By Susan Partnow, Senior Compassionate Listening Project Facilitator
Ho'oponopono is an ancient Hawaiian spiritual practice that involves learning to heal all things by accepting "Total Responsibility" for everything that surrounds us – confession, repentance, and reconciliation.
There are many manifestations of this rich and extraordinary tradition and expression of community based restorative justice that is held as essential to health and healing physical illness as well as relationships. In contemporary times, a simple but profound mantra arising from this practice has been found to have a powerful healing energy. It offers the essence of Compassion in Action and arises from the deepest principle of our inter-connectedness, our inter-being, such that no matter what has happened, I am part of it and thus share responsibility.
You may have heard the story about a Hawaiian therapist, Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len, who cured an entire ward of criminally insane patients, without ever meeting any of them or spending a moment in the same room. When he arrived at the residential treatment center, the cure rates were abysmal, morale very low, employee turnover very high. Dr. Len locked himself in his office day after day as to the consternation of the staff… But after some weeks, things began to change, patients were getting better, morale was improving. How had he done this? He reviewed each of the patients’ files, and then he healed them by healing himself with this mantra. It seems miracles do happen when you use this method, which Dr. Len calls Self I-Dentity Through Ho’oponopono (SITH).
There are four simple steps to this method, and the order is not that important. They involve the power of Repentance, Forgiveness, Gratitude and Love. Here I have adapted a great description from an open source (Laughter Online University):
Step 1: Repentance – I’M SORRY
This tradition holds that you are responsible for everything in your mind, even if it seems to be “out there.” Once you realize that, it’s very natural to feel sorry. …This realization can be painful, and you will likely resist accepting responsibility for the “out there” kind of problems until you start to practice this method on your more obvious “in here” problems and see results.
So you could choose something that you already know you’ve caused for yourself: Over-weight? Addicted to nicotine, alcohol or some other substance? Do you have anger issues? Health problems? Start there and say you’re sorry. That’s the whole step: I’M SORRY. Underneath you are saying, “I realize that I am responsible for the (issue) in my life and I feel terrible remorse that something in my consciousness has caused this.”
Step 2: Ask Forgiveness – PLEASE FORGIVE ME
Don’t worry about who you’re asking. Just ask! PLEASE FORGIVE ME. Say it over and over. Mean it. Remember your remorse from step 1 as you ask to be forgiven.
Step 3: Gratitude – THANK YOU
Say “THANK YOU” – again it doesn’t really matter who or what you’re thanking. Thank your body for all it does for you. Thank yourself for being the best you can be. Thank God. Thank the Universe. Thank whatever it was that just forgave you. Just keep saying THANK YOU.
Step 4: Love – I LOVE YOU
This can also be step 1. Say I LOVE YOU. Say it to your body, say it to God. Say I LOVE YOU to the air you breathe, to the house that shelters you. Say I LOVE YOU to your challenges. Say it over and over. Mean it. Feel it. There is nothing as powerful as Love.
How I like to do this mantra practice: Call to mind a relationship where you would like to bring forgiveness and healing, with a deeper connection of ease between you. (It could be with your self) First take a few moments to center; bring the breath to your heart; imagine a golden light infusing your heart with compassion, gratitude and love – for yourself and for all the wonders in your life. Now picture the person in front of you and imagine this golden light overflowing and pouring out to them as you begin the mantra, repeating over and over, from your heart to theirs:
Please forgive me.
I love you.
When I posted this on our Compassionate Listening list some years ago– several moving stories surfaced:
“I had an experience of this recently. I was thinking about how I wronged someone 14 years ago, and internally apologizing to that person for what I put him through...fully acknowledging my part and all of the pain that I created. It brought tears to my eyes, realizing the scope of my actions and how sorry I felt in my heart. I thought about calling the person to apologize, but just kept offering my silent apology... Three hours later, that very person walked into my house with a gift for me. I was so amazed...and the timing was so profound that there was no way I could accept it as a coincidence. I think this teaching is profound - thanks for sending it to us Susan. Anyone else had a recent experience along these lines?”
“I 'tried this out' in regard to someone with whom I have had a broken relationship for over ten years. It was my ex-husband and I've had no contact whatsoever with him all this time. After I read your posting, I decided to try it and meditated about him with the "I love you, I'm sorry...." That evening, I told another friend that I wished there could be some kind of resolution to this very painful situation. Next morning, I awoke early from a dream about him, the only one I've ever had. We were returning to the place where we lived, and he said to me very clearly, "I love you more than ever." The house was by the sea, and I saw water, gently flowing in and out of the room. That was the end of the dream. A couple of hours later, I got up to read my email, and received notice of his death. I am simply stunned by the power of opening the heart this way. Thank you again for sharing this!”
Another one of our facilitators spent time with the Ho'oponopono mantra and called to mind a relationship that had ended and they were having a tough time. She spent some time with the mantra and it felt good and right in her heart. The next day, out of the clear blue, this man showed up at her doorstep with a bouquet of flowers, to say hello and make an attempt to heal.
Please give this a try! Personally I have practiced many times. I can’t report any dramatic or overt benefit, but it softens and opens my heart. Do let us know how it works for you.
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From Wikipedia: "Hoʻoponopono" is defined in the Hawaiian Dictionary as:
(a) "To put to rights; to put in order or shape, correct, revise, adjust, amend, regulate, arrange, rectify, tidy up make orderly or neat, administer, superintend, supervise, manage, edit, work carefully or neatly; to make ready, as canoemen preparing to catch a wave."
Literally, hoʻo is a particle used to make an actualizing verb from the following noun. Here, it creates a verb from the noun pono, which is defined as: "...goodness, uprightness, morality, moral qualities, correct or proper procedure, excellence, well-being, prosperity, welfare, benefit, true condition or nature, duty; moral, fitting, proper, righteous, right, upright, just, virtuous, fair, beneficial, successful, in perfect order, accurate, correct, eased, relieved; should, ought, must, necessary."
Ponopono is defined as "to put to rights; to put in order or shape, correct, revise, adjust, amend, regulate, arrange, rectify, tidy up, make orderly or neat."