Friday, November 11, 2011

The Hula Years...

Christine at the Birthing Stones near Wahiawa, some years ago.
It is important in my mind to define the person that I am, how I came to be, those kinds of things. The Hawaiian word "halau" translates to "school" in English.  I once belonged to a hula school and during those years, it was my greatest pleasure to dance; however, I was more often called upon to be confidant and counselor, held in high regard by my Kumu, but never quite fitting in with the population at large; mine was an edgy position.  Toward the end, I commented to my husband that, instead of a dancer, I had become the turtle whose back they stepped on to get to the other side.    I wrote this piece shortly after phasing out of hula and the halau that had preoccupied my life for almost ten years.

Christine Leionaona Paz on What Halau Means to Me….

An excerpt from the book, “The Wisdom of No Escape and the Path of Loving-Kindness,” by Pema Chodron: 
          “I would say that for four or five years practically the only teaching Rinpoche gave, in many different forms, under many different titles, was, “Stop shopping around and settle down and go deeply into one body of truth. He taught that this continual dabbling around in spiritual things was just another form of materialism, trying to get comfortable, trying to get secure, whereas if you stuck to one boat and really started working with it, it would definitely put you through all your changes. You would meet all your dragons; you would be continually pushed out of the nest. It would be one big initiation rite, and tremendous wisdom would come from that, tremendous heartfelt, genuine spiritual growth and development.”

The question is what does an excerpt from a book written by an American Buddhist nun have to do with the study of hula and this brief bio about myself?

In participating and being a part of Hula Hālau Nā Meakanu O Laka O Hawai`i, I was in the canoe; a body of people, an ohana, where each dance step, each lesson learned, each moment of loving kindness between hula sisters and friends, each unkindness, disappointment and sometimes heartache were an initiation rite. Not all things come easily and dancing was not something I had ever done. My family’s roots are deeply embedded in the Islands of Hawai`i. All that I am began on the Islands of Hawai` family, my heritage, my roots. The old people, my mother and father, grandparents, aunts and uncles, have all passed away, now safely nestled in the arms of O`ahu. I am a transplant and California is my home. Studying hula opened my heart and my mind to many things lost. A distant drum called to me as we stood at the Birthing Stones near Wahiawa, the place where I was born; my first ipu heke, Little Thunder, was a tribute to that moment. Rainbows appeared everywhere I went during my halau years, and they follow me still. These were magical moments. How does one define the wealth of a lifetime, encapsulated in those years I spent in the fold of a loving hālau? How does one give thanks to a Kumu who crossed my path and helped me to define myself? It is different for each of us. Perception is an individual thing. I perceive hula and life within the hālau to be something larger than what it appears. “Hula is life,” this is what Aunty Mae Klein told us. It is a noble thing, to “step into one’s shoes,” as I like to say, and also to know when to move on and how to let go with grace. Life is a journey of forward motion, always moving toward the Light.

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