What is Ho’oponopono? The Hawaiian Forgiveness Ritual for Peace
As a result of social distancing, I challenged myself to reflect on my life, choices and circumstances. As I contemplated on my life, I recognized choices that I am proud of and situations that I wish I handled differently. These experiences were opportunities for growth. I still have more to learn. While it is healthy to reflect on our lives, it is also important to practice self-compassion. Last month, coincidentally, I was introduced to a Hawaiian forgiveness ritual known as Ho’oponopono. What is Ho’oponopono?
Before discussing Ho’oponopono, let’s consider the intent of any type of ritual that we use to encourage peace in our environments. A ritual is ‘a series of actions or type of behavior regularly and invariably followed by someone.’ Rituals such as going on nature walks, visiting museums, meditating, yoga, listening to music, or practicing hobbies provide an energy outlet, comfort and relaxation. Even though these practices offer inherent benefits, we are cautioned from using them as methods to avoid resolving our problems.
What is Ho’oponopono?
I am reading the book, Ho’oponopono, The Hawaiian forgiveness ritual as the key to your life’s fulfillment, by Ulrich E. Dupree. The ritual “proceeds from the understanding of the unity of everything in the world, which is true even though we feel ourselves to be separate” Dupree.
‘Ho’o’ means ‘to make’. ‘Pono’ is translated as ‘right’ or ‘correct’. In essence, Ho’oponopono means ‘to make rightly right.’ According to the law of causality, every change in nature is produced by some cause. Nothing happens by chance. Everything is related; both the seen and unseen.
The Ho’oponopono ritual is powerful because it recognizes the human fallibility of blaming ourselves or others when the seeds we plant do not grow, people fail to act the way we want them to, or when things fall apart. Being human means understanding that no one is perfect. We all have a shadow. Name a person who has never made a mistake. Exactly. You cannot.
The Ho’oponopono ritual involves reciting four sentences. Say these four sentences to yourself, a loved one or community:
1. I am sorry: I take responsibility for the role I played in causing disharmony. Usually, when relationships break down, we have a tendency to point our fingers at others and focus on what we think the other party did wrong. We ignore our own false assumptions, expectations and beliefs which contributed to the disturbance. We only see one pixel instead of the entire picture.
2. Please forgive me: Once we take responsibility for our actions, we ask to be forgiven. We cannot revisit the past and change what happened. “Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been any different”, Oprah Winfrey. It is acknowledging the harm that was done, whether consciously or unconsciously.
3. I love you: I care about your spiritual growth, as well as my own. I accept what happened, and I will change my behavior as a result. I see your humanity, as well as my own. I recognize that we are all connected. My actions impact you both directly and indirectly.
4. Thank you: I accept this situation as an opportunity for growth. You taught me what I could not have learned on my own. Thank you for being my teacher. I bid you peace.
In essence, the goal of the ritual is to free an individual, family or community from carrying the heavy burden of unforgiveness, resentment and anger. I have heard of family members giving each other the silent treatment for years due to a perceived slight. As a result, they miss out on family dinners, weddings, birthdays and events. Innocent people suffer. Forgiveness is not easy. Actually, it can be difficult, especially for the harmed party. However, what is really painful is carrying around years of unresolved anger. Once we can accept our own challenges and humanity, then it is easier to forgive others.
Forgiveness is a gift we give to ourselves. If we do not respect ourselves, then chances are our relationships will reflect the same. The Ho’oponopono ritual, or any other forgiveness practice, is about freeing the past for a brighter future. We should forgive, but it does not always mean to reengage. If a person refuses to see you as an equal, gives you the bare minimal attention, disrespects you and has a pattern of causing you inner turmoil, then it is probably a good idea to love that person from a wide distance. Yes, we are all connected, but sometimes it is best to set healthy boundaries to protect ourselves from harm. Learn the difference between your true friends, colleagues, associates and acquaintances. A lot of pain in life comes from putting people on pedestals, making unfounded assumptions and having unrealistic expectations.
Trust Your Feelings
When a relationship feels right, you will be energized. It is natural. On the flip side, when a relationship is not right, you will feel drained, suspicious and unsafe. We often talk ourselves into situations due to fear, loneliness and regret. When you feel naturally inspired without being manipulated or forced, then you know you are on the right path.
Ho’oponopono and Acceptance
The Ho’oponopono forgiveness ritual helps us accept two universal truths — some events are beyond our control and we all make mistakes. We cannot always control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond. Just like we would like to be forgiven for our mistakes and lapses in judgment, we should offer the same courtesy to others. Usually, we do the best that we can based on the available information we have at the time.
Do What is Best for You
Some people recite the four Ho’oponopono sentences daily. I have incorporated the sentences as a part of my meditation practice. Do what is best for you. According to Dr. Martin Luther King, “Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.”
Dupree, U. Ho’oponopono, The Hawaiian forgiveness ritual as the key to your life’s fulfillment. Earthdancer-Inner Traditions. Rochester, Vermont. 2020.
Spiritual Bypass: (7/5/2020) Wikipedia Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiritual_bypass#:~:text=A%20spiritual%20bypass%20or%20spiritual,a%20Buddhist%20teacher%20and%20psychotherapist.