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Be Yourself. Everyone else is taken!" ~Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Defining Aloha



Aloha - a·lo·ha  ∂'lõhä
Expression and greeting
[alo=presence, front, face] + [ha = breath]
‘The presence of divine breath’
1.           Hello, greetings
2.           Farewell
3.           (adjective) friendly, hospitable, welcoming: The aloha spirit prevails throughout the islands

“Aloha” has numerous meanings. The most common uses are as a greeting, farewell, or salutation.  Aloha is also commonly used to mean love. It can also be used to express compassion, regret, or sympathy. People who have made a study of the Hawaiian language will say that words like “Aloha” and “Mahalo” (farewell) are ineffable, indescribable. One cannot define these terms with words alone. They are sacred invocations of the divine, and must be experienced to be truly understood.
Divine breath.
As you breathe today, know that you are breathing in life, love, vitality. That breath will flow in to your lungs, to your heart, and out to all of you through your arteries and capillaries.  It’s really quite miraculous!
Add love to the mixture.
Here is some of what the Reverend Abraham Akaka had to say about aloha:

Aloha consists of this attitude of heart; the unconditional desire to promote the true good of other people in a friendly spirit, out of a sense of kinship. Aloha seeks to do good, with no conditions attached. We do not do good only to those who do good to us. One of the sweetest things about the love of God (the Great Spirit), about Aloha, is that it welcomes the stranger and seeks his and her good. A person, who has the spirit of Aloha loves even when the love is not returned. And such is the love of God (the Great Spirit).

The spirit of aloha conveys the notion that we are all connected.

What happens when we come under attack, or feel stressed?  Usually, without thinking about it, our breathing becomes shallow. Sometimes we hold our breath.  

With this reduced supply of the divine, we can lose our compassion. We can disconnect ourselves from those around us. We can become so caught up in our own discomfort that we can lose all sense of how we affect those in our presence.

During my last trip home, I discussed this notion with a friend of mine who noted that the word “haole” (foreigner) is made up of two words: “Ha” (breath)” and “ole,” meaning without.

Sometimes when people are not familiar to us, we might not see the divinity in them.  Like that person who cut you off in traffic, or cut in front of you as you patiently stood in line.

These are the times when we need to stop for a moment to breathe. To reconnect with the divine presence within ourselves. 

As the flight attendants tell us on every flight, we have to get our breathing apparatus in place before we can help others. 

As we breathe, we will be better able to connect with our compassion. Perhaps we might better remember that we are all connected, and this can bring compassion and understanding.

And less finger-slinging.

Even and perhaps especially when it’s not returned.

It’s like the story of the two monks travelling on a dusty road. They heard a noise that sounded like thunder. A cloud of dust rose up from behind them as a cart with four horses went crashing by. The two monks jumped out of the way just in time. 

As the man with the horses shot out ahead of them, the elder monk dusted himself off and waved, saying, “May God bless you, and may you feel that blessing!”

The younger monk was puzzled. “How can you say such a thing?  That man nearly killed us!”

The older monk smiled and said, “That man is in need of our best wishes. If he had felt God’s blessing already, he would have been unable to treat us in such a manner.

It also reminds me of that poem by Mary Oliver, and the wonderful line:

May you breathe deeply today. Feel your divinity. Be loving, and enjoy a deep sense of connection with all beings.

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