Sunrise in the Waipi’o Valley
Sunrise in the Waipi’o Valley

In my last post I talked about Sangha. Interestingly, one of the things that attracts me to the island of Hawai’i is ‘ohana’, which is translated as ‘family’; in the Hawaiian sense, sangha and ohana are rather similar.

…”Two of the most important and symbolic words in the Hawaiian vocabulary kalo and ohana, the words for taro and family can be used to describe the main focus of life in Waipio Valley. It is significant that the words are related in terms of language and legend. Kalo reproduces by means of underground sprouts, or oha, which are broken off the parent corm for planting. The word ohana itself is composed of the word oha and the suffix na, and so literally means off-shoots or ‘that which is composed of off-shoots’; by extension, then, it means ‘the off-shoots of a family stock’ (Handy and Pukui 1972:3).” ~Bishop Museum

The Hawaiian language has many off-shoots, where words contain the roots of other deeper meanings. Aloha is much more than “hello”, “goodbye” or “love.” The Aloha Spirit literally means “the joyful (oha) sharing (alo) of life energy (ha) in the present (alo).” Notice that ‘oha’ has two meanings ‘spreading; or offshoots’ and to ‘show joyous affection or friendship’. To me this makes tremendous sense because when one is sharing friendship one is spreading connecting energy, and vice versa.

When discussing Waipi’o with residents of the island it’s easy to notice the respect they have for the valley. The valley is also called “The Valley of the Kings” because it was the residence of many Hawaiian kings. It’s a sacred place because of its historical importance and that it’s the location of many temples. When standing at the valley lookout onlookers often remark on how lush the vegetation is and how powerful the scenery and energy are. Out of respect for this sacredness I chose not to enter the valley until I was invited by someone who had grown up, and continues to grow taro in the valley.

I’ve now made two visits into Waipi’o; one with my Hawaiian friend who explained and shared history and his life, and another with a member of my sangha who lives on the island and works to promote the responsible management and conservation of Hawai’i’s natural resources. On this second visit we walked across the shoreline to experience the sunrise in the mystical setting, and then hike up the opposite valley side. During our six hours in the valley I could feel offshoots of energy from the vegetation, the air, the fragrances, the sounds, and the sights connecting with my very core. It was energising and calming at the same time.

My extended stay on Hawai’i is over, but the connection to the land–the ʻāina–and to my ohana is strong. Part of me feels cut off from them, but when I draw attention back to my core I can still feel the life energy–the ‘ha’–that we share. For this I am very grateful.