January 31, 2014

7 Samoan Secrets to Help Us Live Our Best Lives.

Lessons learned in West Samoa: reconnecting with our past to ensure a better future.

My concerns with modern culture lie in its detrimental effect on the earth, human emotion and its manipulation of our souls.

Humanity is approaching a new horizon and if our past is not remembered, we will lose our connection to nature and alienate ourselves from the human race itself.

While studying abroad in West Samoa my eyes were opened to the inner connections between cultures and society and the individuals living in them. It seems as if society is growing against the sustainability of humanity. Our souls are manipulated to what purpose? We are turned into corporate robots with dulled senses and desire only for profit.

Modern culture is ascending humanity’s horizon, eclipsing our history as a species, and our connection to earth. Our understanding of happiness, freedom and a purpose are molded by its tight grasp.

Here are seven ways to remember where we came from so that we can know where we want to go to, and get there.

1. Respect

Physical and nonphysical boundaries are essential aspects to our comfort.

Samoans live without walls in “fales” or huts. Neighbors must decide of their own accord where one person’s personal space starts or ends.

By learning others’ boundaries and expressing our own boundaries, we formulate our basis of respect.

Respect for other humans might not be an entirely direct method of saving money, but it is a step in the right direction. With more human respect and compassion, people would see that instead of taking all you can from the world, you should share all that you have. Respect for others can override the deep-seated greed that compels modern culture.

The Method: Mind others’ comfort zones; don’t feel guilty about defending your own.

2. Family

The American family has become one where separation follows disagreement, detachment follows attempts to control, despise follows guilt and solitude follows all of the above.

The result of such solitude is depression.

In Samoa, families live, work, play, philosophize, eat and pray together. The weights of the world such as housework, finances and all other struggles of life become light loads of a common experience.

The Method: Remember that the origin of family is as shelter; not shackles. Give yourself the space you need, but when you engage your family unit, reflect on the needs that you fulfill for and with each other.

3. Food, Health, Medicine

When presented with health issues we tend to look toward medical “professionals” for solutions. Tests and visits often end with indeterminable results, but somehow these professionals still have suggested treatments.

Regularly these so called treatments entail more negative side effects than positive change, whether it is through drug addiction or more symptoms. The medical field has transformed from a healing service into a form of big business industry profiting from peoples’ misfortunes.

The amount of money that goes into the medical and insurance industries is mind boggling. Imagine if we could cut those costs by changing our approach to health issues rather than changing the political policies that support the system.

Medicine people in Samoa are drawn to medicine work because they’ve had a health crisis themselves. They’re bound to assist others because they know what it feels like to be sick. They have a heightened awareness of what healing means and how to do it in a way that is both healthy for your body and budget.

Indigenous medicine workers have been impelled—not compelled—to practice healing as a vocation. Although they are branded as quacks in modern culture, true medicine workers, “healers,” advertise sound guidance in relieving your body’s illness through their personal experience. As opposed to a medical professional whose guidance is rooted in statistical analysis and financial gains.

The Method: No one knows your body better than you. Observe your body regularly and act on what you find! Read pertinent literature. If you need help managing illness, consult people who have been through something similar.

4. Awareness and Change

It is human nature for one to assume their immediate surroundings are reality. These assumptions are what actively design our culture, society and the individuals that make it up.

Culture was once compiled by impulses, enacted by a community as a means to survival.

Now however, it seems as though the individuals aren’t creating the culture, rather the culture is defining the individuals. It has grown to the point where people that are consumed by modern culture have grown blind to its destructive tendencies. It feasts and grows increasingly corpulent to this day, but no creature can gorge itself and run simultaneously. While modern culture advances outward it cannot move onward. In its stasis it defies cultural evolution and it binds the human race on a pathway to annihilation.

The Method: Become aware of modern culture dogma, and analyze its core principles. Then act on fresh impulse, untainted by societal forces. Purify your impulses with spiritual practice (see below).

5. Spirituality Part One

There is a big distinction between the spirituality involved in the connection between the self and a religion, and spirituality that arises from the self-awareness of one’s consciousness in perspective to the world.

Religion has become a practice more associated with a means to an end rather than its original purpose, that is, a personal awakening to the connection between yourself and the world around you.

Religion is instead used as a tool to reach salvation.

Any fool can read a book and say they believe; the real spiritual growth comes from recognizing the values that you hold dear while infusing those positive values into your interactions within your community. Genuine spiritual practice is the affirmation of earth’s continuous metamorphosis, the object of worship in Samoan and other indigenous cultures.

The Method: Search for patterns embedded in the ‘big picture.’ Search inside yourself and find the connections that bond you to other people and the world around you. Through these connections create a system of values and living that best promotes your well-being along with the well-being of the others around you.

6. Spirituality Part Two

People in modern society often accept common beliefs as their own and assume speculations about a creator, god, divine spirit, great spirit or oneness as “the way,” or worse, the only way.

Experiencing nature can have a dramatic effect on one who believes there is a “way” or who is imprisoned by the walls of society. It can bring about a sense of awareness of the actual state of things and one can come to the realization that the walls are socially constructed and you are not bound to their confinement.

The Method: Enrich your own neuro-physiological input and output circuit, or in other words, interact on a higher level with the natural environment around you and let nature interact with you.

7. Perceptions of the Future

In modern culture the idea is to prepare for the future, retirement, the day when enough money exists, when there is nothing left to do and when you can relax.

Death comes to all, it is of one few universal qualities of all living organisms. The opposite of death, awareness, is also a quality shared by all species.

In indigenous culture, individuals live out their purpose through daily life instead of just going through the motions to achieve some grand future goal. Their relationship with their surroundings molds their experience of life into a sustainable and compassionate way of life.

The Method: Wake up! It is a dangerous mistake to posit that we can be entirely self-sufficient, but learn to do your best. Remain conscious of your actions and focus your awareness on your immediate surroundings.


Love elephant and want to go steady?

Sign up for our (curated) daily and weekly newsletters!

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photos: Wikimedia Commons, Wikimedia Commons,  @Doug88888/Flickr, Son of Groucho/Flickr

You must be logged in to post a comment. Create an account.

greg sklar Feb 20, 2014 5:23pm

I have to really thank everyone for commenting on this post.

I wrote my honors thesis on the topic and a book to be published soon. I also happened to write quite the long response here that just got erased. It goes into all the questions raised.

I will work on a follow up article instead offline so as to not experience the erase factor again.

However, in the meantime, a few comments.

First of all, consider the venue: a short picture book article. I had to paint with brush strokes. In the book we go into detail.

Nothing in life is so black an white except the colors themselves. Naturally, to understand how things are in our world we take them apart and examine them. In order to take them apart, we have to separate them into categories. Herein, you'll see generalizations.

More Samoans live in Fale's than you'd think. But above all, we only have so many lens in this modern age to look back into the history of humanity. I think the line between modern vs indigenous = forced to participate in taxation with consequences, vs choice to participate out of desire.

I think the experience of nature is an experience of understanding where we all come from and where all the plants, animals and raw materials that make up the "human" world come from. This journey to the roots, right now, is one that can have profound impact.

I think we live in a world similar to all packs of animals – where there are leaders and followers. In the human world, most people just follow. I am stating that in order to move into a world that is in accord with our earth and the other beings on it in time before it's all gone, we need to look back and where we are at. Our leaders need to this. Who are the leaders? Those of us thinking about these things, writing about them and making choices for businesses, entertainment, government. All the old leaders are going to die and retire first. Then the new ones will stand and be recognized. Once we are, we'll have to decide where we are taking everyone. That inspiration is the piece to look at when it comes to thinking about who is "complacent" and who is a "leader." The idea is that those who follow are doing nothing wrong, they just follow like a herd of horses. It's the ones in charge we need to think about. And that's you and me.

More later…

Pita Feb 1, 2014 10:36am

I admire your passion and drive to make the world a better place. Many of the beliefs and methods you espouse resonate with me – respect for all, healthy living, family solidarity, and stewardship of the natural world. Likewise, I feel your criticisms of the world today are laced with validity. As is your praise of Fa'asamoa and Samoan society, deeply rooted in tradition. Ia.

I challenge your use of broad strokes to paint a picture (is that a cliché?) of the world and think certain cultural comparisons wade into the simplistic and dangerous waters of hegemony and jingoism. Specifically, you seem to equate "modern culture" with free market capitalism and Samoan culture as the antithesis…or antidote. Would Marxism better frame your beliefs and arguments?

I see culture as something that is extremely dynamic and fluid across space and time. Where do you draw the line between traditional and modern culture? The Industrial Revolution? Do you really think that some cultures, especially Samoan, do not participate in what you call "modern culture" as Americans do (it's implied in your article that most of us embody and are indoctrinated by it). Just as Westerners sometimes paint pictures of those in developing nations as paragons of innocence, you flip this and broadly depict Americans of having false consciousness and the Samoan way as the more righteous path.

Some questions I have on specific points in your article:

Do you think Christianity or any organized religion is not genuine? Can Christianity co-exist with the methods of spiritual practice that you outline? What is wrong with believing in "only one way" as long as you don't criticize others' beliefs or infuse public policy with theology? Do you think that a greater awareness of nature will release someone from the shackles of their religious affiliation or do you mean that nature opens the mind to see the world differently? You imply that Samoans worship the earth but remember they also fervently worship Christ, who offers a value system (along with Fa'asamoa) and salvation.

There are a few points in you article that I have minor disagreements with in both description and philosophical viewpoint:

For example, there is a very large portion of this country where "family values" are firmly intact. In fact, many American Midwest families are similar to Samoan extended families in the way they operate. As far as Samoan families, I'd say you can often find separation following disagreement and detachment following attempts to control. Ostracism and shame are controlling forces in Samoan society and frequently lead to suicide.

On philosophy, I believe free-market capitalism is just as extreme and destructive as communism. I believe in mixed economies. I don't think profit is a bad thing and do not always equate that with social inequality, social isolation, or environmental destruction (even Burning Man uses massive profits and the capitalist system). Nor do I believe all institutions of health to be dominated by greed. There is a lot of good happening in this "modern culture."

I write this out of the deepest respect for you and your thoughts. There is a lot of wisdom in your article and attention called to power structures in America (and the world…even in Samoa!) that all too often dominate our lives in such a negative way. However, I find that people are turned off by generalizations. I also don't think that positive change and dismantling extremism requires extremism. I'm not referring to the lessons you outline but the language which you use for context.

Become a Human Project Jan 31, 2014 1:34pm

I enjoyed the perspective in this post. It is amazing what we can take from global cultures, especially when we begin to ask the bigger questions about what binds all of humanity together. I think when we begin to discuss spirituality, though a sensitive subject at times we do need to enter the conversation with our guard down and are hearts open. Ultimately, as far as beliefs go… we are what we believe. Actions speak louder than words. Live loudly.

Read Elephant’s Best Articles of the Week here.
Readers voted with your hearts, comments, views, and shares:
Click here to see which Writers & Issues Won.

Greg Sklar.

Greg Sklar. Owner of Indigo Children. Inventor of The Lung Cleaner. Dr. Klear, the man behind the Lung Cleaner revolution. LMT.