By Sam Keller - June 27, 2021
After living in Tahiti for the past ten months, today is my first day back home in Mill Valley, California, where I am seeing my house, neighborhood and country with fresh eyes.
Polynesians have a concept called “mana”, which loosely translates to “spiritual power”. In a nutshell, it’s the idea that certain places, people, and things are imbued with a form of sacred energy.
Among Tahitians, it’s commonly understood that if you pay attention, you can sense mana. Mana is something you can feel. The ability to perceive it is a skill, which you can hone.
Now, as my wife, kids and I once again stroll amidst the towering redwoods, rays of sunshine streaming through the branches, birds chirping, I can’t help but wonder if mana is what pervades this idyllic setting. I suspect that if Polynesian elders were to visit, their ‘mana detectors’ would pick up a mighty signal.
In American culture, we don’t have such a singular, agreed-upon term for what we sense when we experience the humbling grandeur of the Grand Canyon, the wondrousness of Yosemite Valley, or the awesomeness of a sunrise over Haleakala. Maybe it’s been mana all along.
Now that I’ve been tutored by Tahitians, the idea of going through life without sensing mana is like going through life without hearing music, without seeing art, without feeling love.
Living in Tahiti has given me a new lens through which to see and experience the world.
May each of us be cognizant of the mana within and around us.
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