Warning: This post contains sensitive content, trigger words, and experiences. 

When you first meet Saya Barkdoll, you’re a bit confused. She’s a petite blonde bombshell, attractive in all the standard societal ways, soft-spoken, with a million-watt smile. But, she’s also heavily tattooed, pierced, and moves through the world with an atmospheric kindness and unyielding strength all wrapped up in a tiny package.

The first time I spoke to Saya, we instantaneously fell into mutual girl-love. We had an immediate connection, bonding on all things Hawaii, the power of the universe, and that we had both had untraditional, difficult, familial upbringings. But, Saya is more than her tragedies, her traumas, and her pain.

So, who is Saya?

When asked how to describe the strong women in her life: her mother, her Tutu, her daughter, Saya used words like: determined, pillar of strength, unconditional, rooted. She had a hard time describing herself in one word, but as we talked about anything and everything, I realized that’s because she can’t be described in one word. Saya is all of these words and much more, which is what makes her so unique to be a healer in today’s world.

I would be remiss in not acknowledging Saya’s tragedies. Though she is (like all of us) a product of her experiences, it is important to note that because of these experiences, Saya would not be able to teach us how to be in the moment and how precious those moments are.

Yes, her mother was raped and died of AIDS when Saya was 15. Yes, her daughter was born with hydrocephalus. Yes, she thought she would live in Hawaii with her bare-bottom baby for the rest of her days. No, none of these were fair, or right, or what Saya wanted. But, what Saya learned was to mourn the dreams, to shift her mind, to actively choose not to live in the grief, and instead ask herself this: “What am I going to do about it?”

When I asked Saya if she had a favorite poem, or quote, she had an immediate answer. Oriah Mountain’s The Invitation. In particular, she quoted to me:

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain.

 

I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.

That’s the thing about Saya Barkdoll–she learned how to sit with her pain and still, live, love, and thrive.  So, she worked to bring what she misses so badly from Hawaii to D.C.—two places that could not be more opposite. She worked to bring the healing experience of touch from caring for her mother and her daughter—in their darkest, most vulnerable hours—to her clients. She decided to take the energy from the paradise land, and through her therapeutic body work, transfer it to the person through her hands, her heart, and her energy. And, as such, Ohana Wellness was born.

A place where you can choose to be safe, to be at home, to relax, to remove yourself from the churn and burn, to heal, to be nurtured, and to be part of a little slice of Hawaiian paradise. Without Saya’s love for her work, the ritual of touch, the purity of what she brings to her “job,” we wouldn’t have the pleasure, the opportunity to experience peace and live truly from moment-to-moment while being cared for in the most divine way possible.

There is a reason why the Ohana Wellness logo is that of a tree. A fire tree, more specifically, I learned from Saya is a beautiful and broad, often thin, but long and sprawling tree. You can lay under it and feel sheltered and safe but you can still see the sky above you, still absorb the vibrant flowers on its branches. But the fire tree is unique because it has roots that go deep and wide into the ground. Saya, is Ohana Wellness’ fire tree. She is rooted in her knowledge, her love of the work she does, the fire she feels for healing, the passion for her families, and her immovable wish that anyone who walks through these doors knows they will be greeted with love.