Reflections after Pā’s retreat By Mitzi Borren

Our Differences Are Our Strengths – Mitzi Borren

It was by a stroke of synchronicity that my first stay at the Wangapeka was spent immersed in the wisdom and teachings of Rob McGowan. As a student on several of Rob’s rongoā māori wananga I was familiar with his captivating blend of humour and humility with an inspiring depth of knowledge and understanding of – and commitment to – Te Taiao. When I arrived at the Wangapeka into the homely warmth and palpable calm of so many years of compassionate practice, I knew I was in for something special.

Rob’s call to action is to reset our priorities, to live according to principles that restore our relationship and honour our responsibilities to the natural world we are a part of, many of which the community of the Wangapeka already actively share as students and teachers of Dharma. The weekend was a fascinating and inspiring coming together of perspectives, philosophies, practices and plants – united in the intention to serve Papatūānuku, the land, our mother. To help her to be well.

We discussed the critical importance of forests and native biodiversity. We explored the role of the established exotic tree cover at the Wangapeka and observed the naturally occurring native regeneration in the undergrowth. We met and identified plants, learned of their abilities to heal land and people and we grappled with the ethics of intervention when it comes to invasive introduced species, both plant and animal.

In the notes I took over the weekend I notice the underlined words ‘our differences are our strengths’. We each have our own way of connecting with and caring for our natural world. We are all children of Papatūānuku and if we listen carefully she will show us the way.

Tiwaiwaka Principles

  1. The Whenua, Papatūānuku, is the source of all life. She is the mother. Caring for her is the first priority.
  2. We are not the centre of the Universe, but we are part of it. All living creatures are our older brothers and sisters, we must care for them.
  3. The Mauri is the web of connections that sustains all life, this web of connections has greater priority than the rights and needs of any individual species.
  4. Te tangata, people, are not the masters of the Mauri. We are part of it and embraced by it. By caring for it we are cared for by it.
  5. No individual person is more important than any other. Each must contribute what they have to offer and receive what they need to be well.
  6. We must give special care to the tiniest living creatures. Even though they are too small to be seen, they are the foundation that keeps and sustains all life.