We're All in the Same Double-Hulled Canoe | Ten Jewels of Wisdom from Hawaii

Hale Makua

As Earthlings, we are all metaphorically in the same canoe. We have one planet, one Spaceship. Nowhere is the feeling of our need to work together in harmony for the
good of all quite like paddling in a double-hulled canoe.

When you step off solid ground and enter the craft, everything is new: paddles, ropes, the two iakos securing the two hulls and the six seats with two bailer buckets in each hull. You surrender yourself into the undulating flows of the Pacific Ocean. Everything shifts. Gravity, body fluids, feelings.

Thoughts melt into the movement. You become flexible like the craft, because in the water, you bend or break.

What I learned from my adventure with Kalani Nakao, the Kala’iwa’a (the captain) could fill a book, but I’d like to share here ten shining jewels of wisdom that came to me from paddling with this wonderful seafarer in his double-hulled canoe, the Kini Kini.

On a brilliant blue day, we departed from Kamakahonu Cove, sailing past the point on the shore that King Kamehameha I chose to build his Ahu ‘ena Heiau, or altar-of-fire. The sun peeking over Hualālai Mountain touches its first light rays to ground at this powerful spot. The sun’s energy is treated with reverence in Hawaii because our central star is the source of all life, food, and light!

After conquering all the islands, the first Hawaiian King chose this place where the sun’s energy meets the Earth every morning to negotiate a peaceful future for Hawaii.
Kamehameha’s vision of harmony may still be evolving. May these Ten Jewels learned from the rhythms of paddling, the stories of our benevolent captain, and this mystical place, help us to remember: we’re all in the same canoe.

One more thing I learned from Kalani as the twelve of us in the canoe paddled in unison, aimed at a common goal, was the meaning of Kailua. Kai means sea and lua is two. Kailua town was named for the two ocean currents converging just outside the lips of the cove that forms Kailua Kona.

These converging currents … fresh water streaming under salt water … are like the elder kupuna who teach the ancient ways to the new Hawaiians who have immigrated to Hawaii in the last 100 years or so. Both currents affect the texture of the ocean, and as they harmonize, so may old and new Hawaiians learn from each other, and contribute to the best future possible for our children and families.

Cherish these 10 Jewels of Wisdom!

1. EVERY STROKE WE TAKE IS FOR GOODNESS’ SAKE
Keep going! Even against the most relentless wind or retrograde wave, a canoe moves forward with the wisdom of the tides. This mystery can only be explained by the fact that each pull forward is a real movement and not a mirage.

2. BE FLEXIBLE
Adaptation is a natural reaction to changing conditions. If you get tired, rest. If you are hungry, eat. If you can’t figure one way to make it, do something new. When the wind confronts you, sometimes you’re supposed to go the other way.

3. ONE FINGER CANNOT LIFT A PADDLE
The gift of each enriches all. We need every finger, hand, and person on board to be part of the flow. The manu ihu (bow end), manu hope (stern end piece), Ho’okele (steerer), the power pullers in the middle – everyone and everything is part of the movement. The elder sings the song, praying for us all. The paddlers resting are still ballast. There is always a time when the crew needs some joke, some remark, some silence to keep going, and the least likely person often provides it.

4. RESPECT, RENEW, REVISION
In the ‘ohana system, the origin of the Aloha Spirit, all life was founded on love … love of family, land, and spirit, and respect for all things, people, and creatures. Soul runs through every mist, lava flow, and flower. There’s a soul in everyone and everything. Every soul matters. Each is a body of light and stories, like a hologram, a crystalline body that either gives power to the whole or weakens it. Respect means “to look again.” To look again at our own and others’ stories and savor the true mo’olelo – to talk story and cast aside the toxic ones. Respect is to treat each moment as a new beginning in the brave journey of the heart; if there is anger, ego, fear, shame, or blame, these things are thrown overboard so the sea can cleanse them.

5. THE CANOE THAT PULLS TOGETHER, STAYS TOGETHER
Nothing occurs in isolation. The family of a canoe will do everything necessary to stay afloat and enjoy the journey. When we know that we are not alone in our feelings, thoughts, or actions, we learn the delight of lifting others up and are easily elevated and supported by everyone else. Trust that every person, creature, plant, element and energy belong here, not to annoy us, but to awaken us.

6. BE STRONG ENOUGH TO OWN IT
Hale Kealohalani Makua, the late great Hawaiian Kahuna said, “Love all that you see, with humility. Live all that you feel with reverence. Know all that you possess, with discipline.” Nourish this wisdom inside yourself, trusting your strength will grow to meet the need. The gift of who you are enters when you are strong enough to own it.

7. EXPERIENCES ARE ENHANCED THROUGH LIGHT CONTINUITY
Who we are, how we live and what we believe nourishes tolerance and creativity when it reflects our total alignment with the common good. Canoe paddlers who can’t go with the flow, don’t last long on the open sea. “The men and women who travel with the lightest flow may go slow, but when they arrive they can still sing,” goes an old Pacific Northwest proverb.

8. THE JOY IS IN THE JOURNEY
Although the start is exciting, and the conclusion gratefully achieved, it is the long, steady process we remember. Being part of the journey requires great preparation and must be approached with mindful awareness. Being on the journey, we are much more than our selves. We are part of the larger movement of life. We have a common direction, a destination, and for once, our will is pure, our goal is to go on together. Pull together.

9. A GOOD LEADER IS A GOOD STUDENT ~ WE ARE ALL HERE TO LEARN
We can berate each other, try to force others to understand, or we can allow each paddler to gain awareness through the ongoing journey. Nothing sustains us like that sense security that comes when we know we can deal with things, with whatever arises, the weather, a new vista, or the choppy or calming seas. Each paddler works with, plays with, and can learn something from the person in front, the person behind, the water, the air, the energy, the emotion behind the flower offering.

10. MANY HANDS MAKE LIGHT WORK
We can look back at the shallows and see how we pulled through to our destination, amazed at the power of our hands, minds, and hearts working together. Though there may be dangers, we choose to use our hands, minds, and energy to make light work for everyone. Humming like worker bees, making honey in our part of the honey comb, we marvel at how every one of us is a necessary part of this one wholesome process called life, a flowing of energy we sustain through the Aloha Spirit.

That’s it … the Ten Jewels of Being in the Same Canoe. Paddling. May they guide us to walk in beauty, talk excellent story, and arrive together so we can sing!

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