Malama Pono - Continuing the Journey

ʻAno ʻai kākou. My name is Miki Tomita, and I am honored to call Pono Shim my teacher, mentor and friend. In the Fall of 2021, Pono was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer. Although cancer has become his toughest teacher, he continues to teach us how Aloha is to embrace life and love in all forms and to share one’s gifts with humility and genuine belief in the capacity of all of us to heal and be healed.

We welcome your love and prayers for Pono and his wife, Dawn, and their daughter, Chantele. For those who can and wish to support financially, the team organizing this fundraiser would be grateful for your help. Funds will be used to help pay down a variety of expenses, including hospital bills, medication, good quality food, medical accessories, alternative treatments and guidance, and the various forms of medicine Pono’s body, mind and spirit calls for.

I feel blessed to take this journey with Pono, a life-changing experience for myself and so many others. It has been a voyage into identity and belonging, the resilience and compassion that comes when we build upon a foundation of ALOHA. Pono teaches us that storytelling is medicine and that ALOHA is a key that can give us the freedom to lock and unlock doors we did not imagine possible. Today I would like to share with you Sarah’s story. Years ago, I had the honor of introducing Pono to Sarah; her story speaks to his power and impact in our lives from the first breath shared.

naʻu me ke aloha,

Miki on behalf of the crew of Mālama Pono

My Story of Meeting Pono for the First Time
Sarah Guay

I had heard of Pono Shim over the years as some kind of mystical “cultural storyteller.” So when I was invited to attend an intimate discussion led by Pono one evening, I was intrigued. As I sat and listened to this quiet, diminutive speaker share stories of medicine and healing—I was entranced. Sounds weird, but it’s true. The words he spoke fell on my ears with such meaning, such importance and such depth that I felt he was somehow connecting directly to my soul. When he finished his talk, he asked questions, and the room fell silent. Thoughts were swirling in my head—but like a pot of stew, I knew I needed to let things simmer first before jumping in. Something told me I needed to be patient…and wait for the moment.

I got up to leave the room; feeling oddly drained and energized, I walked by Pono—who was in conversation with other attendees. As I passed by on my way to the door, I saw Pono step away from his conversation and approach me out of the corner of my eye. Looking directly into my eyes, he quietly said, “I saw you. I see you.” He moved to embrace me…and I began to cry.

In the months (and now years) since that evening, I’ve thought long and hard about why our embrace was so impactful---transformational—for me. Maybe it was because a leader I respected so deeply acknowledged my presence in the room? Perhaps it was because an esteemed cultural practitioner recognized me, as an outsider, in the room? Or maybe it was more than that…I believe Pono went directly to a moment of emptiness—the emptiness of thought, of ego, and connected in a vulnerable and deeply spiritual manner.

Since that first transformational meeting over two years ago, I’ve continued to learn from Pono and have enjoyed an immediate and important friendship.

Pono speaks to the part of you that you didn’t know was there. He brings you home, reminding you of who you are when you’ve forgotten. He’s rooted in this place, yet he welcomes all. He sees what’s not said and feels what isn’t discussed. He senses (and feels) pain that’s not named in the room. He shows you a better version of yourself and shows other people that version.

Through his medicine, he shares riddles that urge deep reflection. He doesn’t pull things out of you; he lights sparks and leaves them to smolder. Sometimes the sparks light other fires; other times, they create a little burn and discomfort to make you pay attention.

He’s a tuning fork that emits a different frequency—once you attune to it, you level up to that frequency, and it’s hard to return to the lower one. It’s like being introduced to a brand new exercise routine—you knew you needed it, it feels like it’s probably really good for you, and you know you’re better off after engaging with it.

Pono’s genuineness invites your own—in a disarming way you’re not familiar with. It demands that you cast away your masks and pretenses. He only operates in the “real.” This can feel unsettling if you’re used to operating in the world of pretense and hollow transactions. His ability to connect deeply can feel uncomfortable—but that’s likely the process of getting in touch with yourself through him.

He demonstrates faith and, as a result, allows others to trust (themselves, others and the Universe). He trusts his instincts and takes bold action when needed—but somehow does it without feeling daring.

Pono teaches by example—even when you’re not seeking the lessons. You’ll observe a shift happen, fully experience it, and then he explains what you experienced without you even telling him. “Yes, THAT’S what happened to me”---he gave ME medicine, he spoke truth to the room, but could never have known I was the one in the room who needed to hear it.”

Pono’s place in the world is intentional; he watches keenly, observes with an eagle eye and listens like a hawk. Don’t mistake his quietness for lack of activity or processing—he works without telling everyone what he’s doing. He is often the quietest voice in the room, yet his voice carries the weight when he speaks. He moves mountains with nudges.

He answers to a higher calling—Aloha. Through that higher calling, he demonstrates courage and boldness that others shy away from (yet are drawn to). He is a vessel for deep wisdom, and it flows easily through him—not just through words but in his actions. He is intentional and disciplined in his practice, teaching through his actions versus lectures.

He is a compelling contradiction.
He is bold but diminutive.
He is strong but humble.
He is intuitive and intentional
He is otherworldly yet infinitely grounded in the land
He works through riddles and stories but is entirely authentic.
He is my friend Pono.
  • Lindsey Drayer 
    • $20 
    • 3 mos
  • Rhanda & Del Beazley 
    • $100 
    • 3 mos
  • Janis Bumgarner 
    • $40 
    • 3 mos
  • Anke Flohr 
    • $50 
    • 3 mos
  • Cleota Brown 
    • $100 
    • 3 mos
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Fundraising team (5)

Malama Pono 
Raised $7,090 from 50 donations
Honolulu, HI
Dawn Shim 
Miki Tomita 
Team member
Raised $12,465 from 57 donations
Mariko Miho 
Team member
Raised $1,925 from 10 donations
Kalena Nakasone 
Team member
Raised $250 from 5 donations