's NativeEschikagou (Chicago): Powwow 60 series.
We shared the stage with our Native American sisters and brothers from many tribes - an inter-tribal gathering. We learned about the sacredness of Grandfather Drum, the different dances and what they meant.
For example, the Men's Grass dance told of a disabled man who's handicap showed him that, although he couldn't dance like the others, he could dance like the prairie grasses. With this insight, he created the Grass dance and joyfully joined the others on the ceremonial grounds. The Women's Jingle Dress dance is one for healing the ill. The dress was envisioned in a dream and is from the Ojibwe Nation.
AIC's dances are similar in many ways to our Hawaiian hula. We dance like the breezes through the trees or the ocean caressing the shore or the vastness of mountains as we tell different stories through hula. Our dancing reconnects us to nature which helps to soften and open our hearts. Sometimes love is there. Sometimes sadness, fear or anger. We realize then that all of these feelings are what make us who we are, and we honor them. We become resilient enough to include and accept whatever arises.
We come home when we realize that we are enough, beautiful, strong and full of aloha.
Malama pono (Take care of body, mind and heart),
June Kaililani Tanoue Kumu Hula, Dharma Holder
P.S. Here's a slideshow of our "Many Traditions - One Heart"performance with photographs by Ed Leinartas, Robert Althouse and Amy Hanaiali'i Gilliom's song Napua.