[ Ho’oponopono is a technique I use every day. Adam J. Pearson just posted about Ho’oponopono practice and its effects on his excellent blog Words From The Wind . Ho’oponopono has a lot to do with the sanity of forgiveness, and the wholesome practice of approaching the world through love. Enjoy ! ]
The Way of Bold Healing: The Four Phrases of Ho’oponopono in Practice
By Adam J. Pearson
What is Ho’oponopono?
Ho’oponopono is an ancient Hawaiian art of healing, which grew as a social practice, a way of healing rifts between people, families and groups. However, Dr. Hew Len and his teacher Mornah extended it into an inner practice to do as individuals, a technique for working with whatever we encounter in daily life. For Dr. Hew Len, ho’oponopono is a way of “cleaning” or “clearing” conditioning and unconscious ‘programs’ (learned tendencies to think, feel, act, and react in certain ways) that we have accumulated over the years so that they no longer run our lives.
According to this viewpoint, we take responsibility for everything that appears in our life simply because it arises in our life. We don’t feel guilty and self-punishing for everything; rather, we recognize the destructive conditioning that plays itself out both in our own body-minds and those of others. From this point of view, if we are encountering violence and anger in others, there must be something in us that reflects these tendencies. In fact, from this perspective, the ‘external world’ and the ‘inner world’ of thoughts, memories and feeligns are not separate; they are totally united, seamlessly one. Whatever we see outside of our bodies is still within us from this point of view. And because it is happening or coming up within us, we need to work with it. We work with it by doing the cleaning, that is, working through the programs and conditioning so that they can be released.
This process of ‘working through’ is the essence of ho’oponopono practice; at its core, it remains a practice of healing, which operates on the universe seen as being not outside of us, but inside of us. Because we see everything as being in some sense within us, we can do this practice as much on the actions of other people as on our own actions, as much on their patterns of reaction as on our own. We can do it on events happening thousands of miles away from where we live, or emotional patterns playing themselves out right here, within us. It includes everything and excludes nothing; absolutely everything can be a focus of ho’oponopono practice.
Zero: The Goal of Ho’oponopono Practice
The goal of this practice is to return to what Dr. Hew Len calls the state of ‘zero.’ At zero, memory is not running us; conditioning is not possessing us like a demon and making us act in certain ways while we mistakenly feel we are choosing these actions freely. Zero is a state free of conditioned responses, when we can just be at peace with whatever we encounter. We return to zero by means of the practice of ho’oponopono, a word which means ‘to make right.’ At zero, thought, conditioning, and memory are not restricting us. There are no conditioning factors, no conceptual limitations. Instead, we become aware of a deep sense of peace and a heart-opening love without object or clinging, which gradullay replaces the neurotic, self-destructive, suffering-ridden life we had lived before. This is a transformative practice; it works on all levels of our being. As we work on ourselves, we work on the world; as we work on the world, we work on ourselves. This is a powerfully holistic view of the universe and of existence in which the ‘inner’ impacts the ‘outer’ and the ‘outer’ impacts the ‘inner.’
Cleaning Conditioning with The Four Phrases
While Dr. Hew Len offers many methods of ‘cleaning’ for working with this conditioning that is pervasively present within us, the one that I have found most powerful and helpful is the practice of the ‘four phrases.’
The four phrases are:
Please forgive me.
and I love you.
To do the practice, we can take anything as a focus. We can use an emotion, a tendency towards certain kinds of action (like impulsive buys or self-blame), a person, a place, an event, anything. We then formulate statements about them using the four phrases as guidance. We think mentally: “I’m sorry that __________.” Then “Please forgive me for ____________.” Then “Thank you for ___________” and always end with “I love you.” We offer our love both to the focus of the practice and to greater ‘something’ beyond. Dr. Hew Len calls it “the Divine.” I prefer to leave this greater something unnamed, a mystery unfathomable and unclassifiable by the mind. Indeed, I don’t worry about it. I just do the practice, trusting that it will bring gratitude, peace, deeper love, and appreciation for life. So far, it has never failed to yield these fruits.
Examples of the Four Phrases in Practice
Let us look at some examples of what the four phrases look like in practice.
1. I noticed that I tend to compare myself with other people a lot and that this makes me feel temporarily better or worse about myself, but ultimately doesn’t make me any happier. I then ran the four phrases for this tendency. I focused on the tendency, said these words, and turned love rather than resistance on to it. This is what I said to myself inwardly:
“ I’m sorry for the movement to compare myself to others and find myself lacking and inadequate. I’m sorry for punishing myself when I find myself ‘less good.’ Please forgive me for taking these mind-concocted stories for realities. Thank you for revealing that these value judgments only have meaning in the mind and not in the world beyond it. Thank you for revealing that when I obsessively compare myself to others and find myself either lacking or ‘better than’ them, this is only the movement of my subconscious trying to feel good enough and yearning to be loved. Please forgive me for not being caring and compassionate to this inner child and for denying these tendencies rather than accepting and embracing them. Body, mind, heart, and being, I see you as you are, dropping all stories, and I tell you this with all the sincerity I can muster: I love you.”
A woman ran the four phrases on the violence she observed around her. Inwardly, she said:
“I am sorry war, forgive me for all unconsciousness ways i contribute to violence, oppression and ignorance. Thank you for bringing my attention to the impulse to fight, and to re-examine if it actually works, I love you. Thank you to the sadness that arises when I see such violence, for reminding me to care and love. Forgive me, I love you earth, despite all the cruely, I love you humans, thank you.”
Looking to my tendency to laugh at other people for my own amusement, I ran the four phrases:
“I’m sorry for laughing at people rather than with them. Please forgive me for making myself feel like I’m better than others by belittling them through my cynical laughter. Thank you for opening my eyes to the motivations underneath this loveless laughter so that it can be transmuted into something greater. I love you.”
After talking to someone who said they felt like they had to hold back expressing themselves in fear of how others would judge them, I inwardly worked on the four phrases, thinking:
“I’m sorry for whatever it is in me that has given rise to these feelings that you must hold back and fear the judgment of others in you. Please forgive me for whatever I have done to contribute to the problem and not be part of the solution. Thank you for the beauty that you share and the wonders you are. I love you.”
Feeling shame for her sexual desires, one women ran the four phrases, saying inside herself:
“I’m sorry I put shame on myself for natural impulses that are built into the human form. Please forgive me, body and brain for my aggressive authoritarian approaches to your reflexes.”
After feeling insecure about blemishes on my face, I ran the four phrases on that feeling and judgment:
“Dear face, I’m sorry I often look at you and think you are ugly and that your pimples ruin your whole appearance. Please forgive me for devaluing you and making myself feel unattractive and consequently, insecure in the process. Thank you for allowing me to express emotion to the world and forcing me to be honest by betraying the lies I speak with my tongue. I love you.”
A woman noticed herself needing people to see they were wrong before she could forgive them. She worked the four phrases on them, saying inwardly:
“I’m sorry I feel the need to get people to see the error of their ways before I can forgive them. I’m sorry that my need to forgive people is selfishly motivated; to remove my own discomfort without addressing the reason, within myself, for the said discomfort. Forgive me, Thank you, I love you.”
A man noticed himself trying to fix everyone around them. He ran the four phrases on this pattern of action, saying:
“I’m sorry friends and family for trying to fix you, please forgive me. I love and accept you just as you are. Thank you for existing. Sorry ego, for thinking that unless you’re perfect then I am unworthy. I forgive you your flaws before I try and change you.”
A man noticed himself resisting those he felt to be judgemental around him. He worked the four phrases on this resistance, thinking:
“I’m sorry I feel hurt and distain when I hear people being judgmental. I guess this is something I don’t like about myself either and so I keep it hidden from myself, and others. Please forgive me, Thank you, I love you.”
Thinking about the Japanese fishermen who were slaughtering many dolphin in Japan, a woman ran the phrases not only on their killing, but also on them and the reactions they were experiencing as a result of their actions, saying:
“I am sorry, I am sure you are doing the best that you can. I am sure it isn’t easy to feel all the hatred being directed towards you right now. Please forgive me for anyway i have contributed to your discomfort. I am sorry that my love and deep connection to the dolphins make me go into a feeling of a protective momma bear, forgive me for any blind rage that has been directed towards you. A mother would throw herself in front of a car for her child, and some people on earth feel that dolphins are equivalent to their children. We don’t mean you any harm, and we don’t want to threaten your livelihood and cause you damage, or threaten your ability to take care of your children; we just love our babies so much. Thank you for this opportunity to bring awareness to the issue so that humanity can evolve and grow and find some maturity amidst all the chaos. I do love you, and appreciate that you are doing the very best you can, please find it within you to stop the killing, and find another way, I am so sure there is another way. Thank you for the ability to listen to your heart, thank you to the creative genius that is working out a solution this very moment. I love you.”
This same woman ran the phrases from a different perspective:
“I am so sorry dolphins. We should be evolved enough to treat you with the respect and dignity that you deserve. I am sorry for all the ways I am not evolved, forgive me for all the ways that I could grow and my stubbornness blocks it. Forgive me for all the ways I resist learning something new becasue my cultural conditioning and old data play so powerfully in my thoughts, words and actions. I am sorry for all the ways I am unconscious. Thank you Japan for showing me how much work there is to be done, thank you for the opportunity to raise above this, and open the heart even more. I love you humanity, I love you Japan, I love you dolphins.”
A man noticed his tendency to judge his body in ways that made him suffer and he worked the four phrases on them:
“Dear body, I’m sorry I often look at you and think you are too thin and not muscular enough. Please forgive me for devaluing you and making myself feel unnatractive and consequently, insecure in the process. Thank you for grounding me in the world, carrying me through life, enabling me to do many amazing things, and being the support and basis of my life. I love you.”
A woman noticed she was feeling guilt and saw it in a new light. She worked with the four phrases from this new perspective, saying inwardly:
“Dear guilt: I am sorry for the assumption that you are a ‘bad thing,’ please forgive me for rejecting your gifts. Thank you for teaching me compassion, empathy and consideration. I love you.”
Another lady noticed herself feeling resistance when her parents would ‘meddle’ in her affairs. She worked with the four phrases on this feeling:
“I am sorry, please forgive me for feeling anger towards my parents when they try to involve themselves in my affairs. Although this translates to ‘interference’ in my mind, they are only trying to help. If they carry fear and attachment to my success this is their own burden to carry. I release them of my resentment and bitterness. Thank you for this mirror, an opportunity to become conscious of my own issues so that I will no longer reject feelings of helplessness, dependency, defectiveness and inadequacy. I love you so much.”
The Fruits of the Four Phrases
Regularly working with the four phrases has some remarkable benefits that I have observed in my own life. The “I’m sorry” phrase encourages us to take responsibility and to own up to what we are doing rather than to deny or seek to avoid it. We own our actions, our feelings, our thoughts, and everything we encounter, however unpleasant, violent, or suffering-imbued it may be.
The “Please forgive me” phrase encourages us to develop an informed sense of forgiveness. About this phrase, Dr. Hew Len used to say: “You don’t say “Forgive me” because the Divine needs to forgive you. You say it because you need to hear it.” As we learn to open up the heart in forgiveness, we get this forgiveness we seek. It comes with the practice.
The “Thank you” phrase encourages us to be grateful and to look for the benefits hiding beneath the apparent bad fortune and unpleasantness we encounter in daily life. It encourages us to be appreciative and grateful and these feelings bleed out into our daily life. We tend to be happier and feel more fulfilled as a result.
Moreover, the “I love you” phrase has the effect of opening our hearts. We often tend to close ourselves off from others and from our own feelings in order to try to avoid getting hurt. This is not a fault, it is an innocent mistake, a defense mechanism. Our inner child, the unconscious, makes this mistake only because it wants what is best for us and simply doesn’t know any other better way to go about achieving it. The “I love you” phrase works through this. It fosters acceptance, open-heartedness, love, caring, and empathy. It is a powerful phrase indeed. The more we say “I love you,” even if we don’t feel it at first, the more loving we eventually end up becoming. It has a hypnotic, subconscious effect that produces conscious results.
Together, these four phrases have a healing effect. They heal and release those things the Buddha called the Three Poisons: clinging, aversion, and self-delusion. The Buddha saw these as causes of suffering. The four phrases give us an easy, beneficial way of working with these causes of suffering so they gradually release their hold on us. As a result, our suffering begins to diminish, and we begin to feel happier and more whole within ourselves. As we work on our suffering and the suffering of the world, we bring suffering not only to our own life, but to the lives of those around us.
The phrases also encourage us to be more mindful in daily life, to pay closer attention, and end up releasing us from patterns of conditioning, subconscious programs, and learned data that tend to take us over and run us without us even realizing it. In this way, they offer us liberation and freedom. They return us gradually to our original state, to zero, where there are no mental tangles, memory blockages, or tangs of suffering. Beyond this, they open us up to inspiration. According to Dr. Hew Len, we can either respond from memory, or we can respond from inspiration. Working with the four phrases opens up new insights and new inspirations that we never arrived at before by means of conscious reasoning. They increase our intuition and make us more receptive to subtle insights.
The Impact of Ho’oponopono on My Life
While this practice may appear cheesy, it truly is transformative. I was such a cynic about it at first, but as I practiced it, I gradually came to feel its benefits for myself. They are accessible to anybody. No special training is needed to do this. My experience is that working with these phrases opens us up to the deep, unspeakable love that Rumi wrote about in his poetry. My experience is that there is a love that wells up from within that isn’t interested in conceptual fantasies but embraces reality as it finds it. It is a love that helps unsnare the tangles in our minds and release the shackles of suffering.
It is easy to resist love as “hippy nonsense” or “fluffy garbage” or “woo woo” superficiality. But ho’oponopono opens us up to a love far deeper than this, a love that embraces even the nastiest, most damaged parts of ourselves and our world and leaves nothing out. Everything looks different when you see it through the eyes of this love. All of the little flaws and points of criticism that the mind obsesses over cease to appear to be problems. They, too, get swept up in the embrace of a love that encompasses the universe and excludes nothing. All of the aversions, attachments, and delusions that cause suffering in the mind are transmuted when they are burned with the fire of a love that holds without clinging. Resisting resistance only breeds more resistance; loving our resistance transforms it into acceptance. Love the mental chains that bind you until they unlock themselves and you find yourself falling gracefully into freedom. Love is the grand opener of all, the master key of Being.
Indeed, ho’oponopono has taken me out of sadness and depression and into a sense of expansive joy and peacefulness that I carry into daily life. Practicing ho’oponopono has revealed to me that I was caught up in patterns of reaction and cynical criticism that I didn’t even realize were operating… these were really subconscious programs, feedback loops running on auto-pilot in consciousness and appearing to be free will. Honestly, there was very little love in me while I was playing out those unconscious programs. I was very closed off and I didn’t even realize it. I kept everything at an arm’s distance, far enough away to be able to criticize and laugh at it.
As cheesy as this may sound, working with loving whatever pops up within me, however pleasant or unpleasant, has opened the floodgates of inner warmth within me again… honestly, it feels like a totally fresh and new way of relating to existence. I’ve fallen in love with love pure and simple again, a love I had cynically discounted before. It’s clearing out a lot of causes of suffering in my life, a lot of unnecessary shadows and mental cobwebs, and a whole lot of unconscious programs grounded in maladaptive habits and memory. In its place, it is leaving only itself and the peace that is ever present beneath the clamor of conflict.
Conclusion: A Bold Way of Healing
This, in closing, is the way of ho’oponopono in a nutshell: not resisting or trying to ‘fix’ what comes up within us, but meeting it with a daring, bold love. Ho’oponopono says: don’t take the mind’s stories or the heart’s sorrows too seriously. Just love them all and embrace whatever arises within you, no matter how ugly, painful, terrifying, or suffering-heavy it may be. Peace and serenity will reveal themselves over time just as clouds slowly clear to reveal the golden blazing of the sun. Ho’oponopono denies nothing and incorporates everything into its stream of processing through the four phrases. It cleans the conditioning off of everything and releases it, and us, back to zero.
I am not interested in preaching this practice, nor am I trying to convince you to give it a try. That is totally up to you. All I can tell you is that it has made all the difference for me. Ho’oponopono speaks, I think, very well to a world besieged by itself, desperate, afraid, suffering, and lost. It offers us a healthy way to encounter the world and navigate through daily life, a way that brings much good both to ourselves and to everyone around us, a way of love in a world of apathy, a way of bold healing
The entirety of this post may be found here:
Followup posts by the same author:
For a link on Dr. Len Hew :