WayFinding Like A Polynesian Voyager


Journeying involves travelling from one place to another usually coming across experiences and lessons along the way. Whilst I crave more travels, these days a lot of my travels are inner journeys of the mind.

One of my biggest inspiration is the author Martha Beck and in her prolific work one thing she teaches is to follow what lights you up, however odd or socially awkward it might be, as a compass to your right life. She also writes about wayfinding and Wayfinders which is something that certainly lights me up and I have become slightly obsessed about – obsession always being a good indication to follow clues to your authentic self and right life.


“The term wayfinding comes from an ancient system of navigation used by Polynesians to voyage thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean. In order to determine directions at various times of the day and year, these wayfinders learnt to recognise important signs and patterns in the natural world, such as the position of specific stars, weather and climate, wildlife species, the nature of ocean currents, colours of the sea and sky, and cloud formation relative to land mass. Wayfinders share a common value system: respect for the Earth, and understanding of the interconnectedness of Nature and people, a sense of wonder and spirit of exploration.” I quote from Project Wayfinder an organisation founded by Stanford University’s d.school to guide students towards lives of purpose. Seems like they are slightly obsessed too! And believe that the wayfinders are a powerful example for young people.

So does Nainoa Thompson, president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society who is the first Hawaiian to practise the ancient Polynesian art of navigation since the 14th century, navigating two double-hulled canoes from Hawaii to other islands without the aid of western instruments. One of those Wa’a, outrigger canoe, the Hokule’a has since circumnavigated the globe covering 47,000 nautical miles, coming back to Hawaii in June 2017 in a glorious feast of welcome from the locals. The ancient traditions are being reclaimed and honoured with younger generations digging the wisdom of old not only for its beautiful elegance but also its practical tools for creating lives of purpose and mending the earth and healing the spirit. More of that please!

So what is wayfinding to you and me far remote from the tropical islands? Wayfinding has several layers of meaning for me from recognising that ancient wisdom tools can be very pragmatic in helping us navigate our lives in this modern world to using an inner compass to create a life that feels connective and in alignment with your true nature as well as the wellbeing of your environment and the Earth.


Going back to Martha, she is a life coach teaching life coaches to use ancient and also modern tools to create meaningful lives and step out of conventional living to embrace your unique path to true fulfillment. These tools are in contradiction to what most of us have learnt through schooling and modern society: being rather than just doing, resting, meditating, honouring the inner world, dropping into silence and intuition, attuning with your environment, reading situations more acutely that way and taking action accordingly, (co)creating instead of consuming, giving rather than taking, cooperating, trusting, belonging, story-telling, selfcare as the basis to pursue your passions, using imagination to manifest new solutions to old problems, mending ourselves and society and building harmony.

Parents of young kids will be familiar with wayfinding from Disney’s Moana, the little girl explorer who goes on a quest to save her people and find her own identity, becoming a master wayfinder as she fulfills her mission with wild adventures along the trail. The musical really delivers through the chants of old tales describing Maui the shaman as fishing and drawing new islands to him, which is what wayfinders thought they were doing: not so much sailing to find new islands as they were using all the tools in their kit to draw the islands towards them. Wayfinding will give you instruments to navigate this new wild world but it will also teach you to draw your  right life to you. Studying most ancient wisdom such as yoga philosophy, Chinese internal martial arts, shamanic practises from Western Europe are all good mediums.

Or you could start with reading Martha’s book: Finding Your Way In A Wild New World where she shares her discoveries from years of searching and practicing. She classifies them as dropping into wordlessness (accessing your non-verbal mind), oneness (the experience of unity & interconnectedness), imagination (creating ideas beyond what we currently think is logical) and forming (bringing into reality). Athletes might recognise these as visualisation techniques used to prepare for challenges but these go far beyond.

If I’ve inspired you perhaps you might also be interested in the other ancient tools I teach to reach your best life in my course Boundless Energy. Dates for the Spring programme have gone up on the website.

And here is a little clip from the Polynesian Voyaging Society to get you steering by starlight and travel along the Hokulea. Bon voyage!

By Anne Schouvey

Modalities for vitality & holistic selfcare. Ayurveda, Breathwork, Reiki and Yoga. > Boundless Energy eCourse. > Yoga SocialEat > Medical Herbalism student


  1. I love this post Anne! I once researched a wrote a documentary series on shamanic cultures around the world. One of our episodes was on the Polynesian shamans, and it was so interesting to learn about their wayfaring traditions, including how they navigated. They were so deeply in tune with nature. I truly believe all Vedic wisdom arise from the earlier shamanic, and am glad to see you sharing this wisdom forward. Big hugs!


    1. Oh thank you so much for saying Laura. I’d love to read/hear more about the documentary, it sounds fascinating. Feeling very blessed and grateful that you are reading, as always. Hope all is well with you and all your projects, much love. Anne

      Liked by 1 person

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