Ho’oponopono

There is a Hawaiian ritual tied to a polynesian belief system which came to my attention during my years of searching for Universal Truth.  The practice is called “Ho’oponopono” (HO-oh-PO-no-PO-no), and it is a ritual of forgiveness.  Practiced as a prescribed ceremony by many polynesian cultures, the principle of Ho’oponopono is actually pretty simple…and can be life-transforming!

The complex meaning of the actual principle is something akin to bringing about or actualizing moral correctness, true condition or nature, and virtue.  The simple, practical meaning is found, however, in the essential components of the ritual itself.  It consists of four basic statements:

  1. “I love you.”
  2. “I’m sorry.”
  3. “Please forgive me.”
  4. “Thank you.”

The idea is that if there is a conflict in your life, you should let go of the attachments we all seem to struggle with such as blame, guilt, shame, and anger.  Instead, to resolve our differences, we should approach each other with these four statements in mind.  By doing so, we shed the conflict-causing aspects of our ego, and focus on reconciliation and healing.  It’s simple, it’s direct, and the application to interpersonal disputes is easy to see.

One thing I’ve realized about Ho’oponopono, however, is that when we say these statements, we’re not really saying them to the other person!  When we truly feel the power of these four simple statements is when we realize we’re saying them to ourselves!  No matter what conflicts exist in our lives, peace is found when we take full responsibility for our circumstances and learn to forgive not just others, but ourselves.  If we have done wrong, we often beg forgiveness of those we have wronged, but how often do we take the time to actually have it out with ourselves and, ultimately, forgive ourselves?  If someone else has done wrong to us, we may choose to forgive them, but how often do we actually take a look at our own role as co-creators of our universe and ask our own forgiveness, too.  And how often do we actually let go of our attachments and truly forgive?

Upon learning about Ho’oponopono, I began using it in my daily life.  If conflict arose, I would silently utter the four statements toward the conflict – whether it was a person I was quarreling with or a situation in my life, I would tell it that I loved it, that I was sorry (even if my ego kept saying that it was their fault), that I would like their forgiveness, and that I was thankful for that forgiveness.

The more I practiced, the more I realized that I was always talking to myself when I did this, even if I had an external circumstance I thought I was directing my statements to.  I was letting myself know that the circumstance didn’t have the power to define me, and therefore was a necessary part of my experience.  When I say “I love you” now, I know that I’m really talking to my true self.  I accepted responsibility for all of the circumstances in my life and when I say “I’m sorry” now, I’m talking about my genuine remorse (NOT guilt or shame) over creating suffering for myself and others.  I began to seek forgiveness from my true self for allowing myself to get caught up in all of the chaos around me instead of remaining in the Now, and so when I say “Please forgive me” now, I know I’m talking to me.  And when I say “Thank you” now, I know it’s because the forgiveness is already there.  If I am truly in the spirit of Ho’oponopono, I can shed my ego and find absolute peace, joy, and unconditional love in any moment and under any circumstances.

The Beauty of Impermanence

“Everything flows and nothing abides.  Everything gives way and nothing stays fixed.” – Heraclitus (c. 540 – c. 475 BC)

So many of our conflicts exist because of our attachment to the idea that the circumstances of our lives are of tremendous importance, and that they are somehow permanent and real.  We adhere to this idea vehemently, even to the extent that we believe that our past and future circumstances are permanent and real, here and now.  We suffer over our past, allowing our regrets and past traumas to live in our emotional experience today as if they were still happening to us.  We suffer over our future, allowing our fears and our uncertainty to create a real experience for us now as if the future has happened already.  And we suffer in our present moment over the circumstances which overwhelm us on a daily basis.

In truth, however, our past circumstances are gone.  The only thing keeping them alive is our emotional attachment to them.  And, in truth, our future circumstances are unknown to us.  The only thing making them real now is our attachment to our emotional imagination of how they will be.  And, in truth, our present circumstances, no matter how dire, are temporary.  The only thing that makes them seem permanent is the significance we give them.

Everything changes.  Everything passes.  This universe functions in a state of impermanence.  We look around at things like mountains, buildings, and even our own bodies, and are struck by the illusion of solidity.  But in just a few short decades, our bodies wear down and pass away.  In a few centuries, buildings crumble and decay.  In a few millennia, mountains shift and heave.  These realities hold true for the circumstances of our lives, too.  No matter how weighty and important things may seem, eventually everything comes to an end.

At first blush, this universal truth may seem harsh, pessimistic, or fatalistic.  But when deeply pondered, impermanence is a wonderful gift.  When we can humbly accept that nothing in this existence is permanent, we can shed our attachments to the emotional addictions which hinder our experience.  When we learn to live each moment for all that it’s worth – as if it were our last – we can free ourselves from the limitations of past and future thinking, and even take control of our experience of the NOW.  When we can, with open mind and open heart, meditate of the impermanence of all things, we find that we are more likely to live our lives in a state of peace, accepting the gifts the Universe unfurls for us without questioning them.  Even our challenges become experiences of growth and opportunity because, deep down, we can accept that they, too, are temporary.

Some would argue that focusing on impermanence makes one indifferent.  I disagree.  Detaching from the sufferings I’ve attached to in my life allows me to live my life more fully.  Recognizing the finite nature of all things helps me to appreciate what I have while I have it.  Knowing that I have a limited time-frame (in this experience, at least), makes it possible for me to love more fully, taking nothing for granted and cherishing all those who are in my experience.  Getting past the stigma of pessimism attached to the concept of impermanence has allowed me to be present and truly live.