A simple technique to change your outlook (and your life)

Posted by Karen M. Wyatt on August 2, 2012 at 5:05 PM

Recently I was introduced to a powerful practice that is based on an ancient Hawaiian ritual for forgiveness and reconciliation called Ho’oponopono. In the Hawaiian language this word literally means to “put things in order” or “make things right” and originated with the cultural belief that forgiveness of past wrongs is necessary in order to heal sickness.

But the concept of ho’oponopono goes even further to teach that we all share in the responsibility for things that have gone wrong, whether they have been mistakes or intentional acts of harm. Because we are all connected to one another, we each carry a portion of the burden of suffering that affects all of life.

From this perspective we should all feel sorrow and remorse whenever a terrible act is committed, such as the Aurora Theater Massacre that took place recently. Each of us should look within and seek reconciliation and forgiveness for that event, because we are connected to everyone who was involved in it, including the shooter.

While this idea sounds absurd and even offensive at first, there is something very comforting about allowing yourself to feel pain for the suffering that goes on in this world and then seeking to heal that pain within your own heart. And, as many spiritual traditions teach, what you heal in your own heart becomes healed in the rest of the world.

The beauty of this practice is that it offers something to do, a way to help, when tragedy occurs. But an additional asset of ho’oponopono is the fact that it can be carried out very simply, by repeating four brief phrases. So this technique can be used anytime and in any place to help bring more positive energy and compassion to any situation. Here are the 4 phrases and the deeper meaning behind them:  

  • “I’m sorry.” The process begins by taking responsibility for what has gone wrong. Saying I’m sorry means that you are willing to bear your share of the suffering that is taking place and you are not seeking to blame anyone else. You are opening your heart to the pain that is present in the situation. 
  • “Please forgive me.” Asking for forgiveness means that you want to restore harmony and put things back in order again. It also means that you are willing to forgive yourself and everyone else involved in the difficulty. 
  • “I love you.” Offering your love helps heal the brokenness that exists and strengthens the bonds between everyone involved. It is a sign that reconciliation has occurred. 
  • “Thank you.” By expressing gratitude you acknowledge that this opportunity to heal is a gift for which you are grateful. But you are also giving thanks in a larger sense for life itself, which includes every triumph and every tragedy.

These 4 simple phrases can be used as a mantra or prayer whenever negative emotions or events occur:

  • When I felt upset with someone for not following through on a task, I repeated “I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you.” to myself several times while I thought about the situation. As I began to let go of my anger toward her I realized that she may not have understood my instructions. I was able to go back to her without resentment and restate my request so that she could finish the work I wanted her to do.
  • When I was worried about a friend who was struggling with health problems I was able to send him loving energy that was free of all judgment and blame by repeating this prayer as I contemplated his condition.

As we struggle to make sense of this world that often seems unjust and unreasonable, we need to carry with us some tools for creating peace and calming anxiety. Ho’oponopono is one practice with a great potential to bring about healing and reconciliation where it is desperately needed.

Categories: Forgiveness, Illness & Healing, Spiritual Practice

Copyright ©2010 Karen Wyatt, MD

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