Meet the local author, Huna healer and wild dolphin swim guide who wants to help put you on the friggin’ path to happiness
If you should go exploring the New Age/self-help field, you’d best keep a sharp eye out for cowpies. For every writer, speaker or counselor with some legitimate wisdom to share, there’s a sham-man offering to remove the lint from your Third Navel, or there’s a Professor Marvel-style huckster with some transcendental floss he’d like to sell you.
Skeptics, fear not—local renaissance woman Belinda Farrell’s newly released book “Find Your Friggin’ Joy: Discover Missing Links from Ancient Hawaiian Teachings to Clean the Plaque of Your Soul and Reach Your Higher Self” is no flim flam. Don’t let the title lead you astray—it’s simply an indication that the book’s author is a fun-loving gal who is presenting genuine life-maintenance tools in a playful, unpretentious way.
Farrell’s history is at least as colorful as her book’s title: Along with having been trained in hypnotherapy, past-life regression, NLP, hypnotherapy, Reconnective Healing, Huna and Hawaiian chanting, she’s a UC Berkeley graduate, wild dolphin swim guide, former third grade teacher and retired stunt-car driver. She has also walked on hot coals on 18 different occasions, and in the late ’60s, she nearly became a CIA agent … but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
A friendly sit-down at Soquel Avenue’s Whole Foods also reveals Farrell to be a friggin’ cool lady. Zesty and good-humored, she comes across as wholly sincere about the principles and practices she outlines in her book, whose title can be considered an antidote to excessive seriousness. “Sometimes people will think, ‘Oh, it’s not sacred enough,’” the 68-year-old author says of the book’s name. “And I say, ‘It made you laugh!’ And that’s what it’s about: being here in this divine moment and not taking yourself so seriously. I’ll stick by it. Gosh darn it! Quote me on that,” she laughs, smacking the table to affirm her commitment. “God has a sense of humor, too. I hope so, or else I’m in the wrong line of work.”
As for this business about soul-plaque, ancient Hawaiian teachings and such, what we’re dealing with here is Huna, a collection of concepts and practices linked to Hawaiian mysticism. Along with various breathing and chanting techniques, Huna offers tools for self-examination and reorienting oneself toward a more positive state of mind. According to Farrell, who has been studying Huna for more than 20 years, the basis of all these practices is forgiveness. “It’s a way of forgiving yourself for the way that you have assimilated all of these experiences and memories from the past,” she explains. “If they are filled with anger, hurt and sadness, they will ruin your organs and drag you down.”
Here, then, is the “plaque” to which Farrell refers in her book’s subtitle: attachment to a particular trauma. “The Hawaiians call everything emotional an attachment: it’s an aka—a connection, a string, a cord,” the author states. She cites an example from her book: a woman whose mother died when she was 5. “She took it on that it was her fault. When you’re a child, you don’t know why parents leave you or things happen.” This buried emotion manifested itself as cancer. By way of a past-life regression, Farrell took this woman back to the time of the event. “And her mother comes in and tells her, ‘You’ve got to stop this. It’s not your fault. I was sick way before you came. So you get on with your life.’ And she was just, ‘Duh!’” The cancer drugs that had previously failed this woman began to work, and she cleared herself of the disease.
When Farrell says that the daily practice of forgiveness will heal the body, she speaks from experience. Born with scoliosis, she wore a brace for the first two years of her life. Her already compromised spine was further damaged when she worked as a stunt driver in the ’80s and ’90s. At age 48, Farrell collapsed with herniated discs and spinal nerve damage. Though doctors warned that she would be paralyzed if she refused to have surgery, she opted to heal herself by way of the Huna techniques she had been learning. “The Huna got me to really listen to my body, and to find out what I was saying to myself,” she says. “When you find out what that internal script is, you find that the internal computer gets shifted when you shift your mindset.”
Huna, codeine and a little snake venom assisted with Farrell’s healing process. “Apparently the snake venom increases the ability of the memories to leave the spine—whatever has been hiding there,” Farrell explains. After taking the venom, Farrell dreamt of a baby being thrown out into the universe, dodging asteroids while moving a million miles an hour.
“When I finally woke up, I was just sweating, and I thought I was dying,” she recalls. Soon after, she asked her mother some questions about her birth. At long last, her mother admitted that there had been three failed abortion attempts at three different clinics.
“But you see, the fetus registers everything, so that was registered in my lower back,” Farrell states. “And so when people would press on it, or I’d do Rolfing or anything like that, the pain was just excruciating, because I’d never addressed it.”
Farrell, who claims that her spine aligned itself within just four days of intense healing work, faced a new crisis in October of 2008, when her 30-year-old son committed suicide. Shortly thereafter, she lost a fortune in a Ponzi scheme. Rather than folding under these potentially devastating circumstances, she stayed on her Huna path, facing her inner shadows head on. In this way, she was able to deal with her negative emotions and move forward.
This brings us to an important principle from Farrell’s book: the idea that “sissies turn back.” To practice Huna, one most possess the courage to dredge up the dark material from the depths of one’s being—a frightening and sometimes painful process. The author points out that some people would rather drug themselves than deal with their aka. “They don’t want these things to come up,” she observes. “But really, it’s just: ‘Let’s get ’em out! Let’s pop the pimple! Doesn’t it feel good to get that pus out?’ And that’s really what it is in the body.”
According to “Find Your Friggin’ Joy,” Huna came to America by way of novelist/New Age author Max Freedom Long, who studied this practice for 40 years from a group of kahunas known as the “Keepers of the Secret.” However, scholars, professors and researchers like Charles Kenn, Pali Jae Lee and Lisa Kahaleole Hal have stated that Huna does not have authentic Hawaiian origins—an assertion unambiguously echoed by the creators of the Facebook page Huna Is Not Hawaiian. Wikipedia’s version of the tale goes like this: After journeying to Hawaii in 1917, Long developed an interest in the spirituality of the kahunas. Unable to get any information, he left Hawaii in 1931. A few years later, he began to develop Huna based on his belief that the kahunas had encoded their secrets into the Hawaiian language.
Suppose for a moment that Huna does come to us from said Keepers of the Secret. Have Farrell and her American predecessors broken the Secret by making this information public? Farrell doesn’t think so. “The secrets are for everybody, if you’re willing to understand them and use them, and not disrespect or desecrate them,” she offers. “They get buried when the consciousness is not ready to accept them.” She adds that at one point in history, Hawaiian people kept Huna hidden from missionaries who viewed it as witchcraft. “It’s not until a lot of the secrets from the east were released—when the Dalai Lama came, and all of these things—that we finally embraced them,” she notes. “We’re willing to make those changes.”
The Friggin’ Road Less Traveled
Farrell says her first real teacher was the famed self-help author and motivational speaker Tony Robbins, with whom she began training at age 40. During her five years with Robbins, she participated in no less than 18 firewalks (ceremonies whose participants walk barefoot on hot coals). Farrell says of Robbins, “He’s the one who said, ‘If you can’t, you must. And if you must, you will.’” In other words, if you find yourself saying you can’t do something, change that statement to “I must do it.” “And then you will,” Farrell states. “You’ll find a way. If I hadn’t said that, I would never have had a career driving race cars.”
As a professional precision stunt- car driver, Farrell lent her skills to numerous car commercials and films. In so doing, she tackled a major phobia. But one mammoth obstacle to her friggin’ joy remained: her lifelong fear of water. “I didn’t want to tell anybody,” she says of her aquaphobia. “I was embarrassed, because I was driving racecars; I was risking my life every day on land, but if you asked me to get in the water, I would have just frozen.”
While doing deep breathing in Hawaii as a part of her Huna practice, Farrell had another transformational experience. “I felt this warmth coming into me, and these waves parting, and all these dolphins and whales coming inside.” That night, she had the first in a series of nightly dreams about swimming with dolphins. This led her to confront her fear of water. In characteristic overachiever style, she now takes clients to Hawaii to swim with wild spinner dolphins.
Farrell draws a parallel between the practice of swimming with dolphins and the breathing techniques that Huna offers: “The dolphins remind us to breathe, because they have to come up every seven minutes to take a breath. If they don’t do that, they’ll die. I’ve likened that to: If you don’t take those deep breaths, you die a spiritual death. You don’t connect to the top part of you; you let the ego and the hyperventilation take over, and then that breeds nothing but anxiety.”
By now, the careful reader may have deduced that Farrell’s journey has not been a typical one. The unorthodox trajectory of her life was evident from early on: Soon after graduating from UC Berkeley with a bachelor’s degree in English and Spanish, she moved to Hollywood, got an agent and became a news reporter, interviewing everyone from singer Robert Goulet to Gov. Ronald Reagan. But just as things were getting rolling, she was recruited by the CIA, whose officials apparently wanted to take advantage of her fluency in Spanish by sending her to an embassy in Madrid. Sequestered in Washington D.C. for a week, Farrell underwent various polygraph tests and physical tests. It didn’t take her long to discover that this wasn’t her gig. “I’m open, and I was trying to be closed,” she notes. “Everything is based on a lie, so you lie to your parents: ‘I’m going to work with the defense department.’ It’s all lies. It doesn’t feel good.” The dealbreaker was when Farrell, then a virgin, was informed that she would be expected to use her sexuality to get information from people.
“They should have started with that one first,” she laughs.
Rather than returning to Hollywood after the CIA episode, Farrell decided to stay in Washington. While looking for work on Capitol Hill, she literally ran into Sen. Brooks. “We fell on the floor; his papers went everywhere,” she recalls. When the apologetic senator asked if there was anything he could do for her, Farrell replied that she needed a job. Between Brooks’ intervention and Farrell’s background in press, the latter was able to land a position working for Sen. Chuck Percy. Though she enjoyed the job for a time, things took a turn when Bobby Kennedy was killed the following year. “Washington changed,” Farrell recalls. “Nixon was going to come in, and it was like this dark shroud hung over the city.”
Jumping ahead to the late ’80s and early ’90s, we find Farrell enjoying a career as a stage and film actress. During this period of her life, she co-starred on the TV series Midnight Caller, appeared on the show Murder, She Wrote and worked with Richard Gere in the movie Bee Season. She was also the leading lady in the 1993 softcore erotic film Cabin Fever, which scored a feature in People magazine “That still has a life of its own,” she says of the movie. “I still get fan mail for that.”
Farrell has been a Santa Cruz resident since March 2009. When she isn’t swimming with dolphins, doing Reconnective Healing, serving as a Huna consultant or conducting past-life regressions, she can be found bicycling, rollerblading, snow skiing or working out … all in the name of friggin’ joy.
“I want to feel good as long as I can be here,” she offers. “I love being pain-free. It’s a great idea; it’s a great concept. I like to have fun.”