Once I vacationed at the educational village Kalani Honua, a non-profit spiritual center on the Big Island of Hawaii.
I ran into Kathy Elder, senior yoga faculty member, who decided to teach a little chakra class in the oceanfront building called the EMAX. You could hear coqui frogs chirping and the ocean roiling in the background as she talked about the meaning of yoga. I felt honored to be in her class, as she oversaw all the yoga training at Kalani at the time. Kalani is a yoga retreat center with many world famous trainers like Baron Baptiste teaching here. Plus, I thought she was cool because she had been to India six times.
Teachers in Hawaii know how to make things simple for all the traveler’s with short term stays–Kathy said to us, “what yoga says basically is to be kind and to be present.”
“How fun!” I thought. “She just reduced a huge spiritual teaching like yoga into just one sentence.” It seemed to work. I thought about it some. “Be kind…” certainly a spiritual master was kind, and for a spiritual seeker being kind is hard work. It felt like there was some homework on that one.
But be present? I understood being present was important to some people. After all the Yoga Sutras talk about how it can take decades to achieve an advanced level of meditation. I worried that all that devotion to sitting still and meditating was unattainable.
I put this little bit of wisdom into my file of things to reconsider over time, and learn about.
As it turns out, Hawaiian culture and wisdom has a lot to say about how to be present. Being back in Hawaii over the years has helped me to understand more of the Hawaiian teachings.
Like another Eastern teaching, Vedanta, Hawaiians have always thought that connecting to God energy is connecting to bliss, perfection and literally “thundering grace.” There is a cross current of grace and gratitude, grace coming from above, gratitude coming from below.
Kahunas, sacred wisdom-keepers and healers, believed that a healer could open up to be witness of grace to their healing clients, holding onto gratitude, and knowing perfection. Hawaiians think of the God-state, knowing that everything is perfection, working backwards from the causal plane where perfection is, to the material world.
Moreover, Hawaiians invest their emotional energy into the God-realm. They “feel” their way to enlightenment. When tourists get Hawaiians putting a flower lei around their neck, it is not just to say hello, but to honor the vibratory frequency of the Divine. Aloha, the term of welcoming, is actually a gateway to the luminous Divine state.
So, in actuality, the present moment feels really good! Invest your feeling by just taking a moment to feel what “Thundering Grace” is there, and the gratitude that is the natural outcome of that grace.
While Aloha is thought to be a “hello” by most Westerners, they suspect there is more, and there is more. Alo is the presence of God, and Ha is breath. Aloha is like saying, “the breath of God is in our presence.” It also feels reaaly good, to be in connection–to be in touch with grace.
While Aloha is a term used in many contexts, it is used more sparingly by Hawaiians, it is more meaningful for them. Also, a lot of times they don’t have to use it at all. Aloha is in their ways. Hawaiian customs like accepting any stranger to the dinner table, or adopting one another’s children if another family is in need, calling other villagers “uncle” or “auntie,” this is Aloha. It is the “unity” that connotes mastery of the spiritual realm, living in unity and grace.
Of course we have connection to the material realm as well, and to linear time. But Hawaiians believe in linear and vertical time. They believe in knowing that things are perfect, that healing is possible, that noone is to blame. They don’t believe in blaming parents or anyone, just seeing causes of things without seeing them as mistakes, which requires judging. Without our belief systems, people would be pure light. In Hawaiian spirituality, Hawaiians see this light only, and the seeds of potential that the Higher Self brings forth.
If this is the present moment, what’s not the present moment? The answer is in your feelings and thoughts. Not feeling well? Thoughts racing about an upset? The faster your thoughts are going, the farther into the past or future you are. The feeling of the God-state is very still, blissful and perfect. The present moment is an invitation to shower yourself in gratitude and feel the bliss of knowing Divine Grace. Willing your will to compassionate detachment, you love and serve with the presence of Aloha, the breath of God in your presence.
Traveling to Hawaii means living lessons and coming back to Paradise, a place that the advanced spiritual teachers of Hawaii, the Kahuna, never leave.