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Holiday Giving

Generosity Flows When We Are Pono

As you are making your gift lists and busily shopping for Christmas or other holidays your family celebrates in December, think about what it means to be generous. Huna, the ancient Hawaiian understanding of life, teaches that being generous flows out of our sense of being "pono" - right with ourselves and others.

In Western thinking, people tend to think that being generous means giving a lot of money or material things to others. We give gifts to make people happy, to share what we have and maybe to wow those we love. But there is more to generosity than how much we spend, how many gifts we give and how fancy they are.

In Huna, generosity and giving flows naturally from being pono because we see ourselves as part of rather than separate from others and the world around us. This is why in Huna, forgiving others is required. Forgiveness is an act of generosity to yourself as much as to the one you forgive. Like generosity, forgiveness flows from being pono.

We become pono when we understand the connection between our three selves: conscious mind, unconscious mind and higher conscious mind. In Huna the conscious mind is sometimes called "uhane." It is who you perceive yourself to be as an individual personality, how you identify yourself. Many people in modern cultures have focused solely on this aspect of self because we are so . . . well, conscious of it. It seems to be at the basis of our decisions and actions. We call on it to make judgments and solve problems. As the most tangible of our minds, the conscious mind appears to run the show.

The unconscious mind is called the unihipili. The literal translation of unihipili is "little creature" or "little one." The unconscious regulates the body, including our breathing, heartbeat and organ functions, with no conscious effort. It also stores and organizes memories, which includes everything from remembering your own phone number to repressing memories associated with painful emotions.

Many branches of Western psychology view the unconscious like an uncivilized child who needs taming. In contrast, ancient Hawaiians respected the wisdom of unihipili and appreciated its contribution to their well-being. They understood the unconscious mind is like an eager child wanting to serve you and give you everything that you desire. Unihipli has only your best interests at heart and knows what it must to do to support your physical and emotional health. It also plays a critical role in connecting your conscious mind with your higher self.

The higher conscious mind is called "aumakua" which, according to David "Papa" Bray, Jr. means "totally trustworthy parental spirit." Your higher conscious mind is always fully present whether you are aware of it or not. But when you engage with it, work with it, it is there to guide you. You may feel the urgings of your higher conscious coming through your "gut" at times. In Huna this is called "na‘au;" in western understanding it is called intuition.

The higher self looks at you and sees you as a perfect being of light. Its prime directive is to assist you in achieving whatever it is that you want to achieve, to give you guidance, to give you mana (energy). It would never tell you what to do. It is non-judgmental and non-demanding. It will never force you but will assist you only with guidance. It wants you to have happiness, success, love, joy - all those things that you want.

Your higher self also sees you and all beings with perfect love, non-judgment and total appreciation. In other words, your higher self is always pono, and when you feel pono that is a sign you are connecting with your higher self.

When you feel pono, you are able to give to others - whether it is physical gifts, your time, or your complete focus and attention in that moment. The separation between yourself and others falls away and you desire to give and receive out of pure love. I wish you all this sense of generosity - of being pono with yourself and others - this holiday season and in the New Year!

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Aloha and Happy Holidays!


Matthew B. James, MA, Ph.D., is President of Kona University and its training and seminar division The Empowerment Partnership, where he serves as a master trainer of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), a practical behavioral technology for helping people achieve their desired results in life. His new book, The Foundation of Huna: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Times, details forgiveness and meditation techniques used in Hawaii for hundreds of years. He carries on the lineage of one of the last practicing kahuna of mental health and wellbeing. To reach Dr. James, please e-mail him at