As promised, here are a few more hula (life) lessons that this beautiful dance has taught me over the years.
When in doubt, ha`ina
This is another gem from my first hula teacher, Kanani. We were always instructed that if we forgot the moves, we should simply kaholo (a series of basic hula steps that go between verses) until it came back to us. If there was no hope and we had forgotten it all, we should fast forward to ha`ina. Most Hawaiian songs end with a verse that sums up what the song is about. The first line of this verse is “Ha`ina ia mai ana kapuana” meaning this is my refrain; this is what my song or my story is about. This verse often repeats much of the first verse. In other words, when in doubt, get off the stage and wait for another time.
In life, when we don’t know how to proceed, it’s a great idea to “get off the stage” and ponder our next moves. There’s no shame in not knowing all the answers (or sometimes any of them). It’s far more important to regroup and find the questions. A receptive space can allow for more right answers.
Rise up on Your Toes - What you think you got toes for?
Kumu Raquel was teaching us a song where we were to lift up on our toes, then dip down low, our arm movements reflecting the gentle flapping of wings.
While we might have thought we were lifting, Raquel became more and more frustrated. Finally she burst out, “Up, up on your toes! What you think you got toes for?!”
I’d never given much thought as to what my toes were for, save a bumper for the rest of my foot or places to try out a new polish. I had to really muse on my toes - what indeed were they for?
What my questioning led me to was this. Use everything you’ve been given -let nothing go to waste. Everything has a purpose, many times more than one. Find out what it’s for and then use it wholeheartedly. Stretch to live your life to the fullest.
Smell with your Eyes
Kumu Raquel once told us that we must smell with our eyes. She was referring to us using our whole being to express emotion in the dance, not simply gesture and smile. Never had I considered “smelling” with my eyes.
She wanted us to commit fully to the emotion and story of the dance - if we were communicating the scent of a lovely flower (person - remember the kaona is the hidden or double meaning), then we indeed would smell with our gestures, our noses would flare, our eyes would lift in delight, and we’d touch the deeper intention of the song.
I took her teaching to heart. I felt that she was not just speaking about hula. She was telling me to use my whole self in every endeavor, to commit completely and whole heartedly. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing with all my senses fully engaged.
I am learning new lessons every day from my hula practice. I am working to apply them to my life, dancing through my Second Act.