by Serge Kahili King
‘O na mau mo’olelo no ka ‘ike ola Hawai’i – Some Hawaiian healing traditions.
The ancient Hawaiians had some very interesting views about health and healing that are retained in their language.
In English, the verb “to heal” in its ancient form means “to restore to wholeness.” And “health” means “whole” or “to be in good condition, not ill or injured.” In other words, if everything is working the way society believes it should, you are considered to be healthy.
In Hawaiian, there is one word, “ola,” that means “life, health, to live, to heal (give life to) body, mind, and circumstances.” Also, it means not only to survive, but to thrive, which in turn means to live energetically.
There are a couple of other words in Hawaiian that mean “to heal.” One is ‘aki. What’s really curious about this one is that the same word means to cause pain in the head or stomach by criticism. The kind of healing meant by this word is “to scar over,” and this might have been seen as a metaphor for making oneself immune to criticism. The root ‘a means “fire, to burn,” and is figuratively used for “to burn with jealousy,” while the suffix ki is a base word for force or energy and is often attached to the front or end of words that have to do with energy and a nimble body or mind.
Another word is lapa’au, which means “to heal” and also “a healer.” It is the word most commonly used in reference to medical, herbal, massage and other types of physical healing, but it is important to note that the root lapa means energy and energetic action, and the root ‘au means “to swim,” a form of movement.
The opposite of health and that which needs healing in English is described in two words: “illness,” based on the word “evil,” and “sickness,” essentially “feeling very bad because of too much of something.” A completely different concept is revealed in the general Hawaiian word for what we call sickness or illness: ma’i. From the roots, the literal meaning is “a state of great tension.” In other words, stress. In English we typically heal by reducing or eliminating evil or badness. In Hawaiian tradition they heal by relieving stress through energy or movement
Now it’s time to look more closely at that concept.
First of all, let’s understand that the first most important thing to know about energy is that energy is not a thing. For example, you can’t store it or save it. We talk about storing energy as if it were an object that you could put in a warehouse, but that’s very misleading. A wound up spring is not stored energy, because it takes just as much energy to keep it wound as there would be if it were released. In that case, it’s energy working against energy to maintain a state of tension that we could call “static energy” if we wanted to.
Even a battery is not stored energy. In simple terms, a battery is made of substances that just sit there until a connection is made between them that stimulates a chemical reaction that moves electrons until one of the substances is used up or can no longer react and the movement stops. Saying that you are charging a battery with energy is misleading as well. What actually happens is that you use electricity to bring the battery substances back to a state that is similar or equal to the one where they were ready to react chemically again. There is no energy in it waiting to move like a racehorse in a stall.
You can’t pick energy up or put it down. It isn’t like a bag of marbles that you have more of than someone else does. You can’t give it away or take it away, either, because it isn’t a thing. And no one can drain you of energy, although they can do things that you stress about, and the tension that causes can make it very hard for you to access your own energy.
Here, then is the second most important thing to know about energy. Energy is movement. It doesn’t matter whether it is electrons moving through wires, or waves moving through water or air, or earth tremors, or blood circulating or people running or cells vibrating or atomic nuclei spinningÉ energy is movement. The medium can be different, and different mediums, like waves of water crashing against stone cliffs, can transfer movement, and that’s what is really meant by transferring energy.
The same is true when we talk about healing energy, as in therapeutic touch. It is movement that is transferred, not any kind of substance. Since energy is movement, and movement is what constitutes life, it follows that restricting movement will restrict life and therefore, in Hawaiian terms, health.
The excessive restriction of movement in any part of the body is what we call stress, and excessive stress produces the unpleasant experiences that we call illness or sickness. There is no energy loss, however. The energy is still there, working against itself like in the wound up watch spring, waiting for the stress to be relieved.
All forms of healing use energy to heal. No matter what the treatment, it is only effective when it relieves enough stress and stimulates enough movement to enable the body to continue healing on its own. Healing never comes from outside of us. Healing help can come from outside, but not the healing itself. Actual healing always comes from within, whether the help comes from a doctor or a diet or an angel.
Effective healing has to enable one or more kinds of movement within the body. It can enable breathing, circulation, nerve impulses, elimination of toxins, the release of tension, the quickening of repairs, and/or the stimulation of new growth, plus anything else I didn’t mention or don’t know about. Regardless, healing requires movement, that is, energy.
So now we can talk about how to use energy for healing. The process can involve using one kind of energy to move another kind of energy, like the wave that causes the cliff to vibrate, or the chemical energy that relieves the tension that causes a headache. Or it can involve one kind of energy that moves a similar kind of energy, the way one person hugging another person can help both of them feel better.
Using physical energy for deeper breathing, drinking more water, moving your body (it doesn’t have to be called exercise), relaxing your muscles, eating for energy instead of comfort, and good medical care are all obvious, so I won’t say any more about them.
I will mention some sources of what’s called “subtle energy.” This is physical energy that can’t be detected by the kinds of instruments currently used by scientists. Included here are the subtle energies of crystals, magnets, orgone devices, mandalas, pyramids, light, sound and many others. If you know about these, don’t forget to use them for healing, because they are cheap and quite effective. If you don’t know about them, I suggest that you find out, because it’s too big a subject for this article.
Other forms of subtle energy are the energy of our auras and of our hands. Some people like to call this “bioenergy,” but it can do everything the things I mentioned before do, like crystals and so on. Hugging, singing or humming together, holding hands, and therapeutic touch are some ways of putting this energy to use for healing. Ancient/modern systems of stimulating movement within the body like massage, pressure point therapies and tapping are also very useful.
Emotions are one of our most powerful sources of subtle healing energy and the most underused for that purpose. What I’m really talking about here are the good feelings that come from doing anything that you enjoy. The more you enjoy it the greater the healing effect on anything that is going on in your body or around you.
Based on my experiences as a teacher and healing facilitator, I would say that most people probably take pleasure for granted, passively enjoying it if it occurs. One of the most profound things I ever learned was that, based on its roots, the word “enjoy” actually means “to give joy to something.” In other words, we are the ones who decide how much pleasure there is in experiencing anything, and we can purposly increase how much we enjoy it with our focus, our intention, and our willingness to expand our feeling sense beyond our comfort zone. We can laugh instead of chuckle, be amazed instead of impressed, love instead of like, have real fun instead of just being amused, and when we do we add great energy to our healing.
Mental energy seems more insubstantial than subtle energy, but thoughts can have a very powerful healing effect when we use them to change our emotional and physical behavior. Forgiveness, appreciation, intention and imagination may produce all the effects of any other energy source, but mental energy is most effective when it is combined with the others. In fact, all forms of energy used in healing are more effective when used in combination.
I haven’t mentioned spiritual energy, because it means so many things to different people, but if it means something to you that hasn’t been mentioned above, go ahead and use it for the same purpose.
A good finish is this Hawaiian proverb:
Ua ola loko i ke aloha Love heals from within