Ho’oponopono

I have recently seen very positive results in terms of my mental wellbeing by using an ancient Hawaiian technique called ho’oponopono.

It is extremely useful both for being able to let go of past hurts, whether it be something you have done to yourself personally, or something someone else has done to you. I believe it is also very insightful for realising how much you have grown mentally and developed as a person since that particular event or time.

Ho'oponopono means to make (ho’o) right (pono) right (pono). In the past in Hawaii a kahuna or doctor would be called into a family context to uncover problems, practice forgiveness and for the family to release each other from recriminations, grudges and guilt. They thought grudges and conflict would eventually cause disease.

It’s based around the following four key phrases, ones which we often find the hardest to say:

1) I’m sorry.

2) Please forgive me.

3) Thank you.

4) I love you.


Personally, I think that rather than just reciting them like a mantra, it is better to fill in details around the words to be better able to let go. You can either hold the situation in your mind and recite the words out loud, or journal it out.

I would start with using directing first two phrases towards yourself, but do whichever order and direction that feels right. It may seem rather odd to be turning inward to be able to forgive someone else for a transgression but it is a way of cleaning yourself of your own negative feelings to erase whatever negativity is not working for you. You are expressing the fact that you no longer wish to suffer as a result of a current or past problem, and from that position forgiveness naturally follows.

Alternatively, you could direct the phrases towards the other person. Here you may feel resistance or confusion towards "Please forgive me". You might think, "Why on Earth should THEY forgive ME when they are the ones who were hurtful. However, at the base of Ho’oponopono in its pure form is the idea of total responsibility — not just for your own actions, but for everybody else’s too. It may help you to realise that you may be responsible in some way for their actions, and to find ways to change your behaviour to avoid future recurrences of the hurt (of course, some people are better removed entirely from your life, however).

The next two phrases "Thank you" and "I love you." could be directed towards yourself or towards the other person.

If directing it outwardly, you'll perhaps feel most resistance from the phrase "I love you". For example, it could be very difficult to say it regarding an ex. However, that's ok; you can love them for the lessons they taught you, or that you taught yourself through how you responded to their actions. If that's too difficult, you can perhaps soften it with "I believe it is possible to love you."

Directing it outwardly is asking the person who hurt you forgiveness for you having held onto the pain and resentment for so long, especially if the individual did not intentionally hurt you. For example, I have used this technique to help me move on from the hurt caused by bullies, or another classmate when I was a child.

One girl, for example, declared to me "You're not coming to my party because your mum has white hair." It is a small event that I believe had a big impact on my life because from then onwards I always felt different in a bad way, like I didn't fit in. Holding onto the resentment was not helpful, especially as she was only five years old and therefore didn't really understand the real meaning or repercussions, she was just acting from her understanding at the time. So in this example, I say please forgive me because she didn't deserve the hatred I held towards her for her actions. Also, I can thank her because from this I also learned that I was actually quite proud to have older parents because it gave me a different perspective on the world.

If the words "please forgive me" are too difficult I believe it's just as helpful to say "I forgive you" instead, because it releases the resentment you are holding towards them which will only cause you more suffering rather than experiencing the peace of letting go.

Feel free to share your experiences of trying this technique, the results may surprise you. It is possible for it to have wide reaching positive consequences. For example, through ho'oponopono Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len, a therapist in Hawaii is thought to have cured a complete ward of criminally insane patients – without ever seeing them. He would study an inmate's chart and then look within himself to see how he created that person's illness. As he improved himself, the patient also improved. You can read about this in more detail here.

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