The Hawaiian Tradition of the Circle by Kalani

Akua crated the first human by filling him with the breath of life.  When later all the angels gathered to offer gifts, all but one decided to give the Umeke—the bowl—to enable humans to hold divine breath. The Umeke is the sacred body that holds the breath of life.  The rim of the Umeke has come to represent the circle and also refers to the hips, pelvic and reproductive parts of the human body. This is a particularly strong image in the case of women

One angel, Kane, decided to give a different gift to the new life.  Kane gave the gift of Pohaku, the gift of stone.  When all the angels asked Kane why he was giving Pohaku, he responded that stone represents free will which, he pointed out, can be used as a tool or a weapon.  The choice is up to each person. For the circle to make the right decision depends on one coming to  understand the point of view of that which is “across the circle from you,” that is diametrically opposite from your point of view. Any decision made without each member of the circle incorporating that different perspective will be an illusion.  Moreover the differing point of view is to be welcomed as critical information. Humans cannot move forward without this reverence for counterpoint. Any decision made without each member of the circle incorporating that different perspective will be an illusion.

The traditional council-like Hawaiian ceremony of Ho’oponopono emerges as a result of the Umeke story…When we are in judgment (not in the spirit of council) we place stones in the bowl, which slowly build up and eventually block the light, the breath of life. The challenge then is to remove the stones.  Just turning over the bowl doesn’t work because we tend to put our personal judgments right back into the bowl.  The way to remove stones is to ask for forgiveness or grant the forgiveness being requested. That practice removes the stones from the bowl, one stone at a time. Ho’oponopono is the ceremonial process for accomplishing this. The goal of the practice is “removing stones,” so the breath of life continues.

In the Hawaiian tradition every ohana (clan) does the ho’oponopono ceremony a little differently. In one tradition an actual bowl—the apu (coconut shell)—which represents the Umeke is passed around like a talking piece. Each of the differing groups coming together for the circle brings their own water and also awa (the root of a plant), all of which are mixed together and passed around. The awa represents the Earth Mother and the water represents Spirit.  People can take sips from the apu as they speak. The apu is seen as the body of Kane who gave humans the stone. So, when you are holding the apu you can use it as a weapon (personal gain) or in the spirit of compassion. To truly remove the stones, each person’s unique position needs to be revealed during the ceremony including their unspoken realities (their kauna).

The ubiquitous tradition in Hawaii of “talking story” (Let’s get together and talk story) grows out of the practice of ho’oponopono. In this sacred ceremony it is understood traditionally that everyone is telling their own story from their unique perspective.  No one’s perspective is gospel.  If everyone can eventually remove the stones from the Umeke and place no new ones—however long that may take—then the ceremonial circle will arrive at the true decision for the circle or fully support the circle’s co-creative intentions.

Ph0to: Pu’u Loa petroglyphs at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park