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Rites Of Passages To The Dreamtime And Underworld

With Lani Yamasaki

Published on: Oct 12, 2018

Being raised in a multicultural family, Lani Yamasaki grew up embracing the cultures of her heritage. Lani’s dad is Japanese and English, her mom is Hawaiian and Chinese. Her family’s different multicultural celebrations shaped how she was able to look at the world with diverse eyes and appreciate diversity at an early age. Lani’s ancestors conducted rites of passages into the dreamtime which is also considered the underworld. It’s not hell, but a place of incubation, a time of introspection, a place to receive answers not only through your ancestors but through your guardians as well. She says rights of passages or ceremonies, initiations, and practices that bring us from birth to childhood, from childhood to adolescence, from adolescence to adulthood, and then from adulthood to death, may have some lessons in between. Discover more about rites of passages as Lani expounds on it. She also touches on growing up with multiple heritages and trying to fit in, surviving several traumas and healing from shame, and finding her kuleana or true purpose.

Rites Of Passages To The Dreamtime And Underworld with Lani Yamasaki

Life is unpredictable and it can often feel impossible to find a balance between what you want and what you have. Perhaps you’re feeling trapped or constrained because of your cultural boundaries. Whatever the case, I’m glad you are here with me. Our guests on the Asian Women of Power podcast all have similar backgrounds and traits. Like me, they have found a way to create a life which gives them the freedom, power and choice to be who they want to be while still respecting their culture. Our guest is no different. Meet Lani Yamasaki. Lani is a native Hawaiian of mixed ancestry, Hawaiian, third generation of Chinese and fourth generation of Japanese and English. She is respected as the bridge builder between cultures as well as the sacred in the everyday world. As a serial social entrepreneur, business development consultant and personal development coach for over 30 years, Lani empowered individuals, communities and organizations to recover from trauma, build resiliency and achieve sustainability. Lani supports her clients’ healing journey through the creation of legacy programs that reflect the cultural, spiritual and physical landscapes, which are relevant to their healing. Her clients include multinational leaders, Fortune 500 companies, governments, NGOs, scientists, medical practitioners and wellness leaders.

Welcome, Lani Yamasaki.


I’m glad you are here. Tell us about your childhood and your family.

First, Kimchi, please let me share how honored I am to serve as a guest and how excited I am that you created Asian Women of Power. It’s such an amazing venue for transformation and healing. Thank you so much. My childhood, I was raised in Hawaii. My dad is Japanese and English. My mom is Hawaiian and Chinese. What happened at our table is that we embraced the cultures of our heritage with food and the way that we approach spirituality and the different multicultural celebrations. That shaped how I was able to look at the world with diverse eyes to appreciate diversity at an early age.

Were you the only child in the family?

I have a sister and she is four years older than I am.

Since you live in Hawaii, which is mostly Asian, did you ever experience or felt mistreated because of your ethnic background or because you are a woman? 

I did feel some discrimination because I didn’t quite fit into looking Chinese. I didn’t quite fit in looking Hawaiian. I didn’t quite fit in looking Japanese. What was I? People were always confused. In an earlier podcast, I heard you also share the same type of confusion. People didn’t know who you were when they looked at you. For instance, my Japanese cousins were size 0 or size 1 for clothes. With my ancestry, I was a size 4 and I’m talking about the formative adolescent teenage years. I always felt gawky, like I was too big being a size 4. I remember trying to try to fit in. I went to the only school for Hawaiian children in the nation, which is Kamehameha Schools. My foundation is primarily Hawaiian. I didn’t go to a Japanese school after school. I didn’t go to a Chinese school after school like many children did in Hawaii. I didn’t quite belong in that Asian community.

Is it true that most Hawaiians don’t get upset easily? They seem to have a good attitude about life.

I would say, personally speaking, I have a very long fuse. I believe that the way I was raised is to be good-humored and to have patience. Patience is an important virtue in Hawaiian culture.

Rites Of Passages: I was raised to be good-humored and to have patience. Patience is a very important Hawaiian culture virtue.

It is a culture. It’s not a practice that you learn as you grow up?

It’s a culture, but it’s changing. I’m 58 years old. I am still raised with my grandparents’ values along with my parents’ values. I’m going to say, and this might get me in trouble, one of my pet peeves is when people talk about values and they don’t integrate them. They talk about them and they may romanticize about them. For instance, talking about patience being a primary value in Hawaiian culture and then not seeing it being demonstrated. That is happening more and more. It’s romanticizing the culture.

What do you mean by romanticizing?

One of our primary values is aloha. In aloha, “alo” refers to the spirit and “ha” is our breath of life. If I were to greet you with aloha, I’m acknowledging that my spirit is recognizing the divinity of your spirit. On the same lines, I’m also bringing in love, sympathy, kindness and charity. Those are all things that aloha means. If you’re to go into the phone book, you will see multitudes of businesses leading with aloha, including Aloha Key Chains, Aloha Travel. Aloha then becomes commodified. Personally, I don’t understand how you can have an aloha key.

What do children learn in school in Hawaii?

What I learned is different from today. When I grew up, Hawaiian history wasn’t shared as openly as it is today, primarily because when I grew up, it was the renaissance. It was the beginning of the Hawaiian renaissance. That happened when I was twelve years old in 1972. That’s when finally, we became proud of our heritage. Before that, our parents were taught not to speak the language anymore and not to practice the culture because it was less than being an American. I would say that would be the same thing for Japanese children growing up in Hawaii. When my mom and dad grew up here, they had to go to what they call an English standard school. If you learn English without any accent and you become Americanized, then you will get along better and you’ll get ahead more than you would following and living in your Hawaiian, Chinese, Japanese or other than Westernized culture.

Probably most schools are teaching the Hawaiian language, right?

Yes. Hawaiian is the official language of Hawaii, yet for being our primary language in Hawaii, not too many people speak it. The changes that you would see are that even if you’re not Hawaiian, Hawaiian culture is taught in public schools as well as private schools because this is the host culture. Therefore, to be respectful, we must learn Hawaiian culture living here in the islands.

What is a rite of passage to the dream time in the underworld?

Every traditional culture globally has their ancestral time. Even now, if they’re Earth-based, they have rites of passages. Rites of passages are passages or ceremonies, initiations and practices that bring us from childhood to adolescence, from adolescence to adulthood and then from adulthood, there may be some lessons in between there. The last passage would be death. The first passage begins with birth.

What’s the meaning of dream time and the underworld? Is dream time the heaven and underworld is hell? 

Dream time for us is where life begins. This is where healing is. For instance, when the sun sets, you’re entering the dream time where healing begins, where you enter into a realm where you communicate with the ancestors, where you communicate with the gods. You travel and you have the ability to receive clarity and to receive answers to questions that you might have. My ancestors conducted rites of passage into the dream time. This is also considered the underworld. It’s not hell. It is a place of incubation, a time of introspection, and a place to receive answers not only through your ancestors but to your guardians as well. My ancestors did this. Their home here in Hawaii was the volcano.

Many people think of the volcano and the goddess, Pele, as a goddess of destruction. In reality, the philosophy is that chaos, you have to break things down in order to grow again, in order to regenerate. At the same time, as she creates lava that flows over the land, while she might be covering life, that lava is fertile and new life will soon begin from it. The rites of passages into the dream time and looking at the volcano also look at how the world works for us traditional Hawaiians, which is masculine and feminine, positive and negative dualities. It is her uncle, Lonomakua, who resides in the interior of the volcano. At her bidding, he brings her that fire. You see it takes the male and female to create the light peeping through the fire and she creates the lava flow that then creates new life because that lava creates new land. The volcano is one of our sacred places to go into the dream time to meet with our ancestors, to be born again, to be renewed again. This is something that’s very important in our lives.


Rites Of Passages: Kuleana is Hawaiian for your lineage honor, lineage privilege, or lineage mission.

Every day the sun sets, it is a signaling that day is dying as the sun sets. When the sun rises, you are born again. It gives you the opportunity then to start anew, to start fresh. What I was raised with is that you have to die in order to live, meaning you have to be a spiritual warrior. You need to be willing to face those challenges that might seem insurmountable. Understand that as we meet these challenges, parts of us that are extraneous to our best and highest good will melt away, will die and will go away so that we can grow into our full potential of what we came here to do, which is to be of service to not only humanity but to Earth and to nature.

With that philosophy, every day at the end of the day, whatever trouble that we are facing during that day will be soon over and tomorrow we’re going to start out fresh. We are reborn anew.

That is the philosophy but there is a practice that goes with that. You may have heard of it, it’s called Ho‘oponopono. You may understand there are different philosophies, but the philosophy I was raised with is to come to balance. Every night before you go to bed, as the sun sets, that gives you the opportunity to bring up all your troubles and the great things of the day to review it and to release it before the sunset. When the sun sets, literally your last breath in that meditation, as the sun sinks, you’re releasing into the dream time what is extraneous to your best and highest good and you’re coming to balance again. Ho‘oponopono means to come into balance again.

What happens when you wake up in the morning when the sun is rising?

When you wake up, ideally we should be rising with the chi. As a Chinese person, that’s the optimal time to rise with the sun because as the sun rises and gains energy, so do you. When you rise with the sun, that increases your sacred energy or what we call in Hawaiian, mana. This allows you to rise not only with your ancestors, but it also allows you to rise with your guardians. Your thoughts are fresh. There’s very little activity. Have you ever noticed that when you wake up early in the morning, the frequency out there is quiet? If you wake up with a memory of what you dreamed, it gives you an opportunity to journal and to integrate that. It’s an opportunity for you to examine what you learned in a dream time and to ask for more guidance and meditation as that sun is rising. When the sun is done rising and is in place, you should be in place of integration that time and ready to begin your day, feeling balanced and aligned and with purpose and intention.

At what time are you talking about for sunrise?

4:30 in the morning.

I haven’t seen any sun at 4:30 AM yet. 

That’s when the energy begins. If I’m in my cycle, when I say my cycle, I’m in balance with Earth, then I will begin to stir at that time. I may not want to get up but surely by 5:00, I’m in place.

What about sunset?

There are different times of sunsets as well. I would like to practice my Ho‘oponopono on a daily basis. I live in a suitcase a lot, I travel a lot, that’s hard to do. I try to be mindful of when the sun is setting and then I time it. I already know it’s going to take me about 45 minutes to finish my process of Ho‘oponopono before the sun sets and then I reverse my meditation. I begin to review my day approximately 45 minutes before the sun sets. If I can possibly do it, I will be at the ocean or at least looking at the horizon so I can time that breath with the sinking sun into the ocean.

That sounds great but for people who live in the city, they are not close to the ocean. They cannot see the sunset. Even when the sun is setting, which is around 7:00 PM, 7:30 PM, it depends on the season, it is too early to go to bed. What do you recommend about that?

I agree and let me clarify I don’t go to bed when the sun sets. In traditional Hawaii, they did that. When I say traditional, I mean the time of my great grandparents. They would time it and they would be done and go to bed when the sun sets. I don’t do that. I finish my meditation when the sun sets because I live in a suitcase a lot, I cannot see that horizon. I look on the internet, I find out when the sun sets and I time it. That way when I finish my meditation, to be truthful, sometimes that’s when I go on to my next meeting or enter a meal or something like this. Ideally in traditional Hawaii, you rise with the sun and you settle down when the sun sets. I don’t know of many people who still do that. It’s ideal.

Tell us about kuleana, the sacred contract. What is it? 

Kuleana is Hawaiian for your lineal honor and your lineal privilege, your lineal mission. Just as we all have thumbprints that are unique, we have a unique purpose for being here. Since we’re small kids, we’re asked, “What is your kuleana?” You were greatly asked that. I remember being four years old and I remember saying, “I’m going to be a hairdresser. That’s what I’m here to do.” When I went to school in kindergarten, “I’m going to be a teacher.” My elders are always asking me, “Have you found out what your kuleana is?” Anytime I was exposed to something new that I fell in love with, that was it. I was convinced that it was it.

Finding out what your kuleana is, finding out what your true purpose in this lifetime can be a lifetime quest. If you understand what your kuleana is, it’s empowering. In fact, it can be healing and transformational. For instance, when I worked with survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse, many of them were never raised to understand what their purpose is or even to ask the question. When I have the honor of working with them to facilitate this discovery within them, healing begins in a profound way.

Understanding your kuleana means that you are connected again to your ancestors. When you understand your kuleana, that leads back to your ancestors and understanding who they are and what they did. When you understand that, you understand more of who you are, why you are the way you are and what you’re here to do. When you understand your kuleana, your life purpose, it empowers you. That’s the intention and the focus. When you have that intention and focus, then help comes in unforeseen ways in the spiritual world, in the physical world. The resources come to help you to fulfill that purpose, that kuleana.

For people who are not familiar with this work, do you have a way to recommend them to discover their kuleana or their mission or purpose in life?

I’ve found with Hawaii being a culture that is oral, you ask out loud. Some may call this a prayer to your creator, to your ancestors, “Who am I? What am I here to do?” You can articulate it in this way. You can ask your parents to understand your genealogy. Ask your parents about their life journey, “Mom, dad, why are you doing what you’re doing?” Many times you will find, especially in our generation, they did it because of the responsibility to further their family, especially if you come to the US as an immigrant. When you dig down deeper and you see what they do in their spare time for their hobbies, those hobbies are a way to help other people, it’s very fascinating. Ask those who are around you, your relatives, starting with your parents, “Why do you do what you do?” Ask about your ancestors. That’s a good way of beginning. Never discount. Pay attention to the answers that come from the spiritual world.

How did you find out your kuleana and when?

I started to have flashbacks when I was young. Talk about discrimination, I started to have flashbacks that I lived in different places around the world. I had flashbacks of actual life recollections and this would normally be triggered if I was seeing a movie, reading a book or hearing music. I was young and these flashbacks began to happen before I was five years old. That’s when the first flashbacks happened. They increased as I went to school and I was exposed to different cultures through social studies. I began to ask myself, “Why is there a pattern here? Why is there a pattern to always being in temples?” For instance, I would have a flashback of being in Egypt and being in an Egyptian temple, being in Greece and having a flashback in a Greek temple in Egypt and so on.

I began to ask, “Am I hallucinating? Am I crazy?” I began to wonder if I was crazy because I never quite fit in with my own peers. I was always seeking the company of older people, of elders. I had more fun talking to them. Thank goodness for my elders because when I shared with them my experiences, these flashbacks, they would smile, nod their head and say, “You need to begin to understand the ancestral star trails.” I thought, “What is that? Is that made up?” They said, “This is real. The ancestral star trails are the stars that your ancestors used to navigate the Earth as navigators. This took them to different places that you were talking about.” The ancestral star trails took them to Greece, Egypt, Peru and other places that I mentioned.

Rites of Passages: I was raised in the Asian tradition of children not say anything, you just observe.

As soon as I could, in college, I began to make these travels. When I met with elders who took care of these different temples in these different countries and I saw them, I just sat. I didn’t say anything. I explained who I was and I was here seeking my purpose. They would then tell me about their traditions. As I would collect the stories and string them together as you would a flower lei, it began to make sense. Every time I went and visited another country and spoke to another elder, I would come back to my elders here in Hawaii and share what I learned. They never gave me the answer. They would give me another question and I would go off another journey.

I began to formulate that I feel natural whether I’m in a Chinese temple with Kwan-yin, a Japanese Buddhist temple in Hiji, in Dendera in Egypt or wherever I went, there was a sense of peace and feeling that I belonged. What came out in this journey was that my elders shared that indeed my ancestors from Chinese, Japanese and Hawaiian sides conducted rites of passages. I was still questioning. My first internship was with the National Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian. My job was rites of passages from around the world. As I sat in the basement and curated these amazing and beautiful symbols of power, I had even more flashbacks. I began to understand that this was my place and that I would then go back to my elders and ask if this was appropriate for me to then take on. The answer was yes.

Are you clear about your mission and purpose in life right now?

I am. It’s to serve as a catalyst for a change and transformation so that people can come home to themselves. That people can understand their kuleana and have the courage to integrate this kuleana into their life and to live it to the fullest.

What happens if we don’t know our kuleana and we don’t follow our sacred contract?

I’m also a multiple trauma survivor. When I understood and accepted my kuleana, that was amazing in terms of transforming my own pain. I began to take responsibility. I began to understand and make sense of what I went through. I wasn’t laying blame. I began to understand that in coming to my kuleana, I had to go through these life lessons.

Can you share some of your trauma?

My father was an alcoholic and I found that this is very common for people in the military who have gone through tremendous PTSD as a result of going through the war. My father’s family was interned. They’re American citizens and my uncle, my dad’s brother, was in the 100th Brigade, the most decorated Japanese-American brigade during the war. My dad was six years old at that time when the war happened. His brother was in the 100th Brigade but his entire family was thrown into internment camps here in Hawaii at Ford Island. The shame that he experienced from there ran deep. They also killed his homing pigeons, which were suspected of being espionage but it was his pets. His family killed the pigeons and said, “We need to eat the pigeons because then it will absolve us of being looked upon as spies.” That was traumatic for him, being in the war and seeing his pets being killed and eaten.

He went into the army himself. He, like my father-in-law and others of that generation, even today the veterans, that PTSD runs deep. Oftentimes, they’ll go to something that is addictive such as drinking. I grew up in a situation of domestic violence. That was repeated week after week. Being with my elders, having their guidance and having that question posed to me, “What is your kuleana?” was my lifeline and that I actively sought to understand. They didn’t tell me this was going to transform me in any way or help them to heal. That’s not how it works. They say, “Your life will become clear when you understand your kuleana.” That helped me to deal with my own trauma. That is why I’m committed to helping others find their kuleana, to be a person that will serve as a catalyst for change and transformation. You may know that even watching the news is considered secondary trauma. You may know that sex trafficking that’s happening has increased and we live in a world that is full of trauma.

Is your father healed from that shame?

At the end of his life, because he’s still alive, he’s still dealing with it. We have these talks because I want to be blunt. I did confront him with this when I was 21 and he dealt with it then. I was also raised in the Asian tradition of children not saying anything, you just observe. He was shocked when I confronted him when I was 21. He vowed that I was no longer his daughter because I was disrespectful to confront him in that. That was his business. I remember saying, “It’s not your business. It’s affected our entire family. I’ve been affected by this. This is how.” Something he said changed my life forever. He said, “I will take responsibility for raising you in the way I did. I did the best I could because I didn’t have a father. My father died when I was a young boy. I had no role model. Now that you’re an adult and you’re 21, you’re on your own. You are accountable and responsible for your own life’s journey.” I remember my mouth dropping open and assimilating, “He’s right. This is not about blame. This is about understanding.” I also remember the word kuleana drifting in front of my eyes and I went, “This is part of my kuleana. I asked for these life lessons so that I could grow into my kuleana.”

It’s good for you that you confronted him when you were 21 years old. It’s good for him that he recognized that he did the best he could and deal with having a daughter that is outspoken.

He says, “That’s your brother’s fault.”

You say your father is Japanese?

He is Japanese with English blood, although he denies the English blood. It’s there.

Your mom is Chinese?


You had been a caregiver for your parents for a couple of years now. Your mom currently lives with you and your dad still lives in his home on another island. Tell us your experience as a caregiver and the challenges that you are facing as a caregiver while you’re still building your business.

My mother and dad, like many of our parents, their bodies may be failing but they’re used to being the authority in the house. They don’t have Alzheimer’s, although they do have dementia and more than beginning dementia. There are good days and there are not so good days. My biggest challenge is having parents on two different islands both feeling that they still understand what they’re doing, that they still have all their faculties, and they don’t. Sometimes they make very self-deprecating jokes when they acknowledge, “My memory’s not what it used to be.” Nevertheless, I’m dealing with having to make decisions of having their power of attorney with parents. You want to respect them and create that venue so that they can voice their feelings and their desires, but they’re not making sound decisions. The hardest thing I’m dealing with is having to make decisions and feeling like I’m being disrespectful. I do feel I’m making the best choices for their well-being. That’s hard.

Rites of Passages: I’m hoping to form an inter-generational community where the elders would be respected for their wisdom and given a place of honor and respect and that they would be supported.

Can you give an example of that?

For instance, my mother broke two of her hips on two different occasions. In her mind she’ll say, “I take a bath myself. I do everything myself. I cook. I don’t need that much help. I can do it all myself,” and I’ll say, “Mom, we’re always there to help you shower. We’re always there to help you to make sure that you transfer safely.” She’ll say, “I do it myself.” It’s hard for me to then have to say again, “Mom, we’re here to support you.” Even saying that is hard for me because you can see she’s struggling to retain her dignity and respect. I’ve reached a new level of understanding where I realize how much suffering I’ve been taking upon myself that is needless to do. My parents are nearing the end of their life and at times, we talk about that. They will say to me, “You need to take care of yourself. You need to take care of your own family. This is the end of our life. Stop sacrificing yourself to take care of us.” They will do that. Five minutes later, they would then ask me to do a lot of tasks, a lot of things to do in a short amount of time. That’s not always reasonable.

How did you get the strength to do that for that long? 

The support I received by talking to other people who have had this experience before me and certainly through prayers. Asking for guidance, asking to be grounded, asking for health and to remain grounded and sane. It can get crazy making. Having support around you and having the ability to share your experiences with other people, it’s paramount to being a caregiver. Making sure that you meditate and certainly your diet, making sure that your nutrition is good and making sure that you are exercising, even if that means walking for fifteen minutes around the hospital corridor, it doesn’t matter, just keep on moving. Your body stores all of this energy because we’re energy. You’ve got to be able to make sure that the circuits in your body are activated and moving smoothly so they don’t get short-circuited.

I’m glad that you are at peace at this date. Did you ever have any guilt, shame or obligation because you felt that you did not do enough? 

I went through years of that. I’ve been caregiving for about ten years. Because I live in a different island, I felt like I wasn’t doing enough. I had to have my friends around me say, “You’re doing more than what is considered normal.” I had people around me to point out that sometimes I was being a little bit obsessive-compulsive. All of a sudden, I was turning into the parent. I was turning into the mama bear, making sure that my mother was not being taken advantage of as she is recovering from her broken hip, not once, but two times.

In their minds, you’re always going to be their little girl. I’m the youngest in the family. It’s trippy how they will say, “I’m still your parent.” At the same time, they’re asking for help because they’re no longer able to do things themselves. It becomes painful because you’re like, “I’m experiencing their pain.” I know they’re in pain when they express themselves in this way. My turning point is listening to what Buddha teaches. I’m not going to get this right. I’m paraphrasing but Buddha did say, “We are the cause of our own suffering.” When my own health began to decline because I was spending so much time caregiving, I had to look at, “If my own health is declining, what good am I to my parents?” Particularly, I’m self-employed, if I don’t work then I don’t get paid. I had to look at that and my relationship with my husband as well.

I realized that the guilt of feeling like I’m not doing enough, all those things or pain associated with that wasn’t doing me any good at all. It wasn’t doing my parents any good because if you dwell in that place too long, you do get resentful. You do get short and then you feel guilty all over again. I’m being truthful here. It’s taking a step back and saying, “It may be my responsibility. However, beyond my responsibility, it is my honor and it is my privilege to be able to help my parents go through their rite of passage as they’re already well into their twilight years.” I had to go back to my kuleana and understanding, “This is their rites of passage.” If I hold that position of understanding, I came through my parents for my life lessons, I came through my parents as a soul, then what is my sole purpose? That is to help them to transition peacefully to death so they will be born again. That’s when my suffering began to lessen, when I took upon the kuleana that honor and privilege versus responsibility or in comparison to responsibility.

Versus responsibility or most people would think it’s obligation.

I was raised with that word. My parents raised me with that saying, “Remember when we grow older, it’s your obligation to take care of us.” My father didn’t have to take care of his parents nor did my mother. It’s because both of my dad’s parents died when he was fairly young, so I never met my Japanese grandparents, at least in the physical form. My mother’s mother died in her 60s and her father died when we were living in Germany when my dad was stationed in Bremerhaven. He lived with his siblings. I have to say they know that. They’re clear that this is not something that they had to do and they do express gratitude. That makes all the difference in the world when my parents are able to express their gratitude for caregiving.

That makes all the difference when your parents recognize what you do for them. It helps. Sometimes the parents when they are at that age, they become critical and nothing you do is good enough. They become verbal. They yell at things. They say, “I don’t want you to do that. Why did you do that?” It is hurtful to hear those comments or those critical judgments even though you are an adult and you do the best you could to take care of your parents.

It can be painful, especially when you know that you are doing it with the right intentions, to be of service and doing the best job that you can. It might be a trait of growing up in a household with these Asian values. I was raised in that way to inspite being Hawaiian. It was like, “You’ve got an A, that’s great. Why isn’t it A+?” I never heard a compliment. When I did, it was on the phone talking to one of their friends and saying, “Lani got an A in this class.” It’s like, “Can you say something to me?” That would never happen and that behavior does carry on into adulthood for sure.

Rites of Passages: I don’t regret anything in my life because everything has been a stepping stone to the next place.


What would be the best solution for the parents when the children cannot take care of their aging parents, who might need constant care in terms of medical and emotional support?

At that point, the best solution would be to seek the type of assistance that will help them to be comfortable in the aging process. For instance, my mother, after breaking her second hip, she couldn’t come home. She had to go through a process of rehabilitation. She could have done it at home. She realized that it would be burdensome all the way around for that to happen. I’m looking at our generation too, Kimchi. To be pragmatic, there’s long-term care insurance. Look into that. Beyond that, what I’m hoping to form is a community where it will be intergenerational, a community where the elders would be respected for their wisdom. They would be given a place of honor and respect. They would be supported. The village raises the child, that adage. The village takes care of their elders. This is the way of the old Hawaii. This is the way that we need to return back to. It’s where we do have the multi-generations, if not our own family, other families who live in the same area, the same vicinity and share the caretaking responsibilities.

If there is some land that you can build this facility, let me know and we’ll spread the word. Hawaii is the best place to rest and to heal. If there is a community, the whole village takes turns to help the elder, then it is fewer burdens for the children to do that.

Here’s the irony of it. When I was in my early 30s, I was working on this concept. Thirty is still considered youth. I was working on this thinking, “If I ever have children, I would want the village to raise the child. I would want the elders to have the equal respect as the child would.” I formed a nonprofit at that time. I’ve helped other communities to start up. The irony is now its reverse. All these years later, I’m 58, I’m looking at this from a place of being in that place of our parents.

You still have twenty years to go. Let’s get to work. I have this idea too but I did not think about the village taking care of the elders. I was thinking about a senior center. I was thinking about creating a senior center for Asian people because we love to eat rice and our ethnic food. I did not think about how the children would be able to participate in it. Maybe within a year or two years, there’s another idea that they incorporate the daycare where they have young children, kindergarten, first grade, to share the same facility. They want to introduce these two generations, one is senior and the other one is young. They can meet and can have a company with each other and create such a good feeling. It’s good. I saw some Facebook clips about it and it touched my heart.

You and I have a project. I’ve worked on many projects for companies to fund grants for elders to make sure that elders have care including good diet. The sad part is the elders would share that many times, the program they’d be in would be the only good meal of the week. When they go home, they’re at the mercy of whatever is being served. When they’re talking to their grandchildren, the grandchildren are having this wonderful nutrition at school and they come home. They need to be respectful of what is given to you. You have the grandparent and the grandchild looking at each other saying, “I don’t like my food. Can we support each other?” It is the traditional Hawaiian style. You’re not raised by your parent. You’re raised by your grandparents. It’s because the parent is busy learning, growing and evolving consciously while supposedly the grandparent has already evolved into a higher consciousness. The young ones often come in with so much wisdom taken out of them by whatever means, whether it’s an institution or the imagination is not supported. When you bring these two generations together, this is my salvation. My elders listen to me. My elders had the patience to say, “Dream and keep on dreaming,” and that is part of finding your kuleana.

I believe that if we have the purpose, we know the pain point that all Asians are suffering. If we can tap into it, we would have sponsors and people would participate in this project. This is a worthwhile project to do.

It’s the way of the future, Kimchi. It’s interesting to see Millennials now rebelling against technology without values attaching and wanting more human contact. This has to happen. The elders need young ones who are willing to receive their wisdom, to receive their knowledge.

What is your advice to our audience who are struggling with the decision on how to give the best care to the aging parents without feeling guilty or feel that they need to sacrifice their life, career and their relationship with their spouse and children in order to do a good job as a caregiver?

You have to take care of yourself first. It’s not being selfish. It’s being wise. If you retain your health, then that health means the relationships with your family, the relationships with your friends, your spiritual relationships. If you’re able to maintain your health, spirit, mind, body, then you’ll be able to make decisions that are wise for your parents. Put yourself first. You need to. I’m speaking from hard experiences, like ten years of going through a lot of soul searching and a lot of feeling guilty and not good enough. In the end, if you don’t pay attention to taking care of yourself, spirit, mind and body, there will be penalties to pay. You won’t even begin to be able to take care of your parents in a way that’s effective and respectful of their needs.

Looking back at your life, what are you most proud of?

Having the courage to pursue my dreams no matter what obstacles have been placed in front of me. From being told that I wasn’t smart enough or I would never get into that college because I wasn’t an A+ student, I didn’t have enough extracurricular activities, being told I would never be able to support myself as an artist, all these things.

I would say so too because having the courage to pursue your dream is a big deal. Most people don’t have that courage to speak up, to show up and to stand up.

There was no choice but to do that. If I didn’t step out, if I didn’t follow what my guidance, what my gut when I heard my ancestors sharing, “Do this. You will be supported,” it would be like being dead or just existing. I don’t regret anything in my life because everything has been a stepping stone to the next place. I feel equipped to handle whatever comes my way. I feel resilient. That’s what following my kuleana has gifted me is this resilience, this inner strength.

Where do you want our audience to go to find out more about you and your service?

Folks can go to my website and that is www.LaniYamasaki.com. I developed The Essential Caregiver’s Toolkit that was born out of my own experiences being a caregiver. I have that as a small booklet that people are able to receive through downloading this.

It’s a beautiful booklet and it’s practical suggestions.

It was meant to be pragmatic, practical. Thank you for allowing me to share this with your audience. It’s a huge gratitude for allowing me to share this time with you and to share my experiences, hopefully to be of service to your audience.

Thank you for being here, Lani. For our audience, what is your takeaway from this episode? We want to hear from you. If you enjoy this podcast, please subscribe, review and share the link to this podcast on your social media and tell a friend. We appreciate your support. Until next time, live life loud.

Links Mentioned:

Episode Quotes 

"Aloha means love, sympathy, kindness and charity"

"In Hawaii, patience is our primary value."

"You are accountable and responsible for your life."

"It's my honor and privilege to help my parents transition peacefully."

"Everything is a stepping stone in my life."

"We are the cause of our own suffering."

"You have to take care of yourself first. It's not being selfish. It's actually being wise."

About Lani Yamasaki

Lani is a certified Health and Integrative Nutrition Coach and holistic cross-sector business consultant to social entrepreneurs and socially conscious organizations including Fortune 500 companies. She serves as guest faculty with the University of Minnesota’s Center for Spirituality and Healing, lecturing on Hawaiian Healing traditions. She was a primary figure in establishing the Joyful Heart Foundation in Hawai’i, and developed and piloted their first Hawaiian culturally-based curriculum for survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse successfully implemented across cultures. She served on the former Holistic Health Advisory Board of the North Hawai’i Community Hospital. She also served as a social economic development grant reviewer for U.S. Department Health and Human Services, Native American Administration.

A respected artist, Laniʻs work is included in over 30 corporate art collections. She is a graduate of Kamehameha Schools, received her Bachelor of Arts from Scripps College and holds a certificate in indigenous economic development. The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Coastal America Program recognized her as an indigenous elder. She served on the Governor’s Task Force On Death and Dying for Bill Moyerʻs documentary series On Our Own Terms.  In 2014, the Governor of Hawai’i recognized Lani’s outstanding contributions in Community Engagement. She is a member of the National Association of Experts, Writers and Speakers. She is also a Ford Foundation Fellow and Smithsonian Fellow.

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