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Hula, Huna and Healing
by Susan Pa'iniu Floyd

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Hawaiian Shamanism follows the Way of the Adventurer. It is a healing path that emphasizes harmony and cooperation so healing can happen, differing from a Warrior Path that emphasizes building strengths to overcome illnesses. I have studied, used and taught Hawaiian Shamanism for the past 20 years. I teach classes in Hawaiian bodywork that also serve as an opportunity to teach the philosophy behind Hawaiian Shamanism, a set of ideas we call Huna. I also teach dances of Hawaii, Hula, as a way of sharing healing energy with others. Our Halau (school of Hula) is called Halau Hula O Na Lei Kupua O Kauai - the Hula School of the many Shaman Circles Emanating from Kauai. We dance because we love to dance. We dance because it heals, we dance because it takes us to greater aspects of who we are, we dance to share those feelings with the world. Before, during and after each class we think of others in need from our families, friends, associates, as well as people, places, animals near and far, known and unknown and we send out to them the best of how we feel.

The kind of Hula that we have been blessed to learn fits these intentions of helping others because of its source. Almost all of the dances we learn are composed and choreographed by Kumu Kawaikapuokalani (Frank) Hewett. Kumu shares with his students the meaning of each chant or dance. Then he tells us how that meaning has helped him in his life. This, of course, gives us ideas for how to think about the dance as we dance it or chant as we chant it. It gives us deeper possibilities for healing in our own life. Kumu encourages us to share these dances, chants and songs with others. He hardly ever puts restrictions on our sharing his creations. He believes once something is given out, it is gone, set free, not to be controlled. A gift is a gift truly only if it is given freely.

This fits perfectly with Aloha International's policy of sharing knowledge. Anything Serge or I or Fern teaches, is for the sharing. We want people to help each other, so as they are sharing, they are helping us do our work! As Serge says, we can't control what other people do with the knowledge, so why try? Better to put our attention on our own goals.

One recent example of how healing Hula can be came in September when Mariko Kamimura brought a class of advanced bodywork students from Japan to Kauai. We were talking about why each student decided to come on this journey and several students mentioned how it was a time in their lives when big changes in relationships were happening. Because of this information I decided to teach a different Hula than I had planned. Many years ago, Kumu had taught us a dance called "Poliahu."

It tells a story about a woman from the Big Island who married a Kauai chief and had many happy times together. Then one day he told her he had to go off to sea. He knew he was going to Maui to fulfill a commitment he had made to another woman, but he didn't tell Poliahu this. The longer he was away from home, the more sad Poliahu became. She was cold living high up Mauna Kea without her chief to keep her warm. The more she remembered the great times they shared, the more her tears flowed until......a different idea came to her. Those memories were hers, they were beautiful and no one could ever take them away, so she decided to treasure them, wear them proudly as the most beautiful lei ever. At this moment she became the Goddess Poliahu. She managed a transformation so awesome that she was looked up to for inspiration in times of great sadness, anger, even jealousy.

I have taught this dance to help myself and others release emotions associated with partner breakups, and I was teaching it in a place in Switzerland where a year earlier I had learned that my father had a terminal illness. All of a sudden another application came to mind for this powerful dance. We can treasure the memories of a person or animal friend without falling to pieces in a puddle of tears. We can smile and celebrate all those memories, it's our choice. If we can remember the gift we were a part of rather than the fact that the gift had an end, we can heal any heavy heart!

So I taught this dance to the group of Japanese students and they totally loved the deeper personal meaning it had for them! And there is more...on the first day of class I was given another gift. Before this class began, Kumu had asked his Aunty about an Alaka'i, Mapu Ringler, a student of his for 28 years, who was in a coma. His Aunty got a vision of a ship on the harbor getting ready to sail. Kumu told me about this vision when I inquired about Mapu's condition. As I was teaching Poliahu outside facing the ocean, a huge ship passed by just as we get to the words "e ho'i mai, e ku'u ipo." (Return to me, my sweetheart.) It was in view only a minute or so, but the timing was uncanny. I knew it was Mapu saying "a hui hou," until we meet again. (On Kauai we have this kind of ship only 2 times a week, and it was so auspicious to be facing the ocean at just the right time!)

This was on Tuesday September 20th. Kumu himself left for Japan on September 22 and Mapu passed 12 hours later on September 23rd. Was it really her? I believe it was. The power of love is a very gigantic thing and I am happy to be reminded of it. :-)

On the very same day, September 23, one of our own Hula Sisters from Kauai also passed into the Spirit world. Pat Hering joined Mapu and all of their ancestors for their next adventure. We have so many memories of dancing with Pat and even when she preferred to sit a dance out, she was there to encourage us on. Pat, your courage and persistence are traits we admire and want to emulate. You live on in our memories! And we dance to transform the feelings of sadness and loss into feelings of appreciation for having a chance to have the memories!

P.S. Come join us on Tuesday nights at the Hawaiian Museum in Kapaa for hula classes...beginners at 7:00 p.m. and advanced at 8:00 p.m. For the month of November we will be practicing for our annual Makahiki performance on November 24th, which will also be our first Ho'ike where we show the dances and chants we learned during the year. You are all welcome to come watch the practices or come join us at the Luau! For a chance to study with our Kumu Hula Kawaikapuokalani Hewett, check the calendar for 2005/2006 dates. There's still room in the December Hula Intensive class on Molokai!


Photo courtesy of Rainbow Photography.
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