Ho’oponopono – the power of forgiveness

Years ago I had a particularly difficult boss and, rather than waste my energy loathing her, I used to blast her with unconditional love. It worked too – after each ‘love bomb’ she definitely chilled. What was really interesting was that she could tell something was happening. ‘Are you doing something weird to me?’ she’d say. I’d look innocent and shrug of course.

So, when I read about Ho’oponopono, I didn’t find it too much of a stretch. It comes from the Hawaiian verb that means to put to rights, to amend, to tidy up. It’s about putting things right not by pushing at external reality but by looking within ourselves.

There is an incredible story about a Hawaiian psychologist called Dr Ihaleakala Hew Len who, when he started work at a hospital with the criminally insane, said he didn’t need to have consultations with his patients, he just wanted to see their charts. The story goes that he studied the charts and then looked within himself to see how he created each person’s illness. As he improved himself, the patients improved. How mind-blowing is that?

Illness, the theory goes, is created by the stress of anger, guilt, recrimination and lack of forgiveness. Not just our own illness, but the wider illnesses of society. So, according to Ho’oponopono, we are responsible for…everything. Yes, even for the terrorists, for the rapists, for the banks and the economy, for pollution and war.

Hmm, that’s a tough one. So we have to take responsibility for the haters, for the hitters, for the abusers? Well, why not? You know what I’ve found? It’s actually a lot more comfortable to take responsibility than to harbour anger, resentment, sorrow, blame. Who wants to be a victim? Who wants to be eaten up with hate and misery?

In a world that feels like it’s spinning further and further into chaos, in a world where it’s so easy to feel hopeless, powerless, pointless, maybe this is something small that we can all do. Who knows, perhaps it’s true – perhaps by clearing our own errors, we really could clear everyone. Maybe by healing ourselves, we could heal the world too. Who knows? Nobody. None of us know anything for sure. So why not try?
How do you do it? It comes down to four simple phrases.

– I love you.
– I’m sorry.
– Please forgive me.
– Thank you.

It’s stupidly simple but I love it. I’ve been experimenting and find it works for pretty well everyone with whom I’ve had any kind of conflict, any kind of history. All you do is quietly meditate on a person and just repeat the phrases, throwing out all the unconditional love and hope for forgiveness that you can. It’s tough because the mind wants to get caught up in ‘yeah but…’ and the ‘but you…’ and so on and so forth. We like to apportion blame. But just ignore the mind – it knows nothing.

As the Beatles said, ‘Life is very short and there’s no time for fussing and fighting, my friend.’

So… I love you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you.

This first appeared in my column for Natural Health magazine.

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