The Power of Language

By Erin Marcus-Levine, Clinical Admissions Director

Whenever I visit our students in the field, I am surprised and impressed by their attachment to and utilization of Hawaiian words and the meanings behind them.

Pacific Quest Wilderness Therapy ProgramThey learn to sit with themselves and reflect, “Nalu”.  There is a real implication of pride and independence that comes along with the ability to sit in one’s own skin.  Reflection time is something many of our students never practiced prior to coming to Pacific Quest outdoor therapy program.  They greet it with great fear and reluctance in the beginning, but ultimately come to love their personal/meditation time away from the distractions of the day.

Students learn about and own personal responsibility, “Kuleana”.  The concepts of accountability and personal responsibility are quite foreign and often maligned in the beginning.  Those with fragile egos often need to blame others for their disappointments and fear that accepting personal responsibility will alienate others.  The actual process of empowerment and strengthening of relationships that springs from embracing Kuleana is a pivotal moment in our program, the beginning of the real work.

Students at Pacific Quest learn the true meaning of family, “Ohana”.  Family is an action, we do not live in a vacuum and our contributions, or lack thereof, effect the whole.  Learning to be a vital part of a functional system is a rewarding and sustainable behavior that is useful long after students leave our care.

They learn about Leadership and how to be a strong leader, “Alaka’i”.   A great leader has done their own work and comes from a place of calm and trust in the process.

These are just a few examples of Hawaiian words our students learn at Pacific Quest wilderness therapy program.  The students embrace the Hawaiian language and the true meaning behind the words with such enthusiasm and a deep level of understanding and pride.  The Hawaiians infuse such meaning into their words yet they are not so different from the meanings and lessons parents hope to teach their children all over the world.  I’m not sure why our students are able to embrace these concepts here in a way they did not before, but I know that the memory and the meaning of this special language stays with them and guides their choices long after they have left the safe haven of Pacific Quest.



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