Getting my Hā on

Up at four this morning to practice what I am calling “Hā Walea,” a technique of mindful breathing I am working on.

We have been working so much over the last several years, and not being mindful of our health, that unhealthy habits and practices have grown. Over the past decade I have developed type II diabetes, and stage two hypertension.

I sleep under such tension that my dentist tells me I grind my teeth all night. I’ve actually shattered some of my teeth and had to have them pulled!

Over the past year I have managed to get my diabetes under control through exercise and dietary changes.

The blood pressure (averaging around145/103) has not come down so easily. It has taken adding a third component to get my BP down.

I’ve tried many techniques, but none really worked for my lifestyle. But one early morning I could hear Aunty Nona’s voice, “Dahling! Remember your basics! when you have difficulty, always go back to your basics! Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.”

So, I began working on my hā, breathing the way she taught us for hula. So simple! Why did I ever mislay that?

I still let myself stress, but I am getting better.

This am, I awoke with a BP of 136/88, which is just below stage 1 hypertension. After a 20 minute session of Hā Walea my BP is now 119/78, right at the top of normal. No medications.

If you would like to join me in this journey to hula back to health (Or as one friend calls it “Leilehua’s Ol Fut Remedial Hula”) I would be honored.

Participating in Hā Walea and warmups is free.
Gather 11:00 am Mondays in the lobby of the Naniloa. This class is on hold until after the Christmas holidays. It will resume 9 January, 2017.


I recently had a request from a student I have not seen in twelve years. She would like to ʻuniki with me. Out of the blue, with no communication for twelve years, she wants to ʻuniki.

You do not simply show up to a kumu and ask to ʻuniki. ʻUniki is something which is earned after years of diligent study. And even among those who put in the time and effort, not all will ʻuniki.

Dr. Amy Stillman has some very wise words in her essays on haumāna and kumu:

Teachers cherish what they have learned from their teachers. They hold their knowledge close, because it is special. It is shared when students are ready and receptive. This is why an ´uniki ceremony is an ultimate achievement. The student has earned the teacher’s trust. The teacher trusts that the student will care for what has been taught. The teacher trusts that the student can discern what is appropriate and what is inappropriate. The teacher trusts that the student understands why things are done they way they are. The teacher knows that his or her teacher’s teachings will continue. So the teacher sends the student off on their own. They are free to create. What they must never do is disrespect what they have been taught, or betray the teacher’s trust.

My own opinion – if one asks to ʻuniki, one is not ready.

Esthetic of Hawaiian Art

In some ways, the traditional Hawaiian esthetic reminds one of the Art Nouveau movement. Both Hawaiian and Art Nouveau designers believed that all the arts should work in harmony to create a  Gesamtkunstwerk, a “total work,” in which form, function, line, pattern, color and texture were ideally melded together into a harmonious expression. Traditional Hawaiian culture takes this esthetic a step farther, insisting that the spiritual qualities of the work also be in harmony with its tangible expression.

Items from skirts, to water gourds, to homes, to canoes were conformed to this esthetic before their physical creation, with appropriate prayer and sacrifice made from the first impulse of creation.

For example, the creation of a water gourd began well before the plant was harvested – with the spiritual cleansing and filling of the farmer as he prepared his digging stick to loosen the soil. Each phase, from preparing the ground, to planting the seeds, to guarding the crop, to harvest, to decorating, to final cleansing had to be carefully observed. “What use,” the traditionalist thinks, “to have a beautiful object if it is spiritually unclean?”

And how much more pleasurable to have a beautiful gourd which delights the eye which sees it, and the hand which touches it?

Above is an ipu pāwehe, a modern gourd I cured in the manner of the “tattooed gourds of Kauai.” Every detail to make it a fine water gourd was attended to. Even the shell stopper was selected because the pattern on the shell resembles the pattern I incised and dyed into the rind.