Lessons From an Underwater Monastery
“Each morning I threw on a wetsuit and plunged into a life-filled, underwater monastery.”
Pele is the ancient goddess who lives on the Big Island of Hawaii in the famous volcano Kīlauea, one of the world’s most active. Pele is a pivotal deity in the ancient religion that reigned in the region until missionaries arrived in the 1800s. Pele’s spirit and legends abound, and some consider Kīlauea to be her permanent temple.
There is a long history of worship and sacrifice at Pele’s fiery altar. It is said that when Pele was a small child, she did not like the water as her sisters and brothers did. Eventually, as Pele came into her power, she shaped and formed her abode into the Big Island of Hawaii, where her red-hot lava seeped down to the sea, creating lava rocks, jagged cliffs, and black sand beaches that remain today. Pele’s mythology tells of family betrayal that led to her expressing her rage through volcanic eruptions. It is said that when Kīlauea is dormant, Pele is at peace. When Kīlauea explodes, Pele is angry.
Anger is a normal emotion that is simply part of life. Everyone deals with it differently. Some express anger outwardly; some turn it inward, as to not upset people; and others turn to passive aggression or sarcasm. There are folks who occasionally lose their cool when vexed by certain circumstances or people, and there are those who live like volcanoes ready to pop: fiery, angry, and not afraid to show it. Healthy individuals often seek a middle ground. They want to take responsibility for their anger and reactions, but would also like a chance to acknowledge the unresolved pain that anger often masks. They also yearn for protection from hostility in others.
For eons, people have watched in awe and terror as Pele’s fiery temper erupted. Native Hawaiian people made (and still do make) offerings to appease her and to settle her fury. We can offer up our anger to Pele with a prayer that we learn to release it and channel it appropriately. And like the officials that must constantly monitor the pending eruptions of Kīlauea, humans can learn to monitor their emotions.
For your Pele anger ritual, you will need:
A red candle
Music that inspires gentle reflection
Music for dancing
A photo or video of Kīlauea erupting
A recording device
Make sure you have time alone to reflect on your relationship to anger. Begin by sitting quietly. Play your reflective music. Give some thought to the following:
Set your intention. Declare that you are ready for a healthy approach to dealing with anger. Factor in the idea that you may need emotional support or professional help if anger is too intense for you to manage alone.
Identify emotional triggers. Who or what pushes your buttons? Reflect on the things that make you angry. Learn about emotions and trauma that are deeply hidden or suppressed. Give yourself the gift of greater self-awareness.
Assess your reactions to anger. Begin to consciously explore the “cause and effect” related to anger. For example, if someone says something that makes you mad, do you quietly cringe, start yelling, reach for a drink, or take it out on someone else? Identifying your own behavior patterns is an important step toward healing.
1. Invoke Pele. Light a candle and ask for her protection: “Pele, goddess of the fiery volcano, thank you for your sacred presence and grounding. Please protect me and guide me through this ritual.”
2. Speak your anger into a recorder. Share any anger you are feeling in a safe space by speaking it into a recording device. Imagine you are speaking directly to Pele. Tell her about everything—and everyone—that upsets you. Let it flow until you’ve uttered every last thing you need to say. Using your voice to speak your truth is an important and sacred act.
3. Bless your anger. Cup your hands and imagine you are holding the anger outside of your body. Take a moment to bless and thank the anger for lessons you have learned.
4. Gaze at the volcano. Take a moment to look at the photo or video of the erupting volcano and imagine that Pele is inviting you to release your anger and pain into her fire. Make a motion of pouring the contents of your hands into the volcano. Allow her to transform and heal these emotions in her fiery temple in a way that releases your anger and harms no one.
5. Offer a prayer of release.
Pele, I humbly ask for your help.
I give to you my anger and my triggers.
I give you my unhealthy reactions.
I give you the pain that keeps me stuck.
I surrender all matters that are too hot to handle.
Please help me express how I feel in a healthy way.
Mahalo, Madame Pele.
6. Let off some steam. Unsettling feelings may arise when you take inventory of your pain and anger. Release it by immediately engaging in a physical activity that helps you shake anger out of your body. Dancing around and shaking your arms to your favorite music can help release any pent-up energy. (If needed, a cold shower can also help regulate emotions.)
7. Sing and open to joy. Musical prayers and songs can uplift the spirit. The people of Hawaii still sing and chant for Pele and Kīlauea. Hawaiian music that evokes the spirit of Pele can be soothing and empowering even if you don’t understand the words. Give a listen to the traditional chant “Aia a La 'o Pele” and see if you can sing or hum along.
8. Thank the Goddess. To close, delete your “anger recording” and blow out the red candle. Then complete this ritual, and every interaction with Pele, by expressing gratitude in her native language. Tell her “mahalo,” which is Hawaiian for “thank you.”
Learn about the Hawaiian art of ho'oponopono.
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