The definition of aloha we are most familiar with is listed in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary: a Hawaiian term used to greet or bid farewell.  That definition is true, but incomplete. If you search for a definition online you will find it also means love, affection, the breath of life, and a way of living with love and respect. Also true, also incomplete.

If you go to you will find it is considered undefinable; much like our English word ‘love’. In a Hawaiian spiritual sense, aloha is an invocation of the Divine which permeates the universe. It is an acknowledgement of the Divinity that dwells within and without. It represents the presence of Divine breath; like the Asian concept of Chi in Tai Chi and Chi Gung.

Love is such a pleasant concept that we forget it also has a negative connotation. Our definition of love is affected by our expectations of love. The book Mana Cards: The Power of Hawaiian Wisdom by Catherine Kalama Becker, Ph.D. and Doya Nardin has such a description of the Mana Card titled “Aloha”. There are symbols on the aloha card.  A red sugar cane plant is on the left and a yellow-green sugar cane plant is on the right. Red sugar cane was used in love potions. Yellow-green sugar cane was use in potions to cling or to hold fast. A hibiscus plant represents being loved by many people. The rainbow represents true, unwavering love. And the adult hand holding the childlike hand represents unconditional love.

All of these are aspects of aloha, or love. Yet the expectations are not the same for each aspect. Clinging suggests the lover craves or needs the attention in order to feel complete within themselves. At the other end of the spectrum is the unconditional love we feel for our children. Aloha has also been the spiritual path of Hawaiian kahunas. One such priest or expert, Daddy Bray, taught that the way to experience true love (aloha) was to be “honest, truthful, patient, kind to all forms of life, humble, in harmony with your true self, God, and all humanity (Mana Cards, p. 64).”

On page 65, the aloha description ends: “Aloha is an unselfish, nurturing love that radiates calmness, acceptance, and warmth. It is strong and tender, a great gift to the world and whomever it touches. Allow the spirit of aloha to shine from your soul.” Amama ua noa.