“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”
--- Douglas Adams

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Good, The Bad and The Mana

Yesterday I read a blog from one of my hula sisters. I don't really know her as she's in another class. I thought about her post all day, though.
The link to her post is above, but here it is cut and pasted for your viewing pleasure.

Sharing Your Mana
December 28, 2009
I love wrapping presents. Yes, partially because it’s creative, but mostly because it’s so much more. While I’m folding papers and gluing little bits of this and that to the outside, I’m imagining the recipient’s reaction upon seeing this thing that’s beautiful or striking or funny. I also love that it’s a temporary art, that it’s designed to be destroyed, that I’m creating something that will exist only between the two of us after it’s gone. The gift itself is more lasting, but the wrapping has a transient loveliness I celebrate.
I feel the same way about cooking for someone. I imagine the flavors that they like, the kind of impact I want the meal to have. I am communicating how much I care through their taste buds. It’s brief, but it matters.
In my hula class we talk a lot about “mana.” In Polynesian cultures, mana generally refers to the spirit that flows through everything. What I really like is recognizing that we transfer some of our own mana into whatever we make or do. For example, if you’re making lei (a wearable string of flowers and/or plants) for someone, thinking about that person while you’re doing it can guide your hands and transform the experience from a simple act of threading and wrapping flowers into something far more meaningful. In the same way, thinking about who I’m dancing for can change it from just another way to move my body into something with meaning. And like the gift wrapping and the food, fresh lei and dance are also transitory, moments of time suspended in emotion and memory.
We’ve all felt it – that sense that someone was really thinking about us when they did something for us or when they gave a gift that felt so perfect, that gave us the sense that they were thinking of us. Usually, we’re picking up on their positive thoughts, but I’ve also felt when someone was thinking bad or mean thoughts when choosing a gift or doing an otherwise innocuous action. This idea of giving someone your feelings through an object crosses through every culture, sometimes referred to as “spirit” or “intention” or “mana” or simply “being thoughtful."
So why do I write this post now, at the end of the big gift-giving season? It seems to me that it’s natural for many to think about this when selecting presents, but I’ve found that the transfer of mana happens so much more often than that. The act of thinking about others lasts all year, and I believe you can turn anything into a moment where you communicate how you feel about someone. Opening a door for another, smiling when you see someone, giving a cookie at lunch, writing a little note telling someone about something that made you think of them, making something with your hands, posting something online – all of these moments are ones in which we can be sharing our mana, they can all be thought of as little gifts. Your mana is endless. Give yourself the gift of sharing it.

Cianna made me think about the Christmas presents I gave and received this year. I mailed some bottles of wine to my sisters and my nephew and some gift cards to my niece. Although I'm certain I wrapped them so they would last the journey to their destinations, did I wrap them so they looked nice? Did I wrap them well enough to show that I love them? I feel a little bad that one of the gifts for my niece was a Border's card that said "happy birthday". (OK, confession time, this card should have gone out to her for her birthday last month but I forgot to send it so I put it in an envelope along with a Starbucks card. Did it show that I care?). 
I was touched by the gift from my Mother-in-law. She gave me a few sweaters and a skirt, cute, but not overly remarkable. I liked them and I wore them to Christmas dinner and to work on Monday, but what touched me was how much she stressed over whether I'd like them or not. In the week before Christmas she asked hubby at least 5 times if I'd like it. She poured herself into this gift. She shared her mana by picking out this gift. When I opened it she stood by me in anticipation hoping I'd like it.  My daughter gave me the best mana-filled gift ever. She made me a book of coupons like "queen for a day" or "I don't have to make dinner". She worked really hard on it and I love it.

On the negative side, Cianna's post made me think about all the other gifts my family and I received, which I put into mental piles of Good Mana and Bad Mana. That was probably not the best thing to do with my time, but hey, my mind wanders sometimes.

1 comment:

  1. I'm happy that my post prompted more thoughts on mana and gifts! Sorry about the sorting of past gifts, though... I do use this kind of thinking as a way to guide the future more than an evaluation of the past. Here's to future sharing through our gifts!


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