Indigenous cultures have much to teach us; their deep knowledge and wisdom of living sustainably and spiritual connections with elements of nature and their surroundings. Like the Maoris, indigenous people of New Zealand, have a fascinating culture and exhilarating way of life.
…Maori, that is to say, is the native idea of what constitutes life, what vital essences man is endowed with, and what occurs at death, whether man perishes entirely as the breath leaves the body, or whether some spirit or essence then passes from the body to reappear and live on in another world, or under other conditions. ~ The Journal of the Polynesian Society
History of the Maoris
Maoris came to the islands of New Zealand eight centuries ago after voyaging thousands of miles from tropical islands in Polynesia. To the Maoris, New Zealand is the Land of the Long White Cloud or ‘Aotearoa’. They are an innately spiritual community who cherish the existence of life on earth. They know the wisdom of the standing mountains and the knowledge carried by the forest trees.
The essence of their unconditional love for all the elements of nature is effortlessly felt in their art, music, dance and beliefs. History, on the other hand, is passed through generations using a tradition of singing and storytelling. The word ‘Tikanga’ is used to describe the Maori customs and rituals, which have been passed to each generation for centuries.
Soul (Wairau) & Family (Whakapapa)
Maoris speak volume about maintaining sanctity of the human soul. They are dedicated to the belief that everyone and everything is interconnected in this universe having a soul or ‘Wairau’, and it feeds on compassion and love.
All that falls in the realm of the universe is part of their ‘Whakapapa’ (family). Every thing living or non-living, in the community of Maori, carries a metaphor of huge significance.
Māoris greet each other in a traditional way known as ‘Hongi’. It is done by pressing one’s nose and forehead (at the same time) to another person at an encounter. The ‘hongi’ literally means ‘sharing of breath,’ and that the other person is no longer considered a visitor, but a part of the community.
Wairau: Soul and Spirit
As a community, Maori respect the ‘Wairau’ of all things. They connect to the soul and spirit of the mountains, rivers and lakes. Nature is considered as the descendant of God. They consider ‘Papatuanuku’ (Earth) their mother and ‘Ranginui’(Sky) their father.
Do not despise a man of small stature—he may be as strong as the “kahikatoa” (a small tree, but strong and tough)
Spiritual essence of Maoris
The striking beauty about Maoris is that their method to connect to the supreme energy isn’t restricted to praying or practicing certain rituals, but living life in good conscience. They understand that the joy of a spiritual living is to connect with the life forces, and respect the life that each one of us is carrying within ourselves.
He aha Te mea nui o Te ao? He tangata! He tangata! He tangata!
What is the most important thing in the world?
It is people! It is people! It is people!
Te Whare Tapa’
Te Whare Tapa’ is the philosophy of good health for Maoris under which they acknowledge spirituality as the most essential requirement for a good body and mind. They consider ‘Te Whare Tapa’ as a health model under which there are four pillars for a sound body and mind. Damage in some way to any of the Maori health cornerstones is considered unbalanced and unhealthy.
1) Taha Tinana (Physical Health)- As long as the spirit is within the body, the body is equally precious for Maoris. Without good physical health, one cannot have a sound mind. The brain is dependent on the body in order to function well.
2) Taha Wairua (Spiritual Health)- Each one of us carry a life force within us. We are made up of elements and energy. Any blockage in the flow of energy within the system can make a person sick. Maori believe in maintaining sound flow of energy in the system which ultimately affects the overall existence of a person.
3) Taha Whanau (Family Health)- Whanau is the base foundation for one’s existence. Hence, it is essential for Maori’s to ensure good health of the family. Family provides one the strength to live and be.
4) Taha Hinengaro (Mental Health)- The capacity to feel, think and observe is an integral aspect of a living being. Maori essentially ensure that one evolves mentally and spiritually. How we see ourselves is how the universe perceives us, hence the mind plays an integral role in thinking and existing. A good mind is sign of a good being in the Maori philosophy of health.
Maori- Respect for Ancestors and Teachings from the past
Maori believe in living in the present but they worship their ancestors and the lessons of the past. This is guided by thinking that with each passing day one evolves and emerges into a better being and one should be thankful to the past that brought us a new present. The Maori culture has insightful folk tales that portray the saga of mankind.
Here is a video where Dale Mackey talks about Wairua and its significance to the Maori community. He also throws some light on how spirituality is associated with mental health in Maoris.