Wayfinding: Ancient Wisdom in the Modern World


Robert C. Barnfield - watercolor three double hulled canoes with shoreline and mountains in background

During my 12 years on Kauai I was deeply embraced by the beautiful heart of the Hawaiian culture. It meant having to let go of my Western ways of thinking and open to a totally different reality. As my mentorship progressed with local master teachers of hula, huna, and healing, I also lived what a seagoing people live in order to embody their cosmology: Water, Sky and Body as One. Living in the middle of the ocean within a matrifocal culture taught me how to find my way and live in Feminine Time. Wayfinding is part of their ongoing gift to us all, and I am excited to share a little of their story with you now.

Ancient Wisdom in the Modern World 

Native Oceania or Polynesia—what Capt. Cook called ‘the most extensive nation in the world’ —was settled by open-ocean voyaging people led by “Wayfinders.” These ancient-future navigator priests, men and women alike, voyaged through their fluid connection with the cosmic seas above and the living waters below.

The Polynesian nation is comprised of 10,000 islands located in 995 parts water to 5 parts land.Wayfinding developed as a means of literally navigating the vast currents of change within a constantly changing and alive environment. Wayfinding is seen as a path to memory because people of native Oceania sail in the wake of their ancestors. It is the “source field” intelligence that they abide by.

Wayfinding is a radical technology because it causes people to concentrate 100% of their attention on the belief that everything is inter-connected—that elements like winds and clouds, birds and fish, sun and stars, seas and swells are dynamically linked with dreams and visions, prayers and rituals, signs and songs—clues to our collective cosmic voyage with unity. It is radical because no separation exists in an alive, whole universe. And it is sensational because it was developed within the constant turbulence of an ocean world.

At first this may not sound so radical until you consider how much our cultural conditioning has plundered our “paradise codes” of knowing and remembering the light of our origins. The long path between us and our ancestral memory has dimmed even for many indigenous cultures over time. The modern world clings to its shorelines afraid of the undiscovered continent that is just beyond the horizon. New timelines, unknown dimensions of inner and outer reality and the dread of releasing the familiar path of the past is shaking us all.

It would seem we are up the proverbial creek without a paddle but for the revival of interest inWayfinding throughout Polynesia. I’m very excited to share an ancient model that offers such adaptive metaphors for living in the modern world with greater fullness and presence.

Where You Are Is Who You Are

The Wayfinders, mariners of the tropic world, did not use a compass or have any external instruments. They focused all of their attention on their place in the sky and in the sea because that’s where their sign posts are, and their sensitivity to place remains legendary. They are deeply immersed in a unity between themselves and their environment. Latitude and longitude mean less to the Wayfinder than the specific taste of the water in different places of the ocean from which they steer their course true.

wayfinding image

The Wayfinder’s main point of concentration is on their “piko,” their navel. As the center of the body as well as the navel of the world, the Wayfinder uses this center as the point from which to live—not the brain. All of the input from their fluid, changeable world—course, speed, current—is processed from the piko. Wayfinding instructions explain that the “piko” is the canoe, the “god boat” or “time machine” that facilitated voyaging in time. They could transport themselves from one side of the world to another, through cycles of destruction and regeneration, completely present to the eternal moment of both danger and joy admidst the chaos of life.

So astute are the Hawaiian shamans of the sea that they developed hundreds of words for different kinds of wind and rain that have caressed their skin and pounded their flesh. Different parts of the body are parts of the stars and heavenly bodies describe the cycles of their lives. Passed down through the centuries, poetry, songs and knowledge are sung and danced that serve as psychological attunement and guidance for traveling in time and space.

WayfindingImage galaxyIn a sense these custodians of our family tree have acted on our behalf for thousands of years to keep the memory of paradise intact. The Garden of our myths is the blue canoe of Earth, is the people, is the galaxy.

Imagine an intimate communion with other levels of wholeness that buoys your Spirit and honors your presence. Imagine an awakened healthy community that enjoys sacred time and sacred space as a model of reality. Imagine “Being and Doing” that honors codes of creation in your DNA. Imagine steering true to your senses and composing your world as galactic bards of poetry and passion.

This Is Wayfinding~~

The more we orient ourselves to patterns of nature that reach to the stars as well as into our bodies, the more capable we are to conceive paradise in the universe. The paradigm of the Wayfinders is a devotional philosophy based on dynamic change and how to make ecstatic choices that maintain perspective and steer true to personal truth. It is the Way of Fierce Love born of human imagination amidst high tides and strong winds.

We are the emergent galactic shaman now. The path our lineages made over time calls us to return to the eternal moment of The Beauty Way.

Wayfinding is an ancient-future capacity to breathe with the emerging intensity of light and sail with love and peace for all existence. May we find our way together with skill and mirth meeting the demands of the voyage home!