During the two weeks in 2010 that we were in Waikīkī, on each Friday Dan and his friend Alika threw a picnic for us on the water’s edge of Magic Island so that we could watch the weekly fireworks show put on by the Hilton when it got dark. We had a picnic blanket, food in various containers, drinks and a few camp chairs to sit upon. Once everything was set up I looked around to see where Mom was. I was stunned to see her over on a park bench merrily chatting away with a Hawaiian mother with kids who came for the show, she and Mom going at it like fast friends.
Having lived in the monastery for so long I often find I need to get away from people and noise in order to think and make sense of things. In monastic life, silence and solitude are means used to foster awareness. Through the practice of silence the monk comes to terms with reality rather than projecting his will upon it. Silence, for the monastic, is not passivity nor even the absence of noise; it is, like the discipline of obedience, an intense alertness to reality.
But what does that matter if it doesn’t translate into how one lives with and relates to others? Reality has an uncanny way of making me face my selfishness, despite being a Kahuna-pule! At exactly the moment when I don’t want to have to bother with anyone, a stranger will ask something of me: my time, my talk, my ear… my heart. The heart is at the core of it all, at the core of aloha; not “heart” as in emotions, but as that place where my soul lives. That place where the real fireworks occur!
I have to say that on every trip to Hawaiʻi I have never even once felt like I was being treated like a stranger. On the contrary, I had the strange sense of being welcomed home, as if Hawaiʻi and I have known one another for a long time. So there Mom sat, exchanging aloha with that Hawaiian mother, chatting about kids, clothes, and life, both of their families suddenly enlarged by knowledge about the other. Aloha changes strangers into family, ʻohana. Just another wonder at the heart of Hawaiʻi.