What is ho’opono or ho’oponopono?
To begin to answer this question one can simply dive into the beautiful language of Hawai’i. Ho’o is a causative word, giving action to whatever word follows it. According to the Hawaiian dictionary, pono means in perfect order, uprightness, well being, etc. The repetition of the word pono is sometimes repeated for greater emphasis. So ho’opono or ho’oponopono can mean to be in perfect order or well being. Throughout time, Hawaiian and indigenous cultures have believed all elements of nature to be sentient beings, having both memory and consciousness. So culturally, ho’oponopono would more specifically mean to come into alignment, or in right relationship, with everything that surrounds us. I personally like to think that the essence of ho’oponopono is about a return to Love and ultimately to the state of Oneness with every person, place, or thing in the universe. This is the way we entered the world, long before we were reprogrammed to think, feel and behave as anything less than pure LOVE.
In days of old Hawai’i, ho’oponopono most commonly involved conflict resolutions within a family or community. Traditionally, conducting a ho’oponopono involved a gathering of two or more people locked in conflict and a moderator, generally a kupuna or elder. The moderator’s kuleana or responsibility was to hold a neutral space in which disputing parties could unravel conflict and and reconcile. One of the keys to any successful ho’oponopono was a requirement for both parties to assume some level of responsibility for creating the conflict. Some families had rituals or specific rules for closing a ho’oponopono as well. I’ve been told of instances where participants in a ho’oponopono were required to agree to never speak of the conflict again….no idle gossip or digging up what had been laid to rest. To speak ill of the other person involved in the conflict after the ho’oponopono had taken place, meant that the process was NOT successful, and there were often serious consequences for those who broke this agreement. A person could be banished forever from their family or community for revisiting the conflict via hurtful words. While it may sound harsh, the kupuna surely knew that a single person’s energy could disrupt the balance and harmony of an entire family or community.
In the 1970’s a native Hawaiian kahuna lapa’au (healer) named Morrnah Nalamaku Simeona began to brilliantly weave traditional ho’oponopono concepts and methods into ones more applicable to modern Hawai’i. She recognized the need for an individualized method of ho’oponopono as islanders were no longer living in such close knit, interdependent tribal settings as in days of old. The influences of foreigners and missionaries in the late 1700 and 1800’s greatly impacted many cultural practices of Hawai’i. Modernization continued rapidly throughout the 1900’s, inviting more change and often creating significant physical distances among Hawaiian families. This made it all the more difficult for conflicts to be resolved in group settings as had been done in the past. Aunty Morrnah’s method of Self Identity Through Ho’oponopono became increasingly valuable to people of Hawai’i and beyond.
Today, modernization is ironically bringing us full circle, and we find ourselves connected to a world wide tribe via technology and phenomena such as Facebook, Twitter and Skype. As we have all seen, this connectivity can be incredibly positive and effective. In many cases, we are connecting at deeper levels and reaching across spacial, cultural, racial and socio-ecomomic boundaries that, in the past, seemed extremely prohibitive. On the other hand, technology has given conflict, anger, disharmony, negativity and trauma new vehicles to move at the speed of light. Fortunately, I believe LOVE can keep pace and ultimately surpass it all via the power of ho’oponopono.
There are various ways ho’oponopono is being practiced today. The group process of ho’oponopono continues to be extremely valuable but is less common than individualized methods. Individualized methods involving prayer, meditation, chant, visualization, ceremony, etc. have proven to be powerful tools for reconciling and dissolving the most complex conflicts in oneself and others. These tools can be used to clear negative energy from our personal energy fields, our residence or work place, and any body of water or land mass. The personal practice of ho’oponopono is also a powerful way to disconnect from any negative thought forms, even those that penetrate our minds for what seems to be the briefest moment- such as a disturbing piece of breaking news that flashes across the TV screen. The truly beautiful thing about how Aunty Morrnah modernized the practice of ho’oponopono is that all forgiveness, reconciliation, and clearing can be done individually without the participation of others involved in the problem or thought form. The power to heal ourselves and lies entirely in our own hands.
In my personal practice of ho’oponopono, I have found that the goal is not detachment from conflict, disharmony, and negativity. Nor is it non-reaction to these less-than-pleasant aspects of life. Instead, I believe the key is to recognize it all as a projection of the conflict, disharmony, and negativity that resides in me and approach it with love and compassion. I do this by making a conscious choice to take responsibility for whatever causes me dis-ease in any way, even when I am not directly at fault. This is certainly challenging in a world that plays out the victim-victimizer game so frequently that it almost becomes routine for us to blame someone else for everything. Accepting responsibility does not mean I accept or condone another person’s bad behavior, but it does allow me to steer clear of the victim role and onto a path of expedited healing and growth.
Perhaps it is easier to dive into the idea of “responsibility” from the other direction…by taking responsibility for creating peace in the world. Like the classic song suggests, “Let there be peace [or pono] on earth, and let it begin with me.” We cannot change another person’s behavior any more than a single person can stop the war in the Middle East. The only way to create peace in the world is by first calling a truce to the war within each of us and committing to being pono within our own hearts and minds. The effect of doing ho’oponopono for ourselves is like tossing a stone into a calm lake and watching as the ripples gently radiate out from the point of entry. As we return to Love, or being pono, the effects of it spiral out – having the greatest and most immediate effects on those who are closest to us and then gradually effecting those on the periphery who are more distant and even unknown to us.
My understanding and personal practice of ho’oponopono is a fusion of the vast wisdom that has been shared with me by many teachers. I am grateful to all of them, several of whom were blessed to have been personally mentored by Aunty Morrnah. I am so grateful to her for having the vision, audacity and heart to bring forth such valuable wisdom and offer it to the world. Before she passed, she shared her mana’o and her aloha across the Americas, Asia and Europe. Today there are individuals practicing ho’oponopono across the globe, embracing this gift from the Polynesian culture as their own. I believe, this simple yet profoundly powerful practice has the potential to change, not only individual lives, but the world as a whole. When our mental and emotional bodies come into harmonious alignment with the divinity that surrounds us, our actions will naturally reflect the pono within. Imagine a world filled with visionaries, entrepreneurs, actors, service providers, teachers, parents, etc. all operating in right relationship to all persons, places, and things! I am holding the space for that possibility and invite you to explore ho’oponopono for yourself and for your family, community, and the world at large.
I teach ho’oponopono at Ola Lokahi retreats and workshops. Visit www.mindbodyaloha.com or subsribe to the newsletter to learn more.
I abide in the ‘olelo no’eau (Hawaiian proverb) that suggests, “‘A’ole pau ka ‘ike i ka halau ho’okahi.” (All knowledge does not come from one source). Below are some suggested links from three of my teachers (Maka’ala Yates, Pattye Kealohalani Wright, and Ihaleakala Hew Len). While they each approach ho’oponopono in different ways, all were once students of Aunty Morrnah. I value all of their teachings.
www.manalomi.com (Dr. Maka’ala Yates)
www.realhula.com/kumuWis-PONO (Kumu Hula Kealohalani Wright)
http://www.self-i-dentity-through-hooponopono.com/article1 (Interview with Aunty Morrnah & Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len)