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Ho’Oponopono: Hawaiian Practice of Forgiveness

This ancient Hawaiian practice of forgiveness was developed by spiritual healers or “kahunas” and was used to resolve conflicts between individuals and families. The kahunas created this process to use alongside their herbal healing methods. It was thought that while the herbs were effective in repairing physical ailments, they did not work as well in resolving interpersonal or spiritual conflicts. This is where Ho’Oponopono comes in. Ho’Oponopono means to create the right behavior. Ho’o means “to do, create” and Pono means “the right behavior.” Pono is the most esteemed value in the Hawaiian culture.

Ho’Oponopono gained its popularity when Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len, a Clinical Psychologist, was asked to help a facility of mentally ill criminals that was having trouble with violent outbursts and maintaining quality staff members. Dr. Hew Len cured the patients and resolved the staffing issues without ever meeting the patients or stepping foot into the facility. Instead, he asked to read the files of each individual. While he did so, he practiced Ho’Oponopono by repeating the phrases “I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.” This had such a profound effect that all of the inmates were eventually cured and release back into society and the staffing problems of frequent call-outs and quick turnovers were solved. Dr. Hew Len’s practice of Ho’Oponopono worked so well that the facility eventually closed due to a lack of prisoners.

Hawaiians believe that almost all mistakes can be healed when you take responsibility for their actions. Ho’Oponopono works on the the principle that every situation is tied to energy which is emitted by both parties. Meaning, a negative situation requires negative energy and vice versa. When the negative energy is shifted by one or both sides, this makes room for healing to begin. Energy fields are powerful and are one of your first methods of communication. The intentions and emotions you have towards others speak even when you aren’t around. By changing the way you think about a conflict, you open yourself up to the possibility of relationship repair because you are telling the universe that you are ready to hold yourself accountable for the damage and work through your problems.

This practice is fairly easy to do. All you need is a quiet space, a few minutes, and the desire to repair your relationship. The amount of time needed is different for each conflict and person. You will be able to sense when you are finished. Ho’Oponopono is exercised like you would a meditation. Find a quiet place to sit and begin to visualize the person you would like to make peace with. Then, repeat several times to yourself “I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.” The way this works is by directing your energy towards something you have animosity with and then instead of continuing to emit negative energy towards it, send positive energy, shifting the dynamic of the situation towards healing.

In order for Ho’Oponopono to be effective, you must take accountability for the entirety of the situation. We are responsible for all of our thoughts and actions. When you accept this responsibility, you are ready to to begin your practice.

Find a quiet space, where you won’t be interrupted. This can be in front of your meditation alter, in your car, at a park, etc.. Anywhere that makes you feel calm and grounded. If you practice reiki, this is a good time to pull in the life force energy. Begin to slow your breathing and allow yourself to fall into a soothing rhythm. Then, repeat the phrases either to yourself or out loud “I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.” As you say each phrase, truly feel the emotions behind them. Energy doesn’t lie and you won’t get good results from a superficial apology.

Each phrase requires complete honesty in order to be effective. As you say “I’m sorry,” acknowledge the feelings of remorse for your actions and the humility it takes to be truly “sorry.” Next, “ please forgive me,” experience the sincerity in your heart when asking for forgiveness. Then, “thank you,” express your ultimate gratitude of thanks. Finally, “I love you,” immerse yourself in the feelings of love. Send this everywhere, not just to this particular incident. Send some to yourself for being vulnerable and choosing to repair harm.

There is no set amount of time to practice Ho’Oponopono. When you feel you have finished, stop your practice. Every situation is different and will call for varied amounts of time. You may begin to feel a shift in the energy immediately or it may take longer, but you will make a difference. This process doesn’t dissolve the conflict entirely. What Ho’Oponopono does, is it creates a healing energy shift letting the other person know that you are ready to resolve your conflict.




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