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Naupaka (Flower) ...

Posted Jan 14 2009 7:41pm

Naupaka (Flower)


Mahele lua, ho'okowa, ho'oka'awale.
"Divide into two parts, separate by space, keep a distance."

Near the seashore in Hawai'i grows naupaka, a sturdy shrub with light green leaves and thick clusters of white berries. The white and purple blossoms that grow on this shrub look as if they have been cut in half. On the mountainside grows a similar shrub, with dark berries and leaves that are of a different shape and shade of green from those of the naupaka near the seashore; this shrub also has blossoms that look like they have been cut in half.

The naupaka is the theme of a number of Hawaiian chants and stories about the separation of lovers and the agonies of parting. Pain that the lovers experienced may make them so angry and full of self-pity that each is incapable of seeing what the other might be going through. The theme that appears in all of the Naupaka stories is that the lovers remain forever separated and forever incomplete.

The word nau means "the gnashing of teeth". Paka means "to remove from the last remaining part." Anger, guilt, and grief are common feelings in the last phase of an ending relationship. Psychologists and healers from traditions throughout the world agree that it may take at least one year of grieving to heal after an important relationship ends. Many psychologists believe that the grieving process may be accelerated if mourners are able to openly express their feelings.

It is important that grief be released physically so it does not linger in the body and manifest into ailments. One Hawaiian custom for the expression of grief is pa'i a uma, the body language of grief. In pa'i a uma mourners kneel on a mat, clasp their hands behind their necks, then fling arms and hands up in the air, then bend over, slapping their chest while wailing loudly. Grief over a separation may be so powerful that it needs to be physically expressed.
In time, people's lives become reorganized and the relationship with the beloved transforms from "a living presence" to a "fond memory."

Separating Yourself

Separation may be temporary or permanent. You may need to separate yourself from an object, a certain way of approaching a relationship or situation, or a behavior. You may need to separate yourself from being attached to a particular outcome. It could also be that something is about to be or needs to be completed.

For all situations, be sure to examine your feelings about letting go. It is important to resolve them completely.

When undergoing a separation you may find it useful to create a symbol of what it is you are separating from. Then speak or write to that symbol a loving letter of completion. Thank whatever or whomever the symbol represents for being in your life and for the lessons that it taught you. Sincerely state that a connection is being severed, a quarrel has ended, or a type of behavior has ceased.

If you are having a difficult time detaching, you may find it useful to ask it what it wants to teach you. You can role play with a trusted friend or family member. Confidentally tell this person exactly what you need to say or ask.


One way of practicing detachment is by taking objects that symbolize what you want to detach from and burn, bury, or allow them to be swept into the sea. Known as an 'Oki ritual, this practice helps alleviate guilt or misfortune and relieves or prevents anxiety. It may help rid a person of anything that may lead to destructive behavior.

'Oki is preceded by discovering, acknowledging, and defining a problem. The next step is deciding to do something about it, and, in this regard, 'Oki signifies both a beginning and an ending. In all instances, 'oki requires the cessation of clinging to any idea, behavior, or relationship that is not in your best interest.

Once these objects are gone, you must be willing to let them go forever. Keep in mind that you are completely whole within yourself.

Aia no ka pua i luna.
Translation: The flower is still on the tree.

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