Practice Aloha – A Guide from our Hawaiian Elders


Molokai Reefs Hawai'i
Molokai Reefs Hawai’i photo Barbara Longue

Practicing Aloha

I thought I knew what aloha meant before I got to Hawaii’, but I but I was very wrong.

I thought it was just a beautiful greeting and a big smile on these pacific islanders faces and that was nice.

They seemed to say it all the time. Greetings, goodbyes. Was it like “salut”in french? Or “ciao”in Italian? “Hola”in Spanish? I’m beginning to discover it’s true meaning but it took me all 10 days in Maui to get a handle on it.

My first glimpse that aloha meant more than I thought was after lunch along the beach in Lahaina at one of the most delicious beautiful, restful meals I’ve had in my life. It was epic because we had tons of appetizers and pizzas and all sorts of gluten free dairy free things that made you not care that something was gluten or dairy free. Simply delicious food. An absolutely stunning view almost sitting on the incoming waves of the pacific lapping and spraying us with a quick mist refreshing us every so often. And the meal was shared with some of my favorite people on the planet, my youngest brother, his wife, his 3 kids and my mom.

That’s what made everything as delicious of a memory as it was to eat. Then when the coffee and bill came out, a bunch of little car stickers came out with the phrase “Practice Aloha” on them.

I was too embarrassed at the time to ask what that meant as I was afraid the intoxicating view and the consumption of Sancerre at lunch would impede my ability to hear the proper answer.

But it had me thinking. All the time. About what Aloha could possibly mean.

I was on vacation so I didn’t really want to think.

I was “off duty”.

But it was still very much in the back of mind, in the same way I now viewed lua’s as not just some cheesy tourist rip-off but as a sacred celebration of ancestral traditions.

To document what IS aloha.

Who IS actually practicing it?

I saved one of the local magazines because they had a discussion of the out of print local history books and how some people were trying to save that knowledge that is stored in out of print books and that oral/written history that has been disney-ized until we don’t know the true sacred meanings any longer.

Maybe the practice of aloha is like the yoga sutra? Where the actual concept is much broader and far reaching than most people estimate?

Here’s the literal text on a poster I found in the Maui airport as I was about to head out:

“What is Aloha” by Pono Shim & Ramsay Taum

“What is Aloha? What is this special “spirit” that is universally spoken of? For some of us it is more than a greeting but rather a life force that defines who and why we are here.

Auntie Pilahi Paki, who was a “keeper of the secrets of Hawai’I tasked several of her students to be prepared for the future when the world would be in collapse. She spoke of the time when Hawai’I would have the remedy to save the world and the remedy was “Aloha” in 1970 at the Governor’s conference she introduced modern Hawai’I to a deeper understanding of “Aloha”

A = Akahai meaning kindness (grace). To be expressed with tenderness.

L = Lokahi meaning unity (unbroken) to be expressed with harmony.

O = Olu’olu meaning agreeable (gently) to be experessed with pleasantness.

H = Ha’aha’a meaning humility (empty), to be expressed with modesty.

A = Ahonui meaning patience (waiting for the moment) to be expressed with perseverance.

A secret of Aloha” is that a person cannot do one of the principles without truly doing all and if you are not doing one you are not doing any. So to be “Living Aloha” is to live all the principles. An even deeper meaning of “Aloha” that Auntie Pilahi Paki shared with us can be found in a quote from our Queen.

“The Queen’s quote found on epilogue page of the book” The Betrayal of Lili’uokalani” by Helena G. Allen

In 1917 after Queen Lili’uokalani had seen the end of the Hawaiian monarchy she said to her hanai daughter, Lydia K Ahola, “To gain the kindgon of heaven is to hear what is not said, to see what cannot be seen, and to know the unknowable – that is Aloha. All things in this world are two; in heaven, there is but One” – Queen Lili’ okolani (1917)”

So, please Practice Aloha.

It’s a beautiful place to BE.

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