Akesa Mafi was a young student who came from the East Cost to visit the Kahua Institute. Upon her return we received below paper she wrote for her “World Religious ” class. May you enjoy reading her “religious visit paper” she submitted to her teacher.
The place that is the subject of this religious visit paper is the Kahua Institute for embodied spirituality. This institute is located in Huelo, Hawaii on the island of Maui. They are a Tantric retreat secluded in the rainforest, surrounded by palm trees and cliffs overlooking the mighty Pacific Ocean. The owners Kutira and Raphael are both practicing Tantra believers. Kutira trained under a guru from India and has studied Tantra for many years. I stayed at this retreat for six weeks and attended two embodied spirituality classes.
The Kahua institute is located not only on the naturally beautiful land of Hawaii, but it is rumored that this land is famous for a particularly gruesome fight between king Kamehameha and the Chief of Maui. This was in Kamehameha’s quest to unify all of the Hawaiian Islands. Many people who live on properties in Huelo have been able to feel strong spirits that are said to have come from the soldiers who died in these battles. The land is abundant in tropical fruits like Coconuts, Lilikoi, Wild Guava, Bananas, Papayas and Pineapples. Being surrounded by all of these fruits gives one the feel of being in the Garden of Eden where food is all around and so easy to access, of course there were no snakes around temping us to eat forbidden fruit. There are bamboo groves planted all over that are used for harvesting. These groves are a sustainable resource, growing to full maturity within 3-5 years of planting them. The property is totally off the grid and is run off solar power, which is in great supply in Hawaii. Just the outside of the property makes one feel very connected to nature and its beauty. Using natural renewable resources also helps in respect for mother earth, because by using solar electricity there are not as many polluting consequences as with other non-renewable sources.
The inside of the studio where the embodied spirituality classes that I attended took place, was equally as beautiful as the outside of the building. It was an open room with bamboo wood floors and bamboo trimmings on the doors. It was basically all windows that all overlooked different parts of the property. One side faces the Pacific Ocean, which turns from white to blue depending on the reflection of the sun. Another side has a great view of the night sky where the full moon rises and coconut palms blow in the Hawaiian wind. Another faces the entrance to the institute and has a very home like feel to it. The floor is covered with Persian rugs and big huggable pillows. There are meditation chairs with the half moon looking pillows to sit on top of. There are pictures of Shakti and Shiva in the sacred embrace on the wall. There is a sort of alter looking table set up where Raphael does some of his meditation in front of. The alter has incense and smelly oils and a statue of either Buddha or a Hindu goddess/god. Various instruments are in the corners of the rooms. There are different sized Conga looking drums. From hand held to larger ones that are about 3 or 4 feet tall. There is a huge gong that looks very sacred and makes one want to grab the stick and start a class with it. There are Didgeridoos, cymbals, toning bowls, and an Angelic like harp. On the opposite end of the room there is an electronic keyboard and a closet with sliding mirror doors that take up the whole side of the room, the only one without windows.
The two classes that I attended were with other interns who were staying at the retreat with guests, friends and me who also were staying on the property. We were all invited and made to feel really welcome and included in the classes. At the latter of the two classes that I took there was a girl named Tea who was considered to be an Indigo child. What is an Indigo child? Should I know already? She was five years old and stayed with us for a weekend. The classes were for new people to Tantra and so Raphael did his opening spiel of explaining about Macrocosm and Microcosm. Macrocosm is said to be when one is in total consciousness and in communication with god. Raphael explained his own theory of the best way to reach microcosm. He is a very nice man who is open to hearing thoughts from others and really makes one feel like they are equal and important. The best way to reach microcosm according to Raphael is to shake out, feel ones feet and then meditate with breath work. Shaking out is a process of shaking ones body to meditations set to fast paced animalistic music. Kutira was the one saying the meditations to us on the cd. I started by shaking my arms as fast as I could to what my heart felt, and then I switched over to the next arm, then each leg, chest, head and eventually all parts of my body. Everyone in the room was doing this. We were all together yet we were all in our own space having our own experiences. The music guided us to release all hate, anger, disappointment, inadequacy, and other bad feelings to mother earth and let her recycle our ‘waste”, as it was called. It was a very loving feeling to know that mother earth loved our waste and that it was okay to release our negative energy to her to compost it. What a beautiful image that is painted from this idea. We shook out for about five minutes and afterwards we all came together and did a Native American practice. It is about being grounded in your feet. If you are grounded in your feet you are given a sense of presence that you are with yourself. It is a practice said to combat fear, so Raphael gave an example of being approached by three bad looking guys who were coming at him in a threatening way. He (Raphael) felt his feet and because he was present with himself and centered with his body these three guys somehow were deterred from harming him. It is a good practice for people with anxiety to do. It has a very calming effect to it and it is so simple that anyone can do it. So during the class we all were standing in a circle very close to each other. We practiced feeling our feet in different ways we felt them as they were, through our heads, and through our hearts. It was a great feeling of consciousness with my body that I experienced from doing these practices. I felt things that I hadn’t ever felt with my body it was a great mind body connection. It felt like I was inside myself and that my feet were not just a big, smelly part of my body but a sacred part of me that had magical powers.
After shaking out we sat down in a circle on mediation chairs and pillows (the half moon looking ones). Raphael guided us in the meditation by having us do different visualizations. We listened to our breath and really tried to concentrate on it. This helped in eliminating all of the other sensations that the body was feeling after shaking out. The fidgeting and uncomfortableness disappeared and we just were all coexisting in the same room. We imagined love going down our spine through our legs, arms top of our heads. We imagined our heart and we said hello to our heart, we asked our heart what it was feeling, we listened to its answer. My heart said hello to me, it was a very short nice hello. After meditation we did different exercises different days of the class. The first class we acted out four different feeling: anger, chaos, joy and sensuality. We danced these different feelings to different types of music to invoke the feelings. We also acted them out with a chosen statement that we came up with on our own, in front of the class. We then evaluated each other’s performances, mostly to tell the person what we noticed about them. I learned that I hold back a lot of what I feel, and in doing so am not able to share whom I really am with others. Others came across as being very intense and needing lightening up, as joyful in everything that they did, and in needing to work on more feeling expressiveness.
The second class that I did had more people in it, including the indigo child, Tea so we did exercises that were different than the first. We did the shaking out meditation part of the class and then we did a group breathing exercise. This was an amazing experience. We sat in each other’s legs and leaned back on the person’s legs that you were sitting in. When the person in back of you breathed you were supposed to breathe. We sat and tried to coordinate breaths for at least ten minutes. I had never known the person in front of me before the class but I was so connected to her after we breathed together. It wasn’t because we had this deep conversation and found out every single detail of one another’s lives. It was because of our experiences of doing all of the various exercises that we did. The breathing thing was such a connecting, beautiful experience between everybody in the room. It wasn’t a sexual connection it was very intimate and just felt like our souls were in harmony with each other. It also did not evoke any type of spiritual experience for myself, just a loving human connectedness feeling.
After the breathing exercise we did some group music where we were trying to be open and allow whatever needed to flow through us be allowed to. We did a gospel music song where we sang amazing grace and just allowed the feelings to dictate what notes and vibrato’s came out. We messed around with that for a while and had fun with it. Again it was more of an opening exercise where we were able to be comfortable in our voices and with each other’s voices. Then Tea got in the middle of the circle and started doing some of her songs. She said comments like she was waiting for the snake to come and tell her what to say. Many people in the group believed that she was channeling some spirits through her. She went on to speak of everybody being one body. She said that we are all one people and we need to love each other that way. This little girl was five years old and yet was saying words that made her seem older. She was a very intelligent being who was way ahead of kids her age.
Theoretically what I took away from going to these classes was a deep sense of being responsible for the love I give others. It is okay to have these feelings but I learned that I could do imaginative practices where I consciously release my bad energy. By envisioning this in my head I can actually move on to be open so that love and new things that are helpful to me can come in to my being. I learnt a great practice of planting my feet on the ground and being present in my body, especially when I feel afraid. It helps me just to center on myself. I learnt that Eastern Religions are not as evil as a fundamentalist Christian book once had me believing. I even more believe now that we all take different spiritual paths but in the end we are all one being. There is no difference in who we are as people. We may have different rituals, prayers, rules and such but in the end they all lead to the same belief. That is in a higher power and powers that only that can possess.
There are different Tantric practices that come from the Hindu and Buddhist belief system. The Tantra that I learnt on my visit incorporated both of these into practices and teachings. There were other religious beliefs also, like Native American spirituality (plant your feet) practice.
This visit was a wonderful experience for me to learn and expand my knowledge and spiritual beliefs. I gained a deeper appreciation for the diverse group of different paths that people take on their spiritual journeys. It is so great when one can be open to accepting all paths and not judge others as being right or wrong in their paths.
by Akesa Mafi 7.21/07
Thank you, Akesa. This was a great sharing. I learned a lot about an experience that I haven’t had. Renae Hansen
Extra Credit Evaluation Religious Visit Paper
Assignment Described on Pages 484-485 of Many Peoples, Many Faiths
I will grade your religious visit paper holistically, using a 0-10 point scale. Here are the grading criteria:
You presented this more as a story than by following the guidelines of the textbook, but other wise it covered the material quite well.