beneath the surface of some key Hawaiian terms
 used by lomilomi practioners

Lomilomi taps into unlimited healing potential. Intentionally holistic and spiritual in its approach to healing, lomilomi can bring wholeness and alignment back to the individual in body, mind and spirit. This article explores some special Hawaiian terms and concepts that are frequently used by lomilomi practitioners and other Hawaiian cultural practitioners. I love these words! They feed my spirit.

AKUA: God, deity, divine elements, Universal Source, Divine Creator, spirit, spirit consciousness
a– of
kua – back, rear
akua – literally: everything which came before us

With the passing of time and the intermingling of cultures, Hawaiian use and interpretation of the term ke Akua has evolved. Pre-contact Hawaiians did not have the concept of a single “supreme being” or “divine creator”. Ke akua referred generally to “spirit consciousness” and specifically to beings in the spirit world with extraordinary mana (spiritual power) who assisted people. These beings manifested in various elements of nature, in the souls of people, or in ancestral spirits. Since the arrival of Christianity in Hawaii, the term ke Akua has been used for the Biblical God. Today universal thinkers may translate ke Akua as Higher Power, Great Spirit, Divine Creator, Spirit of Peace, Harmony & Love, or other titles.
Application to lomilomi: In sharing lomilomi we treat ourselves and each person who comes to us as mirrors of ke Akua, in whatever form we personally experience spirit consciousness.

ALOHA: love
alo – honoring the Divine Presence – the presence of, the face of;
ha – the breath of life

When we express aloha, we identify with our common divine foundation. We recognize and treat all creation as ‘ohana (family), as an extension ourselves.

Application to lomilomi: Lomilomi restores health and well being as we relate to people who come to us, and also to ourselves, with aloha.

HA: Breath of Life, specifically the exhale
Greetings shared between people in traditional Hawaiian manner include an exchange of ha which connects the greeting parties in shared presence and shared aloha. Breathing with awareness of our connection, we nurture our mana (life force). When we breathe easily we engage our truest selves; when our breath is restricted the fullness of our being is limited.

Application to lomilomi: We use breath in lomilomi as the medium of our spirit and attitude. Our breath unites our body, mind and heart. Our intentions on our inhale determine the outcome or attitude of our words or actions on our exhale. Lomilomi can free both the giver and receiver’s breath.

HA’AHA’A: humility
ha'a - low

Strength is implicit with the Hawaiian understanding of humility; ha’aha’a is never subservient. We are each but a single aspect of divine creation; we are as a single drop of water in an immense ocean, a single twinkling star in the expansive heavens. As a single aspect of Oneness, we each carry kuleana (responsibility) to malama (care for) ourselves and also to contribute to the Whole. The blueprint for all of creation is contained within each of us, so that although we are each infinitesimally small, we reflect the entire universe.

Application to lomilomi: The lomilomi practitioner knows that the receiver is ultimately responsible for receiving the benefits of the lomi session and for their own unique healing journey. Our job as lomilomi practitioners is simply to be a vehicle of the healing process, to be a conduit for mana and for ke Akua, and to do our best.

HO’OPONOPONO: Make right within ourselves, our families, our ancestors, and our communities
When we are not pono (in balance) ma’i (illness) can appear in an individual, a family, a community, a nation. This illness may be physical, emotional, mental or spiritual. Ho’oponopono, the process of setting things right, can include acknowledging and releasing our harmful thoughts and actions and making amends. Ho’oponopono involves releasing guilt and blame and granting and accepting forgiveness. Ho’oponopono restores our connection with ke Akua (Source) and opens channels for our mana to flow freely.

Application to lomilomi: Lomilomi restores and replenishes health by facilitating a return to pono (balance) and connection with Ke Akua. As lomilomi therapists, we practice ho’oponopono ourselves to nurture our own well being and our capacity to guide the healing process. Sometimes we simply model this process. Other times we may specifically encourage our clients to identify disruptions in their lives, rectify them, and thus release blocked energy, not only during the massage, but in all parts of their lives.

KUPUNA, AUMAKUA: these words refer to ancestors (note: ‘ancestors’ is only one translation of the words “kupuna” and “aumakua”. Both of these words are also commonly used with other meanings.)

Ancient Hawaiians nurtured their connection to Oneness spanning time and space. This Oneness includes connection to those dearly departed - those who have “changed address” from the human to spiritual realm. In the spiritual realm our ancestors can continue to guide those of us still living in human form.

Application to lomilomi: In sharing lomilomi we can be aware of the influence of our ancestors on our bodies, minds and spirits. We can give and receive both gratitude and forgiveness for our ancestors’ contributions and wrongdoings in a way that can lead to healing, including physical healing, in the present.

MALAMA; to genuinely care for something, someone, as if it were our own
From the concept of aloha, we are all connected to the Divine and to all aspects of manifestation. We all share the ha of life, and this understanding guides malama.

Application to lomilomi: As lomilomi practitioners we malama both ourselves and our clients. We protect and care for our client’s well being. A simple reminder from Aunty Margaret is to “love the body as if it were your own.”

MANA: life force, like chi or Ki, inner Light

Mana is the Polynesian power source for healing. We are each born with a measure of mana. When we tend our inner Light, it grows in strength. We cultivate our mana with focused practices of meditation, thought and action, and with malama (caring for) both our selves and our connection to all creation. We can direct our mana to affect changes around us - a substantial responsibility.

Application to lomilomi: Using mana, a lomilomi practitioner can use breath, prayer, intention and fluid lomilomi motions to gain healing access to inner links connecting each of us, the environment and Universal Spirit, and thereby influence healing on multiple levels.

NA’AU: The lower abdomen, the intestines, the “gut”

Hawaiians traditionally identify the na'au  as the center of wisdom, emotion, mana, and physical strength. The expression “gut feeling” reflects this understanding of our bellies being the core of our being, the seat of emotion.

Application to lomilomi: In lomilomi our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual mana flow from our na’au.   I find that this applies even on the simple physical level; when I massage someone's belly, their shoulders and hips move more smoothly.  Massaging the belly helps the recipient connect with their core or multiple levels.

‘OHANA: Family
‘oha – taro corm
na – a common suffix
‘ohana – literally: a taro corm with offspring

Hawaiians traditionally have a heightened awareness of the Self being connected to every part of everything. A defining traditional Hawaiian story describes the kalo (taro) plant as the first born child of Father Sky and Mother Earth, and mankind as the second child. Thus, nature and people are siblings born to the same parents at the start of time and all of nature - including mankind - shares a common genealogy as part of Divine Creation. Mana (divine life force) exists within ka moana (the ocean), ka ‘aina (the land), and within every plant, animal and person. As the elder sibling kalo, representing nature – feeds mankind; as the younger sibling mankind has the kuleana (responsibility) to tend and care for nature.

Application to lomilomi: As lomilomi practitioners we malama (care for) our clients as members of our divine family. We aloha and malama our earth. We malama our kupuna (elders), na kumu (teachers) and our fellow lomi practitioners.

PIKO: navel, chakra

Hawaiians envision a triple piko.  Our po’o (head) is our piko where our aumakua (ancestor gods) hover.  This piko connects us with Spirit and with our ancestors.  Our navel is our piko connecting us with our current generation of blood-kin.  “Pehea kou piko?” translates literally as, “how is your navel?” and means, “How are you and your whole family?”  Our third piko, our genitals, is our visible bond with our decedents.  Our spine can be experienced as a structural time line within our bodies connecting us with our ancestors and descendants.  Restrictions in our consciousness can create restriction in the movement of our spines.

Application to lomilomi: In giving lomilomi sessions we can approach the bodies we tend with awareness of their connections with many generations of people.  The unlimited healing potential of lomilomi crosses generational lines.  We can be aware of the three piko as special energy centers.  We can connect with our clients by focusing our inhale on our own piko, and our exhale on their piko.

Balance, rightness, correctness

When our lives align for the highest for all of creation, and we treat all with aloha, with justice and fairness, we are ponoPono creates well being at physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual levels. 

Application to lomilomi: As lomilomi practitioners when we align with the highest good, we open the path for unlimited healing potential to manifest in both our own lives and those of people who come to us.

to bless, to pray, to cast a spell

Just as the term ke Akua has evolved with the passing of time and the intermingling of cultures, the term pule has also evolved.  It is currently most commonly translated as “prayer”.   Pule can be used to call on ke Akau in whatever form a person experiences ke Akua.  (See the discussion on ke Akua above.)  Traditionally, pule described calling on Spirit(s) to ask permission for what one was about to do, to request help, or to express gratitude.  Pule has also sometimes been used as a means of ‘casting a spell’ intended to harm others. 

Application to lomilomi: For many people, when we pule, we affirm our relationship with our Divine Source. We honor, respect, and give thanks to Source and also humbly ask for guidance and protection.  Pule can generate deep trust.  

As lomilomi practitioners we “center” ourselves before, during and after each lomilomi session in order to be fully present and focused on the session at hand and connected with our own highest good as well as that of the person we are working with.  Many of us use prayer to do so, and thereby open in the depth of our beings to Spirit’s flow and guidance, and to connect ourselves and our client with the Source of all Life.

As lomilomi practitioners we are mindful that while many people thrive on prayer, other people have experienced pain and even harm from their experiences with religion, including prayer.  We seek ways which best serve our clients to center and to connect with their true and best selves.  Some other ways to center include using conscious breath, or simply focusing on the highest healing potential for ourselves and our client. 

This information was compiled by Barbara Helynn Heard drawing on these published books and articles:

  • “The Sacred Tradition of Hawaiian Lomilomi” by Marcel Hernandez, N.D. in Feb, 2001 Hawaii Island Journal
  • Change We Must by Nana Veary
  • Hawaiian Dictionary by Pukui and Elbert Hawaiian Lomilomi,
  • Big Island Massage by Nancy Kahalewai
  • Man, Gods, and Nature by Michael Kioni Dudley
  • Nana I ke Kumu by Mary Kawena Pukui, E. W. Haertig, M.D., Catherine A. Lee
  • Tales of the Night Rainbow by Pali Jae Lee

and also from conversation, handouts, my notes and websites of/with these people and organizations:

  • Mahealani Henry
  • Aupuni Iwi’ula of the Kalama Foundation
  • Lucia Tarallo Jensen 
  • Shawn Lasalla Kimmel
  • Serge Kahili King
  • David Lewis (Sheila O’Malley’s text on David's website was my original inspiration for this article)
  • Aunty Margaret Machado 
  • Dane Silva of Hale Ola
  • Maka’ala Yates, D. C. 
  • Foundation of I

Copyrighted 2010 Barbara Helynn Heard

For more information visit www.lomilomi-massage
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