Wednesday, April 17, 2024

How Haka, Te Ao Māori & Sexual Healing Can Help Men Reclaim Their Confidence

The question of modern masculinity – how to support it, and how to understand it – is behind the new men’s health programme, Tāne Hā, which aims to use Haka, Te Ao Māori and sexual healing to help men create a safe space to return to their power, and find confidence in their masculinity. We talk to the two founders about why this programme is so needed.

“They say it’s a man’s world, but they’re the ones in prison, they’re the ones killing themselves, so… is it?” asks Lana Garland. It was the question of modern masculinity that first kick-started the brainstorming session between Tāne Hā co-founders Lana Garland (Te Atiawa, Ngāti Rāhiri) and Matiu Te Huki (Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa, Ngāti Rangitāne ki Wairarapa). Cyclone Gabrielle had them trapped in Lana’s Whitianga house with no power and all the time to have a ‘let’s solve the world’s problems’ kind of chat.

The pair had first met in 2022 when Lana attended Matiu’s Haka For Life workshops, which he runs around Aotearoa to help both men and women harness the physical, mental and spiritual power of the Haka. Like many, Lana – a well-known actor and presenter – found Matiu’s workshops transformational, and a fast friendship was formed.

During that cyclone-trapped chat, the pair were bouncing around ideas about how they could uplift and support the men in the community, who were facing internal battles about their sexual selves and also their confidence. The timing, says Matiu, was a piece of “divine synchronicity” and out of that discussion came the bare bones that would become Tāne Hā, a five-week-long online program online, designed to help the participants experience better sex, greater confidence and more connected relationships. 

The program is grounded in Te Ao Māori, a world that holds “so much treasure for all of humanity,” says Matiu. “Below, above and woven through all of the content is Te Ao Māori and, in particular, Haka.” For over two decades, Matiu has travelled around the world representing Māori culture and performing Kapa Haka, which has given him a profound knowledge and deep reverence for the power of Haka as a life-changing tool. “It involves discipline, it involves power, it involves roaring and releasing negative energy and it involves using the Haka as a way to be courageous and find our backbone as men.”

At its core, masculinity is energy, expression and power. Used well, all of those things are incredibly positive, but the conversation around masculinity is becoming increasingly muddled.

“I think it’s challenging for men to know how to be a masculine man these days, I think it’s almost dangerous to talk about being a masculine man,” Matiu says. “So we wanted to make that safe, make it okay and share tools to help men step into their power.” A big part of that is helping men be healthy in their sexuality – practising mindfulness, removing a reliance on pornography and bringing more soul back into sex.

When it comes to the idea of ‘toxic masculinity’, Lana says the use of labels can be really unhelpful. “There’s a lot of name calling going on in society and I think it’s really dangerous,” she says. “It’s important to be really curious – I like to go into all of the spaces and you find when you do that, they’re not what people are saying they are. We’re actually all fairly similar – we all just want to be loved, we all just want to be seen, we all just want our kids to be happy, we all just want a home.”

“There is so much division going on in the moment and that’s just epitomised in the polarities of this masculine conversation. We all need to own our masculine energy, women as well! And men need to own their feminine energy,” she says. “If one of those is considered ‘toxic’, then how does that work for us if we’re all made up of those same energies?”

So far one group of men have taken part in the course and the feedback was unanimous – all men would benefit from this, in terms of increased confidence, an appreciation for their personal power and also a seriously improved sex life for both them and their partners.

The values of Te Ao Māori are for everyone, Matiu says – he has little interest in gate-keeping the wisdom of indigenous knowledge because he says the benefits are so widely needed. “It’s a global culture, this Māori culture, because we’re so connected with other cultures around the planet,” he says. “This is a treasure for everyone, and there’s such a deep respect, honour and curiosity towards Māori culture around the planet.”

It comes at a time in Aotearoa when there is an increased sense of division around Te Tiriti, due to the change in government and some of the more controversial policy changes that are on the horizon. But neither Matiu or Lana are fixated by the noise around this.

“For me personally, the Māori culture, the Māori language has had a great blossoming in the last 30, 40 years and whatever politics the government is using through the media to try and affect people’s perceptions of the world, it’s not going to affect our language, it’s not going to affect our culture,” Matiu says.

“It’s unstoppable, and the course is only going to help grow the language, grow the Haka and grow an appreciation for the culture, so I’m not really impacted at all by what I see in the headlines about the Treaty or the language from this current government.”

Lana agrees wholeheartedly. “It’s important to keep on keeping on, and the more energy we give to [those headlines], the bigger they grow – and I don’t personally have a lot of energy for it,” she says. “I’m focusing on the world I want to create, and that’s not it! So that contrast gives me real clarity about the world I do want to create.”

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