Recently, I started back with my hula halau. I joined first when I was young – and was part of the halau for a few years, from ages 9-11 or so. Then, I got really busy at school, and wanted the flexibility to try out more after school activities – so I stepped back.
When I was in school, and away from home, I often thought about what it would be like to move back. I thought about what I would be able to do, and practice, of Hawaiian culture, which wasn’t available to me outside of Hawaii. Hula was one of the things I sometimes thought about – the discipline of it, and the commitment. I thought about the way that it connected me to being Hawaiian – to an embodiment of culture, in a certain way.
The practice of hula is hard. It’s hard to motivate myself to go, on a Wednesday evening, which makes my week feel long. It’s hard to be with people I don’t know very well yet, and to try to coordinate my hands and feet and hips to move independently of one another and yet stay coordinated and graceful. I leave class sweating, having worked my body and mind pretty intensely for an hour.
There is also something in it, though, which is profound, and deep, and meaningful. This is a practice which has been continued for hundreds of years. There is a line of ancestors who are dancers, who I can feel in the room with me, while I practice.
There is a softness that hula is teaching me – soft feet, soft hands – the practice of walking gently on the earth. It is teaching me, in part, to be softer with myself, forgiving for when I can’t get the choreography right. It is teaching me to allow my body to be soft. This world so often requires a harshness – and, especially as a young woman, I often feel I am walking out of my house and putting my game face on, armouring myself in some way for what might lie ahead. Inside of the classroom space, armour is shed – instead, a big skirt is put on, and movement is soft and fluid.
There is something spiritual in this practice, for me. This week I have begun working through the book “grounded in prayer”, which I am reading with our prayer circle. One of the reflections was about ways we might pray with our bodies – and hula is like that, for me.
It is my prayer.