Love is both the context for all that we do and the means for healing that we use.
Shamanism, the world’s oldest spiritual philosophy, is concerned with healing relationships: relationships between people, between the mind and the body, between a group of people and their gods, between any two or more entities in general. And while all shamans work for healing with the aid of spirit in some fashion, they don’t all do it the same way. For instance, some shamans use their power to fight demons or evil spirits in the inner world. Other shamans prefer to present offerings to the spirits in supplication. Still others work in concert with spirit or spirits to heal with love and compassion. This latter one is the style of Heart Centered Shamanism.
In Heart Centered Shamanism there is no need to build up protection. There is no need for ways to prevent “negative energy” from getting in. These kinds of ideas are based on fear – the fear that something in the inner realms can hurt us. From a Heart Centered Shamanism perspective, it is only the fear itself that can hurt us. When we stay in a loving space where fear doesn’t reach us, then there is nothing that can harm us.
There are many forms of shamanism which effectively heal with the aid and support of spirit without venturing into the fight/protect paradigm. This shamanism is one that draws both inspiration and techniques from the Huna of Serge Kahili King. There are many other influences involved here, as well, much the way a good musician draws on the styles of different masters. The primary focus is on coming back into harmony with our own natures and healing by loving all those parts of ourselves that we have neglected or pushed away from us.
The rationale is that all disease or illness is primarily a function of stress. Certainly there are other factors at play, but none of these other factors can take a hold unless we are vulnerable in some way. Stress and tension weaken us and thus allow parts of us to become vulnerable. In a general sense, stress and tension arise from conflicts within our being: conflicts of thoughts, conflicts of emotions and feelings, conflicts of desires. Bring those conflicts into harmony is the first step towards any healing in shamanic terms. There may be other tools that are brought to bear for more healing, but nothing happens if the stress is not removed and replaced with love.
Central to this philosophy is the notion that you create your own reality, or the world is what you think it is. This idea has been around for as long as man has been contemplating life, but the ramifications of this are startling. Essentially, what we experience is a reflection of the energies, thoughts, feelings, desires, and attitudes that we hold within us. Thus, we are responsible for everything we find in our lives. There’s no one to blame; destiny and fate are of our choosing; and the future isn’t written until we write it. This doesn’t mean that we said we wanted all that we’re facing. What it does mean is that what we are allowing, nurturing, and imagining on the inside is showing up in our outer everyday world. If we like that, great; if we don’t like it, it’s up to us to do something about it.
With this in mind, Heart Centered Shamanism works primarily with modifying how we are creating our reality to be more effective, loving, and joyous. Sometimes this involves changing how we tell the stories of how we became who we now are. Sometimes this involves discovering beliefs that we hold that are in conflict with other beliefs that are more life affirming. Sometimes this healing work requires us to look for parts of ourselves that we couldn’t face at some point and sent away or hid from and inviting them, lovingly, to come home. And sometimes this work is simply about learning how to love ourselves deeply and give up old habits of beating ourselves up.
This is also about letting our hearts lead the way. The mind is magnificent and a marvel of creation. But it is the heart that takes us to the great experiences of life, like love, ecstasy, joy, compassion, even enlightenment. Without that guidance, all the great thoughts in the world mean nothing. Life is about experience and most of experience is feelings. When we give the heart free rein to explore what it is to be a human being, then we get to know both ourselves and All-That-Is. We need the mind to help us stay focused and to be aware of all that is around us. But it needs to be in service to the heart for us to genuinely thrive.
When we think with our mind only, we can think and choose very quickly. But when we learn to think with our heart as well as our mind, it takes a little longer. There is more to process and feel. But it is only in learning how to use our heart and our mind as one that we can act in our wholeness. And that is where we find our power!
The YouTube videos on Stewart’s channel are another excellent way to become more familiar with this work.
This interview took place during a small party of participants in Stewart’s workshop, The Healing Power of Pleasure. The interview was made by Daniel Knopp for the
Bayerische Rundfunk, Munich.
You have a lovely garden here. That seems to be very important to you. Would you say something about that.
The Hawaiian word for garden is waena. It is also the word for one's personal center.
So the garden is a metaphor for one's center of being. I love the garden because I love plants. I love being around plants. I love smelling them. I love touching them. They are my friends. People ask me how I know the names of all my plants. Well, don't you know the names of all your friends? So, these are my friends. I feel much more connected to the earth, connected to myself being around these plants. It's my way of connecting to the earth and to Spirit.
You said that your work is all about pleasure. I thought a lot about the name of the workshop: “The Healing Power of Pleasure.” So what is pleasure for you?
Well, pleasure is a generic word for all the things that make us feel good. We have no other word to describe all the things that make us feel good. So, that's why I use pleasure. So it is about doing the things that make us feel good. Now, there are a great many philosophies about how you are supposed to live your life. I don't find any of them make sense if they are not about fun, love and pleasure. I'd like to say that, if it's not about fun or love, why bother? So, when you are living your life and you are making choices about what you are going to do with your life, if it's not about fun, love or pleasure, then what are you doing? Why are you doing it? And all these things that we do? We work hard, so that we can make money, so that we can spend that money to do things that bring us pleasure :-) If instead we didn't work so hard, and we just enjoyed our lives, we would get to that pleasure a lot faster.
Well, it's quite simple for the first understanding. Is it an English or American way of thinking or is it also in this Hawaiian culture this simple way of seeing things?
Oh, I don't know. It's American, it's Hawaiian. It has a lot to do with the philosophy of Epicurus in Greece. I mean, he was a person who believed that pleasure was the greatest good and for him his greater pleasure was friendship. So this is a philosophy that has been around for thousands of years. But not many people understand it. Most people believe that they are supposed to do something that they are told to do. This philosophy is quite the opposite. This is about people becoming self-empowered: choosing to take their own power, to live their lives, to be fully who they are and using their abilities to be fully who they are, and to use their powers to make themselves happy. Now, for many people the greatest happiness is being of service to others. Yes, but that’s not the only way. There are many other ways of being happy and feeling fulfilled.
Feeling fulfilled. You can't tell when you are feeling fulfilled unless you know when you are feeling good. That's the key!!! That's the compass that you have; it is feeling good. Without an understanding of what feels good and what doesn't, you don't know whether anything makes sense or not. What kind of moral compass do you have, if it's not about feeling good and helping others feel good? That's a rhetorical question, by the way.
Is this philosophy the main part of Shamanism also, for you?
Of course. Shamans, by definition are healers. And we have no better definition of health than feeling good. So my job is to help people feel good. I work very hard to help people stop making themselves feel bad, which most people are very good at, being cruel to themselves. I encourage them to stop that cruelty and learn how to feel good, how to consistently feel good, to feel especially good about themselves, and about who they are. This is about using their energies and their efforts to explore who they are, which is much more interesting and much more satisfying than trying to be perfect or to live up to some ideal. To know who you are is, so far as I know, the greatest joy that there is.
Now you can do anything you want, but I suggest you go for the highest joy you can find.
Do you think that this is also the aim of any religion?
Well, everything you do is motivated by a desire to feel better than you currently do. That is to say everything is about moving towards pleasure. Most religions, however, will tell you that you can only get to this place that you really want (Heaven, Paradise, Nirvana) by following their rules. That is generally a matter of control.
You are not going to really get to the place that you want to go unless you understand how to be your own authority, how to be self-empowered, how to understand how to be the sovereign of your life, to be the author of your life. So it is a matter of taking charge of yourself and making decisions on your own. Yes, everything is about pleasure. But some people want it now, some people understand how to have it now and continue it in the future, but many religions say that you can't have that pleasure until you die. And even other religions say that you can't have it even then and that you have to wait multiple lifetimes. But that's all about pleasure!
So pleasure is for you the most effective way to do something against the bad things in life, like illness, or the endless suffering in life?
Look, pain is inevitable; but, suffering is optional!
So, what I am saying is that, when you understand how you are hurting yourself, how you are making yourself very unhappy and how the tension that you have by resisting who you are brings you the illnesses that you are talking about. When you understand about being just comfortable with who you are and how delicious that is, you reduce your tension, you get rid of your stress and in that you get rid of your illness. So, what I am suggesting is that, contrary to the notion of disease coming from outside of you, it is a function of how you are thinking. When you are thinking and feeling good you find that you are much healthier. When you are feeling unhappy, when you are afraid, when you are doubting, when you are stressed, you allow the illnesses to come in. It is very important to watch how you are thinking because it is your thinking that is making you sick. It's the story you tell that makes you hurt. Again, the story that you are telling yourself is what's making you hurt. What happened long ago, happened long ago, and if you didn't keep telling the story that bothers you so much, you wouldn't be hurting today. So I suggest that you use pleasure as your compass. Ask the questions: “Does this make me feel good? Does this not make me feel good?” This makes much more sense than trying live up to somebody else's ideas of what you are supposed to do. That doesn't make any sense, because it doesn't succeed. In every spiritual path it pays to look at, “ Where does this path go?” “Does it take me where I want to go?” And I would suggest that most of the paths that people are offered don't go anywhere that's really good.
Most of your students are coming from western countries I think. They come to you, to this place, to Hawaii. What is the biggest problem they have in reaching this pleasure you talk about?
Well, most people have been taught that there is something wrong with them, that something is not right. That's the nature of shame. Just about everybody that comes to me has had a lot of experience with being told that they should be something else other than who they are. Which is nuts. They are who they are and, so far as I can tell, the main reason for being here is to be who we are. Not to live up to some ideal, not to live up to somebody else's ideas of what we are supposed to do. It's to explore being a human being on this earth. That makes sense. Our bodies are exquisitely designed for pleasure. Our emotions, our feelings are all about pleasure. Even our minds: we have Mental Pleasure, solving problems, getting things done, accomplishing things. And then the great Spiritual Pleasures: joy, peace, harmony, bliss. I mean everything about us is about pleasure. And if we start saying: “Oh no, pleasure is bad, that's not what we are supposed to be doing”, we are denying who we are. It doesn't make any sense.
How did you get these Shamanism ideas? How did you become a Shaman? Which was your way?
In traditional societies young people are spotted who look like they would make good Shamans, so they are trained to be Shamans. We don't have that kind of tradition in our culture. But we have a need for people who will help others deal with their suffering, deal with their pain and change their thinking. So at this stage, it is those of us who feel called to be Shamans, who have to go find a way to become a Shaman. Because there is no automatic way, we chose ourselves. There are lots of different ways of going about this. Some people find that they want to be Shamans in a warrior style, where you build up your powers and deal with demons and things that need to be fought. Other Shamans find ways to do it more softly, which is the Hawaiian way and the one I like. We look at problems as behaviors, not as something evil. But each person has their own way of approaching this. The thing that is consistent is:
1) A desire to heal
2) We use Spirit. We ask for help from Spirit.
We don't all agree on everything, but we all have a shamanic journey, which is the distinguishing feature of Shamanism. This is a way of going into inner reality and to change that inner reality in some way, which changes the outer reality. So it is a belief that is in the inner reality that in fact determines what our experiences are in the outer reality. Learning how to manipulate and deal with the things in the inner reality is the Art of a Shaman.
I ask usually four questions to people, politicians and those I interview. We have a religious radio program and I ask it to politicians, important personalities and you are the first Shaman.
The questions are:
1) What do you love
2) What do you hope
3) What do you believe
4) What do you think when you go to bed, before falling asleep
Well, I will answer the fourth question first, because it's easiest. When I go to sleep I stop thinking (chuckles).
And the first? What do you believe?
Ok, that was third. But we can go backwards. I believe that we are primarily Spirit. That we, as Spirit, have created and live in these bodies on earth as a way of learning about ourselves, learning about how to be creator-beings, how to deal with feelings, how to understand the enormous potential of the energies that we are and that we live with.
What do you hope?
I hope that I live to see tomorrow’s sunrise.
And what do you love?
At a very basic level I love myself. Beyond that I love the people that I encounter, whose paths I cross and who cross my path. I love the earth, I love the plants, I love the animals, I love this island, I love the ocean that hugs it everyday, I love the sky and the wind, I love my garden, I love life.
Thank you very much. I love you too! :-)
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