Article: The Ancient Hawaiian Practice of Forgiveness


Understanding the ancient Hawaiian practice of Forgiveness

Ho'oponopono can help restore harmony within, and with others.

When I first encountered the practice known as Ho’oponopono, it was in an interview with Haleaka Hew Len PhD, a Hawaiian psychologist and shamanic practitioner. I took on the simple yet profound forgiveness practice and found immediate benefits in my personal life.

Ho’oponopono: I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you.

What is ho’oponopono?

On the surface level, many people have understood ho’oponopono to be a mantra where one repeats the words ‘I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you’ as a form of mental and spiritual cleaning that could be compared to buddhist techniques for clearing karma. It has been defined as a forgiveness and reconciliation practice, cleansing of ‘errors of thought’ – the origin of problems and sickness in the physical world, according the the Hawaiian worldview. The literal translation is ‘to put to right; to put in order or shape, correct, revise, adjust, amend, regulate, arrange, rectify, tidy up, make orderly or neat.”

The mantra at the heart of Ho’oponopono

At first glance I found it hard to remember the order of the words or even discern if there was a specific order for them at all, so I tried them in every possible combination as well as repeating them on their own. I chanted them over and over in the hope of discovering whether they were useful in some way and if so, what was it about these words that made them helpful.

As I did so, I found that many questions arose, with different questions coming up depending on the order I said them. “Why should I be sorry? What do I have to be sorry for? What do I need forgiveness for, in this moment and in my life? What do I have to be grateful for? When I say ‘I love you’ am I really feeling it? If not, what is in the way?”. I worked with these words both to directly address something I was finding challenging, as well as just chanting them with no purpose in mind at all.

I found that by simply chanting these words that my inner discordance, my stuff, would come up. Not only would it come up, but it was as if my inner disharmony was being tuned to the frequency of these words and the intention they carry. Over time I found these four simple concepts acted like tuning forks, each carrying a different tone of purity that I could use to tune the disharmonious parts of myself. Best of all, I found that applying this chant to the chaos of my mind brought about stillness and calm.