Today’s world offers us many stories of conflict—of misunderstanding and opposition. As this New Year unfolds, let us bring forward the stories of resolution—of peace and commonality. Let us share our experiences of coming together.
When have you experienced opposition that turned out to be an opportunity for positive change?
Recently, I hosted a Hawaiian cleanse for some of my family members visiting from the mainland. Over four days’ time, we cleansed internally with seawater, received lomi lomi massage for physical realignment, cleared mentally and emotionally through Ho’oponopono, and visited a few of Maui’s sacred sites for ritual cleansing. Our final destination on our Sacred Sites Excursion was Kukuipuka Heiau, a magnificent Hawaiian temple overlooking the ocean. The sea breeze alone carries a great sense of rejuvenation, only amplified by the felt presence of our ancestors and the grounded feeling that such connection brings.
Upon arrival, we performed a ceremony called Pi Kai. Before entering the Heaiu, I chanted us into this sacred space as my ancestors have done for generations. While inside, we talked story about some of the benefits we were experiencing from the Hawaiian cleanse: a deeper connection to our sacred ‘aina, to our community and ancestral rituals were just a few. Everyone in my family expressed that they felt a new sense of balance—even my Uncle Terry, who had not participated in the cleansing, as he had flown in the day before, but was able to join us at Kukuipuka. There he expressed his appreciation for the cultural education and the ritual—not present in the same way in his community on the mainland. As an administrator at a Seventh Day Adventist Hospital in California, his community has its own particular trials and tribulations, as most communities do.
A few months later, I received a call from Uncle Terry. He shared with me about a previous upset between the hospital and the Pomo Indian tribe who make up a great percentage of the hospital’s patient population. One of the tribal elders had passed away in the hospital, and during his passing, the family were exercising their cultural rights of passage as they assisted their loved one into the spirit world. Many of the other patients however, as well as the hospital staff, were uncomfortable with these practices and, so, created a policy against them. This policy of course had been a source of unrest and anger between the Pomo community and the hospital, my uncle explained, and the upset grew, as an elderly matriarch of the tribe was passing that same week.
With growing tension, the matriarch’s granddaughter decided that she was going to meet with hospital officials and unleash her anger and outrage about what had been going on. Before the meeting, she visited her grandmother and shared her plan: “Today I’m unleashing my anger,” she told her. Her grandmother shook her head and replied, “No! Today is the day that you will be an instrument of healing between our nation and theirs.” So, deciding to go with her grandmother’s instruction, she went to the hospital’s administrator—my Uncle Terry—and said, “I think we have a misunderstanding. Let me share with you why we do our ritual when a person is passing.”
She explained that they must sing, in their native tongue, their ancestors into the next place. When she then sang for my Uncle, he expressed that it sounded just like the Hawaiian oli (chant) that he heard me doing before we entered the Kukuipuka Heiau. When she performed a clearing ceremony using a feather, he thought of the ritual I had shared with him, swiping with a Ti leaf. Suddenly, he was able to connect with what she was sharing on a new level, with understanding and acceptance. Uncle Terry then set out to help the granddaughter make things right: Each day the following week, this tribal daughter shared with a different department of the hospital the ways of the Pomo. Each day she opened these teachings to people who once resisted her practices out of discomfort and unknowing. Rooted in her own lineage, these practices greatly shaped her own identity.
Together, the granddaughter and the hospital staff created a space for healing—for communication and sharing—and since that time, the healing continues to unfold.
‘Imua—to go forward. Pali Jae Lee articulated in her book Ho’opono, “Life is a tapestry; threads of many kinds and colors are interwoven back and forth in wonderful designs. We weave as we live, and what comes out is what we are…. If we are going to move forward, we must give up this ‘us’ and ‘them’ attitude…. Each hour, each minute is precious. When all things are in balance in our lives, we find happiness in just being alive. We are far more willing to reach out to our friends and family, to aid and assist where it is needed, to enjoy one another and ourselves, to listen when another speaks, and to share our joys and sorrows with those who care. When we do this, we become intertwined with others. We are again a part of the whole beautiful tapestry—part of the human family.”
I believe that great healing has taken place in Uncle Terry’s community, just like the matriarch said would happen. It only takes one person to plant a seed of balance, of aloha, and that seed can spread and feed communities for generations to come. When we focus on our similarities and not our differences, we can weave a tapestry of great power—of understanding and openness. When we find commonality amongst one other, we can move forward with the mana of our ancestors and the strength of our community—as one people of the earth with more than one way to weave our threads.