Pender County’s Spirit of Aloha: Michael McDowell

by Angelica Pallas Natural Awakenings August 2009

Sharing the spirit of aloha is believed to attune one to the universal power called mana, or “all power comes from within,” as defined by the seven Hawaiian shamanic principles.

Sharing of the breath, an ancient Hawaiian healing custom, Michael McDowell inhales, “Ssssspp.” Then, exhaling with a loud “ha,” the Sacred Lomi massage master stops, lays his hands on the spirit he is about to give to and asks the universe for guidance. “Ssssspp. Ha. Ssssspp. Ha.” In a trance-like state, McDowell begins working the energy in the space surrounding the massage table. Sweeping, stirring and weaving, his dance is one of sacred geometrical patterns used by old-world Hawaiian healers, the Kahuna lā’au lapa’aus. With the space surrounding McDowell (the giver) and his client (the receiver) now swirling with free-flowing energy, it is time for the journey to begin. The soothing, rhythmic music becomes louder. The heat and vibration of the acoustical massage table intensify. The mind begins to quiet. The body starts to unwind. Forearms, elbows and hands continuously bathe the receiver with long, rhythmic strokes of the healing waves of energy released through the sacred patterns of his dance as McDowell chants ancient Hawaiian shamanic principles. “Ssssspp. Ha. Ssssspp. Ha. Aloha. Sssssppp. Ha. Sssssppp. Ha. Manawa.” With energy growing stronger as the receiver’s own healing powers release, the Sacred Lomi master becomes lost in a healing journey of his own as life energy fills the room, flowing uninhibited between receiver and giver.

Originally introduced to the Hawaiian Islands by early Polynesian settlers, the healing art of Lomi Lomi massage is ancient. Evolving into something uniquely Hawaiian over hundreds of years, Lomi Lomi’s very essence, which is rooted in seven shamanic principles, can be found within the word aloha. The secret for attaining true health, happiness, prosperity and success is woven into its syllables – the joyful (oha) sharing (alo) of life energy (ha) in the present (alo). Sharing the spirit of aloha is believed to attune one to the universal power called mana, or “all power comes from within,” as defined by the seven Hawaiian shamanic principles. Conducted with prayer, intention and the power of love, and practiced from a position of sacred respect and honor for the other person, the art of Lomi Lomi is one of the “secrets” the native Kahuna lā’au lapa’au healers used to release the powers of the body so that physical, mental, emotional and spiritual healing could take place more quickly and completely in their patients.

Ritualistic, somewhat primitive in nature, and performed with the receiver basically nude, Lomi Lomi was scorned as heathen when the island chain was converted to Christianity in the early 1800’s. Once practiced within family units by everyone from child to chief, this healing art of weaving love, light and spirit into the body to reawaken harmony and balance has never lost popularity among island natives, foreign-born residents and visitors as a form of restorative massage, even though many old-world native healers using the art as part of their medical practice, such as the Kahuna lā’au lapa’aus, were forced to go underground for nearly 200 years until legislation passed in 2001.

Described as “soul-touching,” “beating heart,” “sacred” and “life-changing” by some of his Lomi Lomi receivers, McDowell’s work is an extension of his heart. “I went to my first Lomi Lomi training in 2006,” the now-master of the art recalls. “My work took on new form after my wife, Kathy, passed last fall. The spiritual journey we made together during her illness was a precious gift. It was a gift of love. Love and its power are meant to be shared with others.”

One of McDowell’s newest clients tells of her Lomi Lomi experience:

“I’ve never felt love like that before,” explains the Wilmington professional. “It was as though I were flying through outer space encapsulated in a protective cocoon of security constructed with unconditional love. I’d leave and climb inside myself, surfacing periodically only to be reassured by Michael’s continuous weaving of love around my body before climbing back inside myself. I was nervous going into the session because I am pretty modest about my body and only a couple of small towels were used for draping. Looking back, my nudity was insignificant. During the session my body was the last thing on my mind. My re-entrance into the world toward the end of the session was a bit of a shock, though. Not because I was lying there naked, but because I realized where I had just returned from. Now, days after the session, I can still feel this place and am able to visit it at will. It is a place that should be returned to often.”

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