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Summer 1997

Our adventures in England had been an extraordinary experience. However, there was still something that kept gnawing at the edge of my mind that there was a hidden reason for our need to return back to England after so long an absence. And it wasn’t that we were both bored with Hawaii or Mexico.

During the summer, we always conduct longer-term trainings out in nature. This summer it was scheduled to be four days beginning on a Friday, August 1st, and ending on Monday, August the 4th. The theme of the training was initiation, fear and ‘death and re-birth’ including the experiential experiences of a 24-hour solitary quest, a stone-built death spiral and bathing. 

Since we usually take mostly novices into the outdoors, I would always perform prayers of safety, love and power before the trainings. This time, I did a different prayer.

Based on what I knew within my heart and my vision, I prayed for a sign to be given of ‘who I was’ in my last incarnation: ‘Let them see a sign knowing that I was ________________.’ I mentioned the name, as people would recognize it today. I then let go of any expectations about the prayer. Little did I expect the sign, in reality signs, which would be given?

The Sunday of the four-day training had dawned bright and very dry, little rain had fallen that spring and summer. We had planned on constructing the death spiral early in the afternoon so that we could conduct the ceremony late in the afternoon. In addition, during the evening, I wanted to work on the issue of Phobos—the Greek word for fear and the origin for the word phobia. The exercise that I had chosen was one that I had conducted many times before. And, in my mind, was an excellent way to help a person release a fear that had haunted them.

In reality, it was a very simple exercise. Our apprentices had to identify a fear of theirs and then out of natural items fashion an image of their fear. They would then fight that fear with a wooden sword called a boken and triumphantly burn the remains in a ceremonial fire. Besides being an excellent exercise of body and mind, many of our apprentices were martial artists. The common assumption would be that they would take to this exercise like ducks to water. On the contrary, many are too structured in their bodily movements. This inhibits creativity and spontaneous no-mind actions.

But we might not be able to conduct this exercise as Sherry and I faced a major hurdle. It was basically drought conditions that summer, which generally prohibited an open fire. Without the fire, the experience would be hallow and not complete. Shortly in the early afternoon, our dilemma was solved by an intense thunder and lightning storm. And intense does not do it justice.

One moment, the sky was crystal clear tinged only with a few clouds, and in the next moment, the sky darkened into an ominous swirling bluish-black tempest. There was a pause of sound and movement as if a giant was holding its breath. And then… thunder, lightning and rain.

Torrents of rain fell as thunder boomed overhead and lightening struck all around us. Everyone ran to huddle underneath the confines of the cooking tarp, shaking and scared by the intensity that was otherworldly. People were terrified at the suddenness and force of the wind and the rain, the thunder and the lightning.

As the storm abated and stopped, the earth felt different—a purification of sorts. It was only later that I had a sudden realization that the pre-Christian Hawaiians would recognize this sudden downpour as a sign of the presence of the Akua Lono.[i]

Our apprentices were milling around slightly disoriented by the storm. The good news was that now we could have a fire. However, the storm changed the timing of building the death spiral. It would now occur later than we had planned. 

For the remainder of the afternoon, we finished building the death-spiral and prepared for the death-and-rebirth ceremony. When we were almost finished building the spiral, one of our apprentices took a picture of me within the center of the spiral.

As with all things, there is an opening, middle and an ending to the ceremony. Previously, I’ve opened many spirals, but this one, was extremely different. I had a feeling that this was not just any ordinary spiral. There was something different about it. When I was ready to open the spiral, I let go of any attachment or anticipation and cleared my mind as I prepared to enter it.

Sherry and I had chosen two apprentices as birth guardians. They would stand at the mouth of the ‘birth canal’ of the spiral, which was also the entrance, and pull the ‘new ones’ into existence. The others would stand on the outside of the outermost spiral chanting a phrase linking heaven and earth, until it was their turn to enter and face their symbolic death. Each one who chose to enter the spiral would stand at the entrance praying and contemplating their desire to enter the spiral. If they chose to still enter, they must take their first step into the vortex with their left leg as a sign of intent and focused-will to ’let go of their old self.’

Before anyone entered, I needed to sanctify and open the spiral by walking to its center and then repeating my steps to leave it empowered and blessed. As I stood at the entrance to the death spiral, I could feel that this spiral was an extremely powerful one, possibly due to the thunder storm. As I began to take my first step into the spiral, my last fully conscious thought was, “My spirit song’s[ii] coming.” 

And with that, my left foot stomped the ground inside the spiral and as my right leg caught up with my left, my spirit song sprang from my lips, and I began walking the spiral with serpentine movements of my body. Sherry later related to me that the response from our apprentices was immediate—fear and wonder became etched on their faces. It was so intense that a few apprentices chose not to participate—one being a person that had been raised in a strong Catholic household and had been an alter boy.

[i] Lono is lord of the east and the god of learning. “Lono in Hawaii is associated with cloud signs and the phenomena of storms. In prayers to Lono the signs of the god are named as thunder, lightning, earthquake, the dark cloud, the rainbow, rain and wind….”

In Hawaiian mythology, Lono is a fertility and music god who descended to Earth on a rainbow to marry Laka. In agricultural and planting traditions, Lono was identified with rain and food plants. He was one of the four gods (with Ku, Kane, and his twin brother Kanaloa) who existed before the world was created. Lono was also the god of peace. In his honor, the great annual festival of the Makahiki was held. During this period (from October through February), all unnecessary work and war was kapu (taboo).

Some Hawaiians believed that Captain James Cook was Lono returned and indeed this fact may have ultimately contributed to Capt. Cook's death. There was a tradition that such a human manifestation of the god [Lono] had actually appeared, established games and then departed to ‘Kahiki,’ promising to return.”

[ii] An individual’s unique song of power; it is composed of vocalizations not words and only attained through rigorous spiritual and mental training. This leads to mastering the power of the ‘mindsong.’ The most powerful songs are the ones of long dead shamans—this is the song that I carry.


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