Inspire Passion

the art of Robert John Cook

Pono Malama

Iyannough and I

Iyannough and I

I am so excited! I have found a rhythm, a frequency. My mother said to me, “You are in your element. You are where you were meant to belong, Hawai’i.”

I don’t recall my Mother ever being wrong. A single mother who raised three boys, never earning more than minimum wage. True grit, always providing an abundance, like her mother, with a great amount of love. I miss her, being five thousand plus miles away on Cape Cod. The Fall season is here and soon Nantucket Sound will turn bitter cold, with gray and North Atlantic wintery mix of rain and freezing, bitter-to-the-skin snow. She will survive the rawness winter will throw at her, tough as nails, my hero.

Like slowing warming up from the wintery cold to the island sun, I’ve been shedding my East Coast conformity layer after layer by finding my stride in the island rhythm that Maui is famous for – Aloha with the majestic sunsets, in which I release my spirituality and discover my respite. I am in my element, where I belong…


The word ‘Pono’ has become a favorite Hawai’ian word: What is right. The path to Aloha is through Pono, by doing what is right. When we are true to ourselves, slowed down to do what is right, being in our element where we belong, we synch with our frequency and find our rhythm, this is Pono, the entrance to appreciate and live Aloha.

Although there are different interpretations, the long standing belief by many is that Aloha means two things. ‘Alo’, as in hello. And ‘Ha’ meaning we exchange breaths by touching our nose and forehead, to ‘honi’. When two people greet each other by pressing noses and inhaling and exhaling interchangeably a spiritual exchange takes place. The exchange of ‘Ha’ provided by honi gives the breath of life, and ‘mana’–spiritual power between the two people.

Mana is the Hawai’ian belief that there is an external and internal connection. A Hawai’ian fishermen is fearless on the water because his mana is the water that protects him. Leave the island and the protection is lost, some believe. Certain sites in Hawai’i are believed to possess strong mana. I live on such a sight.

My easel on the lanai balances thirty feet above the rocks where the waves crash below. I hear the ocean’s thunder as I sleep each night and in the morning when the yellow sun rises over the palm trees across the bay I awake rejuvenated. The water is not my mana, but the land beneath my feet is. My mana rises from the ground, the ‘Aina’, and grounds me to the earth. Aina is my mana, in my element, where I belong…

When I awake in the middle of the night and look out the surf shack’s screened bathroom window I see the night stars sitting atop Haleakala (House of the Sun). The top rim of the Haleakala Crater, especially the back wall, is believed to be a location of incredibly strong mana. I look at this wall each night, the view is amazing, a few feet away the waves crash on rocks of the thirty foot ocean bluff the surf shack is perched on. Stars are everywhere. I feel my mana tugging at me.

Another Hawai’ian term is ‘malama’, to care for. Pono (do what is right) Malama (care for). Do the right thing and care: Pono Malama. To do what is right and care for the land: Pono Malama Aina.

On Monday nights at Willie Nelson’s hangout, Charley’s, I play my guitar and harmonica, my band behind me. Through a stream of consciousness from the stage I will make up a song about Pono Malama Aina that the audience typically enjoys. The Native American blood in me stirs.

When we are pono malama with ourselves, in our element, we shed things like East Coast conformity, each night mana removes one layer after another, a little at a time. It’s been ten years this year of frequent island visits, both short term and long term, and still there are layers remaining. You can’t rush mana, Aloha won’t allow it, goes against the grain of pono malama.

The island also has another feature believed by many, the island provides. When we give out goodness, the mirror image comes back to us. Some on the island believe the goodness comes back three fold. Aloha.

I believe in every belief appearing in this blog, all of it. It’s not by choice, I simply don’t have the ability to turn off the joy from spiritually breathing, in my element, where I belong…

The goodness we give out, times three, equals the goodness we are given in return. This is how I live, it gives me breath. The more I give, the more I get back, this is the concept behind my project Optimistic Vibe. I have designed Optimistic Vibe to be a perpetual goodness giving machine. And, joyfully, I am given back three times the amount of goodness it delivers in return.

Pono malama o ka po’e, what is right in care for community, I hear my forefather Iyannough. Optimistic Vibe, as a first of it’s kind sustainable business community called a Public Duty, is my reply.

©2014 Robert John Cook. All rights Reserved.


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