Heritage / 19 May, 2017

Whakapapa Fridays: The art of diversity to improve wellness

Understanding the battles that take place between atua can help our our gardens grown stronger and our bodies thrive.

Written by Te Miri Rangi

The Māori belief of the creation of the natural world draws on the stories of Rangi and Papatūānuku and their many children. These children are known as atua (deities, gods) and kaitiaki (guardians) of the various aspects of the natural world; from the oceans of Tangaroa, to the winds of Tāwhirimātea, to the forests and birds of Tāne. The various characteristics of these atua, and their respective realms in nature, highlight a Māori belief in the dynamic and diverse existence to the natural world.

These atua constantly battle with one another. Rongomatāne, the atua of peace and cultivated kai, and Tūmatauenga, the atua of man and war, constantly clash with one another. This is the battle of Pōhutukawa that we have covered in a previous post. This battle tells us that when the kūmara is drawn out of the Earth during the winter Rongo holds mana over the land. Then come to the middle or end of summer, when our stored winter cultivations become low, Tū takes charge and conflict is often on the cards. These atua are forever jostling for position in a constant ebb and flow of power between one another. This dynamic behaviour between a variety of aspects in the natural world is what enables environments to thrive.

Variety in nature is the central tenant to organic and diverse farming practices. This is where we have farming techniques that leverage off of the natural relationships and battles that occur between atua to enhance the production of kai. This increases the nutrient profile within Papatūānuku, an emerging challenge for large-scale, single-crop operations. Diverse farming also supports the mana of Parawhenuamea, the atua of fresh water, by reducing water use and improving water quality. While the many insects and wildlife of Te Aitanga Pēpēke maintain pests, and facilitate pollination within the farm. Together this practice of farming creates kai that is positively enhanced through acknowledging the mana of atua.

Through a Māori lens I believe this facilitates the transmission of mauri, the life essence, from kai in to our tinana. From a scientific standpoint, we could be talking about increasing our exposure to various beneficial bacteria. Through the produce derived from healthy organic farms, exposure to a variety of beneficial bacteria supports a diverse microbiome. Our microbiome are all of the micro-organisms that live in and on our tinana that can influence our health and wellbeing. We know that a diverse microbiome is good for our health. In fact, indigenous communities who continue to live a traditional lifestyle have some of the most diverse microbiome’s in the world. This reflects the positive impact that living in thriving and diverse environments has on our wellbeing.

This tells me a lot about the need to ensure that we acknowledge the mana of atua in the world that we are living in. We can enhance the kai that we might grow by learning more about this jostling between atua, or the relationships that occur in nature. This means learning about which plants grow well with others, or which insects support pollination and so on. These are messages that have been around for some time in the farming and growing industries, as it has been within the art of physical activity.

Out tupuna understood that developing a range of foot movement skills would prepare the toa for battle through improved mobility, agility, and speed. Rather than becoming a master of single movement, diverse movements was very important. As such, if we do the same exercise day in and day out, our tinana reacts and responds to cope. By implementing a variety of exercises that cover different aspects of fitness then our physical wellbeing can thrive like the ecosystems we see in diverse farms. Diversifying your training to cover things like muscular strength, power, endurance, flexibility, stamina, coordination, speed and balance can do more for our health than concentrating on one component alone.

Understanding the power of diversity by coming to learn of the battles that take place between atua, can help our bodies thrive. So, my atua-hack for today is about bringing diversity in to our lives. Eat a variety of kai, or invest in biodiverse organic foods to enhance our puku. The mauri that is carried through kai can do amazing things to our health. When it comes to exercise, explore different ways of being active from walking to swimming, to stretching, to jumping. The art of diversity is about creating a greater shared outcome by leveraging off of variety.

Mā te kanorau te oranga e tutuki

Through diversity wellness can be realised.

Te Miri Rangi

 

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