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Lomilomi sticks

Freshly made lomilomi sticks dry in Guy Holt's yard..

“‘Lomi’ is to massage something, to tenderize something, rub out,” Leilani explains. “As in any Native Hawaiian cultural practice, the practice of lomilomi is done with a sense of reverence and prayer. There’s always prayer involved in the beginning. The person doing the job taps into the ancestors, or the lineage that they’ve learned from. And then when working with the individual, one is modest. We’re very respectful of all the many different parts. It is the hands working the energy feeling through the bone and the muscles and whatever needs it, however deep you need to go to relieve that problem, pull out what no longer is needed in your body, to help your body breathe and heal.”

“And then with the body, the massage is hitting those basic points that help to push and cleanse. Like in the stomach, you need to like move the stomach back in position, or like many I know will need, from the hip down, to push whatever energy out you can to help that oxygen flow. And feel that good. So it’s a combination. If you’re learning one cultural art in Hawaiian, you have to learn several. You have to learn the whole wheel, not just the one.”

“The principal behind lomilomi is getting the blood flowing again,” Guy says, “where it gets stuck and coagulated. It’s all just jammed up. With the lomilomi, you push open spots in the body where they are clogged, so they can get a better flow again. Like somebody that doesn’t move a lot and that’s how they get a lot of sores and stuff like that. You always got to massage their feet, massage their legs, because they’re not exercising a lot, so they’re not getting the blood to flow. The way I learned lomilomi was to help the people that can’t move too much and so you’re getting the blood flowing. Especially from baby time, you always massage the baby and you get their blood flowing. And as the elders get older we always did that with the elders too, to keep their blood flowing.

“In the Hawaiian system I learned, the real lomilomi artist and a master at it can see just the way you’re standing, and he knows where he has to fix you, and he can go right to you and touch you right here—yeah; right here, yeah—oh my gosh! Oh yeah! And he can do something real quick where he just opens up the system again.”

“Lomilomi was done for anybody that was in the household,” Nalani says. “Say if somebody had a stiff neck, they would come and massage you—that kind of massage, not what is done today. It was just a particular area, like if you had a stiff neck or sore back. You were pretty much out there without doctors, and so they would utilize massaging your shoulder, or they would use their elbow to make it deeper, if you needed more. But it wasn’t like we would do it outside. They did it just at home only, with family members that lived in the household. Very rarely would it be like somebody to come over that would need it. They would just tell them what to do, and you go figure it out.”

“My hands are too strong to do lomilomi,” Guy remarks. “I hurt people, and that’s why I don’t like to do it. Only on bigger men and then sometimes bigger women, but still they say I’m hurting them. There are a couple of other guys I know that do it, but I go and make the lomi sticks. And the lomi sticks are made out of guava, and the bugs don’t eat them and they last forever.

“Through the huna that I learned through my grandmother, there are different breathing techniques that you can also use to heal. But you can also use that to control the winds, the clouds, and the animals. And it’s all different techniques, but there are different frequencies on how you can use the breath also, in different tones for a lot of the healings.

“How I was taught was, when you lomilomi and after you’re done with healing somebody, you take that energy and it’s inside of you now. Now you’ve got to go to a rock and leave it in the rock. That’s why a lot of Hawaiians had rocks all around them because that’s what holds the energy that’s not good for us. And you can put it in and it will hold it. The rock likes it, because then it feels strength. It’s not strength for us but its strength for them, and they know how to handle it, and they can control it. Almost like how Indians do with the crystals. If you see a nice clean crystal you know that thing is good. But if you see them with all kinds of jagged lines—oh man, they had a rough life. You know it tells a story.”

“It used to be, you’d be in a practice with somebody who is identified by the community as a kumu or a teacher,” Leilani points out. “It used to take about twenty-plus years of training with that individual. You learn that lineage, and you honor that lineage, because to us the ancestors are part of that as well. And you want to keep the ‘purity’ of that lineage, of that particular method or art or way of doing it, before you can be deemed a master. And you’re only the master if your kumu or somebody else of position has deemed you as such.

“‘Kumu’ is a foundation, that’s one meaning of kumu: the foundation. And you carry that knowledge of the lineage that they come from or have been taught. And loea would be the master. When people use the word kahuna, it’s like—it’s fun when you say ‘the big kahuna’ and all of that. But when it comes down to reality, a kahuna really is a person who has excelled in their field. Kahuna lā‘au lapa‘au, and all that that involves, from prayer to learning the craft.

Leilani explains how kapa-making teachings wholeness.

“You’re not only representing the lineage of the art that you’ve been taught, or the modality that you’ve been taught, and that’s honoring our ancestors there and your family. You’re representing your lineage, your ancestors. To bring in negative energy would be a dishonor to them, and disrespectful to the person that you’re working on. Because you’re not just doing it yourself. From what I’ve been taught, and from my experience, it’s not just me doing the work. I may have learned how to lomilomi in a certain way, but I’m also tapping into whoever I carry on my backbone, who may or may not need help, and I need to be strong to do that, and determined.

“For instance, my father has passed away and he was really good with the hands, and so his energy would come in as well. That’s what many of us practitioners would believe. They come in and help you to work—all the lineage will come in to help do the work. Ke Akua, our relationship with the Great Father or anybody else along the way. So you want to keep that path clean and open. My perspective of mana is my connection to all things around: above, below, around, within—ancestors I have on my back that I honor and respect as much as I can.

“Usually the ability to do this work is seen in the family, in the kids. And in their interest of it. I think in being respectful of the culture, it takes a certain person to do that—for any practice, anywhere. Other than just say, ‘Okay, that’s cool, I learned all of this, I’m going to write one book and I’m going to profit.’ You’re profiting off of something you were given, and being disrespectful to the culture.

“I don’t charge a fee or anything when I do lomilomi. I do let the person, if they feel compelled, offer what they want. That puts the relationship back on them. But that doesn’t diminish whatever work I have to do. I feel if a person has come to me, then there is a reason, and if I cannot do it, then I have to be honest with that person that I cannot and why I cannot. And I pass them on to somebody else who probably is more qualified, in my mind, to do that particular work, or has the strength to do it. Because people want to make sure that they’re coming to get the right and the real thing.”

But both internal and external treatments include consideration of the whole person, what they are going through in their lives and in their interpersonal relationships. Hawaiian healing always involves the spiritual component.


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