Image by Kalalani
"The mysteries of the universe are found within us,
but through the millennia,
"There's a reason why you've come here," I was told by Spirit as the ten-seater plane flew low over the flat stretch of lush green land. I had always wanted to see this forbidden place. The steep cliffs felt like home as they jutted out into the turquoise ocean. I felt honored to have been invited by Ka'imiloa to this isolated community, but until that moment, I did not realize that there was a spiritual reason for this journey. Even now I feel reluctant to share this story, out of concern for the native Hawaiians whose sacred place I will be describing. But it has been protected from prying eyes, and I expect it will remain that way.
I met Ka'imiloa in Honolulu where I was speaking at a sparsely attended First Annual Hawaii Alliance for the Healing Arts. By a strange series of coincidences, all of the other speakers entitled to the free sumptuous buffet dinner had gone their separate ways, and the only remaining participant who had paid for the dinner was an unassuming local woman by the name of Ka'imiloa. Even as we made our way through the garage catacombs surrounding the Ala Moana Hotel, I had a strong feeling that she and I had been brought together for some reason.
When I asked about her work, Ka'imiloa explained that she was employed by the Department of Education and was attending this event under their auspices. She told me openly that she is often called upon by local government officials and resorts when, for example, a burial site is inadvertently uncovered during construction. Then she will attempt to help with restorations, to make things pono, righteous, with the departed ancestors. Ka'imiloa told me that her ability to speak with the deceased is a skill that is highly valued by many cultures.
I asked Ka'imiloa when this gift emerged, and she said that from the time she was a child she had invisible friends. Her Filipino/Chinese/Spanish parents tried to be good Catholics, and her mother was concerned that her little girl was possessed by evil spirits. But Ka'imiloa's beloved grandfather counseled her to keep her friends, "but don't talk about them." With this sage advice, she was able to maintain a continuous connection with the spirit world.
As she grew up on Oahu, she felt deeply drawn to the Hawaiian people and their culture. As in all indigenous cultures, when someone from the outside is deemed worthy to share the secret teachings, they are first adopted. So Ka'imiloa was honored in this way and given the Hawaiian name that means "She Who Seeks Knowledge Deeply," as she devoutly studied the Hawaiian language and the sacred chants.
We reached the restaurant where we both exclaimed over the lush array of colorful dishes. During the next hour we continued to "talk story," as we went back and forth to refill our plates. My new friend favored the prime rib, and I was drawn to the exotic fish salad. I showed her my book, The Healing Voice, and then she told me that she was given a Chinese chant in a dream. When she went to Chinatown to find out more about the chant, she met a venerable old man who was very disturbed when she shared the chant with him. "Even I cannot sing that chant. It is very ancient, very sacred. Where did you learn that?" He was incredulous when she told him about her dream. "But only those who are initiated can sing that chant!" he protested.
That night she dreamed that she was on a street in Chinatown, walking on rice paper, as part of a ceremony. When she shared this dream with her mentor, he responded, "Then you have been initiated!"
I loved Ka'imiloa's stories, and her eyes shown brightly as I shared some of my own stories. It felt like a magical time, in which each of us had different pieces to a thrilling puzzle. After about a half hour of active conversation, we both gracefully and wordlessly entered into a fullness of silence.
After several minutes, I felt guided to talk about a topic that intrigues me. "I have been wondering where the Hawaiians came from," I confided. The usual story is that they came from the Polynesian Islands. But stories I have heard from some of the kupuna (the wise elders), and also in Tales of the Night Rainbow (a book about a kupuna who was 13 when the missionaries came to Molokai), there are descriptions of people who lived in a matriarchal society. They lived a simple, happy lifestyle, close to nature, before the priests and the royalty came, with all their
"I wonder if the original inhabitants of Hawaii were survivors of Lemuria?" I asked. "They do speak about Mu around here."
I knew that the first wave of settlers were supposed to have come to Hawaii around 500 BC, down the southeastern coast of Asia, through the Polynesian islands to Melanesia, and then to Hawaii. These were gentle people who lived close to nature. Later, in about 1000 AD, the Polynesian chiefs and priests arrived. These were the people who built the temples, heiaus, and who practiced sacrifices, including human sacrifice. They had rigid laws and taboos and a strict caste system.
Ka'imiloa had a knowing look, but she didn't say anything. She just reached across the table and squeezed my hand. I wasn't sure how to respond, but my mind was racing as I continued to speak my thoughts. "The last time I went to South Point, on the Big Island, I went to Green Sands Beach. I met a Hawaiian woman down there, Pearl, who told me that her husband's family are the direct descendants of the Hawaiians who have always lived there. She and her husband have set themselves up as the Guardians of the beach.
"I liked her. We felt good with each other. She reminded me of a wonderful old Hopi woman that I knew, Myna, who was the Guardian of Old Oraibi. I told Pearl that and she was pleased. Then I asked her about where the first Hawaiians came from. She told me that her people and her husband's people go back to a time when there was a matriarchy here, before the alli'i, the royalty. Back when the women were treated real good. She said that sometimes she and her husband take their van into Hilo and round up a bunch of adolescent boyskids who are into drugs and being machoand they take them down to the beach and spend the day with them. They talk to the boys about how to make the girls like them. They tell them to treat the girls real good, and treat the animals good, and be good to nature, and that's how to make the girls like you. So they're bringing back those old matriarchal values, and they're doing it by connecting with those boys where it really counts; around their sexuality."
"There are two Hawaiian men I would like you to meet," Ka'imiloa said. "They could tell you a great deal about the origins of their own family line."
"That would be wonderful," I countered. So we talked like that for a couple hours, and then we reluctantly parted company. But not before Ka'imiloa mentioned that she has a special connection with the community of Kalaupapa in Molokai, where people can go only by invitation. I lived on Molokai for a few months, on the East Side, when I first came to Hawaii. I loved that island and I wanted to stay there forever.
I always wanted to go down to Kalaupapa, but I didn't want to go on a quick tour, and I didn't want to offend the people with Hansen's Disease who live there. I hesitated, and then I blurted out, "Is there any chance that I could go with you sometime?"
"Yes," she replied without hesitation. "Would you like to come next month?"
* * * * *
All morning we followed Ka'imiloa and the two men who were half Hawaiian and half European. These two school principals had been serving as a bridge between two vastly different worlds. Their pictures had recently been featured on the front page of the Honolulu newspaper. Their task was no less than educating the military to understand why certain areas in nature are holy to the Hawaiians, by explaining why it is not enough to preserve just one heiau or temple, because large areas of land are considered sacred, and destroying those areas threatens the foundations of Hawaiian culture.
This had been a special day of blessings. I felt honored to be part of this group, but I did not understand why Ka'imiloa invited me. Nor why she said that I could bring my friend, Angela. The four women who were Ka'imiloa's co-workers at the Department of Education also wondered why they had been chosen for this expedition. But we all knew that Ka'imiloa is a woman who follows her intuition. We were also joined by the husband of one of the Japanese women, who was not officially invited.
On that first day we visited several sacred sites. Tom, the new administrator for the Parks Department, escorted us in a huge van called The Gray Whale. Traditional and indigenous people are inclined to do rather than explain, so we followed respectfully as Ka'imiloa led us to several heiaus. These are platforms of rocks where ceremonies, rituals and sacrifices were held.
She would tell us, "Wait here quietly while I do protocol." Then she would approached a group of stones, praying in Hawaiian and chanting segments of the lineage of her hanai (adopted) family, until she received approval from the spiritual guardians of each place. Then she would motioned for Carl and Harris (the principals, but these are not their real names) to come forward. They each chanted segments of their own lineage, which traced their descendants all the way back to the God Kane.
Can you imagine being able to do that? This is no game, no fantasy. Later they told us that there were different branches of people who populated these islands. Those who trace their lineage to the God Kane believe that they sprouted from the land. They did not migrate from anywhere else. That feels right to me, though it is totally contrary to what we read in science and history books. Now I understand why Ka'imiloa wanted me to meet these men!
After Carl and Harris walked through into the heiau, Ka'imiloa motioned for Tom to come, so she could introduce him to the Gods and the ancestors, and imbue him with the sacred task of protecting this place. Tom came to this island directly from the Navajo lands in Arizona, where he served as the Parks Department Director. His sensitivity to the spiritual concerns of both the Navajo and the Hawaiians was apparentt.
Finally Ka'imiloa motioned for the rest of us to come forward. Her command of the Hawaiian language and her skill at chanting made her feel very Hawaiian, and it was clear that Carl and Harris considered her one of their own. Carl had the gift of seeing energies. He told me that certain places would light up for him. Harris was brilliant at finding and analyzing artifacts in the ruins, and the three of them formed an effective team for identifying the ancient uses of these heiaus.
On the third day, we arrived at one of their most sacred places. As we gazed in awe at a pristine lush green valley with steep cliffs, these two extremely articulate Hawaiian-European gentlemen pointed to the wide swath of rock along the length of the mountain, and became tongue-tied as they try to convey the importance of this place. Through innuendo, laughter, and embarrassed giggles the story unfolded.
I will tell it in my own words. This whole valley is considered the womb of the Mother. In the old days, the rock slide would be covered with grass, and men would ride down in sleds, like toboggans, re-enacting the sacred passage of the sperm sliding down through the Mother's vagina.
It felt perfectly natural to me to hear this story. I know that the Hawaiian language is full of multiple meanings. When the Hawaiians chant about rain falling on the grass, there may be a double innuendo about making love. In the old days, when a baby was born to royalty, it was imperative to compose a song to celebrate and describe the child's genitals.
Hawaii is a sensual land where sexuality is a part of everything, including spirituality. While tourists think of the hula as a form of light and sexy entertainment, the traditional hula is a ritual that may be performed to reenact a historical event, or to honor the gods and goddesses. The chants and each of the gestures that make up the dance are often heartfelt prayers, songs of deep gratitude, and descriptions of specific places and eventsthough it may also be used for good-natured bantering and flirting.
This blend of sexuality and spirituality has always felt extremely comfortable and familiar to me. My friend, Angela, also felt comfortable with these concepts, and I was surprised to see that even the other womenthough a little embarrassedwere also comfortable. The only person who seemed awkward was the uninvited Japanese husband.
On the fourth day, after visiting several sacred sites, and stopping at the end of the road to view the famous rocks that stand like sentinels in the turquoise ocean, we took the Gray Whale to the entrance of a beach road. We were literally in the middle of nowhere when The huge van came to a stop, and Ka'imiloa indicated that we should get out
As we piled out, I pulled on my jackets as the wind blew fiercely, whipping my hair in my face. The whitecaps crashed against the rocks, as we pushed against the hard wind, walking toward the ocean, following Ka'imiloa to the edge of a great opening, about 20 feet in diameter and 10 feet deep. "This is the Sister Cave," she told us, her voice straining against the whistling of the wind.
As if previously orchestrated, the three men wordlessly wandered off in separate directions, leaving the remaining six women gathered around Ka'imiloa. Just as she had done at each of the previous sites, she took time to do protocol, speaking in Hawaiian to the spiritual keepers of the cave, invoking the four directions, introducing herself and each of us. Then she signaled us to follow her down the large dark volcanic rocks that formed a natural stairway to the open area below.
Sheltered from the wind among the ferns and greenery, were large caves on either side of us. Makai, toward the sea, a dark cavern stretched about 20 feet toward a small opening through which we could see the blue ocean. Mauka, toward the mountains, was a circular cave about 15 feet wide. Ka'imiloa stood facing the smaller cave, waiting patiently as we gathered around her.
"This cave was named after the two women who lived here. It was their duty to stand guard, to keep watch for attacks. When they saw uninvited canoes, they would build a fire in this cave, and the smoke would travel through this lava tube," she indicated a large opening at the rear of the cave. "It goes back two miles, to where the warriors were camped. If the warriors saw smoke coming out of the tube, they would prepare to attack.
"According to legend, the two women were so busy brushing each other's hair that they did not notice the Maui warrior's canoe. Those warriors came around and climbed up on the bank and they found those two women, and killed them. Then they burned their bodies in the cave. The smoke traveled through the lava tube and warned the warriors after all, but it was black smoke, so they knew it was flesh that was burning."
Tears began streaming down the smooth brown mounds of Ka'imiloa’s cheeks. "I was here in a past life," she explained. "I was a young girl, very pretty, and I came here to hide. The Maui warriors were looking for me. The two women who lived here took care of me. If it wasn;t for me, the warriors wouldn't have come here! So I feel responsible for the deaths of those two women.
"And Joy," she said, turning toward me, "you were one of those women! That is why I had to bring you here."
I have the greatest respect for my new friend, and I feel a deep connection with the Hawaiian culture, and especially with Molokai, but I felt shy and protective about the Hawaiian people and their traditional stories and places. It felt presumptuous to even imagine that I might have played such a role. Yet I remembered a sunrise ceremony on Mauna Kea, the great volcanic mountain on the Big Island, led by a Hawaiian man who honored us all by saying that many of us were Hawaiians who had come back as foreigners, because so many Hawaiians had been wiped out that there were not enough bodies for them to be reborn into. Could I truly be one of those people? I was stunned by the thought, but I would wait until later to process these feelings.
For now, I could feel my friend's grief, and I wanted to help her. I had a vision of sitting behind her on the ground, with her back to me, while I placed my hand on her heart. I did not question this Guidance. I asked Ka'imiloa if I could do a healing process with her and she nodded in agreement. I found a place that felt like the top of the fire pit and asked her to sit on the ground there. I sat behind her, and Angela spontaneously sat at our left. The other women looked puzzled, so I said, "You can stay or leave, but if you stay I'd like you to sit down with us in a circle, please."
They all got settled in a circle and then I asked Ka'imiloa if I could put my hand on her heart. She nodded. I explained that I felt the need to make the sounds of her pain, and I said it would be good for her to join me. The impulse to make these sounds was very strong. I could feel her pain as if it were my own (though I did not let it in at a deep level). As I put my hand over her chest, I felt the desire to tone directly into the back of her heart. I put my head down and did this for awhile, and then I felt guided to look up. I saw a star-shaped opening at the top of the cave, and it felt like all this grief could go out through the top, like smoke from a chimney.
I wanted Ka'imiloa to look up, but I could not talk because I was making sounds. So I put my hands on her head, just over her ears, and I turned her head upward, toward the opening. Instead of looking at the star-shaped opening, she told me later that she looked at the ledge, at the top of the rock stairway, where she saw the Japanese woman's husband, sitting and watching us. This made her feel self-conscious and inhibited. Just then I felt the impulse to tone into the base of her skull, and she experienced the force of my sounds driving her own voice.
Suddenly she didn't care about the man on the ledge. She explained later that even though she had been chanting and speaking in Hawaiian since she was young, and even though she had been adopted and recognized by the Hawaiian people and by their deceased ancestors, she still felt inhibited about chanting in Hawaiian. But when she felt the force of my voice at the base of her skull, she started chanting, and her voice came out in perfect fullness. It was especially beautiful to hear the richness of her tones with the tremorous vibratto that was so much like the waves of the ocean.
She chanted with abandon until she felt released and cleansed. Then she looked around at the group of women and said, "I believe you were all here at some time. And Angela," she said, looking endearingly at my friend, "I think you were the other woman." We all stood and hugged each other, and I marveled at how the faces of these women, who were both young and middle-aged, of mixed cultural backgrounds, suddenly looked so wise, ancient, and Hawaiian!
We all made our way over the large volcanic rocks, into the cavern, stooping slightly as we passed through the lava tube for about twenty feet, until we reached the platform that spread out majestically onto a breat--taking view of the ocean pounding against the boulders. I was the last in line. Three of the women were seated on rocks, looking out at this incredible view. As I leaned against the rock wall, I saw Angela sitting there, looking so ancient and familiar. I took a picture of Angela while Ka'imiloa took a picture of me. Later she told me that she had such a feeling of familiarity as she looked at me leaning against that rock wall.
There is no way of knowing whether these past life events truly occurred, but since this expedrience, many things have fallen into place. When I graduated from high school, I went to UC Berkeley where my housemate told me about a deserted stone house overlooking the ocean in Big Sur. It was a mile-and-a-half up the mountain, with no road after the first mile, and the water lines were broken. I absolutely knew that I wanted to spend the summer in that house. I read Thoreau's Walden, and had a great desire to learn how to do nothing. I saw myself as a hermit, and the stone house would satisfy my desire to be alone, write, read, and develop a deep relationship with nature. Above all, I wanted to slow down and Just Be.
It wasn't easy. It took weeks before my city-trained metabolism allowed me to just enjoy sitting on the porch in the rocking chair, smoking apple-rum tobacco in my corncob pipe, and sipping Port wine. I became quite proficient at watching the movements of the clouds across the horizon, observing the subtle changes of grays, blues and whites. I was continually amazed by the changing landscape. I loved the mornings when the mist rose up from the gullies, like a Japanese scroll-painting, coming right up to my house, but never going higher than my rooftop.
The sunsets were spectacular. Each one was totally different. Some were yellow, some orange, some pink. Some were short and intense, while others spread out over the whole visible sky for an hour or more. From my little porch about a mile and a half above sea level, with an unobstructed view of the broad expanse of ocean, I could actually see the curvature of the earth. I always thought of that three months td in Big Sur as the happiest time in my life.
When I first came to Hawaii I was guided to live on Molokai for three months, though I knew I wouldn't stay there. On my first trip to the Big Island, I was invited by Angela--whom I met by phone--to teach a workshop at her house in Hawi, in North Kohala. I found myself at a large log home on the slope of a hill overlooking the ocean. Just like in Big Sur, her home is about a mile and a half above the shoreline, with perfect sunsets, and as you look out at the broad expanse of ocean you can see the curvature of the earth. When I saw that view from her house, I knew I wanted to live in that area. (Which I did for nine years.)
When I first met Angela, we both had the feeling that we would be working together. Now she sometimes assists me with the aromatherapy segment of my workshops, and she helped with the aromatherapy section of my book, Vibrational Healing through the Chakras. Over the last five years, she and I have almost coincidentally been together at three different sacred sites: Glastonbury, Machu Picchu, and now the Sister Cave. Both she and I experienced a feeling of instant love for Ka'imiloa when we met her, and she felt the same toward us. Two of the other women also spoke of a sense of familiarity toward both Angela and myself. I feel such a deep love for Hawaii, and a sense of familiarity with it, especially Molokai. Though I never before lived anywhere for more than five years, I knew that Hawaii would be my home. My work with the stones and with sounding is in fact very similar to the traditional work of the Hawaiian kahunas, priests. Perhaps I was Hawaiian in a past life.
The impact that this revelation has had upon me as a white woman in Hawaii is profound. I used to feel that I did not truly belong here, as if I was on someone else’s land. I was sensitive to how foreigners had trampled over the values that these people hold sacred, and I did not want to add to that desecration. The pidgin word for foreigners, and particularly white foreigners, is haole (how-lee), which means "without breath," which is the same as saying "without soul."
I told my new friend, Carl, that I did not want that name. "You’re not a haole!" he declared adamantly. "In the old days, when Hawaiians met, we would look into each other's eyes and touch noses. We shared breath."
"Like the Eskimoes!" I exclaimed.
"Yes,' he said. "Sometimes my Grannie and I would rub noses like that. But then when Captain Cook came, he held out his hand like this," Carl held his hand formally at a far extension from his body, "and we said to each other, 'He does not share breath.'’ That's where the word haole comes from."
Now I feel that I do belong here, and that I have a responsibility to do all that I can to make things pono, righteous, among the people who share this land.
It was time to leave the Sister Cave. As we climbed the big rocks, we noticed that the wind was calmer and a gentle rain fell upon our heads. We smiled at one another. That same gentle rain had fallen every time we left a sacred site. Ka'imiloa said that it was a Blessing Rain.
Just recently, after four years, I ran into Ka'imiloa again. She told me with great pleasure that she no longer feels apologetic about not being Hawaiian in this lifetime. One of her kupuna told her that she came in as a non-Hawaiian so that the Hawaiian people could see by example that it is the essence of respect and sharing that is important. This kupuna pointed out that Ka'imiloa can chant segments of the lineage of the ancestors of those who adopted her, which is something that very few Hawaiians by blood can still do. (You can learn more about Ka'imiloa at her website at www.hawaiiinstitute.com.)
Copyright 2003 Joy Gardner
*Living from the Inside Out by Joy Gardner is an unpublished book.
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See also Sandra's Left Hip