Mindfulness and the Aloha Response

  • Thao N Le
  • Pono Shim


In this article, we contend that an ancient, contemplative practice called mindfulness, often associated with the Buddhist tradition, shares much resonance with the indigenous wisdom of Aloha, the lifestyle and livelihood of Native Hawaiians. In fact, we propose that mindfulness is one tool and one form of mental energy that facilitates the discovery, recovery, and uncovery of the Aloha response leading to the experiential awareness and embodiment of Aloha. We also discuss how mindfulness in Hawai‘i can nurture individual and collective consciousness to respond with Aloha, thereby recovering the Native Hawaiian spirit on the islands. As they interact with clients and the community, social work practitioners in Hawai‘i can play a key, pivotal role in modeling aloha and encouraging others to engage with aloha.


Baer, R. (2003). Mindfulness training as a clinical intervention: A conceptual and empirical review. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice,10, 125-143.

Bishop, S.R., Lau, M., Shapiro, S.L., Carlson, L., Anderson, N.D., Carmody, J., et al. (2004). Mindfulness: A proposed operational definition. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 11, 230–241.

Brown, B. (2012). The Power of Vulnerability. Louisville, Co: Sounds True, Inc.

Carmody, J., & Baer, R.A. (2009). How long does a mindfulness-based stress reduction program need to be? A review of class contact hours and effect sizes for psychological distress. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 65, 627-638.

Chun, M.N. (2006). Pono: The Way of Living. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai‘i.

Farb, N., Segal, Z.V., Mayberg, H., Bean, J., McKeon, D., Fatima, Z., & Anderson, A. (2007). Attending to the present: Mindfulness meditation reveals distinct neural modes of self-reference. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 2, 313-322.

Grossman, P., Niemann, L., Schmidt, S., & Walach, H. (2004). Mindfulness-based stress reduction and health benefits: A meta-analysis. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 57, 35-43.

Hoffman, S.G., Sawyer, A.T., Witt, A.A., & Oh, D. (2010). The effect of mindfulness- based therapy on anxiety and depression: A meta-analytical review. Journal of

Consulting Clinical Psychology, 78(2), 169-183. doi: 10.1037/a0018555

James, T. (1994). Lost secrets of ancient Hawaiian huna. Honolulu, HI: Ka Ha O Hawai‘i Foundation.

Kabat-Zinn, J. (1990). Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness. New York: Delta.

Kahn, E. M. ’aipo. (n.d.). He olelo No’eau [There is a Saying]. Hawai‘i Pacific Healing Center. Retrieved August 16, 2013, from http://www.zencarehawaii.com/

Kanahele, P. (2005). I am this land, and this land is me. Hulili: Multidisciplinary Research on Hawaiian well-being, 2, 21-30.

Keer, C.E., Sacchet, M., Lazar, S.W., Moore, C.I., & Jones, S.R. (2013). Mindfulness starts with the body: Somaosensory attention and top-down modulation of cortical alpha rhythms in mindfulness meditation. Frontiers in Neuroscience, published online Feb 13, 2013. Doi: 10.3389/fnhum2013.00012

King, S. K. (n.d.). Making Sense of Meditation. Hawaiian Huna Village. Retrieved August 05, 2013, from http://www.huna.org/html/meditation.html

Komito, D.R. (1987). Nagarjuna’s seventy stanza: A Buddhist psychology of emptiness. Ithaca, New York: Snow Lion Publications.

Le, T.N. (March 29th, 2014). Mindfulness with aloha among mixed-ethnic/Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander Incarcerated Youth. 2014 Society for Research in Human Development Biennial Meeting. Austin, Tx.

Quinn, G. (2009). The Last Aloha. Fort Bragg, Ca:Lost Coast Press.

Shapiro, S.L., Carlson, L.E., Astin, J.A., & Freedman, B. (2006). Mechanisms of mindfulness. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 62(3), 373-386. doi:

1002/jclp 20237

Shim. P. & Taum, R. (2009). What is Aloha? Retrieved from http://www.tailsofaloha. com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/What-is-Aloha-Poster-Proof.pdf

Thich Nhat Hanh (2007). Teachings on Love. Parallax Press: Berkeley.

Veary, N. (1989). Change We Must: My Spiritual Journal. Water Margin Press: Vancouver

Wilcox, L. (2012). Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox: Guest Pono Shim ALOHA Moments. Honolulu, HI: PBS Hawaii. Retrieved from: http://www.pbshawaii.

org/ourproductions/longstory_transcripts/LSS%20516%20Transcript%20-%20 Pono%20Shim%20ALOHA%20Moments%20.pdf