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Monthly Musing: The Hidden Meaning of Aloha

“Aloha” is more than a greeting. A participant in a previous workshop some years back shared this beautiful definition:
“I wanted to share the word ‘Aloha’ with you and how my ancestors shared it with us. There are more than just the literal translations of the words in the Hawaiian language, there is also ‘kaona’ or ‘hidden’ meaning.’ The double innuendo if you wish. The word ‘Alo,’ means ‘forehead’ or ‘in front’ literally but the ‘kaona,’ or hidden meaning, translates into ‘in the presence of.’
The word ‘ha’ means breath, but the ‘kaona’ meaning translates it into ‘God.’ Or ‘He that gives you that breath.’ So, when we say ‘Aloha,’ it is really at the end of the sentence. ‘Ke Welna A ke Aloha’: ‘I greet you in the presence of God.’ Which over the years has been shortened to simply ‘Aloha,’ or ‘in the presence of God’.”
Don’t you love it? Below, I muse about how the true meaning of aloha is connected to the hidden-in-plain-sight art of meditation and how the mystery of God can unfold when you become still enough to see the brilliance of what is already there. Much like the colors of the rainbow that already exist within the sky but only become visible when the right conditions conspire in beauty.
I just returned from the land of Aloha — Hawai’i –after a successful Forgiveness Workshop on O’ahu, followed by a restful retreat in Kauai. I feel especially rejuvenated from this heavenly vortex our planet has blessed us with.
A vortex is a place with superior spiritual energy and holds substantially more energy than any normal place. I am certain you have been in places where you feel the energy of Mother Earth is turned up! This eerie but comforting feeling is what it feels like to be in an energy vortex. This is truly palpable in our Hawaiian Islands and other vortexes like Sedona, Machu Picchu, Ubud, Bali, the Mayan Ruins, Stone Henge, Mount Shasta, the Pyramids of Giza, Es Verds, Ibiza, and others. Besides having this amazing turned-up energy, they are places of extraordinary beauty.
As an avid meditator, my experience while meditating in a vortex location is a relatively easier “flight” into that sacred place that resides in all of us. In Eastern philosophy, this is referred to as “samadhi” – a place where there is no thought or mantra – just joy, peace, compassion, love, and wisdom. To check out my meditation practice, refer to the guidance below in the Question of the Month (QOM) section and download them for free from the resources page of my website. You will find a preamble on my meditation methodology and two separate guided meditations, one themed on forgiveness and the other one about manifesting your life’s mission. These have been my mainstays for over 50 years and have served me well — and I pray it will do the same for you.
Each year, I am fortunate to host a “pre-conference” workshop on O’ahu for the IVAT (Institute of Violence Abuse and Trauma) Summit ( which is held around this time of the year. Started by my good friend, Bob Geffner, in 1984. It has made tremendous progress in 4 decades — and today hosts a variety of training programs for social workers, therapists, psychologists, and other service providers including two major summits – one on O’ahu and the other in San Diego. They do incredible work and have over 200 speakers at these summits that span over 4 days. IVAT continuously attracts over 1500 participants from all over the world. In my workshop, I had 40 participants from all over the USA, and also some from Singapore and Canada.
(In the event you are looking for a position, Bob told me he is looking to hire 4 qualified candidates and the posts are on above referenced IVAT website).
So, a shoutout for IVAT from their website:
“IVAT is a one-stop shop to address and end violence. We host 2 international summits annually, house 3 academic journals, maintain several research databases, and provide program evaluation, consultation, and a wide array of trainings addressing violence, abuse, and trauma — many of which can be used toward specialty certificates and continuing education, and offer vital professional and clinical services to San Diego County and beyond. We believe collaboration across systems is key to putting an end to violence and abuse.”
Naturally, being a peace advocate and a teacher of forgiveness and nonviolent leadership over the last 28 years, I am blessed to be part of these poignant summits over many years. I enjoyed the most recent one on O’ahu and facilitated a workshop called, “The Journey of Forgiveness – Destination Peace and Redemption.” This particular 1 to 2-day workshop (best results come from 2 days!) is a deep dive into the process of forgiving the people that have harmed you and forgiving yourself.
I teach 3 milestone steps of how you forgive people that have harmed you (to achieve peace) and 3 milestone steps of how you forgive yourself (to redeem yourself). Each milestone step is taught with a theme, a lesson, an experiential exercise, sharing in diades (or larger breakup groups), and finishes with Q&A and sharing with the entire group. In the longer workshop, each participant gets to “teach back” the steps and share their story in the process, which often adds to the completion of their healing journey.
Besides being therapeutic, when you participate in an experiential workshop and teach back — you retain 90% of the garnered knowledge. This workshop, now in its 20th year (with the grace of the Universe), has produced transformation and healing for most participants. If you happen to be a service provider to clients who have suffered violence, abuse, trauma, and other debilitating challenges — this workshop will give you the tools to further enhance your important work – tools you typically do NOT learn in your social work academic training.
The lessons are based on my book “The Secrets of the Bulletproof Spirit – How to Bounce Back From Life’s Hardest Hits” and my personal journey of forgiving Tony, who killed my then 20-year-old son, Tariq, and how my choice to partner with his grandfather, Ples, began the work of the Tariq Khamisa Foundation ( founded in 1995. Tony, who committed this tragedy at the young age of 14 is now 42. I met him when he was 19 and have supported his own healing journey — as a much-needed additional father figure — since then. He was finally released in 2019 when my daughter Tasreen (TKF’s ED) and I advocated for his parole after spending 24 years in prison.
Like his grandfather and me, Tony is now actively volunteering for TKF, now using his story of forgiveness and redemption to save the lives of children by inspiring them NOT to follow in his previous footsteps. Together, we just spoke to 900 middle school students last Friday. TKF reaches several thousand students every year and in its 28-year history, has reached over 2 million students teaching the principles of nonviolence, accountability, empathy, compassion, forgiveness, peacemaking, and peacebuilding. I am truly proud of Tony who has made an amazing turnaround and is a powerful advocate of how you can change damaging behavior. This is a task that is not easy for any of us to accomplish and I commend him for doing this with grace and commitment.  A lesson here for all of us to transform a bad habit or behavior.
Changing behavior can be challenging. For me, I have been unsuccessfully working on trying to reduce or eliminate caffeine from my diet. It is tough! So here is another perspective: when you say something hurtful to your spouse, children, or a special relationship it not only hurts them but becomes a festering wound within you. So, the elixir to heal that wound in you is to change your behavior and never repeat it again. Sure, tough to do – but the secret is in learning to respond and not react. I too am working on it with compassion and patience.
Much like the definition of Aloha that I opened this musing with, I am inspired to see “the hidden meaning” — the reason why things happen or the lesson hidden in the tragedy that has the potential to bring us all into the presence of God. I see this magic at work in Tony’s transformation, much like I witness downloads and breakthroughs while I teach this work. The unexpected outcome is still unfolding into something exponentially mighty as we inspire others to heal through forgiveness to find more time in Aloha.
As I close this letter to you, I send my special wishes to all of you for a delightful summer and I look forward to connecting with you in person in one of my workshops. May you have moments of Aloha in your days and feel the presence of God as you walk your path in this beautiful world.
Peace and many blessings!
Azim Khamisa
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