As spoken by the native people of Hawai'i, to be "pono" is to be in balance, to do what is right from your mana'o, the gut or deep awareness of true self. This concept has been practiced by Hawaiian s throughout their ancient culture.
While shooting the documentary film Hawaii A Voice For Sovereignty for four years on most of the islands, the Kanaka Maoli shared their cultural knowledge, and their journey that began with the overthrow of the monarchy of Hawai'i in 1893 by a group of businessmen and the U.S. Marines. Speaking their truth and family's oral history is a sacred gift. Their struggle to restore the social and economic balance they experienced in a once sustainable culture from pre-contact through the reign of the Hawaiian monarchy, was the story they shared. The connection to the land, spirituality, and their culture is the foundation of their past and future and has been at risk for over a century.
Before truth could be spoken, a transition was required to hear the truth, to open a portal to enter and resonate. I was told to reconnect to humanity with the nonjudgmental innocence of a child. This is part of being pono. A higher consciousness is remembered when we are pono and a spiritual, mental, and physical, balance is attained, according to the Hawaiian tradition. "Pono is to do the greatest good for yourself, your family, and your neighbors, your circle of friends," Kanaka Maoli Jessie Soto says. "It allows you to live in harmony with the creator and everything around you," he continues. Uncle Sam Kaleleiki, Kanaka Maoli retired Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, explains "Pono means the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth."
It became apparent that the willingness to hear the truth creates change and the ability to see the larger picture. The learning process to be pono continues from within throughout life. The Kanaka Maoli have remained connected to their ancient wisdom and their culture is perpetuated through the speaking of the truth, and being in balance and harmony with the land and all living things. There is no separation between them and there is no middle ground for being pono. It is pono or it is not pono, according to mentors in the Hawaiian community.
The Kanaka Maoli culture is one of the most unaffected by greed and monetary gain known in Western development. They have not separated spirituality from their modern worldview, but continue to connect it with the balance of mind and body. They express that sustainability is a human right accomplished through stewardship of the land, care of 'ohana (family and extended family) and the Kupuna (elders), and all living things. They strive to secure a sustainable future for Hawai'i and the world, to do the right thing, and to be pono.
The "paradise" visitors experience in the islands is the reflection of the harmony with all living things practiced by the host Hawaiian culture from ancient time to present day. Humanity can learn from the harmony created by living pono, how to make responsible decisions for the right reasons from a place of truth.
A Kanaka Maoli whose grandfather was a taro farmer shared with me an experience he had as a young man. He visited his grandfather in his taro fields where he was working and told him that he wanted to travel, see the world, learn more of life outside the islands. He said to his grandfather, "Grandpa, don't you want to leave here, take Grandma and see the world?" The grandfather reached down to the ground, gathered a hand full of soil and let it fall through his fingers. He told his grandson that money slips through your fingers never to return, the land is here forever and that you can live from the land. The wisdom of the grandfather reflects the choices the Kanaka Maoli make to care for the land, and the priority to perpetuate the culture through care of the land.
Ho'oponopono is a traditional practice in the Hawaiian culture to forgive yourself and others, and to be in balance and harmony. It is facilitated by another person who has the mutual respect of all participants. Uncle Sam Kaleleiki recalls that Ho'oponopono was practiced close to the home when he was a boy and now it has moved out into the communities.
"Uncle Sam," 78 years old, reflects on his childhood growing up on O'ahu, "Ho'oponopono is ancient knowledge that was used in the family to keep things in line, it was like daily bread."
"My grandma would gather me and my siblings to form a circle in the parlor each night and she'd go through it. She would have each one of us tell the truth about what actually happened during a disagreement that day, and with the look in her eye you knew you had to tell the truth. Then, you had to say you're sorry. Grandma wouldn't break the circle until you said you're sorry because she didn't want us to grieve if one of us didn't wake up the next day. She didn't want us to suffer anxiety."
Uncle Sam recalls that Ho'oponopono used to be close to the family, conducted by the Grandparents or Great Grandparents. Uncle Sam was taught that living in the truth helps us lead a better life, remain healthier, and have less stress. He says, "We have a lot of stress now and it's a killer." He advises with the wisdom of his kupuna: Keep self physically fit so you can be alert.
Regarding Ho'oponopono, Kahuna Michael Lee of O'ahu says, "We teach to listen to origin voice, conscious within. The truth comes from the origin voice you were given as a child. Ho'oponopono is a traditional Hawaiian process of reaching and listening to the origin voice at an intersection, so not to lose yourself." He says that everyone has a sense of self on this earth and that your purpose, place, and practice give you wealth. Origin voice tells that engine what to do. He continues, "Anything else, you lose zest for life if you have lost your origin voice." He says that a facilitator is present during Ho'oponopono to clear negative energies because the negative energies tap the core power to your soul. He emphasizes, "Focus, Ho'oponopono is to focus, center, and bring back the engine, to reorganize your thoughts and your compass to who you are, and which is wrong or right. Find origin voice to clear the negative."
I have witnessed "it's pono" said between Kanaka Maoli who have experienced a misunderstanding. In that instant the barriers of communication and harsh feelings are immediately released, pau (finished). Forgiveness opens communication and feelings of compassion are renewed. The relationship is in balance.
For this Christmas and holiday season, while our awareness of others is heightened and our compass is directed towards good will for humanity, consider extending this harmony of compassion into the new year. We can empower healing and social justice to correct the wrong that has been done to people of nations who suffer imbalance due to greed and selfish consciousness. At the universal crossroads that we connect and communicate, we can discover a breakthrough of old barriers moving forward through the practice of being pono, according to ancient Hawaiian culture of higher consciousness.