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Using Courage to Navigate Our LIves

The year is 325 AD. On one of a small cluster of islands in the south pacific sea, now known as the Marquesas, a young Tahitian man is anxiously gathering tools for a unique voyage. Like his father, Reva is an astronomer, but he has learned to read the stars and navigate his way around his home islands like no other. Now, he is part of an elite group who will courageously set sail and explore the vast Pacific Ocean—in a small, double-hulled canoe. A few have gone before him. None have returned.

For the Polynesians, it is an age of exploration, and Reva’s adept celestial mapping skills put him at the forefront of this movement. It would be his destiny to make the trek and find his way to an undiscovered new chain of islands, what is now called Hawaii. He would also be the first to return home and share his “map” of the stars, which would guide travelers across the sea and, for the next 300 years, help establish a new thriving community in the central pacific region.

Reva’s story is an amalgamation of stories of the Polynesian people’s journey across the sea from 300-600 AD. This epic migration is a dramatic demonstration of a quality in the human heart that drives us to continually expand and explore our boundaries. Expansion requires courage, and courageous people, notably, are not fearless. Courageous people like the Polynesians feel their fears and move through them anyway. And much is gained.

In Hawaiian culture, the word for courage is koa, getting its source inspiration from the koa tree. Koa wood is one of the strongest and most durable woods in all of Hawaii and, many agree, the most lustrous and beautiful. The word koa reflects the Hawaiian’s ability to reflect on nature to find meaning and wisdom.

As the Polynesians knew, an epic journey of growth comes with great challenge and risk. In our own journey of self-discovery, courage is almost always required. There are times when we must cast off from the safe shore, set sail into the unknown, and risk. We must hold tight to our vision of a better world while staying open to how that will eventually look.

For our journey we must be durable and strong, like the koa wood, if the passage is to hold any beauty. Once committed, we begin to work with and understand the currents in our lives. As we commit to staying present, we learn to trust our navigational skills, however rudimentary.

In time, we learn to map the firmament of our higher energies and detect patterns, just as Reva learned to detect and follow the guidance of the stars. To the naked eye, there is no pattern. But to us, like Reva, we learn to see and follow it. The result is the discovery of new internal worlds, and with it, freedom, expansion, and growth. 

Will Donnelly

Will Donnelly is a nationally recognized, certified yoga teacher and writer, and is the author of “Practical Yoga’s Wisdom for Everyday People: Essays & Inspiration for Life" (2017), a compilation of his most popular online essays now available at Will has been a pioneer in the field of yoga, developing Practical Yoga, and co-creating a yoga–reality series for fitTV (Discovery Communications, 2004). As a writer and teacher, Will encourages all students to trust their impulses and find their true voice. Will currently lives in Hawaii, where he leads weekly yoga and writing classes at Kalani retreat center. He also leads several popular Practical Yoga adventure and healing retreats throughout the year. Information on retreats, his book, DVDs and other inspiration to be found at

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Practical Yoga's Wisdom for Everyday People: Essays & Inspiration for Life 
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Holiday Yoga Retreat (7th Year!) December 21 - 27, 2017

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