News / 16 February, 2017
Te Aitanga Pepeke - The army of insects that attacked Tāne on his accent to retrieve the baskets of knowledge. Te Aitanga Pepeke - The army of insects that attacked Tāne on his accent to retrieve the baskets of knowledge. Pare carved by Dennis Conway for the New Zealand Anthropod Collection

Whakapapa Fridays: How Whiro attacks your motivation

Do you find it easier to stay in bed instead of getting up to exercise? Do those takeaways look more attractive than a healthy, nutritious lunch? Tāne's jealous older brother Whiro may be leading you astray.

When it comes to being healthy, having the motivation to get up and exercise, or to eat a healthy and balanced diet can be difficult. There is so much around us that can lead us down a path of ill-health. Motivation is important because that is the thing that propels you to do something. It gets you up out of bed in the morning, to go and exercise, or to simply grab a bite to eat. Your level of motivation can vary considerably. It is impacted by factors that include te taha tinana (the physical and biological), te taha hinengaro (the cognitive and emotional), te taha wairua (the spiritual), and te taha whānau (the social). One of the things that I am sure we all experience is that little voice in our head. That voice that says it’s too early to get up to exercise, or that getting fast-food for lunch is a good idea. That is the voice that kills motivation. I believe that is the voice of Whiro.

Whiro is one of the senior sons of Rangi and Papa. He developed ill-feelings towards Tāne for some of the acts that he accomplished as Whiro’s junior. This includes the separation of Rangi and Papa which Whiro disagreed with, and Tāne’s retrieval of the baskets of knowledge. On Tāne’s ascent to retrieve these baskets of knowledge it was Whiro who sent his army, Te Tini o Poto, to attack Tāne. Te Tini o Poto includes various insects, mosquitos, birds, bats and owls. Tāne, however, completed these tasks, and after defeating Te Toi o Poto with the help of the winds of Tāwhirimātea, Whiro departed to live in Rarohenga, the underworld. From here Whiro vowed to enact his revenge on Tāne and all of his descendants as the atua of illness, disease and misfortune.

I have wondered if Whiro enables disease and illness to manifest not only through a biological agent like a virus, but rather through some type of mental persuasion. What if Whiro plays on our want for comfort and security, by making takeaways the easy choice for lunch, or taking away that motivation to exercise? Both of these things would lead to an increase in bodyweight which would increase the risk of disease and illness, an attack on te taha tinana. You might say that Whiro works in the space of the unknown, he will use any tool he can to take his revenge on Tāne. Unfortunately, that puts us in the firing line. However, with the support of his brothers, Tāne was able to defeat Whiro. So, here are a few tips to help your tinana and hinengaro perform at their best, to be sharp and focussed, and help you maintain motivation in order to resist the persuasion of Whiro.

Sunlight – Bathe in Te Waiora o Tāne

Sunlight has a strong connection to Tāne, it provides the body with a good hit of vitamin D which actually supports brain function. Getting some sun in the morning also regulates your hormones to keep you alert in the morning fighting off Whiro’s laziness, while also making us drowsy in the evening for a good night’s sleep. By engaging with Tāne through sunlight we can support our tinana to function more efficiently, and give us the energy to make better decisions.

Fish – Engage with the fish of Tangaroa

Another one of Tāne’s brothers, Tangaroa, can help by eating oily fish from the ocean. Fish oil is rich in omega 3 fatty acids which has been shown to support brain focus and concentration. Omega 3’s can help insulate brain cells to support the electrical impulses your brain uses when thinking. By giving your hinengaro the building blocks to perform, this will give you the capacity to be sharp enough to switch on to Whiro’s tricks.

Sound – Te ihirangaranga a Hine Raukatauri, the vibration of Hine Raukatauri

Things like karakia, mōteatea, waiata, haka and even taonga pūoro (musical instruments) all create sound and vibrations that can support the tinana to perform. The physical act of singing, humming, or chanting create vibrations that release dopamine, a hormone that can make you more responsive. These vibrations can also regulate your brain waves, and at the right frequency, improves concentration and focus.

Strategy – Tūmatauenga prepares the mind

Brain enhancing activities like crosswords, sudoku, or Māori games like Mūtorere and Hei Tama, Tū Tama all help the hinengaro become more agile through creative, varied and challenging tasks. Tūmatauenga was a renowned strategist in the art of war, and that comes from having the smarts to outwit your opponent. To outwit Whiro, playing these types of games and activities can help develop that part of Tūmatauenga to keep your mind switched on. Alternatively, you could learn a new skill like playing a new instrument, or brushing your teeth with the opposite hand.

Exercise – Tūmatauenga prepares the body

A strong warrior learned the functions of his tinana, and as such Tūmatauenga gave us the power to develop the body. Aerobic exercise like walking or low intensity stretching helps to get the blood moving. Increasing blood flow to the brain not only improves brain function with adequate oxygen and the removal of waste products, but it sends growth hormones up into the brain to support brain cell growth and repair.

All of these tips are about using different tools and strategies from various atua Māori to repel Whiro’s attack on our motivation. They support our hinengaro to make positive decisions, and our tinana to function efficiently. By doing so, we give ourselves the best chance to reduce poor decision making, by maintaining focus and motivation. So what are you doing to protect yourself against Whiro?


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