9 Hawaiian Inspirations for Empowered Living
These 9 Hawaiian Inspirations grew out of Charlie Snow’s experiences with learning from Hawaiian elders, giving and teaching Lomilomi massage, and developing Essence Dance (which combines shamanic trance dance with Hawaiian wisdom). They were put together to explain some key elements of Hawaiian wisdom in a way that can be understood easily by people in the Western world. These inspirations can be utilised separately, although they work together and are interwoven in their understandings.
They have been created with the support of Hawaiian elder Aunty Mahealani Kuamo’o-Henry, to ensure they reflect traditional wisdom in a meaningful way and draw on the appropriate Hawaiian words for which they are intended. They do not claim to represent all of Hawaiian wisdom, or to explain all of the complex dimensions and layers of each ‘inspiration’, because that simply isn’t possible here. But they do help to provide stepping stones in one’s personal, and therefore our collective, growth.
~ NA AKUA ~
*Connecting with spirit & all of creation*
Loosely translated, na akua can mean ‘divine spirit in all its forms’. What this points us to is an understanding that everything comes from spirit, has spirit in this physical plane of existence, and remains as spirit after physical death.
It also helps us to understand that everything emerges from the same creative life force: akua. Whether we see this as a specific creator or creators, a higher power, infinite intelligence, source energy, the divine, the universe, or something else doesn’t really matter.
Since everything in existence comes from this creative force, it is not just humans who are spirit, it is all things of creation; every rock, blade of grass, animal, drop of water, wind, and star in existence is spirit as well.
This means that everything in the physical world shares a fundamental sameness and is therefore of equal value. It also means we are all connected by our fundamental sameness and are part of a coherent and unified whole created by the same source.
A good place to start your journey with this is by acknowledging that we are more than just a physical body, and connecting with your own uhane (individual spirit). From the Hawaiian island of Molokai we are taught this is how we are all born, as a shining bowl of spirit light wearing the physical shape of a human. (P.J. Lee & K. Willis, Tales From the Night Rainbow, 1990) Acknowledging that all beings are spirit and that we are connected through our sameness is then much more possible. Most important of all though is recognising akua, the creator/creative source from which we all came, and building your own relationship with this source.
Everyone needs to find those specific ways that enable them to best recognise and acknowledge the spirit within them, their connectedness to all things, their connection to the unified whole, and their connection to our source of creation.
Activities like prayer, meditation and controlled focus of attention will support you to make choices informed by your relationship to na akua, and the insights that these relationships bring. This will enable you to build pa’a (an unshakeable foundation) in your life.
When we recognise and honour our spiritual self, and begin to understand ourselves as part of a unified whole, we are also able to see that a power far greater than our individual selves is what we are at our most fundamental level—and that this is available to us at all times in the expression of our individual ‘self’. As extensions of creative/divine/source energy, we too are creator beings with unlimited potential.
~ ALOHA ~
*Living unconditional love with joy, ease and presence*
The word aloha is used nowadays in Hawaii to say ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’. Aloha can also be translated into English as ‘love’. Yet a literal translation of the elements in this word is more like ‘in the presence of the breath of life’. As with most Hawaiian words, aloha clearly has layers of meaning.
The complexity and depth of meaning encompassed by aloha helps us to understand that it is a state of being which is about sharing joyful life force energy in the present moment—and that this is your true self, your natural state of being, your birthright.
Being aloha requires loving without conditions, accepting and not judging. This applies to your relationship with yourself as much as it does to your relationship with others. Emotions like fear, hate, anger, shame, guilt and jealousy separate us from our own true nature, from each other, and from the extraordinary creative life force from which we came into being.
Choosing to live aloha is recognising your true nature, and consciously making choices that allow you to walk this path. Being aloha also recognises that others are walking their own paths, with their own belief systems and cultures, and respects these differences. Aloha is not about judging, criticising or attempting to convert, it is about understanding and accepting what is true and right (pono) for oneself.
Anything that is not pono is pilikia (trauma, drama). Things like trauma, drama and conflict hold you apart from love and presence, and prevent you from building pa’a (an unshakeable foundation). Part of the process of building pa’a is discerning what is, and what is not, appropriate for you in your life. Honouring your personal needs and boundaries means not only loving and respecting yourself, but also others you are in relationship with. Sometimes the most loving response in a given situation is to simply say “no”. Just remember it is always possible to do this with love, consideration and respect for everyone and everything involved.
One way to increase aloha in your life is to visualise your life as a bowl of light. As the Molokai teaching also tells us, anything in your life that is pilikia is a stone that has been placed in this bowl. As the stones increase over time, your bowl—your spirit or your life force energy—becomes heavier and its light is dimmed. If your bowl becomes so filled with stones that your light is extinguished, you become like a stone yourself. A simple way to let the stones go is to tip the bowl over and allow the stones to fall out. By becoming aware of your choices and how some weigh you down, and by recognising pilikia in your life, you can ensure your bowl doesn’t get filled with stones again.
The more we align ourselves with aloha, the easier it becomes to see things through a lens of love and to respond from that energy. This affects everything in and around us, creating a self-perpetuating ripple effect that can be witnessed in our own lives and the lives of others... and which ultimately impacts on, and changes, the entire universe.
When you choose to live in aloha you can see that the source which has created all things is, in essence, love itself. The more you choose to experience life in alignment with love and gratitude, the more connected you are to the flow of all creation. From this state of being it is easy to experience the connectedness of all things, and you will find that experiences, people and things of a similar energy find their way to you effortlessly.
~ E PILI MAI ~
*Be here, now*
E pili mai tells us that we need to be here in the present moment, because now is the only moment that exists.
This concept of being in the present moment is so strong that the ancient Hawaiian language does not contain any verbs (or ‘doing’ words) for the past or the future. Does this mean Hawaiians have no sense of days gone by or of what might come? Not at all. Rather, it emphasises that now is the only moment in which we can actually do something, that now is the only moment in which we have the power to act... that now is therefore the only moment which really exists.
This means that any memory from the past you are holding onto is exactly that: a memory. And any memory only has power in the present moment because you allow it to. We can all get stuck at times thinking or feeling like we might be able to do ‘this’ if only ‘that’ hadn’t happened, or if only ‘that person’ had acted differently, then we would be alright. But the bottom line is that it is our choice to cling to this memory. So give yourself permission to examine how holding this memory makes you feel or how it might be weighing you down: how it might be a stone in your bowl of light. And realise that you are free to let go of this memory in any moment you choose to, because your choice to hold onto it or let it go actually has nothing to do with another person or situation.
This also means you are free to shape any idea you may have of your own future by allowing yourself to be present in the moment and creating from there. But be aware that whatever you focus on you will create—pay attention to your thoughts, your words and your actions, and make sure they are all aligned with aloha in the direction you want your life to flow.
The more you choose to do whatever supports you in all areas of your life in this moment, the more you allow your bowl of light to shine and the more you energise your path of aloha.
~ KALA ~
*Live without limits and set yourself free*
A literal translation of kala is 'absolve, excuse, forgive, pardon, untie, or release'. Essentially kala speaks to the limits we may unknowingly have which prevent us from perceiving ourselves and the world through aloha. Kala also tells us the world is how we perceive it to be and we can, therefore, choose to perceive it however we like.
Perceiving ourselves and the world however we like might sound simple, but it requires exploring and examining what underpins and shapes our own patterns of thought and behaviour. And then choosing to change any that are not pono (right) for you in order to build pa’a (an unshakeable foundation).
Our perceptions of ourselves and the world tend to flow from the beliefs and habitual behaviours that we have learned from others—family, friends, relationships, experiences, school, society, culture, religion—starting from a very young age. Most of us don’t stop to think about where these beliefs and behaviours came from, yet they form the very foundation which influences how we see ourselves and how we interact with the world.
Kala tells us to take a good long look at what we are doing in our life... and why we are doing it. Take a look on a daily basis. Take whatever you see to its most basic root. Do you brush it off when people compliment you? The surface explanation might be that you had some help, this was an unusual set of circumstances, or the other person is just being generous. Dig a bit deeper and you might find you were never praised as a child for any actions or accomplishments. Dig deeper still and you might find an inherent belief that you are not praiseworthy. Now is the time to shed this limiting perception of your own nature by recognising and accepting the spiritual greatness you were born with and allowing your bowl of spirit light to shine brightly.
Once you start looking, you might discover some vital clues about how you perceive not only yourself, but also the universe. A classic example here is whether you see the cup as half full or half empty. Do you believe the universe is abundant and there is more than enough to go around for everyone? Or do you see the universe as limited and we are, therefore, only allowed small slices each? These very fundamental perceptions of the universe shape other beliefs, choices and behaviours. Do you truly believe you (and everyone and everything else in the universe) deserve more and behave this way by sharing with others? Or do you hoard your possessions and feelings, or accept having a boring job with low pay, problematic relationship or bad health, because you believe ‘this is as good as it gets’?
Part of this process thus involves exploring whether your beliefs, behaviours and choices are serving you well on your path of aloha, or whether they are interfering with you being your best possible self. Life isn’t always as clear cut as the examples given above, so one way to recognise the difference is to pay attention to whether a particular belief generates contraction (pilikia: trauma, drama) or expansion (aloha) in your being. Another way is to recognise that sometimes trauma can be so deep or complex that support is needed to help you find your way through it. There are a plethora of support models available, from counselling to ho’oponopono (a Hawaiian talk therapy method of supporting someone to better walk their path of aloha).
You might also find that this process of exploring your beliefs brings up feelings like fear, guilt, shame, anger, or resentment. Or doubts that you can do things differently. One key for releasing these is forgiveness. Sit down, breathe deeply into your belly, and ask yourself “What do I need to forgive myself for so that I can be free?” Self-forgiveness is a powerful tool for freedom. Use the same process to also ask who and what else you may need to forgive in your life. Forgiving others is also a powerful tool for freedom.
Although this draws on Western notions of forgiveness, the Hawaiian concept of kalana (which has its roots in kala) shows us that, on its own, saying ‘I’m sorry’ or ‘I forgive you’ is not enough to set us free completely. In fact, in some extreme circumstances it might feel impossible to forgive another person. Kalana explains what truly sets you free is recognising that your thoughts, feelings and behaviours are exactly that: your thoughts, feelings and behaviours. Just like memories, they might have accumulated over time through interactions with others, but in the present moment they are yours and nobody else’s.
It is only after accepting responsibility for your own thoughts, feelings and behaviours that it becomes possible to change the way the energy of what you are holding affects you. By releasing yourself and/or others through this broader idea of forgiveness, you are releasing the pilikia (trauma, drama) that binds you to that memory, thought, feeling or behaviour... and are dissolving the limitations they have established in your life.
When you recognise that restrictions exist only because we believe in them, you can begin to set yourself free by moving beyond these self-imposed limitations. There are boundless ways to choose how to relate and be in this world. One of the most exciting parts of the human journey is exploring your beliefs about yourself, your world and the universe—and realising the endlessly expansive states of being you can make possible in order to realise your truly unlimited potential.
~ NA'AU ~
*Your gut knowing centre*
Sometimes it can be challenging knowing what is truly best for us. And sometimes we might find ourselves wishing for reliable guidance from someone or something else. Establishing a close relationship with spirit means we constantly have access to the wisdom and counsel of na akua. The place where na akua speaks softly to our uhane (individual spirit) is our na’au, which Hawaiians call our ‘gut knowing centre’.
More precisely, this is your navel area. It should not be confused with the solar plexus chakra discussed in the Hindu Vedic tradition. Your na’au is your connection to the source of life, both as a baby to your birth parent and as spirit to akua. Our minds and emotions can confuse and mislead us at times, but our na’au never does.
Being still and focusing attention through prayer or meditation can help to create a connection with akua. Asking for assistance or posing a question whilst in that quiet space which follows can bring guidance through your na’au.
Your na’au can be experienced as a ‘knowing’ that seems to materialise out of thin air. It is a subtle form of intuition, especially when compared to the more familiar racket our minds can make when thinking. But the more you tune into your ‘gut knowing’, the more accustomed to it you will become.
To strengthen this knowing inside of you, you can simply follow through with whatever a particular knowing is. The more you do this, the more this uncanny intelligence will guide you towards greater outcomes in life; outcomes you may never have imagined or known how to navigate through thought alone.
Remember that this is the guidance of akua, and this process involves aligning with the will of the divine. Akua has an infinitely larger perspective on the life you are living than your own isolated, separated and ego-centric mind. If you want to live your life in more expanded ways, being open to the guidance provided through your na’au is essential.
~ KIAKAHI NOHO OLA ~
*Living your life purpose*
Kiakahi noho ola tells us that we are not just born from and with spirit, but also with our own individual manifestation of spirit (uhane). It also points us to a clearer understanding of how these play out together.
As humans we have one main purpose whilst on this planet, and that is to live our lives in aloha. We are what we are because akua made us this way. To ignore this is to shun our true nature and be much less than we were created for. Our attention and time therefore needs to be primarily on building pa’a (an unshakeable foundation) by choosing pono (right) and living aloha so our bowl of spirit light shines as brightly as possible.
This is not to say we are all the same, or should strive to be the same. While we all need to recognise the truth of who and what we are—aloha itself—we also should acknowledge that every person has their own uhane which is completely unique. This means there has only ever been and only ever will be one you. So your main ‘soul’ purpose in this lifetime is to be the best you possible!
How do we do that? Each person comes into this life equipped with specific gifts and talents. During our lifetime it is our responsibility to discover what these are, and explore how these can be utilised so that we might connect meaningfully with ourselves and the world. The best clue to discovering your purpose in this lifetime is to follow the path of your greatest joy!
This might require departing from the expectations and scripts created for us by our culture, our family, or our peers, and bravely stepping into our own personal truth. You are your own authority in your life. No one outside of you has power over you unless you give it to them. When you own this authority it becomes easier to ascertain what you are here to take care of and share, and to then tend to this.
Kiakahi noho ola reminds us to make sure the pathway/s we follow are pono (right) and aloha, and that they enable us to maintain healthy relationships with ourselves and others whilst pursuing them.
~ MANA ~
*Your innate spiritual power*
Mana is the spiritual power everyone and everything possesses—it is the strength that comes from our bowl of light. Everyone and everything has this spiritual strength and life force energy. You have mana, birds have mana, trees have mana, oceans have mana... even words have mana.
Your own mana will remain hidden and untapped though if your bowl of light is full of stones. But it can be ‘increased’ through everyday actions. This includes the strength and power that flows from building pa’a (an unshakeable foundation), choosing pono (right), living aloha and connecting with na akua. It includes recognising our fundamental connection to one another by being of service and sharing our abundance with others. It includes taking full responsibility for every thought, word, feeling and action we engage in. It includes managing our own energy and vibrational frequency further by caring for our bodies through eating well, exercising, and breathing all the way into our belly. Every pono action we choose helps to remove stones from our bowl of light and thus provides us with greater access to our mana.
This is especially the case for any actions we choose which recognise and honour na akua. For example, as humans we do not simply spring into existence from akua and our biological parents. We also come from a line of ancestors. Do you know who your ancestors are? Do you know how and where they lived, worked and played? To connect with your ancestors you could begin by recognising that without them you would not exist today. Or you could appreciate that it is through their ingenuity, sacrifices, hard work or bravery that you are who, when and where you are today. Even any wrongs they did might be instructive in how to choose pono instead of pilikia (trauma, drama) in your own life.
Since all beings come from spirit and return to spirit after shedding their physical body, our ancestors are not just memories relegated to the past, for they continue to exist. Some might choose to offer you—and your family—protection and guidance, or to ensure balance is maintained in your life. They can appear through direct communication, in dreams, or by signs in the natural world. Stay alert for any indication that an ancestor is present, and listen through your na’au for any messages those with great mana bring.
Just as we could not exist without our ancestors, we could not exist without land. The Hawaiian word for land—ʻāina—extends beyond the ground we walk on to include everything in the natural world and the very air we breathe. Indeed, the formal motto of the state of Hawai’i isʻāina i ka pono, which translates as ‘the life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness’. This speaks to our responsibility as humans to care for and tend the natural world. It also points us to the reciprocal relationship between people and the entire natural world, where what we choose to do should keep the land healthy and in return the land will keep us healthy.
An important aspect of our relationships with ʻāina and ancestors is to recognise that mana flows between ‘them’ and ‘us’, and that we can acknowledge this through ritual and ceremony.
All indigenous cultures know about significant and sacred places on their own lands, so you could find out about these if you don’t already know, and abide by whatever protocols are in place for respecting them. Perhaps, if it is deemed appropriate, you could take part in some of the local indigenous ceremonies. Or, you can always create your own rituals of respect for particular places and/or ancestors. This might be something as simple as regularly placing a flower with words of appreciation on an ancestor’s grave or a select place at home, or a place in nature that is special to you. Or it could be something more elaborate—involving prayer, poetry, dance, song, or items specially crafted with care, affection and gratitude—that evolves over time.
The key thing to remember here is that your every emotion, thought, word and action can help to reveal more of your bowl of light and thus strengthen your own mana. And that the ritualised recognition of your spiritual relationship with others honours both the giver and receiver.
Essentially the concept of mana brings us back to the importance of knowing where we come from, who we are, and what we are here for. It asks us to recognise and accept our own innate spiritual greatness as well as the innate spiritual greatness of all that is. And it emphasises the importance of our connections to all of creation and our responsibility to honour these connections through our every thought, feeling, word and deed.
~ KANAWAI MOAKA'AKA ~
*The law of attraction*
The ideas within kanawai moaka‘aka permeate Hawaiian wisdom and language, and point us to an important understanding about how the universe works. Basically they explain how everything in the universe is energetic and vibrational in nature, and how these laws operate according to what is known nowadays in the Western world as the law of attraction.
Kanawai moaka‘aka tells us we are more than spiritual beings with a physical body—we are also energy, and this energy vibrates as it moves through space. So too does everything else in existence. And everything in existence vibrates at different frequencies. Even different aspects of what makes us human vibrate at different levels—our thoughts, our feelings, our spirit and our bodies each have their own frequencies, which combine to give us an overall vibrational energy field. And this vibrational energy field is in a constant state of movement.
If your vibrational field is low it will be evident. Perhaps your health is poor, you constantly face challenging experiences, money no longer flows, or you are surrounded by people who you feel are annoying and/or not supporting you. When your vibration is high there is a beautiful sense of living in the flow. You might jump out of bed each day full of optimism, your bank balance looks good, opportunities present themselves at every turn, or you find inspiring people entering your life. Some might say this is simply the luck of the draw, but kanawai moaka‘aka tells us your vibrational field is attracting similar energy to you.
This basic law of attraction—that like attracts like—can be understood as ‘the universe’ responding to the vibrational messages you send out. Fortunately it is possible to change those messages by doing simple things like: moving instead of sitting, so your energy doesn’t stagnate; eating well and drinking water, to increase your physical energy and detox your body; practise being in the moment, instead of dwelling on the past or future; meditating, to calm your mind and connect with spirit; and being in nature, to ground your energy and connect with other life. And you can open your heart and keep returning to love, since love in the present moment always raises your vibrational frequency.
You can also change your vibrational state by monitoring your internal dialogue in order to become aware of what you are creating for yourself. This is because your thoughts, words, feelings and even attention are also energy, and ‘the universe’ responds to these as well. If, for example, you want financial abundance in your life, you can create an intention by thinking, or stating, that you have more than enough money. Then you need to place your attention on the desired outcome, in as much detail as possible. Envisage yourself in as many situations as possible where money is readily available. If you simply wish for abundance but then focus on not having enough, you will attract ‘not having enough’. Similarly, wishing for abundance while believing the universe is limited will also lead to you only ever having a limited amount/‘not enough’.
Emotion also plays a crucial role in manifesting change. In addition to setting an intention and envisaging this in great detail, you also need to create how it feels if this was reality. Luxuriate in the joy/peace/excitement your desired outcome generates—luxuriate so much that your whole body and mind believes it is actually happening now. The more you hold onto these feelings, the more you will become a magnet for attracting what you intend to manifest.
Don’t be concerned about the occasional negative thought or emotion, just gently choose a better one. Be grateful for any signs that come, because signs show you the universe is starting to create what you want.
Kanawai moaka‘aka also speaks directly to the importance of kala, of understanding how our perceptions shape our world. Kala invites us to examine both the personal and the broader worlds we create through and around ourselves... and invites us to recognise that we are co-creators of both. Do you expect to wake up every day to a broader world in which there is war, because war has existed somewhere on this planet during your entire lifetime? What would happen if you no longer held onto this belief? And what would happen if you and everybody else no longer participated in this collective agreement? If all of creation stems from what we believe, it is worth carefully considering what might be possible if we commit fully to living aloha and manifesting aloha throughout the universe.
Choice in the present moment is the key. If you choose pono (right) and aloha then that is what you attract. If you choose pilikia (trauma, drama) then that is what you create in your life. Just remember, life doesn’t have to be hard or a struggle. If we allow ourselves to drop this belief, life can become an extraordinary adventure. We are vibrational beings living in a vibrational universe, and our every wish is the universe’s command!
~ MAHALO ~
*Gratitude... for all that I am and all that is*
Mahalo is a more modern Hawaiian word which means ‘thank you’. A breakdown of the components of this word gives us the richer translation of ‘thankful to be in the presence of the divine breath of life’. This recognises both the divine breath in one’s self and the individual or situation one is thankful for.
At a deeper level then, mahalo tells us that all of life is a miracle in motion. From the extraordinary intelligence of our bodies to the interconnectedness of all things in the universe, there are endless potential focus points for expressing gratitude. Mahalo also tells us that irrespective of what is being experienced, we can always choose to be grateful for the experience itself... since every experience is an opportunity to learn something.
Do you wake up in the morning worried, in pain, or in a bad mood? Stop for a moment and shift your attention to something—anything, however small—you can be grateful for. Then find another something to be grateful for... and notice how this makes you feel. Do this as often as possible and see what a difference it makes to your day!
Slowing down and observing all that is, therefore has the potential to turn every moment into a gratitude practice. Take a moment now and breathe into your heart, thinking about all the things that you are grateful for in your life. As you breathe out, breathe mahalo back out into the world with the wish that it be experienced by all beings.
Living life in mahalo sends aloha flowing continuously from and to you, and is the key to a truly blessed existence.