The Aloha Bench

Aloha means far more than hello and goodbye as most of us learned in our 3rd grade social studies class. The kind of Aloha that I’ve experienced in Hawaii these two weeks goes way beyond a simple greeting.

“The literal meaning of aloha is “the presence of breath” or “the breath of life.” It comes from “Alo,” meaning presence, front and face, and “ha,” meaning breath. Aloha is a way of living and treating each other with love and respect. Its deep meaning starts by teaching ourselves to love our own beings first and afterwards to spread the love to others. According to the old kahunas (priests), being able to live the Spirit of Aloha was a way of reaching self-perfection and realization for our own body and soul. Aloha is sending and receiving a positive energy. Aloha is living in harmony. When you live the Spirit of Aloha, you create positive feelings and thoughts, which are never gone. They exist in space, multiply and spread over to others.” (Source:

The Hawaii State Statues officially defines the Aloha Spirit in it’s documents.

§ 5-7.5 “Aloha Spirit”. (a) “Aloha Spirit” is the coordination of mind and heart within each person. It brings each person to the self. Each person must think and emote good feelings to others. In the contemplation and presence of the life force, “Aloha”, the following unuhi laulā loa may be used:

“Akahai”, meaning kindness to be expressed with tenderness;

“Lōkahi”, meaning unity, to be expressed with harmony;

“ʻOluʻolu” meaning agreeable, to be expressed with pleasantness;

“Haʻahaʻa”, meaning humility, to be expressed with modesty;

“Ahonui”, meaning patience, to be expressed with perseverance.

These are traits of character that express the charm, warmth and sincerity of Hawaii’s people. It was the working philosophy of native Hawaiians and was presented as a gift to the people of Hawaiʻi. ”Aloha” is more than a word of greeting or farewell or a salutation. ”Aloha” means mutual regard and affection and extends warmth in caring with no obligation in return. “Aloha” is the essence of relationships in which each person is important to every other person for collective existence. ”Aloha” means to hear what is not said, to see what cannot be seen and to know the unknowable.

(b) In exercising their power on behalf of the people and in fulfillment of their responsibilities, obligations and service to the people, the legislature, governor, lieutenant governor, executive officers of each department, the chief justice, associate justices, and judges of the appellate, circuit, and district courts may contemplate and reside with the life force and give consideration to the “Aloha Spirit”. [L 1986, c 202, § 1] Source

This kind of Aloha Spirit, recognizing and respecting others, a depth of sincerity, and creating positive energy loop that spreads to others and back to you seems a little dreamy. But here in Hawaii, it is a way of life, even for elected officials! There is a constant outpouring of love and kindness from the people here that doesn’t exist for tips or satisfaction surveys, but seems to come from somewhere deeper. While on sabbatical and ceasing most every stressor in my life at the moment while in Hawaii, this Aloha spirit seems VERY doable.

But, tomorrow, I will fly back to the mainland and, while I do have time left without work, by Saturday, I’ll come back home where the mortgage is due, the grass needs cutting, things will certainly be rotten in the fridge, and there will be no one coming around at 4pm to bring me a mai tai. How easy will it be to find my Aloha spirit then?

I know many loved ones have time out chairs in certain corners of their homes; places to park the unruly 2 year old who needed a few minutes to sort things out when life got overwhelming. The time out chair is the place where we learned to manage our emotions, verbalize our feelings, and eventually, say I’m sorry and I love you. The time out chair is a good place for a reset and I know it’s not only the 2 year olds among us who sometimes find themselves in need of a little time apart to think things over.

In place of the time out chair, I present to you: The Aloha Bench!

This adorable bench was a lovely place to park myself while waiting on fresh Hawaiian Shave Ice (here it’s shave not shaved!). But as I waited on my cold papaya treat, I wondered if this wouldn’t also be a way to remind me of the aloha spirit when the going got tough back in the real world?

Feeling like the world is against you? Have a seat on the Aloha bench and remember that the love you put out into the world comes back to you.

Feeling less than nice? Have a seat on the Aloha Bench and remember that kindness and humility are to be valued more than a show of strength or determination.

Getting a little big for your proverbial britches? Have a seat on the Aloha Bench and remember that humility and modesty bring harmony.

Feeling ready to lose it? Have a seat at the Aloha Bench, remember that you are an important part of your community, your Ohana. (Then call your therapist…the bench isn’t magic, y’all.)

A simple seat isn’t going to solve all interpersonal conflict, especially for those of us not born into this incredible island culture. However, we do need moments, and yes, full Sabbath days, to remember Aloha, to practice being kind, patient, tender, and humble with one another. Sabbath practice and Aloha Spirit have much in common. We would do well to practice both. But maybe it begins as a manawa hoʻomaha (time out) on the Aloha Bench?

Whether it’s a real Aloha bench, or just a place in the house or on the porch where I can remember the values of the Aloha, I know I’ll carry this Aloha Spirit with me and, in true Hawaiian fashion, I’ll hope to pass it on to you too.

Aloha, a ua halawai hou

(Goodbye until we meet again)

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