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How To Live Aloha
by Serge Kahili King

In order to "live aloha," you have to know what aloha really is.

Generally, it is used as a greeting of "hello" or "goodbye," mostly by itself, but in Hawaii it often has additional words added, to designate time of day, intensity of expression, warmth of feeling, or other meanings.

The basic meaning of the word aloha in Hawaiian is "love." So instead of a simple greeting, it is really a blessing of love, for the person being greeted and sometimes with the speaker included, depending on extra words.

"Love" is only part of the meaning, however. The dictionary meaning includes "love, affection, compassion, sympathy, pity, kindness, sentiment, grace, charity, greeting, salutation, regards, sweetheart, lover, loved one, beloved, loving, kind, compassionate, charitable, lovable, to love, be fond of, to show kindness, mercy, pity charity, affection; to venerate; to remember with affection; to greet, hail." And implied is "friendship."

More meaning can be obtained from the roots of the word. Alo means "front, face, presence, upper surface (as of a bowl). Oha means "spreading, as vines; thriving; to grow lush; affection, love, greeting, to greet; show joyous affection or friendship, joy." Sometimes Ha is included as a root because of its meanings of "breath, life, spirit; to breathe upon (as in a blessing)." Ha has many other meanings that might or might not apply.

One way of expressing the meaning of aloha from its roots, then, could be "Joyfully sharing breath and love face to face." What makes this interesting is that it also describes the honi, a traditional Hawaiian form of physical greeting. In doing the honi, two people grasp each other's shoulders, press their noses side by side, and inhale each other's breath. Some say that in the old days Hawaiians could do this to tell whether a person was a relative or not, friend or foe, healthy or sick.

Some Hawaiians have borrowed a Western technique of explaining things by giving a separate meaning to each letter of a word. The are a number of variations on this, but a popular one is: Akahi, meaning kindness, to be expressed with tenderness. Lokahi, meaning unity, to be expressed with harmony. 'Olu'olu, meaning agreeable, to be expressed with pleasantness. "Ha'aha'a," meaning humility, to be expressed as modesty. "Ahonui," meaning patience, to be expressed with perseverence.

A very important thing to realize is that the Hawaiian concept of love does not include any negative thoughts, feelings, or behavior. Anger, fear, jealousy, dependency, pain and hurt are not a part of aloha. Another very important thing to realize is that aloha requires reciprocity. Aloha has to be returned to be fulfilled. It is not unconditional love, in other words. It is a gift or a blessing to be exchanged. If you offer aloha and it is not returned, you are not obligated to keep offering it. If you are offered aloha and do not return it, don't be surprised if it isn't offered any more until you do.

One Hawaiian proverb, though, says "Ua kuluma kanaka i ke aloha - Love is natural among people," and another adds, "He manu ke aloha, 'a'ohe lala kau 'ole - Love is like a bird, there is no branch that it does not perch upon."

And finally, "He punawai kahe wale ke aloha - Love is a spring that flows freely." If you don't fight it, and don't fear it, love is always available to everyone. In fact, as some say, it is the very thing that makes the world go 'round.

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