Spirituality for me is about connection and meaning and communing with nature. In Hawaii, and more specifically, when taking Big Island volcano tours, I have felt most in touch with my own spirituality.
Whether hiking across a black lava field, hearing the planet rumble, or smelling the fumes emanating up from the middle of the earth, it is only when I am somewhere on top of an active volcano, that I can come to believe that there is a power greater than myself. Or that there is divine order in the universe. Or that really my life and my problems are inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, in the shadow of creation and destruction, on the flank of an erupting volcano.
Some pray to a Higher Power, some to The Universe, some to God. But when you are walking across a crater in the middle of the world’s most active and longest erupting volcano, you pray to Pele, the Hawaiian deity who rules over these islands and is said to dwell deep in the heart of Kilauea. You do not want her angry at you.
In ancient Hawaiian spirituality, there was and still is, a deep connection and respect for the elements and for nature. There is a reverence for ancestors and a belief that their spirits still guide later generations. There is a blending of mythology, legend, and modern culture that is unique on these islands.
When visiting the rainforests, waterfalls, lava tubes and lava flows in Big Island Volcanoes National Park, I have felt the connection to all the elements (kumu) that the Hawaiians chant to and the hula dancers tell their stories of. I have felt the ancient connections to air (ha), fire (ahi), water (wai), and earth (honua).
Most of all, in Hawaii, you feel the aloha. Aloha means love and it also means “with breath”. If the elements of nature are Hawaii’s spirituality, then aloha is Hawaii’s religion. Aloha, when stripped of all its tourism and consumerism, is about connecting with one another and connecting with nature. It is forgiveness and compassion. It is about shared experience and shared meaning.
Some find this meaning in church or at the beach, but I find this shared meaning on the top of Kilauea, Mauna Kea, and Mauna Loa. I find it deep in the cave of a lava tube. I find it on the edge of a rushing river of hot molten lava. I find it in the wet rainforests and the barren, desolation of a primordial lava bed. I find it in the ancient spirits that still roam the island of Hawaii. I breathe it in the flower scented air and I see it etched in the steep cliffs of this volcanic land mass.
I discover the spirituality of the islands; discover my own spirituality, with every breath I take in Hawaii. With each and every aloha I breathe in.