Hubby and I spent our honeymoon on Kauai.  It was a week of fun, adventure, and relaxation.  It was perfect despite Hubby’s first root canal and some minor airline issues.  Having worked with Hawaiian goddesses and studied Hawaiian spirituality for a few years, Kauai seemed like one of the better choices.  It’s laid back, full of lush nature, and still holds a lot of its native spirit.  It hasn’t completely given in to tourists and resorts, and we were able to just wander around the island, seeing, tasting, feeling, and touching all it had to offer.  On Kauai we discovered the Spirit of Aloha.

As mainlanders and tourists we are taught that aloha means hello and goodbye, that it’ a greeting.  On a very basic level this is true, but this single word means so much more than a simple hello or goodbye.  It’s a word of love, compassion, mercy, spirit, and faith.  It’s the belief that anyone you encounter could be a god or goddess, and the recognition that each person you meet holds the love and light of deity.   The word aloha literally translates a few ways.

Alo– presence, face, or share,  

Ha- essence or breath of life,  

A- to burn or sparkle

Lo- short for lo’o and lo’a, to procure or obtain,

Loh- joy

In piecing together any of these pieces we get a definition of transition, life, and the spirit by which Hawaiians both old and modern have lived their lives.

Aloha is not just a greeting or expression, it’s a way of life.  Ancient Hawaiians used the phrase to mean “god in us”, much in the same way Namaste is used.  It is a word that says “I recognize the divine in you as it is in all of us”.  It tells of a joyous spirit, a persevering spirit, and a servant’s spirit, not only offered to other people but to the earth as well.

Aloha is a recognition of the mana, or life energy, found in all things, and to have mana is to have god.  It is a joyous, free greeting that has a mana of its own, a power of its own.  Therefore, the Hawaiians believed it could not be thoughtlessly spoken, for to greet one with Aloha meant to hold it in one’s heart.

In the past, and increasingly more with the resurrection of Hawaiian spirituality, children were taught early to appreciate their part in the world to which they were born.  An early teaching gives us a glimpse of values instilled at a young age.  It reads:

Aloha is being a part of all, and all being a part of me. When there is pain – it is my pain. When there is joy – it is also mine. I respect all that is as part of the Creator and part of me. I will not willfully harm anyone or anything. When food is needed I will take only my need and explain why it is being taken. The earth, the sky, the sea are mine to care for, to cherish and to protect. This is Hawaiian – this is Aloha!

Another teaching, written in an acronym that easily found its way being reproduced on tourist souvenirs and postcards, was taught later as a code of ethics.

A, ala, watchful, alertness 
L, lokahi, working with unity 
O, oia’i’o, truthful honesty 
H, ha’aha’a, humility 
A, ahonui, patient perseverance

Taking a walk around Kauai this feeling was tangible.  Every step we took, every person we talked to, every bite of food exuded this idea.  Everyone we met was eager to share a story or give a recommendation.  Every question Hubby asked, and he’s an extremely curious person, was met with answers and wisdom.  Even business and modern, mundane things were treated with a sense of respect for the earth and life in general.

For example, while partly because of limited resources, the cost of shipping supplies to Hawaii, and the need for waste reduction, everything is treated with a consciousness of its effect on the environment.  All fast food restaurants on Kauai use the same bags.  None of them have logos, instead they have a message on them to reuse and recycle.  In addition, Kauai is one of three states so far where plastic bags are not used.  We didn’t know this going in, and our first night there our soda and milk broke through the damp hole in the bottom of our paper bag.  The next day we purchased a reusable bag, and all was well.  We didn’t even notice the lack of plastic, only that there were none blowing through the beautiful Hawaiian sky.

The Spirit of Aloha has a way of imbuing everyone and everything that comes in contact with it.  Though I had always had a love and appreciation of nature, connecting with Aloha gave me a sense of joy of being a part of this world.  Ancient Hawaiians had no word for nature, because they didn’t separate themselves from it.  It was a part of them as they were a part of it.  Only by this truth can we really feel connected to the earth and love her as she deserves.  Only by this truth can we learn and grow from her wisdom.  Only by this truth can we know what it was to be created and nurtured as children of the earth.  You see, Aloha isn’t about sending something to someone else, it’s about making a continuously free-flowing connection between the two.

This is the true meaning of Aloha.  Think about it the next time you hear or say it.  What do these things mean to you, and what can you do to strengthen you connection with others, with the earth, and with deity?

Aloha.

Go now, connect.

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