Relying on a Spiritual Connection During COVID-19

Group of hula dancers holding hands

As we continue to shelter in place and adjust how we function in our daily lives, I try to stay positive and find the “silver lining”. This is one of the many Native Hawaiian cultural practices we’ve been taught; “be positive” and “everything happens for a reason”, even the things that make us feel bad or are hurtful—there is a lesson in everything. As a hula person and Native Hawaiian cultural practitioner, it has been a challenge to stay positive as I see the negative impact COVID-19 has had on our community. The “spirit of aloha” is not just a phrase, we live aloha in a very physical way. The act of hugging, and “honi” to kiss or exchange “ha” (touching foreheads while exchanging breath) is what connects us as Native peoples. The fact that we can no longer perform these cultural practices is taking a toll on our community.

As Native Hawaiian, Dr. Jordan K. Lee, mentions in an article by Caitlin Yoshiko Kandil, “the loss of human touch is the hardest thing”. Being in community helps us manage life whether it’s sharing a birth, a passing, happiness or sadness, we get through it all by being together in a physical space—that hug, or touch on your shoulder, and the exchanging of “ha” makes it all okay and speaks a thousand words without saying a thing. Although we can’t physically be together, we will rely on our spiritual connection to keep us safe and out of harm’s way.

As hula people, we bring our cultural practices to help us, our planet and others heal in this moment. Our kuleana (responsibility) is the unspoken commitment to our culture, our community, and the ‘āina (land)—this is not by choice—it is expected. Every time we chant, sing or dance we are breathing healing energy into the environment. Some call this a sacrifice, we call it kuleana. COVID may have stopped us temporarily from dancing together in our hālau (hula school), but it cannot prevent us from fulfilling our kuleana. I mua! (onward)

Portrait of Apana Author’s note: Apana is an active member of the Kaululehua Hawaiian Cultural Center and Hālau o Keikiali’i under the direction of Kumu Hula Kawika Alfiche who has dedicated his life to the preservation and perpetuation of Hawaiian culture. Do you have a Native tradition that you rely on in these times? Please apana [at] (email me). I will be happy to share your examples and insights.

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