Betty W. Phillips, Ph.D., Psychology
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What the Heck is Ho'oponopono?

                                     What the Heck Is Ho'oponopono? 

If you've heard of Ho'oponopono, congratulations. If you haven't heard of Ho'oponopono, read on and congratulate yourself at the end of this article. I'm giving you another tool for stress management, one which will improve your life in a profound manner.  Ho'oponopono makes the Stress Monster run into the corner and hide. This definitely improves life in Chatham County!


Ho'oponopono is an ancient Hawaiian practice for healing. Ho'oponopono means to make (ho’o) right (pono) right (pono)  to correct relationship problems. In the past a kahuna or doctor would be called into a family context to uncover problems, practice forgiveness and release each other from recriminations, grudges and guilt. Hawaiian doctors knew that conflicts and grudges eventually cause disease. Ho'oponopono has been updated and used for many different kinds of healing practices as you will discover if you research the word. I will be introducing you to the most prevalent use of Ho'oponopono for relationship forgiveness.


How would this practice reduce stress and improve your life? First, take a moment and think about all the negativity in the world around you and realize how it has multiplied exponentially in recent years. Even our beautiful Mother Earth has been spewing forth problems in our direction. Ho'oponopono is a simple but profound tool that will open your heart to positive feelings of love and gratitude, for goodness and light. Initially it will seem difficult; I've experienced this myself. Why would I want to go around forgiving anyone and everything? Because the practice does bring joy and love. To prove this, take a moment and look at this:   You’ll begin to experience the heartwarming feelings generated by this practice.


You'll use Ho'oponopono to deal with negative feelings when someone has upset you or hurt you. Ho'oponopono can be used for any kind of forgiveness, but I am recommending it now for the smaller every-day types of forgiveness to help keep relationships from dissolving into anger and bitterness.  Major problems such as crime and abuse will usually require sustained effort in addition to Ho'oponopono. I have two articles about forgiveness on this website in the Reading Room so I won’t repeat all that content here. I'll differentiate Ho'oponopono from the longer forgiveness process later in this article.


Who are you addressing in Ho'oponopono? Obviously, first you are addressing yourself. Many people also feel they are addressing the Divine as a part of this experience. You will likely also include the other person in the relationship during this meditation process. You're saying that you are sorry/regret that problem and are seeking forgiveness/cleansing from the past so that you can live more happily in the present.


Ho'oponopono consists of four phrases: "I am sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you." Why would you start out "I am sorry; Please forgive me" when you need to forgive someone else for a transgression against you? Ho'oponopono teachers call this practice "cleaning," you clean yourself of your own negative feelings to erase from your memory or consciousness whatever negativity is not working for you. You are expressing the fact that you no longer wish to suffer from a current or past problem. In this kind of situation it is normal to want the other person to change. A normal response, yes, but impossible! The only person you can change is yourself. Furthermore, in a two-person situation you will have played some role in the relationship problem even if it's just a victim. You will be using Ho'oponopono to obtain forgiveness for yourself: forgiveness for whatever is within you that helped to create the problem.


The next two phrases are "Thank you. I love you." The "you" could be yourself, the other person and/or the Divine. Conjuring up gratitude and love will help you anchor into a heart-based response. The mind by itself is never able to solve negativity and distress, whereas the heart is the repository of positive emotions. Feelings of self acceptance and self love are increased during this process. Ho'oponopono is also a mindfulness technique helping you to live in the present, not in the distressing past.


How should you use Ho'oponopono? You will want to practice the technique because forgiveness skills are rarely taught in our culture. A well learned skill will help you recover from the anger and distress of negative experiences. The Ho'oponopono experience can be beautiful and uplifting. When this expectation established, it will be easier for you to use Ho'oponopono when you are feeling down and distressed. You can make the experience more meaningful and enjoyable by using the lovely Ho'oponopono Song by Aman Ryusuke Seto (available on iTunes) while practicing the four parts of Ho'oponopono. Recently I had a very positive heartfelt response to Ho'oponopono, playing the song on my iPod while walking in my Forest Garden woods, initially tearful about a distressing occurrence but then coming to a sense of peace. When you have learned the practice you can use it spontaneously when needed. During or after an argument you can silently chant the Ho'oponopono refrain, feeling your stress resolve and then, somewhat miraculously, also watch the other person relax and back away from the conflict. The Ho'oponopono phrases can be used as a forgiveness mantra, repeating the phrases until your heart softens, your mood lightens, and you feel deep resolution and understanding that harmony is restored. The ultimate outcome is that you can think about the incident and/or the other person with calmness and serenity and without negative feelings. If your upset feelings return, you can simply try the Ho'oponopono process again.


Additional resources but not specifically for Ho'oponopono, iare the Forgiveness Meditation and song by Turiya Hanover (also available on iTunes) and the Loving Kindness Meditation described in the Reading Room of this website. More comprehensive approaches to forgiveness are available and described in articles also in the Reading Room. When you are experienced in the use of this technique, Ho'oponopono could be used to deal with very serious forgiveness situations as long as you maintain clear boundaries and have definite expectations that you will not be traumatized again by the other person.


A word of caution. Remember the uses of Ho'oponopono described earlier. The rationale does not include allowing or encouraging additional problems being perpetrated against you. You will practice Ho'oponopono as an act of personal strength and courage, not as a doormat or victim. Ho'oponopono allows you to approach the future with a clean slate, open to positive interactions without blame or recriminations. Continuing an angry relationship with a perpetrator actually creates an anger bond which ties you to the problem and the traumatic relationship.


I urge you to try Ho'oponopono. This article is being published in November, the month of Thanksgiving. Give thanks for this beautiful technique to make right-right!