Living Aloha

Person holding a pineapple above a pool

Far more than just a quotidian salutation, ‘aloha’ is a state of being and a way of life that pervades Hawaiian culture. ‘Aloha' encompasses living in complete harmony with the Earth and those around you; it fosters a deep appreciation of relationships; it translates to the sending and receiving of positive energy; it is rooted in love, peace, and trust. To live with aloha is to live with a set of values that guide your behavior and decisions. Values do two things for us: they define our WHY and give us a HOW-TO. And while each of the core Hawaiian values have a dictionary definition, their true meanings are far deeper and richer than what the English language can express.

Thus, ‘aloha’ can be seen as a language of intent that translates to a way of life and a way of thinking. Although ‘aloha’ is uniquely alive in Hawaii, it is abundant and universal. If you can apply the values of ‘aloha' to your own life, you may begin to understand why Hawaii is home to the happiest people in the United States.


Much more powerful than simply meaning ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye', aloha refers to our innate sense to love things unconditionally and the joyful sharing of life energy in the present. It is an expression of unconditional kindness, hospitality, spirituality, cooperativeness with humility, unity, and graciousness that touches the souls of others. It is a call to live life with love. And when embodied to the fullest, the aloha spirit is quite tangible.


Although the word itself translates to ‘harmony and unity,’ lōkahi is the value of teamwork, collaboration and cooperation. It teaches us to value cohesive similarities and embrace diversity all while striving to create synergy. It is the concept of being united in purpose. And by working together under the notion of lōkahi, we are opening ourselves to greater possibilities. Together, we are able to achieve far more.


Mālama is the value of stewardship, to take care of, to serve, honor, protect and care for the land and its people. It diverges into several other meanings including ‘mālama i ka pono’ (to take care of each other righteously), ‘mālama ‘aina’ (to care for and nurture the land so it can give what we need to sustain life); ‘mālama pono’ (to take care of yourself).


This is the Hawaiian value of inclusiveness and collaborative communication. Practicing the spirit of kākou requires us to abandon our deeply rooted assumption that we are all separate. By establishing a sense of interconnectedness with all people, places and things--a feeling of 'we are all in this together'--we will be able to thrive. The term is often applied to language in that we must learn, speak, and practice the ‘language of we.’ For if we can learn to speak the same language, we will be able to define the values that unify us, align our beliefs, and unite our behavior.


To understand and fulfill one’s area of responsibility and stewardship as a privilege, honor and sacred duty. This comes hand in hand with a willingness to be held accountable. For example, Hawaiians have a deep kuleana to their land: to care for and respect it so that in return, the land will be able to maintain its kuleana to the people for generations to come. It is through this relationship that they maintain a balance between society and the natural environment.


This is the Hawaiian value of doing work with a definitive intent, purpose and passion. But this does not necessarily apply work in the conventional sense of a job or career; ho’ohana is about creating the best possible livelihood by adopting an attitude of intention and assuming full presence in whatever you do. It means that the small deliberate choices you make each day add up to bigger achievements over time while constantly supplementing your quality of life. Think of it as living mindfully.

Let the aloha spirit begin with you

Photo: Marvin Meyer