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Article

Living Aloha
by Susan Pa'iniu Floyd

In the last Aloha News I wrote about the whole fish proverb, honoring our source, our parents and teachers, as well as taking care of the environment for the children. I have been blessed to learn a lot about Hawaiian culture, the Huna philosophy, the massage, the dance and chanting. I am very grateful. When I become aware of aspects or sources of that knowledge that are not being honored, I sometimes easily fall into old patterns, get judgmental and forget aloha...

Uncle George Naope, revered Hula master and co-founder of the Merry Monarch Hula Festival, has been organizing a keiki (children's) hula festival on the Big Island each November, for 20 years. Festivals like these help to keep the culture alive at the same time they bring lots of business to the hotels where they are held. As a volunteer at this festival for around 13 years, I was curious to discover that the organizers were struggling to break even financially. As I questioned why, I discovered one contributing factor: the hotels were changing their policies to match their corporate mainland owners policies. They began charging for every single service they offered. This meant, for example, if the organizers wanted a room to gather in after the competiton each evening to relax and unwind together, they were charged for it, even though there was always a sharing of Hawaiian music and Hula by the teachers and their students which was open to the public to enjoy. The hotels always ran a beverage concession there so I'm guessing they made a good revenue from that. I may be missing something, but doesn't it make more sense to pay the Hawaiians for their superb entertaining? With all these challenges, I never heard Uncle or any of his helpers complain. (This year, though, Uncle decided to take a year off. I truly hope it is only one year. )

Back home on the island of Kaua'i, it was that time of year again for E Pili Kakou I Ho'okahi Ka Lahui. For the 6th year in a row, Kumu Hula (Hawaiian dance teachers) from all the islands would gather on Kauai to share their mana'o (wisdom). Mom and I would take our mini-get-away from the north shore to stay at the luxurious Marriott Hotel. But we were late in booking a hotel room. Even a couple of months ahead, all rooms were reserved! Maybe we will have to drive back and forth this year, I thought, but made a mental note to call again for cancellations. A few weeks before there were still no rooms. But the week before, success. Not the best price, but we were in!

The next day I was on the phone with our Kumu Hula, Kawaikapuokalani Hewett. I asked when his flight over from O'ahu was and he replied by asking if I would book him a rental car because there was a mix up with the rooms and the Kumus had to stay at a hotel up the road. The organizers were providing a van to transport them back and forth, but he wanted more flexibility. Of course I would book the car, but didn't Kumu want a room at the Marriott if it were possible? (In my mind I was thinking how terrible it was that the teachers, whom we all love and treasure, were not the first to be put up at the event hotel. How could I stay there and not them?) Kumu respectfullly replied that he would check with the organizers first. So I let it go, sort of. I quickly did some shaman work, extending my aura to the hotel and telling it to harmonize. Two days before the event, Kumu was still booked at the other hotel, so I called the Marriott and discovered they had a room available for all three nights and at the lowest rates! I quickly booked for Kumu and also was able to get my room at the lower rate. Talk about practical shamanism! (As a footnote - the hotel upgraded our rooms and we got the best ocean views for the lowest rates!)

Now let the fun begin! Most of the dancers of our halau (Halau Hula Na Lei Kupua o Kauai) have chosen each year to take both of Kawaikapu's classes. We love his songs, his teaching style, and it's undoubtably a spiritual experience. This year all the attendees were asked by the organizers to take only one class from each teacher. The organizers had good intentions behind this rule. They wanted the other teachers to have students in their classes too. We were clear in our reason for being there and at the same time, we wanted harmony. So we went to the source, Kumu Hewett, and asked his permission. He said it was OK with him if we didn't take room away from other dancers. We said we would dance in the very back of the room and if need be, only watch and not dance. We thought it was all settled, but the 2nd day at registration, we were told we could not attend, even with the Kumu's permission. Sad, but final. And they were checking everyone's badges in each room. It felt like we were being bad somehow for wanting something good. I didn't understand it. But understanding wasn't to be my lesson.

I was the only one from our halau who could attend that second class because Kumu asked me to video tape it. Everyone else from our halau signed up for other classes with very positive attitudes, and ended up having wonderful times. When I told Kumu right before the class why the others weren't there, he said "Tell them I will teach it to them another time, maybe even on the lunch break." (As it turned out he came back to Kaua'i the next week just to teach us the dance.)

Instead of being offended that the organizers didn't respect his decision, he respected theirs and looked for harmony. And went on to teach a great class! I was so busy wondering why the organizers were being rigid in their rules, I almost forgot what was important. To have fun, to enjoy each moment. It's not what happens in our life, but how we respond, that is so important. How much love and non-judgment we can maintain in our thoughts, words and actions, no matter what is happening to us, is "Living Aloha." Not always easy, but well worth remembering. Great solutions are so much faster in coming when we do. Next time you feel drawn to defend a cause, ask yourself if it's better to be loving or to be right.

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