“Have you ever considered that you’re the one responsible for the issues that you’re having with this teammate?” my mentor gently asked me.
I blinked. Quite a few times. Clearly, she wasn’t listening to me.
“Well, given the circumstances … no, no I have not.”
“Have you ever heard of ho’oponopono?”
“Hmm, can you say that again?”
“Ho-o-po-no-po-no. It’s the Hawaiian art of forgiveness, and maybe it could be helpful in this situation. You simply say ‘I’m sorry. Forgive Me. Thank you. I love you.’ in your head while thinking about the person or situation that’s challenging you.”
I left her office equal parts pissed that she would suggest I was responsible for the actions of another person and super intrigued, because I always love learning about new traditions and rituals for personal development.
Ho’oponopono is a practice that comes from Hawaiian culture and is known as the art of forgiveness and freedom. It is a simple mantra process that results in the energetic cleaning and healing of the subconscious. Based on the idea that we are all part of one consciousness, it suggests we are responsible for everything that happens in our life. In taking responsibility for our lives we are able to cleanse our energy around it, healing ourselves and others in the process.
The practice of ho’oponopono dates back to ancient Hawaiian times and the process has evolved over the years through many different spiritual teachers. Ihaleakala Hew Len, Ph.D. is credited with bringing the concept of ho’oponopono into mainstream consciousness after partnering with personal development author and speaker Dr. Joe Vitale. Hew Len found tremendous success in the early 1980s in healing criminally insane patients at a Hawaiian state hospital over a four-year period; he never interacted directly with the patients, only practiced the mantras while reviewing their charts.
In his book Zero Limits, Hew Len says: “The purpose of life is to be restored back to Love, moment to moment. To fulﬁll this purpose, the individual must acknowledge that he is 100 percent responsible for creating his life the way it is. He must come to see that it is his thoughts that create his life the way it is, moment to moment. The problems are not people, places and situations but rather the thoughts of them.”
I know, I know; it can be hard to believe that saying a few simple lines in your head would “heal” a situation. However, from what the field of neuroscience is now showing us, it actually makes quite a bit of sense.
As humans, when we are triggered in a situation, we often subconsciously slip into thought patterns that will reinforce the negative emotions we’re feeling. Our body then produces chemicals that validate the emotional experience we’re having, and we go down a spiral in this automatic thinking-feeling loop.
In those moments of stress, frustration and mental chaos, if we can give ourselves a pause, by taking a deep breath and focusing on a new thought, we’ve given ourselves a fighting chance of not spiraling out. By using a mantra or new thought, we are teaching our brain a new path to take (aka a neural pathway) instead of the old pathway that we know leads to more stress, frustration and an icky emotional chemical cocktail that doesn’t actually serve us. By using ho’oponopono, we can shift the energetic vibration in our bodies and, as a result, the situation we’re in.
The tough part? Remembering to pause, take the breath and have a new thought ready. Next time you need to rise above the mental chaos in your mind and find yourself in need of an energetic shift, give ho’oponopono a go. I’m sorry. Forgive me. Thank you. I love you.
Photo by Michael Olsen.
Originally published in the Winter + Spring 2021-21 issue of CO YOGA + Life Magazine.