Episode 86

60 mins

Mariko B. Ryan - The Opposite of Fear is Freedom

July 27, 2020

Mariko B. Ryan is the author of Infinite Threads: 100 Indigenous Maori Insights from Old Maori Manuscripts. "Infinite Threads" is an incredible book which reinterprets the manuscripts of Maori Tohunga (sages) in a way that has incredible relevance today. Rane and Jo both found the book full of wonderful insights which described aspects of Maori culture in a way that parallels mindfulness and yogic practices and philosophy.

In this episode, we learn about Mariko's background growing up in Auckland, New Zealand and how Maori culture influenced Mariko's upbringing. We learn about the role of the Tohunga or sage in Maori culture, their oral tradition, and how they came to write down their knowledge to prevent their traditions from being destroyed.

Mariko tells us about how it took her many years to find the courage to write the book, and the wonderful reception it has received. She also tells us how she ensured that the book made sense to both Maori and non Maori audiences.


Mariko's website: https://www.marikobryan.nz/

This episode is sponsored by Yoga Australia:

The opinions expressed in this podcast do not reflect the view and opinions of the sponsor.


Click on a timecode to play from that time in the recording.

2:45 Mariko tells us about her background and where she grew up after giving a Maori welcoming.
4:00 How the government policy of the 50s & 60s led to a Maori urbanisation process which removed Maori from their tribal lands and the way this shaped Mariko’s childhood.
6:55 How did Mariko’s family celebrate their culture in everyday life?
8:42 The loss of traditional knowledge and language.
9:39 Was there much indigenous spirituality in Mariko’s upbringing. A critique of the words ‘indigenous’ and ‘spirituality’.
12:13 How at the age of 5 she told her parents she wasn’t going to Sunday school any more.
13:39 How Mariko saw self determination modelled from a young age.
15:26 The role of the Tohunga or ‘sage’ in precolonial society
18:22 The parallels between the wisdom traditions of Maori sages and the way yogic knowledge and philosophy was originally shared.
18:56 How Mariko's book “Infinite Threads” came to be
20:25 The politics of knowledge and who controls it.
21:20 The impetus to preserve traditional Maori knowledge in a time of missionaries and mass conversions.
22:51 “We removed those books from the care of the museum”
27:02 What was the pivotal moment when Mariko realised how important it was to share this knowledge?
28:27 Was writing the book a process of deciding what to share and what to keep hidden, or a focus on staying true to the source material?
30:45 Finding an editor to ensure that the material made sense to a non-Maori speaking audience.
32:17 Support us on Patreon!
33:30 Did Mariko need to code-switch as she wrote the book, or did she write the book in a flow state and edit later?
37:51 Describing the practice of a tohunga
39:51 The exploration of preconceived ideas that the reader might have and how they can be a distraction from who they truly are.
41:30 The infinite thread.
43:35 The relationships between technology, spirituality and the creative process.
49:05 Is the book an act of activism?
51:14 How has the response been to her book in general?
52:45 What was the response of her Maori readers?
55:30 Does Mariko see the book as a starting point for people’s own explorations, or as the beginning of a greater body of work?
58:18 What is Mariko’s one core lesson for the world?
59:38 Next episode Ana Forrest and Jose Calarco!

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