Friday, December 16, 2005

Urban Shaman

Serge Kahili King, the author of Urban Shaman, defines a shaman in the following way, "For the purposes of this book and my teachings, I define a shaman as a healer of relationships between mind and body, between people, between people and circumstances, between Humans and nature, and between matter and spirit. In practicing his or her healing, the shaman has a view of reality very different from the one most of the world uses..."

That last sentence is key. Shamanism is a very different paradigm than the commonly accepted paradigm in the west. I was constantly amazed and intrigued by the differences throughout this book. King writes about the shaman in straightforward, practical way, making the ideas accessible to the uninitiated.

I enjoyed the book immensely and I think I "learned" a lot. I put learned in quotes because the paradigm is so different, I'm not sure I can really learn through just reading a book. At the very least, I think I would have to practice the principles often, and perhaps I would need to apprentice, to really learn Hawaiian shamanism.

He clarifies one of the differences of the Hawaiian tradition, "...while all shaman are healers, the majority follow the 'way of the warrior'; some, a minority which includes the Hawaiian shaman tradition, follow what we might call 'the way of the adventurer'."

"A 'warrior' shaman tends to personify fear, illness, or disharmony and to focus on the development of power, control, and combat skills in order to deal with them. An 'adventurer" shaman, by contrast, tend to depersonify these conditions (i.e., treat them as effects, not things) and deal with them by developing skills of love, cooperation, and harmony."

It is apparent to me that we need healing in the world - as individuals, groups, corporations and nations. Albert Einstein is quoted as writing; "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result." Well, I'm ready to at least look at something different. What we've tried isn't working too well. And, my guess is that if you've read this far, you're open to new ideas as well.

"But," you may ask, "what does this have to do with innovation?" I am dedicated to innovation that improves wealth and health (the common weal). I would like to not only make the workspace more innovative, but a healthier, gentler place of open collaboration. The Urban Shaman provides a different way to help make this happen. In addition, the Urban Shaman speaks effectively to our creativity.

Hawaiian shamanism is well adapted to modern times for four reasons:

  1. "It is completely nonsectarian and pragmatic. Shamanism is a craft, not a religion, and you can practice it alone or with a group.
  2. It is very easy to learn and apply, although, as with any craft, the full development of certain skills may take awhile.
  3. The Hawaiian version in particular may be practiced anywhere at any time, including at home, at work, at school, at play, or while traveling. This mainly because the Hawaiian shamans primarily worked with the mind and body alone. They did not use drums to induce altered states and they did not use masks to assume other forms or qualities.
  4. The nature of shamanism is such that while you are healing others you are healing yourself, and while you are transforming the planet you are transforming yourself."

The author's view on openness is refreshing. "Widely spread knowledge actually has more potency than secrets locked up and unused. Knowledge held secret is about a useful as money under a miser's mattress. And the sacredness of knowledge lies not in its reservation for a few, but it's available to many. He goes on to say, "...shamans recognize no hierarchy or authority in matters of the mind; if ever a group of people could be said to follow a system of spiritual democracy, it would be the shamans of the world."

The three aspects of consciousness according to Hawaiian shamanism are the ku (the heart, the body or subconscious), the lono (the mind, or conscious mind) and the kane (the spirit or super conscious).

Ku is a close equivalent of the western concept of the subconscious, but it is not identical. In this paradigm, memory is stored as a movement pattern or vibration. Genetic memory is stored at the cellular level and experiential memory is stored at one or more muscular levels. "The area of storage seems to be related to which part of the body was active or energized during the learning. When the part of the body in which memory was stored is under sufficient tension, then that memory is inhibited or even inaccessible."

"When muscle tension is released, any memory stored in that area and inhibited by the tension is also released." In this paradigm, this is why massage works.

The implications of the concept of ku are many. "This means that whatever memories you dwell on will be affecting your body in the present moment, producing more or less the same chemical and muscular reactions that occurred when the event first happened. A good memory can produce endorphins and a bad memory can produce toxins, all in the present moment."

It also implies that the ku does not distinguish between whether the experience came from an actual situation or a book, dream, intuition or imagination. "All the ku cares about is the intensity of the experience; that is, how much physiological (emotional, chemical, muscular) reaction occurred during the experience. That is the ku's only basis for how 'real' the experience was. The practical side of this is that an intensely imagined experience is just as good as the real thing, as least as far as memory-based behavior is concerned." Athletes use this fact when they imagine the body motions that have to go through to perform. King assets, "The same process can be used to train yourself in any skill, state, or condition whatsoever."

"The primary function of the ku is memory," writes King, "and its primary motivation is pleasure. To put it more accurately, the ku's motivation is towards pleasure and away from pain." This is the reason why we like to do some things and not others, and why certain things are very difficult. "The ku automatically moves towards what is pleasurable and does its best to avoid what is painful."

Remembering that the ku does not distinguish between actual and imagined experience, it becomes clear that imagination has extreme power. "If you create a future memory - in other words, if imagine what will happen if you do a certain thing - your ku's behavior will be strongly influenced by whether the memory carries the expectation of pain or pleasure. If you have created the expectation/memory that human encounters may result in painful rejection, you will find it hard to meet or be with people, to make phone calls (especially sales calls), and possibly even to write letters."

In this paradigm, the ku will provide the least painful solution if no pleasurable alternatives exist in memory. For example, if you have a stressful job, that is your job is creating pain, your ku will make you sick to get out of the job because it is less painful to be sick.

"In order to operate its memory function and engage motivation, the ku uses its primary tool of sensation. According to this concept, all memory is kinesthetic, or body related; all pleasure and pain as well; and all experience, even of emotions and ideas, produces physical sensation."

The second aspect of consciousness is lono. "The lono is that part of yourself which is consciously aware of internal and external input; of memories, thoughts, ideas, imaginings, intuitions, hunches, and inspirations, as well as sensory impressions of sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, depth, movement, pressure, time, and others. It hangs out on the border, so to speak, between the inner and outer worlds. The primary function of the lono is decision making." And, decision making requires attention, intent, choosing and interpretation: "...lono decides what's important and what is not and attention follows the decision."

"Intent is a kind of decision making that directs awareness as well as activity. It is a powerful way to manage your ku, with tremendous effects on health, happiness, and success when used properly." There are three ways to manage your ku - authoritarian, democratic, and laissez-faire.

"When you intend to walk across the room, the intention is followed by awareness, which is followed by action." If a controlling, authoritative style is used, the resulting movements are awkward and halting. If a cooperative style is used, a smooth, fluid movement results. An uncontrolled style results in too many distractions, too many pleasurable paths to follow.

In speaking, "A controlling lono interferes with the process by trying to make sure that the right words are said in the right way and usually creates havoc in the form of halting speech with a lot of 'uh's or 'ya know's or even stuttering. The cooperative lono holds the intent and lets the ku do its thing, which often produces spontaneous humor and unexpectedly good insights or phrases. The uncontrolling lono lets the ku wander off the subject or even speak gibberish."

"Choosing is what most people think of as decision making. Choosing is making a decision to turn your attention to one direction rather than another."

"Interpretation is a decision about the meaning or validity of an experience."

"I spoke of the primary motivation of the ku being pleasure which explains a lot of human behavior. Even more behavior can be explained by the primary motivation of the lono, which is order. Order doesn't necessarily mean neatness although some lonos may interpret it that way. It has more to do with rules, categories, and understanding."

"The primary tool of the lono is imagination. Since the lono is the only part of you under your direct control, the development of this tool is of supreme importance..."

The third aspect of consciousness is kane. "Kane is conceived of as a 'source' aspect; a purely spiritual essence which manifests or projects into realty our physically oriented being. It might also be called the soul or oversoul as long as you don't get the idea that that it is something that can be lost or separated form you."

"The primary function of the kane is creativity in the form of mental and physical experience. Simplified, the lono generates a pattern by deciding that something is true, ku memorizes the pattern, and kane uses the pattern to manifest experience. At the same time, kane is constantly giving inspiration to improve the pattern because its primary motivation is harmony." Kane's "motivation is to help the whole self integrate patterns more harmoniously with others in the community and environment."

"The primary tool of the kane is energy. The universe is made of energy and it is energy that that maintains and changes the dreams of life. The imagination of the lono directs the energy and the sensation of the ku lets us experience its effects."

King describes seven principles and fourteen corollaries of urban shamanism (Hawaiian word shown first in caps):

IKE - The World is What You Think It Is
Corollary: Everything is a dream

"...shamans also hold the exceptionally subtle idea that life is a dream; that in fact, we dream our lives into being. This does not mean that dreams are real and reality is a dream. It means that the reality you are experiencing right now is only one of many dreams," writes the author. He goes on to explain that the only way we "know" anything reality is through the detection of energy through our senses. Reality is our mind's interpretation of what our senses are reporting. The reality we experience in that sense is no different than a dream. And, sometimes we can't tell the difference. It also stands to reason that no two people will experience reality, even the same reality, in the same way. It's put together differently in different minds. We therefore tend to test for reality by whether other people share the same dream of reality. "Hallucination," writes the author means 'your dream doesn't match my dream'."

"For the shamans, the experience we call ordinary everyday reality is a mass hallucination, or to put it more politely, a shared dream. It's like we are all having our own individual dreams about life and the sharing occurs at points of agreement or consensus."

"If this life is a dream," he writes, "and if we can wake up fully within it, then we can change the dream by changing our dreaming."

Corollary: All systems are arbitrary
King comments, "The meaning of experience depends upon your interpretation of it or your decision to accept someone else's interpretation, and the decision to accept a basic assumption is also arbitrary."

KALA - There Are No Limits
Corollary: Everything is connected
Corollary: Anything is possible
Corollary: Separation is a useful illusion

The universe has no limits and therefore our experiences are limitless. However, in everyday life, we experience limits. There are two kinds of limits - filtered and creative. Filtered limitation is "imposed by ideas and beliefs that inhibit creativity rather than enhance it..." "Filtered limitations generate focus without the potential for positive action."

"...creative limitation assumes the purposeful establishment of limits within an infinite universe in order to create particular experiences." When we play a game, we follow the rules of the game; otherwise it has no meaning. "The rules of the game are limitations created so you can play the game." Later he writes, "Creative limitation allows us to improve our creative abilities by enforcing a focus on a certain range of interpretation of experience." "Even in the limited game of chess, human minds have not figured out all the possibilities," he points out.

MAKIA - Energy Flows Where Attention Goes
Corollary: Attention goes where energy flows
Corollary: Everything is energy

In discussing the third principle, King considers mediation and hypnosis. He explains that both are two aspects of the same thing - conditions of sustained focused attention. He writes, "You are meditating whenever you are engaged in sustained focused attention on anything, and according to this philosophy such attention channels the energy of the universe into manifesting the physical equivalent of the focus. However, the manifestation is not just the equivalent of what you are looking at, saying, listening to, or doing. It is the equivalent of the sum total of your entire attention, including habitual expectation, during the meditation. To put it another way, whenever lono is meditating, ku is meditating, ku is meditating too. Part of one's development as a shaman involves learning how to get lono and ku to meditate on the same thing at the same time. Then the magic happens."

In discussing the first corollary, the author writes, "Attention is quite naturally attracted to bright lights, shiny objects, and loud noises, but we may not realize that the common factor of all three is their energy intensity. Attention is attracted to any strong source of energy that stimulates any of our senses, even those subtle senses of which most people are unaware." He goes on to explain that we are likewise attracted to certain people or geographic regions because of their energy. In his view, the sacred geographic spots are actually spots of low energy where people can de-stress.

King stops short of calling on physics to explain that everything is energy, but I think that physics is the best way to explain his second corollary. Einstein proved that energy and mass were transformable one into the other. The conversion factor was the speed of light squared, E=MC². Mass or matter is just highly condensed energy. Therefore our bodies and our thoughts are energy as well.

MANAWA - Now is the Moment of Power
Corollary: Everything is relative.
Corollary: Power increases with sensory attention.

Some Eastern and Western traditions focus on the past or future. With the concept of karma we are trapped into either good or bad karma depending upon our actions in the past, and we create good or bad karma for our future depending upon actions now. "In these traditions karma isn't usually something you can change; all you can do is reap the rewards or work off the debts of the past."

Many Western traditions hold that you are rewarded in life or after life for obeying specific social or religious rules, and punished if you don't.

"The shamanic tradition, both warrior and adventurer versions, is in stark contrast to the above views. It says that the past did not give you what you have today, nor make you what you are. It is your beliefs, decisions, and actions today about yourself and the world around you that give you what you have and make you what you are."

"Now is the moment of power. But, how do we define what now is? The easiest and most practical definition is: the area or range of present attention." In other words, if your attention span is a second, or less, so is now. But, if you can focus longer, now becomes longer.

"Unfortunately, some people are obsessively locked onto the past, future, or elsewhere because of great fear and anger...Much of the fear and anger can be dissipated by shifting focus to the sensory present..."

ALOHA - To Love Is to Be Happy With
Corollary: Love increases as judgement decreases.
Corollary: Everything is alive, aware, and responsive.

In English, the use of the word love has become sloppy. "In Hawaiian the meaning of love is very clear and it provides a useful guideline for loving and being loved. Aloha is the word for love. The root alo means to be with, to share an experience, here and now. The root oha means affection, joy."

MANA - All Power Comes From Within
Corollary: Everything has power.
Corollary: Power comes from authority.

Many other traditions teach that power exists outside of us and that we are relatively powerless. "In complete and, for some, shocking contrast, Huna philosophy teaches that all the power that creates your experience comes from your own body, mind, and spirit. Logically speaking, if there are no limits, then the Universe or Source of Life is infinite, and if it is infinite, then all of its power is at every point of it, including the point which you define as you. Keeping the discussion at a practical level, nothing ever happens to you without your participation. For every event that you experience you creatively attract it through your beliefs, desires, fears and expectations, and then react to it habitually or respond to it consciously."

"Power comes from authority" is the second corollary to this sixth principle. But the authority is inside you, not external. "Speaking with authority means speaking with confidence that your words will produce results," he writes.

PONO - Effectiveness Is the Measure of Truth
Corollary: There is always another way to do anything.

"Many people have trouble with this one at first because they think that it says that the end justify the means. Actually it says just the opposite, that the means determine the end. Violent means will produce violent results, and peaceful means will produce peaceful results."

Other topics covered in the book are, the seven shaman talents, creating harmony in the body, initiating change through intuition, changing the world with shaman dreaming, shape changing and community service, increasing your creative energy, from inner peace to outer peace, the healing power of symbols, the healing art of ceremony and ritual, and the pooling of minds.

The book has many short exercises throughout. They are easily doable by an apprentice shaman, or just someone curious. King uses them to reinforce points he has made.

The book is about radical new paradigm for the western mind, but it is written very clearly and simply. It contains more wisdom than can be obtained from a simple reading so I suggest that if you are serious about learning from the author that you create a study group. That way you can learn and practice together at a pace slow enough to absorb more of what he has to offer.

Urban Shaman: A Handbook for Personal and Planetary Transformation Based on the Hawaiian Way of the Adventurer
Serge Kahili King
Simon & Shuster, 1990

To read a poem by King from this book, Ode to a Toad, go to the Innovation Road Map Travelogue.


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