I read recently, “To be Pono is to be balanced” (Dean Callaway). This struck a chord within me because for a long time now I have believed that spiritual growth is based upon balance and not upon extremes. Within the monastic tradition that formed me there are many examples of extreme behavior: standing in the sun, going without sleep, partaking of only minimal food. In the fervor of my monastic youth I engaged in some ascetic practices which, while not as extreme as those I’ve mentioned, nonetheless were based upon a minimalist mindset. From the point of view of learning to control myself those practices were helpful. Over the long-term, however, they did not teach me how to be at ease with being human and yet serious with being spiritual.
Too often we pit being human against being spiritual. It has taken me a long time to learn that being at ease being human does not mean being spiritually frivolous or undisciplined. What so attracts me about Hawaiʻi‘s spirituality is the sense that everything around us is holy and helpful to our spiritual growth; the plants, the food, the earth, a touch. Look at the hula, an incarnated spirituality which speaks of relationships: between people and the Divine, people and the earth, and of the earth to the Divine. On one level hula is rooted within human sensuality, and on another is only practiced through serious personal and spiritual discipline.
Hula also is the experience of discipleship to a Kumu Hula, much like my own discipleship to a Spiritual mentor. Discipleship calls for being vulnerable to the teaching as well as giving that teaching back in order to give it away. Spiritual balance requires dealing with all that is, and using it in a way that maintains a balance between receiving with gratitude and giving away with Aloha. How we relate that giving and receiving to one another IS our spiritual life.