Monthly Archives: May 2012

Honoring an Elder, Michael Meade

It would be my first time meeting Michael Meade, a pioneer who’s work has sought to bring viable mentorship back to modern society. By studying the rites of passage and rich myths from many ancient cultures, he created a network of multicultural learning through his organization Mosaic Voices. My friend had worked with him many times before, so he arranged for me to speak with his assistant. 
I was told the best way to meet him is to attend the workshop and grab some time with Meade afterward. So I booked a flight from New Mexico to San Francisco, and did the pretty drive to Santa Cruz. My friend and I had a mean craving for Cioppino, that San Francisco immigrant creation that combined the joyous red sauce from Italian cuisine with the fresh catches of the Portuguese and Italian fishermen. Everyone “chipped in” their seafood, a mosaic of seafood depending on whatever showed up in their nets. We stopped on the way for a hearty meal in sour doe bread bowls. A good meal with good company.
The weekend workshop was held at a spiritual center with lofted ceilings not far from the ocean. The big meeting room was fit for yoga or even a game of basketball if there had been nets. Michael would teach a piece, often making the crowd laugh in their fold-up chairs. Then he rummaged through his notes like a messy scholar pouring over scrolls. His head popped up again, grabbing his jimbe, and he began playing rhythms while storytelling. Stories of floods, stories of loss, stories that revealed unexpected wisdom. There was a mythic nourishment happening, something he has been known to create. I could see why this shepherd had a flock.
I waited patiently at the end of the workshop to speak with him. In my mind, I had thought about what it would be like to be mentored by him. As a Healer and emerging teacher, I hoped to have someone to go to for guidance about how to share my craft on a bigger scale. This man had done it. I stood 3 feet away from him as hungry participants positioned to receive from him a moment of witness. 20 minutes had gone by. Several people cut the line, straddling their deep thirst as best as they could. I felt a mix of agitation and compassion. I too was thirsty. I too craved his approval. My mind wanted to make him my mentor already, painting my need on a man that I have never met.
30 minutes had gone by. I was feeling drained by the desperate huddle. A man plowed passed me with a very urgent poem. “Michael, I have this great poem. Can I share it with you?” Meade paused for a moment, responding with an Irish smirk that could only be learned in New York City. “Sure kid. Go ‘head,” he said after some suspense. I don’t remember the poem, I just remember the man oozing with nervous excitement, as if Michael was the only one who would truly understand his poem.
I had no stomach for the scramble. Any considerate exchange that I had wanted in my daydreams was pure fantasy. I began to walk away, but a tingling came over me. It’s that shaky feeling I get right before an honor song comes to me. All of this time, I had been one of the fish swimming around him, looking for extra nourishment, not wanting the workshop to be over. But I wasn’t a fish, and Michael was not my personal mentor. However, he was an elder, a person of an older generation who had managed to bring fourth fresh guidance and validation, even though his elders did not necessarily provide the same for him. He was giving what he never got. Meade was leaving the place in better shape that when he had arrived. 
The song drew me to him. I didn’t need to push or position. His eyes came towards me as I stepped forward to shake his hand.
“Mr. Meade, I just wanted to thank you for what you have done. It’s my tradition to honor someone with a song when I have seen what they have done in the world. Thank you for meeting the call to be an elder. I’ll sing for you now.”
Chairs folding, tables clanking, and last minute chatter filled the room. The first note of the song pierced through the noise, a mix of siren’s call and baby’s cry. Then, the trills, distinctively Native, gutteral, poured through like a full heart rush. My thirsty chest made water from seemingly nowhere. The top of my head tingled like hidden rain pouring through my body, like Kokopeli playing a flute. Honorable static moved forth, into Michael, a complete surprise. Then, the song was over, and the flood of recognition waned. Somehow, my thirst was quenched.
“Are you Native?” he asked.
“Yes, Mohawk.”
“Thank you for that song,” he said, basking. I walked away, feeling complete, feeling whole. “He’s Native American,” I heard Meade say as I walked away. Some of the participants echoed what he said, pointing at me. 
On the lawn, I called my friend on my cell to arrange a pick-up. I couldn’t even finish the conversation with him as a few of the participants began peppering me with questions about my heritage and the meaning of the song.  He laughed on the other end of the phone. “I’m on my way.”
I thought I was going to Santa Cruz in order to request that Michael Meade be my mentor. Instead, I was there to gift to him. In my head, JFK’s voice was paraphrasing his famous speech. ‘Ask not what more your Elders can do for you. Ask yourself, what is in your heart to give.’

Copyright © 2012 G. Hunter
Categories: cioppino, Elder, Honor, mankind project, mentorship, Michael Meade, Mosaic, San Francisco, Santa Cruz | Leave a comment

The 4 Healers of Waikiki

The long board beneath my feel slips back and forth. The 4 foot curl behind me propels me forward and I’m up. Calm, exhilarated, and smiling, I cruise on the wave which takes me for at least 100 yards. To my left, Duke’s restaurant. To my right, Diamond Head. Crisp, clear water below and a full bright sky above. I’m in a personal Eden.
It is my last ride of the day, and I slowly paddle to the beach. My feet crunch the sand and the Sex Wax rubs against my forearm as I carry the 8 ft beast under my arm. My nose is bombarded by scents of tanning oil and burnt skin. Suddenly, I have a craving for bacon.
This is Waikiki, the tourist haven on O’ahu. I’m only playing tourist for the weekend as I am visiting from Big Island for a graduation luau. The streets will be bumping all day and all night. Many will stumble home to their hotel rooms just before pancakes. Others will be rubbing aloe on sunburns. Some will start a tropical drink parasol collection, documenting each Pina Colada and Mai Tai they consumed. 
But amongst all the action and fun making is a little recognized sacred space in the middle of the main strip. I put my surfboard down, walk over to the water fountain, and cup some fresh water into my hands. Walking over to a gated circle, I splash the fresh water onto 4 massive stones arranged on a platform. I whisper a blessing, acknowledging the personal importance of these stones. You see, well over 1000 years ago, Waikiki was a village known as Ulukou. It was there that 4 Tahitian Healers landed after they journeyed in canoes across a few thousand miles of open ocean from the island of Raiatea. They deftly maneuvered the treacherous ocean using extensive knowledge of the currents and astronomy. Today, modern sailors would never dare to make this trip without a very large ship. The fame of the Healers extended amongst many Pacific islands. Before they left Oahu, the chiefs ordered the carving of these four boulders from Kaimuki. It took thousands of people rolling the stones over tree logs to establish their new home just steps away from where the statue of Duke can be found. Each stone was blessed by one specific Healer, imbuing it with their unique Mana (spiritual power) and then named after the Healer who blessed it. The process required a month long ceremony through a full cycle of the moon. The ‘Stones of Life’, as they are called, still carry the names of the Healers: Kapaemahu, Kahaloa, Kapuni, and Kihohi.
 
Locals from my parent’s generation were born before Hawaii became a US state. They would hang out on the sand of uncluttered beaches, strumming their Ukeleles and surfing. At the time, the giant, ancient landmarks were mostly buried under sand. Without fully realizing it, people were stepping over a significant piece of history for the island. They were rediscovered in 1997, unearthed and honored with a plaque. Still to this day, you can find Leis and offerings honoring the medicine left behind by ancient ancestors.
Each time I visit the the shrine, I feel a surge in my blood. It’s an empowering recognition that I am a young man of modern times who is s Healer, just like them. My body is just like theirs, tall and stately as described in oral tradition. My hands reach out to them, as they are a special kind of kin. They are kin who could witness me without the need for words or categories. To them, I’m a Healer. To me, I am their humble student. What did they know? What will I rediscover?

Copyright © 2012 G. Hunter
Categories: duke, healers, honolulu, raiatea, stones of life, surf, surfing, Tahiti, waikiki | Leave a comment

Trusting Men

“I just don’t trust men in general,” she said. “They have hurt me and dissappointed me too many times. Most men lack integrity.”
“Well, as a man, I thank you for trusting me enough to admit that,” I replied calmly to my client.
“I don’t mean you. I mean…well, you’re different,” she said nervously, afraid that she may have offended a supportive man.
“It’s ok. We’re talking about you right now. How am I different to you?” I asked with encouragement.
“Well, you’re different because you’ve earned my trust. You showed me that you care each time that I see you. You’re very accepting of me…I can feel it.”
This conversation is not just from one client. In fact, I can recall this script being repeated by both male and female clients in different forms. I hear it as well in the candid conversations of my everyday life, that yearning for more trusted men. But with that yearning comes the struggle to find trustworthy men, and then the challenges of letting those men in emotionally. This repetitive notion has shown me there is a prevalent mistrust of men, which can be held by anyone who has been betrayed or abandoned by a man in the past. At its basest level, this notion is an unaddressed stereotype that can be harmful because it keeps open-hearted men veiled by our suspicions.  It is also harmful because it can shame all men, whether they have committed an offense of not. By keeping good men out of our lives, we feel neglect, and further the stereotype. By not distinguishing honest men from men who lack integrity, we let the wrong guy in which leads to betrayal. This is a painful cycle experienced by many of the people I have met.
I too, have struggled to trust men. Though there have been a few gems in my life, I have not deeply connected to most of the men I have encountered. I’ve never been a big sports fan. I don’t have an obsession with cars and I’ve often felt like an odd ball on sports teams. These are some of the culturally encouraged ways for a man to connect with other men. Yet, I was left starving for male contact.
As a straight man, I have both admired and envied how gay men were able to come together, bonded by the initiation that is the “coming out” process. In many ways, they have been pioneers of safe male connection. I was able to find some of this male bonding through Native drum groups and the Cornell Thai Boxing Team. But I longed to have a space that was just about men supporting men. No competition, no distraction, just a space where men could reveal themselves without trying to impress each other. There were good men in these teams and groups, yet we never slowed down enough to connect heart to heart.
I used to work with a Navajo medicine man in New Mexico. He told me about the great lengths they went through for the initiation of their girls into womanhood. I was touched by the care and preparation that went into the ceremony, especially since not every tribe still has this ceremony in modern times. Then I asked him what ceremony they did for the boys in his community. “We don’t have a initiation ceremony for men anymore,” he replied. My own longing led me to create a men’s initiation ceremony while living on the Cochiti Pueblo Reservation. The private ceremony brought men together from different walks of life, a place where men were allowed to express their feelings and struggles. They had no other place to share this part of themselves. Being the facilitator of this initiation was powerful, fulfilling, yet incomplete for me personally. To further build my trust in men, I needed men to hold the space for me. I needed to be witnessed as a man, not the facilitator.
I recently had this experience when I joined a men’s support group in Hawaii called the Mankind Project. In addition to weekly support groups, I also took part in the New Warrior initiation weekend. It was the first time I was able to be in a group of 70+ men that I did not know, yet still feel safe. I was seen as a good man, a brave man who was willing to help others in need. But even more significantly for me, I was able to receive support from men who were perfect strangers. 
Honest, consistent communication and presence seemed to melt that mistrust which I have developed towards men. Going through an initiation together showed us that we were not going to cut and run. It formed a bond worth forming. We supported each other in being in our integrity and didn’t ask each other to apologize for being a man. I felt a deep relief after this initiation that I had never experienced before.
Having this support is helping me to see that I am not a lone man of integrity, living on an island of accountability with little male support. There are trustworthy men out there that are often painted with mistrust. But perhaps honest men just need to be seen by each other so that we can reveal ourselves more freely. I now believe that men who are regularly supported in their integrity will treat men and women with greater care and consistency. Feel free to comment with your beliefs and experiences by joining me on
Categories: g kamana hunter, initiation, Kamana, manhood, mankind, mankind project, men, native, thai boxing, trust | 6 Comments

Making Actors Cry

I recently went to Los Angeles to work with clients as a Healer. The trip was mostly work, with a few stops for fun. I sat at one of the the outdoor tables of a nice Italian restaurant by the fountain at the Grove. While I was debating on whether or not to see the Avengers a second time, I began thinking about all the actors I have seen in my private practice. It’s not uncommon for me to be sitting on my couch, watching a movie only to see a client reciting lines on the screen. My eyebrows rise in surprise, and then I smile to myself on the inside, because no one in the room knows that I have met this person before. Their confidentiality, of course, is protected. But in my head, I remind myself of Will Farrell in the movie Elf when he screams, “Santa!!! I know him!” By the way, Will is not a client of mine. 
My actor clients often come with an intriguing irony. These same clients which I saw having a tearful moment on screen often have the toughest time shedding their tears for themselves. To cry on screen, they often recall sad moments in their own life, with the aim of giving a better performance. They cry to be liked by their fans and to ensure that their employers keep hiring them.  Yet, they often struggle to cry for themselves. They’re like a boxer who needs to save up their angst to be able to perform well in the ring.
In my own life, I usually save crying for special occasions like funerals, big life realizations, and really good movies. Good performances by actors have been the most consistent inspiration for my own tears. Its only fair that I return the favor to them in session. Witnessing them peel away their masks helps me more easily find compassion for this person in front of me.  Their fame drips away to reveal a real person with a heart filled with struggles. This is an essential part of the healing because much of their power of captivation resides in that vulnerability. In essence, they must unlearn their old habits to be able to feel their heart again.
I have found that looking beneath a person’s outer persona can inspire release. By seeing something inside of them that very few people get to witness, you validate that person’s inner most world. By honoring and acknowledging something special about them that has nothing to do with what people demand from them is a form of liberation. That recognition of a secret dream or tender sentiment that they hold for their family or project feeds a dry spot in their heart. Then, the tears flow, a sweet release of long held feelings, making room for something new to enter that person’s heart. Finally, someone understands them.
The more I reflected on actors, the more I realized that this applies to nearly every people that I have met. How often are you truly seen for who you are, rather than what people expect you to do?

Thank you to the actors who have touched my inner story.

Categories: actors, avengers, cry, crying, g kamana hunter, george hunter, Kamana, pacific, the grove, will farrell | Leave a comment

Cleansing Your Heart

Is it possible to care too much for others? Many of the world’s religions and inspirational humanitarians encourage us to be compassionate to the people in our lives. Yet, it is difficult to find tangible tools on how to refill our hearts when Compassion Fatigue set in. I am not referring to the burnout from working too much or from excessive stress. Compassion Fatigue is the strain that your heart feels when you are in prolonged caregiver roles. Nurses, Teachers, Physicians, and Therapists are people known for experiencing this heaviness in their heart from the countless, heart wrenching stories they hear. Yet any parent who has been in an emergency room waiting room more than once can also relate.
As a Healer, my experience of Compassion Fatigue is that my heart gets dry when I see too many people. I get grumpy, and my normal filters begin to wane. In this depleted state, my heart becomes a magnet for the heavy stories of the people I help. Another way to say it is that when my emotional endurance dips, my clients stories somehow become my stories. Before the session, I might feel happy or bright. After the session, I may feel heavy or tired, even though the client had a great session. This is my indication that I have taken on something from my client.
Though Compassion Fatigue is so prevalent, I am surprised at how little practices are out there for remedying a burdened heart. The cure to Compassion Fatigue clearly requires self care. In other words, you need to love and care for your own heart even more than you love and care for the hearts of others. But how do we make this shift? How do we tend to our tired hearts?
At the end of each week, I have a personal ritual that I do to release any heaviness in my heart from the deep emotional work. In Hawaiian, they call this Au Au Kai, (cleansing to the ocean).
The first part of the Ritual is the Exhale, or the release. I think of each client that I have worked with one by one while feeling my body. If I took on any burden from them, I name it. I express anything I am feeling to the ocean out loud, whether I feel confused, hurt, angry, sad, or anxious. It doesn’t matter what the feeling may be, I just fell it and release it. By letting myself express these things uncensored, the charge or heaviness in my body can move into the ocean. For me, saying them aloud makes it more powerful. Then, I make a wish for that client based on what we did in the session. By doing this, I ensure that I do not carry the heaviness of my clients into my own life. It’s just good Healer Hygiene. 
The next part of the Ritual is the Inhale. This is where I let the beauty of my surroundings, that fresh, tropical mana, to flow into my body. I don’t just breathe through my nose and mouth. I also soak up the sun through my skin and feel the ocean mist go into my chest. It is the Celebration of my own life which is separate from the suffering of those I help. The Exhale creates the space for Gratitude, and the Inhale Celebrates it. What makes this ritual powerful is the clear intent to care for your own heart and the consistency of making that space for your heart to breathe. It prevents you from dumping these hard feelings on those you love.
At times, I sing an honor song to acknowledge the ancestors of those I work with. I recently worked with a survivor of the Holocaust, so I sang for their family to the ocean. A moment later, a pod of spinner dolphins raced across the water, squealing, playing, and breaching. Joyous.
Join my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/people/G-Kamana-Hunter/669812856  I am available for personal sessions by phone if you would like to create your own Heart Cleansing Ritual. email ghunter199@aol.com  Be good to your heart!
Categories: compassion fatigue, dolphins, hawaii, healer, holocaust, kai, Kamana, physician | Leave a comment

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