We could say that the word Aloha can paint a thousand pictures. Let’s look at a few of those images by grasping its general meaning, its deeper significance and its use as a heart-based moral compass for life.
Aloha is found in all Polynesian languages and its general meaning is similar: love, sympathy, kindness and compassion. It’s a word and expression that begins with a newborn child, enhancing family and community. Sadly through its use in English vocabulary, the nature of Aloha has often been clumsily appropriated as just a simple salutation, without a heart-felt sincerity for its true meaning.
The Aloha Spirit is really the very best of our human spirit. Most of you probably know Aloha as a general greeting of Hello and Goodbye, but it can have a multitude of meanings, depending upon the context and nuances of a situation. In a simplified way, the literal meaning of Aloha is the Presence of Breath or Breath of Life. It comes from Alo, meaning Presence, and Ha, meaning Breath.
When you ask a local Hawaiian ‘What does Aloha mean to you?’, you could be given an array of answers: Aloha is an essence of being: love, peace, compassion, and a mutual understanding of respect. Aloha means living in harmony with the people and land around you, with mercy sympathy, kindness and compassion. When we greet someone with Aloha, there’s a shared regard and affection. In turn, this extends a warmth and caring for one another, with no obligation for anything in return.
Although not practiced often, the traditional Hawaiian greeting starts by sharing their Breath or Ha, with one another. Two people place their forehead and nose together, putting their left hand on the heart of the other and the right hand, embracing the shoulder of the other. They then share three full breaths. There’s a natural sense of loving respect and acknowledgement of each individual. This Aloha breath can support your connection to all things, to something unspeakable that you cant touch or see but can feel. Why not share an Aloha breath with family and friends, noticing its innate quality of presence, compared to a simple hello, how are you?
Aloha pervades all parts of Hawaiian life from its ancient culture through to modern day legislation, business and as a way of life. That’s not to say everyone in Hawaii is living Aloha all the time, but just like each of us, Hawaiian souls are evolving.
For many generations, Hawaiian children have been encouraged to consciously live by a pledge devoted to the Spirit of Aloha: “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 wilfully 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!” (general translation)
The pledge evolved into a Code of Ethics, formed from various acronyms of Aloha. Here’s a few of them being used to this day. We can ponder upon them as a part of our own self awareness.
A - Akahai means Kindness, to be expressed with Tenderness.
A - Ala - means watchful Alertness and Awareness.
A - Aloha - means Love; near or far, you are always in our heart.
A - Aloha - means Welcome; what I have you may have, share with me.
L - Loko maika’i - means what I say comes from my Heart; I have good intentions.
L - Lokahi - means Unity, to be expressed with Harmony.
O - Oluolu, means agreeable, to be expressed with pleasantness;
O - Olu’olu - means happy; happy doing for others.
O - Oia’i’o - means Truthful and Honest.
H - Ha’aha’a - means Humility, to be expressed with Modesty; and Happy to Serve.
A - Ahonui - means Patience, to be expressed with Perseverance.
The Hawaiian Kahuna (elder/teacher) David Bray, interprets this code as "Come forward, be in unity and harmony with your real self, God, and mankind. Be honest, truthful, patient, kind to all life forms, and humble." He also stated that to the Hawaiian of old, Aloha meant "God in us.”
For 1500 years Hawaiians lived by their own traditions and were independent until Captain Cook arrived in 1778. From then on, foreign colonial influence began to denigrate the simple and profound traditions of these islands. In 1898 Hawaiian royalty were deceptively overthrown and the islands were annexed by the US. The islands of Hawaii officially became a a state in 1959, including the formal nickname of the Aloha State. That they have managed to keep Aloha deeply ingrained in their culture and way of life is a testament to these heart-centered islanders. Aloha is so much a part of Hawaii, that in 1986 the Spirit of Aloha Law was passed as a part of the State Constitution. A small section of the law states:
"Aloha Spirit is the coordination of mind and heart within each person. It brings each person to the self. Each person must think and emote good feelings to others.
These are traits of character that express the charm, warmth and sincerity of Hawaii’s people. It was the working philosophy of native Hawaiians and was presented as a gift to the people of Hawaii. Aloha is more than a word of greeting or farewell or a salutation. Aloha means mutual regard and affection and extends warmth in caring with no obligation in return. Aloha is the essence of relationships in which each person is important to every other person for collective existence. Aloha means to hear what is not said, to see what cannot be seen and to know the unknowable."
Hawaii sets an example of how we could share this loving law and moral code, in every household, school, community and country. Imagine Departments or Ministries of Aloha and World Peace, rather than focusing vast resources upon Defence, Security and War.
Aloha is less about a word spoken and more about something that must be personally experienced. We don’t need to be in Hawaii to bring Aloha into our lives. You can live the Spirit of Aloha wherever you are, from the inside out. The next time you say Aloha, speak it from a sincere heart and imagine all the potential pictures you could be painting.
If you’re anything like me, you don’t always feel the Spirit of Aloha. Naturally, on our individual journeys, we’re also learning to undo and release aspects of ourselves that are contrary to the essence of Aloha. We’re works in progress, always with the potential to become happier, healthier, more honest, patient, loving, compassionate….. it’s an ever expansive adventure and Journey to Inspire.
While focused on becoming and living the Aloha Spirit we can observe aspects of self where we lack Love, Truth, Compassion and Mercy, for ourselves and for all life. It’s only in feeling these personal errors inside of ourselves, that we’ll release them and therefore create more space for the Spirit of Aloha to exist within and emanate out, through our feelings, thoughts and actions.
Will you choose to live this Spirit of Aloha and Practice Random Acts of Aloha?