A blog about Hawaiian ideas throughout moana-nui-akea.
Manulani Aluli Meyer Blog #3: August, 2015
Lessons from Aotearoa: I have been asked to think about some insights of the lessons learned from five years working at the largest Māori tertiary institution in New Zealand: Te Wānanga o Aotearoa. (35,000+ students) I was fortunate to be on a team that developed He Waka Hiringa, a Masters of Applied Indigenous Knowledge. Today’s BLOG is about the concept of mihi.
Ho’okahi la’au he mihi. The first medicine is forgiveness.
You can imagine when a kane Māori stood up after I finished a talk and said: I’d like to mihi you. I thought: What did I do wrong? I had come from a Hawaiian understanding of the word and he came from a thousand years later. Mihi for us is often ritualized as forgiveness and the process/ goal of ho’oponopono. I have always marvelled at its efficacy because it cuts through grease and heals – potent and pono. One feels lightness in the room when forgiveness/mihi occurs. That is the same/different with our Māori cousins (!) Let me explain: Mihi for Māori is an oratory process. In general terms it is either the introduction one gives at a gathering, or it is an enlightened summary another gives of someone else’s speech that deepens the coherence of the day, conference or activity. A mihi opens or closes an event. I have been to hundreds of Māori gatherings where mihi were used and each one was unique, heart-felt and a vital component to the success of the hui. A good mihi in the beginning always contextualizes people with history, place and each other. This form of mihi strengthens the kaupapa – focus of the gathering – because it grounds it within a wider circle of people, purpose and vision. A opening good mihi makes everyone reminisce about people, swoon to the memories and ignites a recommitment to the shared vision. I would like to focus on the closing summary of a speech as that is the mihi that I have come to experience.
When I asked my mana te reo Māori partner what mihi means she thought for a few days and said: mentoring. It took me weeks to let that idea settle. I believe mentoring indeed summarizes what I experienced from my waewae tapu – my first experience in Aotearoa – in 1999 and thru to 2015. I experienced spiritual mentoring through the mihi practice of others after my talks, speeches, workshops, meetings, and classes. The audience or haumana would simply jump up and summarize or interpret, in complete personal terms, what I had said and what it meant to them. It DID feel like mentoring. It was always, always heart-nourishing, mind expanding, and it gave me a deeper understanding of what I was trying to get across. Yes! I felt mentored. I was instructed by the ideas people learned. Affirmed; appreciated; lifted; mentored. Then I thought about our own Hawaiian idea of mihi – forgiveness. Gosh, when I combined both our cultural facets and interpretations of mihi time/space collapsed. It made sense! Forgiveness/Mentoring. Yes. Yes. And what do both have in common? It is about the loving state. Love mentors. When people summarized my talks, I felt loved and affirmed. When I experience forgiveness in life, I feel loved and affirmed. Love mentors us. Truth/pono nourishes. So, here is what I have to say about mihi: Love mentors.
Tonight we have come from Likeke Paglinawan’s ho’olewa. I dedicate this moment to the beauty and intention of his life – a life that has mentored many. Expand/include. Include/expand. It has always been about the simultaneity of aloha and its expression in the world. Here is the function of life he and Lynnete inspires in us all. Moe moe-a e kuu ao koa. Moe moe-a.