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75641_4428874932950_1850401892_nAloha & welcome to the Ola Lokahi blog.  I hope you enJOY my “talk story,” helpful articles, passionate musings, and guest blogs.  Ola Lokahi (and it’s branch, Warriors Living Well) was co-created by Susan Pualani Alden.

This mission of Ola Lokahi is to assist in planetary healing by empowering people to heal, awaken, and discover new pathways of inspiration.  “Ola Lokahi” refers to the the sacred connection that exist among all that surrounds us.  The words may be Hawaiian, but the concept is one that is central to traditional native cultures throughout the world.  Understanding the essence and deep meaning of ola lokahi can be helpful to anyone, anytime – from the doing the most mundane daily tasks to making crucial life decisions.  As we embrace ola lokahi, we naturally flow into a life of greater peace, joy, and harmony.  To read more about Ola Lokahi and why I chose it to represent my work, click here.

In sharing my thoughts with you, I hope to honor the wisdom that has been shared with me from treasured elders/kupuna.  From time to time, I like to share my (limited) knowledge of the exquisite Hawaiian language, because I believe it carries a depth of meaning, wisdom, and vibration that often surpasses the English language.  Please know I do so with sincere love and respect for ‘olelo Hawai’i.  (Kahako/macrons have been omitted only because I’ve not figured out how to do them on Word Press.  Because of this, I recognize there may be confusion for Hawaiian speakers).  I openly invite guidance/constructive critique, and sharing via the comment boxes beneath individual posts.

With never-ending gratitude to my teachers, mentors, friends, and family ~

Susan Pualani Alden

For information on classes, products, and services I provide, please go to the Ola Lokahi website at www.mindbodyaloha.com.

In the spirit of lokahi

Susan Pualani Alden:

Great interview of my Kumu Lomilomi by Dr. Ely.
Maka’ala’s book “Na’auao Ola Hawaii: Hawaiian Principles and Practices of Being Well” is now available on Amazon.

Originally posted on Indigenous Medicine:

This is an interview conducted over the telephone between myself and Dr. Jane Ely that I thought would be worth posting. Mahalo Jane.

In The Spirit of Lo’kahi:
An interview on the work and world vision of Dr. Maka’ala Yates D.C.

Written by: Dr. Jane Ely, D. Min.

Lokahi is an ancient Hawaiian word with many layers of meanings. For Maka’ala Yates, lokahi is the essence of unity, peacemaking, harmony, connection, and embracing diversity. Ho’o lokahi is the action that brings about agreement, diversity, and unity. But it is much more than this.

In the Hawaiian language there are tones, sounds, and meanings within meanings that carry vibrational frequencies of understanding, mana [life force], and healing. As Maka’ala explains, Lokahi is the platform upon which to communicate and illuminate healing and more importantly, to reunite that which has been broken back into unity, and awareness—in short, to renew…

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Wai Ola: Water of Life

Susan Pualani Alden:

I LOVE this indigenous wisdom, so beautifully written by one of my kumu, Maka’ala Yates. Maka’ala is a great healer and dear friend to us and our ohana near and far.

Originally posted on Indigenous Medicine:

Wai Ola

Water of Life

Life for Hawaiians, especially before colonization, was centered on water and agriculture (land). The most important food staple at that time was kalo (taro), which relied heavily on the mana (life-force) of the water because the kalo was considered ʻohana (family) to the Hawaiians. The mana of the water was established through attentive cleanliness of the river ways by ceremony, which included pule (prayers) by the villagers. These ceremonies and prayers were important in maintaining a positive relationship between land and water, which led to the same relationship to all Kanaka Maoli (native Hawaiians).

There are two kinds of water in the Hawaiian language, wai (rain or land water) and kai (sea or salt water). The ancient God for wai was Kané and for the ocean water it was Kanaloa. Of the many water ceremonies used in pre-western contact Hawaii, the two most…

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Why Remember?

1899900_648937638522485_1644942098527274715_nToday is Memorial Day.  For many, Memorial Day is only about backyard BBQ’s and lazy days on the beach.  I’ve had my fair share of both.  However, having spent two decades in the military as a cadet, soldier, and spouse, I know all too well what Memorial Day is really about.

My first experience with losing a dear friend and comrade came on May 28th, 2004.  It was Memorial Day weekend, and my family and I were visiting relatives in western North Carolina.  The weekend was harshly interrupted when we got a call that our brother in arms, CPT Dan Eggers, was killed in Afghanistan.  We soon made our way back to Fort Bragg where we were stationed with Dan’s family.  29244_1471369902234_7197817_nThen my husband quickly left for Dover Air Force Base where he would meet up with Dan’s casket and escort his remains to Arlington National Cemetery.

 

Now, ten years later, I am again remembering a comrade, this time a sister in arms.  My West Point classmate and Army Crew teammate, LTC Jaimie Leonard, was killed June 8th, 2013.  10342817_649171921832390_8639041479230370464_nThis Memorial Day we celebrated her life and military service by dedicating a boat bearing her name to the current Women’s Army Crew Team.  We also participated in the first annual HERo’s Run in her home state of New York.

My husband and I have lost other friends and comrades over the years, to include SSG Michael Simpson who died May 1st, 2013.  Mike was killed while serving with my husband on a deployment that few of our C Company families will ever forget.  Like our friend Dan, Mike left behind a wife and two young sons.  Over the years, Krista’s boys, not yet school age, will rely on pictures, video, memorabilia, and, most importantly, stories from friends and family in order to have a sense of who their father was. Image 1

I am not the kind of person who tends to live in the past.  It’s harmful to our health and well-being to get stuck in the pain and heartache we’ve crossed paths with over the years.  At the same time, I do believe it is important to remember.  First and foremost, our remembering honors the families who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice.  Those of us who knew their loved ones, surely play an important role in keeping their service member’s memory alive.  For those of you who may not have any connection to the military, your remembrance matters as well.  In some of my most intimate moments with Gold Star Families (families of fallen service members), I’ve learned that a heartfelt letter from a complete stranger, a grateful citizen, can mean so very much.  Lastly, we might all consider how we contribute individually and collectively to this nation and our world.  Start simple and think of how you can use your unique gifts to make a difference in your own family, impact your community, and positively contribute to society.

In 2010, my friend LTC Jaimie Leonard wrote what now seems like a prophetic article about Memorial Day for her hometown newspaper.  She wrote, “It is my wish this Memorial Day that you consider your duties as citizens. The duty goes beyond serving in the Armed Forces, jury duty, taxes or voting. Your duties are to each other, not some esoteric concept. Remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country in war, but also honor those others who sacrifice in other ways to make this country great – law enforcement, firefighters, teachers, volunteers, etc. Please honor them in deed and not just giving thanks, parades, or planting flowers or flags on graves. Take measure of what have you done for your country and ask yourself if you could do more.”

May you all enJOY your Memorial Day and take a moment to consider how you can be a true HERo in Deed.

Click here to read the full Memorial Day article Jaimie wrote in 2010 for the Warwick Advertiser.

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Watch this touching video featuring Krista Simpson.  Hear her story and learn about a special organization called Wear Blue: Run to Remember

Listen as Rebecca Eggers tells about her unforgettable Memorial Day in 2004:

 

 

 

 

Finding Peace on Hallowed Grounds: Part 2

IMG_8757There are moments in life we never forget.  The past two months have been filled with countless unforgettable moments, now seared into my soul.  (Read “Finding Peace on Hallowed Grounds: Part 1″ for a glimpse of last month).  Last week added to the collage of painful yet profound moments as I returned to the United States Military Academy (USMA) at West Point, NY for the first time in 10 years to honor my 1997 classmate, Army Crew teammate, and sister in arms, LTC Jaimie Leonard.  Jaimie was was killed in action on June 8th, 2013 in Afghanistan.  My husband, also a 1997 USMA graduate, stood ramp side for her dignified transfer as her body left the country.  It was only fitting that I be present to welcome my sister back to her rock-bound, highland home.Dignified Transfer at Dover AFB

Less than 100 women graduated in our class of about a 1000.  Having survived the rigors of West Point together, our sisterhood has a uniquely sacred and powerful bond. Only a fraction of the women in our class still remain on active duty, and Jaimie Leonard was one of them.  The promotion list for our class was recently released, and over the past weeks I’ve heard news and seen pictures of ’97 graduates joyfully dawning their new rank of lieutenant colonel.  Jaimie had not yet pinned on her new rank.  Her time for earthly promotions was cut short before any formal ceremony was held.  Kneeling at Jaimie’s casket, I touched the new silver oak leaf on her right shoulder and told her congratulations, but I know there’s no need for rank in the place she now resides.  LTC Jaimie Leonard’s death is a tremendous loss to her class, her teammates, the Army, and this nation.

1002967_10151506707902462_1907811728_nJaimie, a superb military intelligence officer, was the Brigade S2 for 10th Mountain Division.  Her keen skills and experience were not only an asset to 10th Mountain, but to many units in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.  With previous tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, Jaimie was serving her third combat tour.  There has been much discussion over the years regarding women in combat.  Jaimie’s death reminds us that war has no regard for gender or rank, regardless of how we define the rules.  Jaimie was living and working within a Forward Operating Base along side men and women of all branches of service, to include members of the Afghan National Army (ANA).  Transferring the responsibility of Afghanistan’s national security into the hands of it’s own people is a complex and fragile mission.  It requires a unique understanding of the culture, intense resources, and most notably, trust.  Ultimately, an ANA soldier that our American service members were striving to empower, would be the person who killed Jaimie Leonard at close range as she was departing a weekly meeting with other Afghan military leaders.  IMG_8742Others were wounded and two more killed as they departed this meeting.  LTC Todd Clark (10th Mountain Division) and a civilian contractor, Joseph Morabito (also an Army veteran), were both shot and killed as they stood next to Jaimie on that fatal day.  My husband and I also knew Todd.  He had been stationed with us that the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, CA and lived down the street.  Despite our allegiance to West Point, we were invited to several neighborhood Aggie parties which, thanks to Todd’s family and other Texas A&M graduates, gave us a rich appreciation for another great corps of cadets.  Our hearts are broken over this horrific tragedy, and we ache for all the families.

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*The final verse of the USMA Alma Mater.

My broken heart was held together this past week by gripping hands with my Long Grey Line family, particularly my USMA ’97 sisters who, on short notice, dropped work and family life to converge from all corners of the country to honor Jaimie.  Standing to sing our Alma Mater* with my sisters at the memorial mass was one of those unforgettable moments in life.  I don’t think any of us were able to choke out a single a word, but we stood proudly, gripping hands and holding each other up in a moment that felt nearly unbearable.  Together we watched as the honor guard carried Jaimie out of a packed church overlooking the banks of the Hudson River on a beautiful day.  As I departed the chapel, I was particularly grateful for my classmates in uniform, LTC Robyn Wood and LTC Laurel Neff who attended.  I find great hope in them, knowing they too are extraordinary leaders, making a big difference in our military in their own unique ways.

viewAs we headed into the historic cemetery, The Patriot Riders reverently lined the way with American flags.  The West Point cemetery is a very special place.  It is reserved for West Point cadets, graduates, and their immediate families (with very few exceptions).  Having military burials dating as far back as 1782, these hallowed grounds are the oldest post cemetery in the nation.  This piece of sacred earth is the final resting place for heroes from every war in American history – from the Revolutionary War to the Global War on Terrorism.  From the ground level, the arrangement of the gravestones is seemingly random, but when viewed from the heavens, one can see they are arranged in a circular fashion as if to punctuate the last four lines of our Alma Mater** and remind us of the never-ending continuity of the Long Grey Line and of life itself.

** “E’er may that line of gray.
   Increase from day to day.
   Live, serve, and die, we pray.
   West Point, for thee!”

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~photo by JoAnna Reynolds, USMA ’97 graduate

My journey back to West Point was filled with moments surreal beyond belief.  I recount some of these moments for those who were unable to attend yet who’s presence was surely felt, as well as for all those who have no real-life perspective on the cost of distant war.  Aside from viewing the lifeless body of my sister who was once so full of life, the most poignant moment for me was standing graveside after the crowd cleared the cemetery and they had lowered her casket into the ground.  Several of my ’97 sisters were still there as well, sadly saying “hello” to other classmates and friends who claimed West Point as their final resting place.  Before they covered her grave, we stood together at the edge of a deep, dark hole with Jaimie’s favorite sunflowers in hand.  I will never forget the smell of that freshly dug earth and the sound of sunflowers abruptly hitting a wooden casket from 6 feet up.  The finality of it all rocks me to my core still today.  I will never again embrace the woman I call sister, classmate, teammate, and one of the finest officers I’ve ever known.  Never again will she stand with us and sing the words of our Alma Mater, though her spirit will surely be stirred each time its sound passes over our lips.  I know with certainty there is not a single woman in the USMA Class of ‘97 who’s thoughts will not turn to LTC Jaimie Leonard whenever they sing that final verse.*

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~ “Gripping Hands” photo by JoAnna Reynolds, USMA ’97 graduate

Other unforgettable moments were engraved in our memories as we gathered at the Army Crew boat house along the majestic banks of the Hudson.  I’ll not recount all the stories here.  The pictures, graciously taken and shared by our sister JoAnna Reynolds, are worth a thousand words.  I’ll simply share how the day ended.  Before our sisterhood parted ways, we each dug up new earth and planted sunflower seeds outside the boat house underneath the West Point crest.  Jaimie’s legacy to women in the Corps of Cadets and the Army is like a priceless seed with endless potential.  I pray that all those who were touched by her insatiable quest for knowledge, unrelenting drive, unfathomable resiliency, and tireless devotion will nurture that seed and use it to better themselves and the world at large.  She would expect nothing less of us.  LTC Jaimie Leonard is now among the “ghostly assemblage,” and as our hearts are “standing attention,” we will continue to “grip hands” and go where she has pointed the way.***8775506796_5649d02098_b

***The Corps! The Corps! The Corps!

The Corps, bareheaded, salute it, with eyes up, thanking our God.
That we of the Corps are treading, where they of the Corps have trod.
They are here in ghostly assemblage. The ranks of the Corps long dead.
And our hearts are standing attention, while we wait for their passing tread.
The Corps of today, we salute you. The Corps of an earlier day;
We follow, close order, behind you, where you have pointed the way;
The long gray line of us stretches, thro’ the years of a century told
And the last one feels to his marrow, the grip of your far off hold.
Grip hands with us now though we see not, grip hands with us strengthen our hearts.
As the long line stiffens and straightens with the thrill that your presence imparts.
Grip hands tho’ it be from the shadows. While we swear, as you did of yore.
Or living, or dying, to honor, the Corps, and the Corps, and the Corps.

“The Corps” was written by Chaplain Bishop H.S. Shipman around 1902, a century after the founding of the United States Military Academy in 1802.  In 2008, Superintendent LTG Hagenbeck ordered gender specific language to be removed. Women were first admitted into USMA in 1976.  Thank you, LTG Hagenbeck for recognizing this need for change after 32 years.  We, the women of the corps, past, present, and future, truly appreciate it.

Rowing all four years of her cadet life, Jaimie Leonard was a beloved member of the Army Crew team.  1011954_10151646804378376_1433522882_nThe women of the USMA Class of ’97 have set up a memorial fund with the West Point Association of Graduates (AOG) to purchase a four-person shell (rowing boat) in Jaimie’s honor.  It will be dedicated at a memorial ceremony and gifted to the Army Crew team for cadet rowers to use for to years to come.  All donations are tax deductable.  When gifting, please ensure you designate your gift as being “in Memory of Jaimie Leonard.” (whether gifted on-line, via phone, or checks).  Checks should be made payable to the West Point Association of Graduates (with “DCA Crew Team/in Memory of Jaimie Leonard” in the memo line).  Gifts can be made online at www.westpointaog.org/givetoWP or by calling 845-446-1658. 

You may mail donations to the following address:

West Point Association of Graduates ~ Attention:  AOG Gift Operations Department ~ 698 Mills Road ~ West Point, NY 10996.

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The sun sets on LTC Jaimie’s Leonard’s grave on the day of her burial, June 20th, 2013.

I wrote this article in honor of LTC Jaimie Leonard with sadness and appreciation for ALL our 1997 classmates who have given their life while fighting the Global War on Terrorism since September 11th, 2001. I offer eternal gratitude, love, and hope for peace to all the families of the fallen.  (Click on link for individual pictures and to leave memorial message/testimonial).

“With Pride We Defend” ~ USMA Class of 1997

Captain Matthew J. August, KIA Jan 27, 2004 ~ Iraq
Captain Philip T. Esposito, KIA Jun 8, 2005 ~ Iraq
Captain Michael J. MacKinnon, Oct 27, 2005 ~ Iraq
Captain Mark C. Paine, Oct 15, 2006 ~ Iraq
Captain Eric T. Paliwoda, Jan 2, 2004 ~ Iraq
Captain Ian P. Weikel, Apr 18, 2006 ~ Iraq
Lieutenant Colonel Jaimie E. Leonard, Jun 8, 2013 ~ Afghanistan

Finding Peace on Hallowed Grounds: Part 1

IMG_8257Recently I returned to Arlington for the first time since the burial of a dear friend in 2004.  There are 624 acres in Arlington National Cemetery where more than 14,000 veterans have been laid to rest, dating all the way back to the Civil War.  The rolling hills, dotted with white marble, are surely a site to behold.  Among presidents, historical heroes, countless memorials, and the famous Tomb of the Unknowns, lies a section that is noticeably different.  Given my short trip, I had no time to visit the others, even the Unknowns, I had far too many “knowns” to visit.

Walking through the majestic gates and past endless rows of graves,  I came to to a place that is all too familiar, the section where the gravestones are a bit whiter and the ground is noticeably more trampled.  It’s the section where one begins to see many vases of flowers, tiny stones, coins, and tokens crowding nearly every grave in every row, particularly after Memorial Day.  IMG_8287There are letters from spouses, children, mothers, fathers, friends, and perhaps even pictures or stickers stuck on the graves.  There are visitors, not just tourists, but friends and families who are clearly connected to the warriors buried within the sacred grounds of Section 60, the place many veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are now rest.

Nine years ago my husband and I stood on a lush knoll on the eastern edge of Section 60, alongside a young widow and her two boys, ages 3 and 5 at the time.  As we stood over Dan’s casket in 2004, I remember thinking, “Surely this war will be over soon.”  To my dismay, exactly 8 years and 364 days from Dan Egger’s death, I found myself standing, yet again, in Arlington National Cemetery next to yet another widow and two more small boys, ages 17 months and 3 years old.

On Thursday, May 30th 2013, family, friends, and comrades gathered to honor a son, brother, husband, father, friend, and warrior, SSG Michael Simpson.  I was honored to be on those hallowed grounds once more, as a witness to the life and service of another great Special Forces brother.  Words of appreciation and sympathy can never express the eternal gratitude we have to the Simpson and Eggers families, as well as to all the families who’ve sacrificed and suffered over the past 12 years.

Some call Section 60, the saddest acre in all of America.  It may very well be so.  When I went back for some quiet reflection the day after we buried Mike, I felt the rush of my own emotions washing over me.  As I approached the grave of our old comrade, I saw a woman, clearly a young widow, tearfully speaking to her beloved as she knelt at his grave.  My heart hurt for her as it has for my own friends who intimately know this pain.  IMG_8260Sitting down in front of Dan’s grave, memories of my brother in arms flooded my thoughts.  Time seems to stand still when looking back, yet I know it moves forward.  My mind recalls the Eggers boys at such a tender age when their father was killed, but I as look down, I see the pictures of two grown boys.  I turned around to see the ground that was once an empty field, now almost completely filled with graves.  Originally, I intended to count the number of graves that marked the lives lost in Afghanistan and Iraq from Dan’s place of rest to Mike’s freshly dug grave.  However, as I walked the rows, I couldn’t think of numbers…. only of the stories behind each and every name.  For hours I was lost in the stories that seemed to be whispered by the trees, every blade of grass, every token of love left by family or friends.  I stopped by graves of people that I have been connected with through past units or the military community, ones I didn’t know personally, but love and appreciate nonetheless.  About the time I began to wonder how many others I’d crossed paths with unknowingly, a green beret with a 3rd Group flash, resting at the foot of a grave, caught my eye.  As I looked closer, someone had also left a West Point coin, and I realized this young captain, killed in March of 2013, was a USMA grad, a member of my Long Grey Line family.  His death was fresh, of course, and still, sadly beyond him, lie even more graves. IMG_8290

The thing about Section 60 is not that the warriors laid to rest there are so different from the warriors of centuries ago.  Surely hearts broke just as painfully when a child had to be told of their father’s passing in the days of the Civil War.  In my mind, what makes it different, perhaps more difficult to bear, is that the majority of our country has no grasp of how deeply the War on Terrorism has affected so many lives.  Over 6,648 U.S. service members have been killed in the War on Terrorism.*  Though it is not our deadliest war, it has surely been the longest.  When war raged in Vietnam, people protested.  War rages in Afghanistan, and it rarely makes headline news these days.  Just because the vast majority of Americans ignore this distant war, doesn’t mean it returns the favor.  No, war continues to return to us only flag-draped caskets, limbless soldiers, and countless others who bear invisible wounds.  Each and every day we continue to put our sons, daughters, spouses, mothers and fathers in harms way, and consequently, we continue to dig up new ground at Arlington.IMG_8300  Standing at Dan’s grave and looking out towards Mike’s, I saw the horrific result of our failure to end this war sooner.  I’m not blaming any one country, group, person, or political party.  I personally believe we ALL owe it to those who’ve died and to those who continue to fight to take collective responsibility.

10 years ago this was a grassy knoll.  This is the view now - looking from Dan's grave towards Mike's (not even visible from here).

Nine years ago this was a grassy knoll. This is the view now – looking from Dan’s grave towards Mike’s (not even visible from here).

On a note of hope, I was blessed to reunite with Dan Egger’s widow, Rebecca, and their two boys on my trip. What a blessing to spend time with Rebecca and her sons on the very same day I stood with Krista Simpson and her two boys for Michael’s funeral.  These two widows, separated by 9 years of war, share the sacred bond of sacrifice.  I certainly do not know the pain that these remarkable women have suffered, and I hope I never do.  However, in knowing them, my faith is strengthened and my sense of purpose is deepened.  Over the years, I’ve watched how God has given Rebecca the courage, wisdom, and strength to move forward from the place where Krista now stands.  The Eggers boys are certainly living proof of God’s grace in motion.  J.J. and Billy are incredible young men who will forever carry their father in their hearts as they aspire to greatness in their own lives.  I know that Krista and the Simpson boys will also, not only survive, but thrive in spite of their great loss.

My sincere prayer is that all those who have loved ones in Section 60 will find peace and seek joy even in the midst of their darkest nightmare, remembering that they are connected to every brave soul and family honored on those hallowed hills of Arlington.  Likewise, may every American realize that we too are connected, regardless of our personal views or political beliefs, to the thousands of lives lost in the name of Freedom.    Let us also remember that there are military service members who stand in harms way each and every moment as we safely scurry about our day and rest comfortably at night.  If you do nothing more than offer up prayers of protection for our service members and gratitude to the families of the fallen, you’ve contributed in a positive way.    383436_10151409927290919_489922506_n

I wrote this piece on my journey back from Arlington.  Before I had the opportunity to catch my breath from this profound experience, I received tragic news from Afghanistan again.  Next week I will journey back to yet another sacred place where I will lay a sister to rest.  Part 2 of this story will be dedicated to LTC Jaimie Leonard and LTC Todd Clark who were killed in Afghanistan on June 8th 2013.

*This figure comes from The Washington Post and is clearly not as current as it could be given I know of at least 4 casualties not reported here. 

Tea, Love, & Connection

IMG_7197Seeing as hot tea is ever-flowing in our house, particularly during the long Washington winter, we recently decided to create a tea bar in our home.  It all started when I found a great shelf with perfect tea storage and placed it over the buffet in our dining room.  I must admit, this “buffet,” otherwise described as a set of dresser drawers, was also a changing table at one time.  Not long ago a friend from Hawaii came to visit and recognized my re-purposed dining room furniture saying “Wasn’t that in your son’s room before?  I think I changed a few diapers on that thing!”  I am a practical person, and having moved 8 times in the past 15 years, I try to only buy furniture that works in most any space.  With my newly hung shelf and a clean and cleared-off “buffet,” I re-purposed this the piece yet again.

The next step involved clearing out an antique pie safe where I have been storing tea products for some time.  As I pulled out tea pots, cups, and tea tins, I realized that I had quite an abundance of tea… far beyond what I had realized.  It was a true testimony to the abundance available when we simply open our eyes to what already exists!  Only by creating a new and open space (the tea bar), was I inspired to explore what had been lying untouched in the shadows of those back shelves.

As I took inventory of my tea and began placing it in it’s new home, I realized I had far more than I personally needed.  I began to envision how and with whom to share my glorious tea abundance!  Tea is a very personal drink.  In many cultures, there are elaborate rituals around tea, like the exquisite tea ceremonies of Japan and China that I’ve been blessed to experience.  Japan 2009 172Samurai warriors were often rewarded tea by their shogun for their courageous acts in battle and also used tea in their meditation practices.  Throughout the world, and in our home as well, there is great reverence for the second most widely consumed beverage in the world.  (Tea is second only to water, believe it or not… though probably not here in the state of Washington, the birthplace of Starbucks).

After separating out some teas I’d later gift to others, I had my new tea bar all set up.  As I stepped back to take a picture of the finished project, I realized a good portion of my adult life was now proudly displayed – in the name of tea.  There on the shelf was a teapot I bought about 17 years ago, on a random outing in New York when I was a cadet at West Point.  A few years after that, I received a teapot and cups for a wedding present.  Fast forward a few more years and in comes a teapot-for-one, just the right size for a new mother who spent a lot of time alone with her baby while her husband was away in Afghanistan.  Along the way, I was gifted with my first handmade cast iron teapot from my mother, a ceramic beauty crafted in Maui by a hanai (adopted) sister, and other treasured gifts.  I’ve bought special teapots for myself as well, two of which marked very pivotal times in my life.

As if the pots didn’t tell enough of the journey, the tea itself added some punctuation to the whole story.  My tea collections include tea from Savannah to Thailand and even some special tea that I grew, harvested, and blended at our home in Hawai’i.  IMG_7200You’ll also notice a special tea towel that was artfully hand-crafted by Kamaile Puaoi, a dear friend, artist, teacher, and phenomenal healer.*  Lastly, you might notice the six shiny tins crowning the shelf – the newest members of my tea ohana.IMG_7192

I am happy to say that over the Christmas holidays, I connected with some kindred spirits, the brilliant co-creators of Teamotions Teas.  Teamotions is an emotional wellness company offering a selection of teas (currently 9 different fusions) that are deliciously blended with adaptogen herbs that help the body cope with stress and foster emotional and physical well-being.  This line of teas was inspired when one of the founders, Rachelle Crawford (a military spouse), was grieving the loss of her twin baby girls.  Her sister (and Teamotions Co-Founder) Crystal Tenpenny said, “I wish there was something I could put in your tea to make you feel better!”  Out of immeasurable turmoil, Teamotions was soon birthed, a beautiful legacy to Aubrey and Ellie and a great reminder that we can “kulia i ka nu ‘u” (strive for the summit) even in the midst of our deepest pain.*

Image 12Each Teamotions blend is all-natural and hand-crafted in small batches with the utmost integrity using organic and fair-trade ingredients.  Teamotions believes that well-being starts on the inside and is ultimately acquired by regular expressions of compassion, serving others, cultivating healthy relationships, being thankful, practicing patience, and treating ourselves and others with kindness and respect.  These principles are indeed the essence of aloha and one of the reasons I’m so passionate about sharing these exquisite teas.

Throughout the year, I will be hosting tea tastings in my home and at other locations as an Independent Wellness Consultant for Teamotions.  Tea tastings are free of charge, FUN, and educational.   Go to the Ola Lokahi Face Book page to find out when the next public tea tasting is happening.  If you are interested in hosting a tasting at your home, your workplace, church, or for a community group,  please contact me (Susan) at olalokahi@gmail.com.  I look forward to sharing with you how these delicious blends can transform a simple cup of tea into a true healing experience!  To learn more about Teamotions or to order online, visit www.mindbodyaloha.com.

Aloha & may your cup runneth over!

Susan Alden

Image 4*Kamaile’s unique, hand-crafted tea towels are available on Etsy.  Click here to see her beautiful tea towels, pillows, and fun signs all with a super special Hawaiian touch!