New book gathers
isle healing arts

A disciple of aloha says
forgiveness is the first step
to well-being

During her first visit from Australia to Hawaii three years ago, Renata Provenzano brought with her an interest in Hawaiian proverbs and a curiosity about whether the expressions she heard and read about were authentic.

Book signing

What: Meet Renata Provenzano, author of "A Little Book of Aloha: Spirit of Healing" (Mutual Publishing, $10.95)

Where: Waldenbooks Kahala, noon to 1 p.m. tomorrow, and at Na Mea Hawaii, 851 Fort Street Mall, 2 to 3 p.m. tomorrow

Admission: Free

Provenzano came to Hawaii to write a travel story but, after visiting several Hawaii bookstores, discovered that a small, portable book of Hawaiian proverbs simply didn't exist.

"Why don't you write one?" a clerk joked.

"My first thought was, I'm not Hawaiian," Provenzano said.

But she never let go of the idea. While working on her magazine story, she interviewed several people about the spirit of aloha.

"I spoke to everyday people -- bus drivers, shop assistants, hotel managers," she said.

A year later, she called a local hotel worker to ask if she knew any Hawaii publishers. The friend had two books on her desk and gave her both publishers' e-mail addresses.

"Mutual Publishing got back to me first, saying they loved the idea," she said. "I wrote 'A Little Book of Aloha: Hawaiian Proverbs & Inspirational Wisdom' in about four months."

The author of that 2001 bestseller is here celebrating the release of her second book, "A Little Book of Aloha: Spirit of Healing," with book signings that began Wednesday during Healing Arts demonstrations at the Outrigger Waikiki and continue tomorrow at two Honolulu bookstores.

Renata Provenzano will be signing copies of her book.

"I've always believed that one of the happiest places on earth is Hawaii, and I wanted to make the Hawaiian proverbs and healings more accessible to visitors," she said. "I thought this also would be a way to show that Hawaiian people and their culture are often misunderstood by visitors."

Her book of proverbs and sayings came from traditional sources, such as Mary Kawena Puku'i's "Olelo No'eau."

The wisdom of old Hawaii continues in her new book with more than 30 interviews with Hawaiian healing practitioners. Anecdotes are accompanied by contemporary and documentary photographs explaining how traditional Hawaiian methods of living can be a part of everyday life. The book measures a mere 5 1/4 by 6 1/4 inches, containing simple philosophies and explanations of healing practices and ingredients that run no more than a page or two.

"I decided to do healers because it's something close to my heart," she said. "I've always been interested in nonmodern medicine because it's rooted in hundreds of years of tradition.

"The Hawaiians understand that healing has so much to do with the whole body and everything around you, your environment, family, the work you do, what you've done in the past."

Provenzano's research for "A Little Book of Aloha: Spirit of Healing" began last summer during a second trip to Hawaii when she visited healers on Oahu and the Big Island and then conducted telephone interviews to reach others. It took about six months to complete the book.

Provenzano's favorite healing "chapter" is the suggestion of forgiveness by Waianae's kupuna and herbal practitioner Alapai Kahuena.

"The first medicine is forgiveness," Kahuena writes. "Before anyone of us can heal ourselves, we need to have forgiveness. We need to have pono (balance). If we cannot forgive ourselves, we cannot heal others, we cannot heal anyone."

"I put that No. 1 in the book because forgiveness is the hardest thing to do ... to let go of what's happened in the past; it's essential to allow us to move on," she said.

Healing Arts demonstrations in conjunction with the "Aloha" book signing began at the Outrigger Waikiki Wednesday and continue tomorrow at two Honolulu bookstores.

Other minichapters include the "spirit of aloha," being in balance with the world and one's self, loving and respecting yourself, respecting the environment, gaining knowledge from all aspects of life, and dozens of herbal remedies.

"These are simple life lessons which take seconds to read but can be used for a lifetime of knowledge," Provenzano said. "The kupunas and healers wrote this book. The words are theirs."

So, in her research for proverbs and healing, did she learn also the meaning of aloha?

"I think so," she says. "Aloha embodies the entire cultural and traditional way of life for Hawaiian people. Aloha is all about loving, sharing, caring, good will and comes from the heart. Hawaiians are nice for the sake of being nice.

"But remember, I'm Australian, so I have much to learn about this wonderful culture."

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