I’ve always been struck by how the tools promoted to achieve meditative states seem quite foreign to a Maori way of being. To pull yourself away from everyone, to be alone, to be on you own, to be without anyone, always seemed to be in direct opposite to teachings of our ancestors. A lot of meditative practices (well at least online stuff) promote quietness, silence, stillness and often being by yourself to achieve this.
I am going to challenge this.
Generally, Maori practices and tools for living a good life center around relational teachings, or focusing on nourishing relationships, which suggest quite alternative practices for accessing higher levels of consciousness.
Google tells me mediation is …
“a state of profound, deep peace that occurs when the mind is calm and silent, yet completely alert”
I agree that this is a good state to achieve, but what I challenge is that we have alternative ways, Maori ways, to get there.
I am immediately taken back to a very strong memory I often carry with me, of lying under our old pohutukawa tree. At our homestead on a summer’s day, the cuzzies and I are scattered on mattresses and swabs, back from beach, relaxing. I can go on and on with descriptions of that moment, the scene so clear in my mind, the smell of the earth, the sound of the kids playing tag in the paddock, the feel of intense heat coming of the sun, Uncles in the background, laughing and telling stories on the porch, the comfort of knowing boil- up and crays from the days dive, were on the fire. Us cuzzies, lying there, were “completely alert” of everything going on around us, very little talk passing between us, just the odd comment of ‘what a beautiful day’ or ‘it’s so nice being under this old tree in its shade’. The moment was one of “profound, deep peace”.
So, this was most definitely a meditative moment.
Another example, often in a wharenui, there is a sense of harmony, from being surrounded by photographed and carved tipuna, whanau lying around you, everyone talking, chatting, laughing, the comfort of noise, and knowing you are with all your people. In these places we are “completely alert” and experience “profound, deep peace”. So, these are also, most definitely meditative moments.
What is quite remarkable, is these are ‘meditative’ moments at a group level. Shared moments across, for example, the whole homestead, or wharenui, experienced with all the whanau. Our ability to have shared experiences collectively is next-level meditation people!
These states we take for granted, but they happen all the time for us, on Marae, at hui, kaupapa, wananga etc, where whanau work together, spend time together, doing things together and then a sense of belonging and harmony switches in from being together. So let’s not forget that we have our own ways of getting to this state of profound, deep peace and reaching these higher levels of consciousness. And lets not forget to acknowledge our Maori next-level meditating!
Photo Credit: Ans Westra, 1963.
Image showing interior scenes from a Ringatu Church meeting, Wainui near Ohope Beach, taken in 1963 by Ans Westra. Persons are unidentified.