by Sarah Hodges

Today, ‘ohana includes all who are brought into the family group. Your ‘ohana nourishes you. There are even hānai (adopt, nourish) relationships which feed a person both physically and spiritually.” – Leilani S. Hino

In times when I’ve felt any kind of struggle, I’ve sought both inward and outward. I’ve discovered that drawing close to loved ones brings me a sense of well being and fulfillment. Sometimes I gravitate to my grandparents and parents for this sense of comfort, and sometimes to members of my global community.   

The universe gives us our blood family. I have also chosen a global family with whom I share some of my most meaningful relationships. This is my extended ‘ohana. In our blood family we have many kinds of relationships – close, distant, and those who we need to stay away from. My global family consists of people who show a willingness to listen to my perspective and who express kindness to others, both unalike and similar. They live with open-mindedness and with respect for the land, the spaces we inhabit, for other people, and for self. These are my people. I cultivate my ‘ohana with both of these groups. 

The people we put ourselves around impact our physical health. We tend to focus inwardly on our busy lives and forget about the importance of close relationships for holistic health.  As children, our comfort comes from our family: those we hold close, those who hold us close.  Their embrace settles our nervous system.

My friend studies so intently in her PhD program that she often isolates herself, then feels lonely and sometimes down. I can relate to her experience.   

I spent several years rigorously studying art abroad, disconnected from ‘ohana. I felt terrible, REALLY terrible. Spirit knew that I needed healing. When I returned to Hawaii I spent six months painting, meditating and praying for healing in a little cottage on the North Shore. I hardly spoke to anyone, isolating myself as the only way I knew how to deal with the world. I didn’t know what protective coat to wear – no longer wanting to wear the identity of an “artist”. 

My longing for ‘ohana led me to Still & Moving Center for a West African dance class where I encountered joyful community through song and dance. Here I got wind of an amazing lomilomi healer named Uncle Alva. Several months later I was driving through Waimanalo past a house with a gathering of people out front, and felt deeply drawn to that space. Come to find out, it was Uncle Alva’s place, where he practiced and taught healing through. lomilomi massage. After my first session with Uncle Alva, he said, “Come as my guest to a class I am giving tomorrow night. You will meet your brothers and sisters there.” 

Uncle Alva led me into a community of healers that transformed my state of being. I finally felt support with a sense of belonging and joy. We learned together, shared meals, talked story and laughed. Uncle showed me how being in community heals. He saw that as a people, we need togetherness in this life-journey to do our individual work in the world. We’re each stronger when we feel part of a larger whole.

When you feel off-balance, remember what a precious resource friends and family are and remember to reach out. Wanting to protect ourselves and be safe, wanting to be perceived as “OK” or wanting to be respected – all of these fears may cause us to shrink away from our ‘ohana.

Find the courage to come close. Take the risk, because it’s worth it!


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