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What is Ho'oponopono?

Ho'oponopono is a deceptively simple but powerful personal growth tool with origins in Hawaiian shamanic practice that's been adapted for modern use. The words translate to "to make right", and it flows from the Hawaiian ancestral practice of correcting conflicts between people and within groups to serve the greater good.

The purpose of ho'oponopono is to re-establish harmony, correct wrongs, and restore order. Traditionally used to correct imbalance in groups, individuals can use it to erase negative thought patterns, thus aiding their personal development.

Ho'oponopono consists of four short phrases, recited like a mantra:

  • I’m sorry,
  • Please forgive me,
  • Thank you,
  • I love you!

Say the words in any order that feels right to you. Recite it over and over, out loud or silently, in response to a negative feeling that arises from within ourselves, or as a result of an outside event, like a rude customer or coworker.

You address these words to yourself. More specifically, to the part of your subconscious that stored the old program that created the negative emotion.

When I recite the ho'oponopono mantra in response to a negative feeling or emotion, it does several things. First, it establishes my full responsibility for the feeling. Second, it asks my higher self for forgiveness for allowing that emotion to affect my tranquility. Third, it expresses gratitude for allowing me to "make things right". Finally, it confirms an atmosphere of love, the highest of human feelings, and the backdrop for all positive change.

please forgive me!

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The key: we are responsible for everything in our lives!

Ho'oponopono rests on the principle that we are each 100%, "full stop" responsible for the things that enter our lives.

This can be tough to accept. We are accustomed to assigning blame for bad things that happen, as well as deflecting responsibility for the good things in our lives.

Responsibility is not the same as culpability. Others may have mistreated you or done harm to you, and ho'oponopono does not absolve them of blame for having done wrong to another. But even though you're not at fault, only you are responsible for the things that happen to you, and for cleaning up any messes left behind. If not you, who else?

That's right: You are responsible for everything that happens to you, both the good and the not so good. This means you get the job of making things right, for better or for worse. On the bright side, you reap the rewards of good things because you alone set the stage for their arrival into your life. That's empowering, and one of the reasons ho'oponopono works so well.

"I'm sorry": Humility and taking responsibility

Taking full responsibility is humbling. When parties in a conflict each take full responsibility, there is a basis for conflict resolution because no one can play the Blame Game. Point a finger, and three more point back at you.

"I'm sorry" is a way of acknowledging our human failings and fragility. Bringing ourselves down to earth quiets the ego's demand to be right all the time. From this state we can accept our fallibility. Humility sets the stage for growth.

"Please forgive me": Forgiveness

Forgiveness is an act of love expressed to another, but also to ourselves. Asking forgiveness is an act of contrition that sets the stage for reconciliation. Yet we hesitate to do so, don't we? We've been brought up with the belief that asking forgiveness means we're guilty of some transgression. That's not the case here.

In ho'oponopono, we ask forgiveness for holding on to a limiting belief or thought pattern that does not serve us. We acknowledge the pain these wounds cause us.


"Thank you": Gratitude

An attitude of gratitude makes us receptive to life's gifts. In ho'oponopono, gratitude comes from being given the chance to make things right within our own minds. We give thanks that our request for forgiveness is granted. We also give thanks for the wisdom that inspired ho'oponopono in the first place!

"I love you": Love

Without love, there can be no true healing or reconciliation of conflict. Love creates a welcoming field in which negative thoughts and despair have no place. Where love rules, inspiration can flow.

Why, and how, does ho'oponopono work?

Reciting a mantra repeatedly bypasses our conscious awareness and allows us to communicate with our subconscious mind. Ho'oponopono works the same way, especially when we are having an emotional reaction. This may arise because of a subconscious trigger of a traumatic event, or a flood of bad vibrations directed at you (as in the case of the rude customer taking frustrations out on you).

Our goal is to decouple the feeling from the memory of the original event. Ho'oponopono sends a message of humility, forgiveness, gratitude and love, thus helping us to clear away the strong emotional response.

All human thoughts arise either from memory, or from inspiration. Our larger goal must be to free ourselves from the memory-driven thoughts that set artificial limits, and allow inspiration to work its magic.

Remember: Inspiration flows our way continuously from the source of infinite intelligence. Yet we don't receive it because of the filters we've created. Ho'oponopono cleans out and clears away the subconscious junk that stands between us and the source of that power.


Ho'oponopono and EFT tapping

I've found ho'oponopono especially useful when combined with the emotional freedom technique, aka tapping. Tapping on acupressure points while reciting our ho'oponopono mantra amplifies the effect, quieting the conscious mind and opening up the channels to our subconscious.

In EFT, it's suggested we use an affirmation phrase that addresses a specific issue within us. We sometimes resist this step, or have trouble finding just the right phrasing. This could demotivate us from tapping and then we end up not doing it. Ho'oponopono works nicely as a default EFT mantra until we settle on a specific affirmation.

Another way to look at it is that if I'm reciting ho'oponopono, then I might as well tap at the same time because my hands are available!

please forgive me!

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