Education and Fulfillment – Finding your path: A Huna perspective

Guest Post by Matthew B. James

I have a cousin who chose to become a carpenter rather than going to college. Fortunately for him and those who benefit from his beautiful work, he did not heed the many family members who told him he would fail and never make money without a college degree.

Once while he was on vacation he came to my home in Hawaii. It was hot. At the time the only air conditioning I could afford was a window unit, but I had no window to put one in.

My cousin took one look around and said “I can put it in this wall.” He went out, bought a saw, cut a hole and installed my air conditioner — on his vacation. After that, my whole house was cool.

Since then he has built an extension onto my stepfather’s home that looks better than original parts of the house. My cousin pursued his passion, and now he makes more money than most of my other cousins.

It is great that he is financially successful as a contractor. But more important to me, he is fulfilled. My cousin comes home each day from doing what he loves. You can’t put a price on that.

Huna, the traditional Hawaiian philosophy of my lineage, teaches we will know we have found our true path when it resonates with our spirit, Your vocation is no longer work. It transcends a job or career. It is who you are.

In Huna, you are what is known as “pono.” This word does not have a direct English translation, but loosely translates to being “right” — not as in I am right and you are wrong, but right with yourself and others. When you are pono with yourself, it is a sign you are on your path.

I am not saying that everyone should skip college and learn a trade instead. As an educator and trainer, holding a doctorate in psychology has opened doors for me and expanded the knowledge base from which I teach.

My studies gave me theories but not actual tools for helping other people. The techniques I teach that allow people to create shift in their lives come from Huna, an indigenous system that dates back thousands of years in Hawaii.

One example is a psychiatrist who attended my trainings and has since become a good friend. After decades working in the prison system, he told me he is seeing results in the prisoners he works with as a result of his training in Huna.

Among the many teachings of Huna is the importance of finding your path. So how do you know if you have found yours?

For one thing, work will not seem like work. I have students who ask me how I can teach eight, nine or 10 hours and come back the next day with more energy. And I look at them and say, this is not work to me. It is not something I have to put a lot of effort or energy into. Instead, it energizes me.

In contrast, if you are pursuing a vocation or career that is not your path, you will only be able to do it for so long before you burn out, no matter how good the money, perks or prestige.

If you are not doing what you love, it will not resonate with your soul. Everything trickles down — spiritual, mental, emotional, physical. And at some point you will just say “I can’t do this any more.”

This is why I have seen people walk away from some of the most amazing high-paying jobs. Other people ask “why did you do that?” It didn’t resonate.

So what does this mean for our kids as they head back to school? Not that we try to dissuade them from getting a good education. I have a 10-year-old son and a daughter soon to be 3 and I absolutely will encourage them to go to college.

I will also tell them not to confuse their education with their path. An education, no matter how good it is, can put you into a box if you begin to think your academic learning is superior to other people’s practical life experience.

As our kids and other loved ones head back to school, be it elementary or graduate school, we should find out what they love and cultivate that, accepting them for who they are. If they are pursuing their path, they will find happiness, fulfillment and purpose.

Matthew B. James, MA, Ph.D., is President of Kona University. 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 the one of the last practicing kahuna of mental health and well-being.


Posted on July 20, 2010, in Education, Featured Authors, Personal Growth. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Education is very important,i agree. But what really determines your worth is not a piece of parchment framed on the wall as a sign that you went to college and finished your education inside a hollowed institution. Education is a lifetime journey and is enriched through everyday living.

  2. "It’s academic Watson." Experience-won knowledge is priceless….book knowledge is the map, not the territory…your territory at least…it belongs to the author I walked into a book store in Denver and saw the vast amount of "new releases". I realized what I was really looking for….my book. I left without buying anything. I would love to read a book written by someone who never read one….how unique would that be?

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