The Three Selves of Huna, Hawaii's Ancient Spiritual Practice

. 5 min read

Okay, friends, so in the first official part of this series on Huna, I'm going to unfold one of the foundational elements of this system of spiritual practice: the Three Selves. This is similar to Freud's model of the psyche—with its id, ego, and super-ego—although there are some notable differences.

Why do the Three Selves matter?

In Huna, it's believed that the Three Selves—uhane, unihipili, and the aumakua—must be aligned in order for any sort of self-improvement/transformation or miracle to occur—I'll explain later what is meant by "miracle."

So, first, we'll get into what each of the Selves are and how they work. Then, (more so in later posts) we'll get into how to align them using Huna philosophies and rituals.

Uhane, The Talking, Middle Self

Of all the Selves, uhane is the one we're likely to recognize. It's the conscious self, the one responsible for stringing together the words that float from our mouths, as well as the silent thoughts that swirl in our minds. You know, the "monkey mind" we're trying to quiet when we meditate? That's the product of the uhane.

This Self is rational, logical, and can be stubborn. It cultivates our view of reality and doesn't much appreciate when people or experiences arise that challenge it and suggest it's incorrect, which, of course, it can be. This Self is, after all, imperfect—however "logical" its conclusions, they are based on bias and assumptions that have stemmed from past experiences. (Absolute Truth, Huna teaches, is only known by the aumaka.)

As for these past experiences that create our view of the world, they are not stored in this Self. Memories are stored in our unconscious. We simply have the option to choose to dig into our unconscious and retrieve our memories, which is what we do when we reflect.

It's for this reason we can "forget" things and still carry on with our days. The uhane does not need access to all memories in order to function. In fact, if we did carry all our memories in our consciousness, we'd be overloaded with thought and unable to carry out tasks. So, again, memories remain in the unconscious until we consciously choose to retrieve them. This also explains why we can be moving through this world unaware of pieces of our past. Memories can be buried in our unconscious because we do not wish to pull them up to the conscious surface, but more on that in the next section.

Unihipili, The Veiled, Lower Self

That unconscious Self where memories are stored? That, in Huna, is called the unihipili—also referred to as the "bone soul" and the Lower Self ("lower" simply refers to its position when compared to consciousness).

There is no logic orchestrating this Self's MO. This is essentially our animal Self, ruled by the primitive (but not to be dismissed!) gut instinct, which is concerned with only the basics: safety, food, love, pleasure and pain.

When listened to, this Self can be life-saving. It's the one that tells us not to walk down that dark alleyway, or that our friend/partner is hiding something, or that our current job is unfulfilling, etc.

It is from this Self's instincts that emotions arise, that connection with others occurs, and, again, where all memories are stored. The desire or will to remember memories is the connection between the conscious self and the unsconscious self, or between the uhane and the unihipili.

You may have heard before that trauma is stored in the body. In Huna this is discussed in relation to the Lower Self. Primal, the Lower Self recalls incidents by how they were felt in the body—where they were felt, how strongly they were felt, whether they felt good or not. Most often incidents are felt in the stomach, by the way, because (fun fact) the solar plexus is the largest autonomic nerve centre, rich in ganglia and interconnected neurons. If you're feeling stressed or excited (two sides of the same coin), your adrenal secretion and intestinal contraction will be effected because the solar plexus controls these vital functions.

When we're hurt and lash out by way of emotional fixations or complexes—such as coping with trauma through the development of alcoholism, sex addiction, an eating disorder, self-harm, etc.—this is the work of the Lower Self. It does this in an attempt to help us, to ease our suffering by draining energy away from the conscious mind, from the points of pain.

It is therefore so important for our health that, rather than stuff down our pain, rather than keep it locked in a myriad of boxes deep in the basement of our unsconscious, we bring it to the surface. That's to say, it's so important that we bring it to our conscious mind, and work to keep up a continuous dialogue between our conscious and unconscious self.

I will get into more depth in future posts, regarding how Huna suggests we create this dialogue. For now, I will just quickly touch on one method. That is this: actively and consciously re-living an event, and, notably, recalling the physical sensations that accompanied the pain originally felt. So, say, you found out your partner was cheating on you, and, in that original moment in which you found this out, you felt as if someone had punched you in stomach. Well, then, when you're working to heal this pain, you're going to do so by returning in your mind to this moment, without judgement, and allowing yourself to feel this ache again in that same deep cavity of your gut. It is through walking through the full spectrum of this moment, re-living it, and feeling this physical sensation again that you ultimately set yourself free.

In order to maintain a dialogue between our conscious and unconscious selves, we must continuously work to listen in to our Lower Self, to familiarize ourselves with what it is trying to say, why it is reacting the way it is. The more we check in (via meditating, journaling, chanting, and more—TBA) the more easily we can make sense of our instincts and verbalize them, too.

Aumakua, The High Self

Finally, the third Self according to Huna is called aumakua, or "ancestral spirit." As mentioned earlier, unlike the uhane, this Self does not speculate, it knows absolute Truth.

There is a debate surrounding the origins of the aumakua. Some believe it is actually a part of our ancestors that has become a piece of us through reincarnation, and it is through our ancestors' past experience that we have this knowledge we cannot explain surrounding what is True and what is not. Others say it is simply a piece of us, our Higher Self.

In any case, it is necessary for this Higher Self to be in alignment with the Lower and Talking Selves in order for miracles to occur. Before, I said I'd let you know what is meant by miracles. So here it is: miracles are incredible things that come from inexplicable means. To be more specific, you know when you hear of a woman gaining super-human strength and lifting a car when her kid falls trapped beneath it? Or when you hear of someone knowing how to treat an injury instinctively without ever being taught? These seem impossible, and yet somehow they were made possible. These are miracles.

For this Higher Self to align with the other Selves, its will—which is referred to as the spiritual will, meaning it's a will dedicated to love, to the Light—must be on the same page as its egoic will, which is the previously mentioned will that connects the conscious and the unconscious. To achieve this circumstance a couple of things are necessary...

  1. the uhane talking Self must be quiet and give space to the breath
  2. the unihipili lower Self must feel safe

Through practices and rituals we can work on the above. For instance, through meditation we can work on the uhane quieting down; we can work on breath. And through journaling and sitting in communal circles we can work on making the lower Self feel safe. As I said, I will dig into these practices over the next few posts.

For now, in sum, the main things to know are:

  • according to Huna, we have Three Selves
  • the uhane is akin to our consciousness; it builds our world view, our thoughts, our words
  • the unihipili is akin to our unconscious; it builds our gut instincts, our emotions, our relationships
  • the aumakua is akin to our higher consciousness; it is also much like the Third Eye talked about in yoga; it is the enlightened piece of us that knows Truth
  • when these Selves are aligned, miracles and self-transformation can occur