A Healer in Every ʻOhana

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Photo: Malina Kaulukukui
Malina Kaulukukui Photo: Courtesy
Photo: Keʻala Kwan
Keʻala Kwan. – Photo: Courtesy

By Malina Kaulukukui and Keʻala Kwan

Traditional hoʻoponopono offers a Hawaiian perspective and approach to mental, spiritual and emotional health.

Hoʻoponopono literally means to make right. It is a powerful traditional and spiritual structured practice of restoring ʻohana harmony and maintaining healthy family relationships through family conferences.

Led by a trained haku (master), hoʻoponopono can help families uncover and deal with the ʻeha, the pain, that often divides families, and it encourages family members to practice truthful and healthy communication skills, including forgiveness.

Photo: Kuʻulei Birnie, Maka Casson-Fisher, Sasha Fernandes, Hiʻilani Titcomb (in the role of “haku”) and Napua Casson-Fisher
Clockwise from left: Kuʻulei Birnie, Maka Casson-Fisher, Sasha Fernandes, Hiʻilani Titcomb (in the role of “haku”) and Napua Casson-Fisher participate in a hoʻoponopono practice session.

In December 2018, a group of practicing haku hoʻoponopono established the ʻAha Kūkā Hoʻoponopono, a statewide hoʻoponopono kūpuna council committed to the perpetuation, preservation and protection of this traditional, family-based healing practice. The intention of the nine-member ʻAha is to ensure that our moʻopuna and future generations will have the ʻike to practice an authentic form of Hawaiian hoʻoponopono with relevancy for today as a means of helping ʻohana thrive.

Early funding for the formal development of the ʻAha came from ʻAha Kāne, with in-kind support provided by Papa Ola Lōkahi.

Prior to the establishment of the ʻAha, several of the ʻAha Kūkā Hoʻoponopono haku began teaching hoʻoponopono to interested adult haumāna statewide in 2017, under a three-year federal grant secured by ʻAha Kāne.

There are now more than 100 haumāna who have been training for over four years, some of whom are also conducting hoʻoponopono for ʻohana in need. ʻAha members continue to conduct educational hoʻoponopono and health-related workshops and classes for communities and Hawaiian-serving organizations, often in collaboration with practitioners of other traditional healing practices.

An aspirational vision and rallying cry of the ʻAha is “A healer in every ʻohana!” This means that parents have the kuleana of modeling healthy behaviors for their keiki.

How might they accomplish that? Here are a few tips: 1) Practice apologizing for everyday mistakes, e.g., “I’m sorry for yelling at you this morning. I shouldn’t have done that. I was upset at something else and I took it out on you.” 2) Practice walking in your children’s shoes, e.g., “You must be sad about losing your favorite lunchbox” as opposed to, “Kinda stupid of you for losing that lunchbox, yeah?” 3) Build healthy family moʻolelo. Plan regular family activities that the children will look back and fondly recall, “Remember when we used to…?”

Addressing COVID-19

A shared concern is the low vaccination rate of Native Hawaiians. In addressing this concern, the ʻAha recently participated in a Public Service Announcement that encourages residents to get vaccinated. It’s a pono decision.

ʻAe, it’s been such a difficult time for so many of our ʻohana. Hoʻoponopono has been helpful to many families who often feel isolated, and who feel that their families are unraveling under so many external and internal stressors. Many haku hoʻoponopono have embraced the necessity of utlizing virtual opportunities to conduct hoʻoponopono online, thereby expanding kōkua through hoʻoponopono for families with members on other islands or on the continent.

The COVID-19 pandemic, as with most community crises, has brought out the best in us. Unfortunately, it has also divided families around the issues of vaccinations, vaccine hesitancy, and anti-vaccinations, with families describing shouting matches between vaccinated and unvaccinated members.

When the risk includes life-threatening conditions and potential death, the ensuing fear, dread and distressing uncertainty often permeate family interactions.

The reasons for why people are ambivalent or outright opposed to vaccinations are complex. What we know is that trying to persuade unvaccinated loved ones to get vaccinated before they are ready doesn’t work, despite our best intentions.

In hoʻoponopono, aloha and spirituality are always at the core. We teach family members to listen with an open naʻau, to respect differing positions, to learn to stand in another’s shoes and develop empathy for those whose perspectives differ from ours.

It’s hard to do when we’re scared. But we must do the hard work, reach across that divide and genuinely acknowledge the decisions of our loved ones. By doing so, we can be pono as a family, and be supportive in the event that our loved ones move from hesitancy to actively considering getting vaccinated. We all need each other right now.

For more information on the ʻAha Kūkā Hoʻoponopono, please contact Malina Kaulukukui at (808) 387-3768 or mkauluku@gmail.com

ʻAha Kūkā Hoʻoponopono

  • Allysyn Aloha Bezilla
  • Sean Chun
  • Dennis Kauahi
  • Malina Kaulukukui, Chair
  • Earl Kawaʻa, Vice-Chair
  • Keʻala Kwan, Secretary/Treasurer
  • Wayne Lee
  • Kaʻaiʻai Paglinawan
  • Lynette Paglinawan