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Part 1: Kauai's Healing Vacations Last a Lifetime


Opaekaa Falls is found deep in one of the beautiful rainforests of Kauai. Courtesy of Kaua'i Visitors Bureau. It was dusk on the garden island of Kauai as I lay in a small hut at the edge of the rain forest. Birds and insects offered the only sounds, a single candle the only light.

A young woman touched my shoulders. Quietly, she asked me to breathe in deeply and release, as she did the same. She exhaled in a howl, like steam coursing through a clogged heating system. I was startled at first, but the rhythm of her breathing and of her dance-like motion against my body became hypnotic.

"Breathe with me," she reminded. "Hnnnnh. Hooooo. Hnnnnh. Hooooo."

"Hnnnh. Hooooo," I replied.

Before long, something strange happened. After 10 minutes or so, I couldn't separate our breathing. It had melded. Her arms stretched the length of my arms, and she pulled me toward her, then rocked me away. Soon I couldn't tell where her body ended and mine began.

"Hnnnh. Hooooo."

Then things started getting really strange. Poignant scenes from my childhood – things I hadn't thought about in years – became real before my closed eyes. I started to laugh, then cry. My sobs slowly matched the rhythm of her movements. After a few moments, I felt flushed with release and joy.

Such is lomi lomi.

This ancient art, combining massage, meditation and movement, was once provided only to Hawaiian chiefs and warriors. Today, it provides the backbone – so to speak – of a growing cottage industry on Kauai: healing vacations.

The island of Kauai offers many beautiful hikes, including this one up to Na Pali Lookout. Courtesy of Kaua'i Visitors Bureau.This new genre combines equal parts relaxation, reflection and soft adventure. For example, a day can start with a four-hour massage, followed by an afternoon of sea kayaking, a horseback trek to hidden waterfalls or simple hammock time, and end with a cliff-top hike at dusk to watch the Pacific swallow the sun. Travelers return home recharged, not just with the temporary bliss that time away brings, but with a lasting strengthening of body, mind and spirit to the rigors that life presents.

An umbrella organization, Healing Arts Resources Kauai (H.A.R.K.) publishes a directory chock full of therapies, treatments and techniques – from aromatherapy and art therapy to meditation and shamanic counseling. For those who wish to mix business with healing, H.A.R.K. includes one practitioner who is both a psychic and a certified trainer for Steven Covey's Seven Habits of Successful People.

Some travelers may find a few approaches a bit too New Age – or Old Age. I, for one, passed on the 10-day herbal colon cleansing. Instead, I made lomi lomi the focus of my 10-day stay.

Owner Ed Stumpf offers guests al fresco lomi lomi at Mahala Ke Ola bed and breakfast. Copyright Jim Johnson.At the Hyatt Regency, one of the top-rated spas in the world, lomi is among the dozen massage varieties offered. In a private room opening onto a private lanai, I was soaked in a botanical bath, wrapped in seaweed and coated with "essential oils" before the massage even started. What it lacked in intensity, it more than made up for in luxury.

 

But Kauai's ultimate lomi lomi, everyone will tell you, is at "Angeline's place." Sixty-something Angeline Locey turned to traditional healing arts in the 1970s when, as a nurse, she realized that conventional medicine "just wasn't doing it."

The four-hour experience takes place in two redwood steam huts at a rustic retreat set deep in the rain forest. In the first room, clad only in a sheer sheet, I joined five other guests to sit and sweat. Two at a time, we were led to tables, where Angeline's co-workers lathered us in sea salt and red clay gathered from a sacred site at the base of Mount Waialeale. The steam allowed the body "to cry," we were told, and the treatment drew toxins from the skin while adding trace elements to nourish it. After an attendant rinsed away the mixture with a light spray, we could return to our seats or head outside to the deck, where pitchers of fresh juice and sliced mangoes, papayas, star fruit and melon awaited us. By now, modesty and the sheets had fallen under bright blue skies.

After two hours of alternating steam and sunlight, I entered the second room, where a lighter mist filled the air. I climbed onto a table, and soon four hands kneaded scented oil into my body, lifting and turning me as if in some ancient dance. I heard a distant voice that belonged to two of the hands. "Breathe with us," it said. I did and disappeared into a dream.

Watching a beautiful sunset, such as this one at Hanalei Pier, provides visitors another way to relax in the beauty of Kauai. Courtesy of the Kaua'i Visitors Bureau.Far too soon, I reluctantly changed into my "street clothes." Before I left, Angeline (since fallen ill but still a powerful force there) stressed that lomi lomi just aids the healing process. She sensed – quite accurately – that I could have contented myself with days of massage.

"Lomi lomi helps your mind and body open to what is around you," she said. "Spend time with nature. Challenge yourself. We helped you with a passive escape. Now you must find an active one."

On Kauai, that's as easily done as said.

In Part II, James D. Johnson will emerge from the rain forest to encounter the thrilling challenge of outdoor adventure.

For general tourism information, contact the Kauai Visitors Bureau at 808-245-3971 or the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, www.gohawaii.com or Tel: 800-GO-HAWAII (464-2924).

For healing vacation resources, contact Healing Arts Resources Kauai (800-599-5488; www.hshawaii.com/kvp/joan/ ).

Owner Ed Stumpf offers guests al fresco lomi lomi at Mahala Ke Ola bed and breakfast. Copyright Jim Johnson.At the Hyatt Regency, one of the top-rated spas in the world, lomi is among the dozen massage varieties offered. In a private room opening onto a private lanai, I was soaked in a botanical bath, wrapped in seaweed and coated with "essential oils" before the massage even started. What it lacked in intensity, it more than made up for in luxury.

But Kauai's ultimate lomi lomi, everyone will tell you, is at "Angeline's place." Sixty-something Angeline Locey turned to traditional healing arts in the 1970s when, as a nurse, she realized that conventional medicine "just wasn't doing it."

The four-hour experience takes place in two redwood steam huts at a rustic retreat set deep in the rain forest. In the first room, clad only in a sheer sheet, I joined five other guests to sit and sweat. Two at a time, we were led to tables, where Angeline's co-workers lathered us in sea salt and red clay gathered from a sacred site at the base of Mount Waialeale. The steam allowed the body "to cry," we were told, and the treatment drew toxins from the skin while adding trace elements to nourish it. After an attendant rinsed away the mixture with a light spray, we could return to our seats or head outside to the deck, where pitchers of fresh juice and sliced mangoes, papayas, star fruit and melon awaited us. By now, modesty and the sheets had fallen under bright blue skies.

After two hours of alternating steam and sunlight, I entered the second room, where a lighter mist filled the air. I climbed onto a table, and soon four hands kneaded scented oil into my body, lifting and turning me as if in some ancient dance. I heard a distant voice that belonged to two of the hands. "Breathe with us," it said. I did and disappeared into a dream.

Watching a beautiful sunset, such as this one at Hanalei Pier, provides visitors another way to relax in the beauty of Kauai. Courtesy of the Kaua'i Visitors Bureau.Far too soon, I reluctantly changed into my "street clothes." Before I left, Angeline (since fallen ill but still a powerful force there) stressed that lomi lomi just aids the healing process. She sensed quite accurately that I could have contented myself with days of massage.

"Lomi lomi helps your mind and body open to what is around you," she said. "Spend time with nature. Challenge yourself. We helped you with a passive escape. Now you must find an active one."

On Kauai, that's as easily done as said.

In Part II, James D. Johnson will emerge from the rain forest to encounter the thrilling challenge of outdoor adventure.

For general tourism information, contact the Kauai Visitors Bureau at 808-245-3971 or the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, www.gohawaii.com or Tel: 800-GO-HAWAII (464-2924).

For healing vacation resources, contact Healing Arts Resources Kauai (800-599-5488; www.hshawaii.com/kvp/joan/ ).