The Ancient Hawaiian Practice of Forgiveness

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 to 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'oponoponoThe 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.

The only problem with human beings is that they are arrogant, because that’s what thinking is. This is in essence ‘I know’. Wisdom is being in the void. To be thoughtless. Only by being in the void can the Light come through. As long as I have something going on in my mind the Light can’t come through. The Light can only come in when the mind is cleared–in a state of silence. – Dr Hew Len, Shamanic Wisdomkeepers

Forgiveness in bodyForgiveness has the power to bring harmony within and with others.

Why is Ho’oponopono powerful?

Throughout human history, we have been divided by distance, language, cultural and religious beliefs, class and economic hierarchy. Whenever someone comes up with a perspective there seems to always be someone else there with an opposing opinion. To me, the power of Ho’oponopono comes, in large part, from the fact that it’s a really rare thing for the vast majority of humanity to be in agreement about anything.

Across all cultures practically all of us agree that the concepts of thank you, I’m sorry, please forgive me and I love you are all valuable and important. If there is such thing as a collective consciousness, as Jung and many eastern traditions have suggested, then the basis of the power of Ho’oponopono may come from the sheer volume of people throughout human history who have agreed that these concepts are valuable, important and useful to humanity. In this way, Ho’oponopono may be tapping into a level of awareness that extends far beyond its Hawaiian roots into perhaps every culture that has ever existed on Earth.

In common with other shamanic traditions, the Hawaiian tradition teaches that all life is connected.  Ho’oponopono is, therefore, not only a way of healing ourselves, but others and our world as well. – Timothy Freke, Shamanic Wisdomkeepers

Can Ho’oponopono affect More than Our Internal World?

At the core of Dr. Hew Len’s perspective is the idea of taking responsibility for more than your personal self because ‘you are in me and I am in you’. His way of expressing Ho’oponopono contains an awareness that the discordance we find in others and in the world outside ourselves is due to ‘errors’ in thought stored in our personal and collective memories. The belief in these errors existing in some form of collective memory accessible to all allows for a person practicing Ho’oponopono to clean these errors, whether the error originated in their personal thoughts or not.

I don’t see myself as a kahuna, I see myself as a garbage collector.  I’m only here to be responsible and it’s often very hard to do that. – Dr Hew Len, Shamanic Wisdomkeepers

Forgiveness in thoughtsThe power to change the world around us.

The paradox here is that he is advocating development of personal power to change the situation around us through increasing personal responsibility, which involves a willingness to take on responsibility for cleaning discordance that was not created by oneself, i.e doing other people’s inner work for them (which doesn’t seem like the other taking personal responsibility for them self). As usual, the paradox is resolved with the awareness that separation consciousness is not the only reality and an underlying unity also co-exists, after all: ‘you are in me and I am in you’. This is where Ho’oponopono truly steps into being a shamanic practice, where the reality not only within but around the practitioner can apparently be adjusted.

No one wanted the job I did with the criminally insane. They were averaging about one psychologist a month. But I got asked. We had about 25-30 people. Half of them would be in shackles at the ankles or the wrists because they were dangerous. They could either kick you or slam you. Everyone would walk with their back toward the wall so that they wouldn’t get struck. They had no family visits. No one could leave the building. A year and a half later there was none of that. There were people going out on bus rides. Nobody in shackles. The level of medication dropped. What did I do?  I worked on myself. I took 100% responsibility. – Dr Hew Len, Shamanic Wisdomkeepers

While the rational part of me would still like verification that this story really happened, it evoked enough curiosity in me to get me to try the technique and find out for myself if it might be helpful to my life.

Ho’oponopono as a Family Therapy Practice

For people living in Hawaii today, Ho’oponopono is less about it being a personal shamanic practice through chanting a mantra internally or externally, and more about a traditional system of dispute resolution. It’s a practice that still holds the values of making things right and correcting errors, however in this incarnation it is focused on making things right with our relations; coming back into right relationship by correcting errors with living relatives, ancestors and deities.

Ho'oponopono as a family therapy practiceHo’oponopono as a family therapy practice.

Today Ho’oponopono is just like family therapy. This has been really influenced by the Christians. But I’m talking about the real Ho’oponopono from before they came. [Back] then the Hawaiians didn’t need to talk anymore. They could go straight to the Light. This is very ancient. It goes back to the start, because that’s where Hawaiians came from. – Dr Hew Len, Shamanic Wisdomkeepers

The ritual for group reconciliation itself involves an elder in the family convening the process, or if this isn’t possible an elder from the wider community. The ideal situation is for the ritual to be conducted by praying priest (kahuna pule) or healing priest (kahuna lapaʻau) particularly if illness was involved.

The process begins with prayer. A statement of the problem is made, and the transgression discussed. Family members are expected to work problems through and cooperate, not ‘hold fast to the fault.’ One or more periods of silence may be taken for reflection on the entanglement of emotions and injuries. Everyone’s feelings are acknowledged. Then confession, repentance and forgiveness take place. Everyone releases (kala) each other, letting go. They cut off the past (ʻoki), and together they close the event with a ceremonial feast, called pani, which often included eating limu kala or kala seaweed, symbolic of the release. – Nana I Ke Kumu (Look To The Source) by Mary K. Pukui, E.W Haertig, Catharine Lee.

reconciliation in the familCreating space for confession, repentance, and forgiveness to take place.

Testing the True Power of Ho’oponopono

Like many spiritual practices, such as meditation, it’s not the practice you do while you’re in the crisis, it’s the practice you do on a regular basis between the crisis that makes it effective when the storm hits. A couple of years ago I was at a spiritual retreat where the practice I was engaged in triggered what I would now describe as a state of spiritual emergency. I use this term in the context that Stan Grof and other transpersonal psychologists might use it, as an alternative way of describing what others might call psychosis.

I was in a mindset where I felt emotionally and spiritually assaulted and was by far feeling more threatened than I had ever experienced in my life. Upon the realisation that no-one was coming to help me, I knew that it was up to me to deal with the situation. I sat down on the spot and went into meditation. Out of the many chants and tools I have learned over the years, it was Ho’oponopono that came to me as the solution to my situation.

Within moments of implementing the practice, the feeling of all-out assault on my consciousness cleared as easily as the smell of burnt toast when one opens the windows on a day with a fresh breeze. When I was found I was meditating quietly in a state of peace and gentleness and the challenge of a potentially full-blown psychotic episode had dissolved and has not since returned. I share this not to state what will definitely happen to others who choose to use this practice but to simply illustrate what may be possible.

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Kiaʻi Lāhui
1 year ago

Simeona’s teachings is NOT THE REAL AND TRADITIONAL HOʻOPONOPONO!!! She was a Kahuna Lāʻau (healing thriving medicinal plants), NOT A HOʻOPONOPONO KUMU, OR A PRACTITIONER!!!
She took it upon herself to modernize it for individualists, 180 degrees different from the real HOʻOPONOPONO!!! Then Hewlen studied under her and made up his own mantra!!!! Now Vitale is profitting of the word HOʻOPONOPONO, because we Hawaiians know he’s not teaching the real HOʻOPONOPONO!!!!

Best 23 Ho'oponopono Mental Hospital - Học Điện Tử
1 year ago

[…] Quote from the source: … […]

1 year ago


Wonderful story, reckoned we could combine several unrelated information, nevertheless genuinely really worth taking a appear, whoa did one particular master about Mid East has got far more problerms also.

3 years ago

I would like to point to Kaluapakohana’s reply to Azadeh’s comment above and ask the author and readers to help redress some misconceptions. I lived in Hawai’i 10 years and had this conversation with a cultural practitioner who encouraged me to speak up. This prayer/”mantra” has been popularized by Ihaleakala Hew Len and Joe Vitale, it became so famous that internationally the term ho’oponopono is now misleadingly almost identified with it, however, as much as it can be inspired by ho’oponopono, the prayer and ideas in Joe Vitale’s and similar books/courses have very little to nothing to do with actual Hawaiian families practices. Ihaleakala Hew Len studied with a legit kahuna, Morrnah Simeona, but he himself was transparent about not being a kahuna or ho’oponopono practitioner. Please always cite your sources and the connection of your sources with ho’oponpono elders recognized by the community in Hawai’i when referring to ho’oponopono and please refrain to use the word to refer to other practices. This way we can support Hawaiian culture instead of feeding misconceptions that can harm rather than support the survival and Hawaiian cultural restoration that people are putting so much effort into. Thank you <3

Ho'oponopono Miracle
3 years ago

Nice article. Personally I also like it most in this order: “I am sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you”. It feels most natural to me. I have been practicing it for several years already, so now I am basically repeating these 4 phrases almost automatically and continuously in my mind. They sure have power! And especially the forgiveness aspect is so important.

mantra meditation
3 years ago

I believe you have remarked some very interesting points, thank
you for the post.

3 years ago

Very beautiful article.

Baker ST
3 years ago

I was reading this and i realy found what i was looking for your article is really informative and i’ll be grɑteful if ʏou keep writing in the future.

Lauren Roche
3 years ago

I have worked in hospices where a form of this mantra is used.
The words used were: forgive me, I forgive you, thank you, I love you, and goodbye.
These were thought to be the five things that cleared the way for the dying.

Nazmul Huda Mehedi
3 years ago

Send me updated news

3 years ago

Go to Pacifica Seminars website, click on one of the four languages , I chose French. And you should be able to click on translate to English. I just did. Very enlightening

4 years ago

If you’re Muslim, you can simply encourage him to do istighfar or paying on our prophet on a daily basis and he will be fine. It’s that simple.

Padel Sant Cugat
4 years ago

The truth is that I found this article very interesting. It has made me see new thoughts. Thanks for sharing. Regards

4 years ago

I need to help my husband without asking him to say it.
Can I do it for him. I mean can I say it with an intention of healing him?

4 years ago

Dr. Hew Len used at Hawaii State Hospital (between 1984 – 1987) allegedly a Ho’oponopono-process, which was developed by Morrnah Simeona. This Ho’oponopono-process is said to involves 12 or 14 steps (depending on how you count the steps). Therefore would the success due to the 12- or 14-step Ho’oponopono-process.

There is are exist allegedly positive testimonies from people, who have also used Morrnah’s ho’oponopono-process. This states that Morrnah’s ho’oponopono-process must be enormous powerful.

This may be of interest to many people, and especially to those who are looking for a powerful way to sustainably / permanently resolve their problems.

PS: According to my research, there exists an organization called Pacifica Seminars (see Wikipedia – Morrnah Simeona), which was founded by Morrnah Simeona in 1990 in Germany. Take a look at Pacifica Seminars 😉

4 years ago

How can there be Zero if we hold on to notions of God or Divinity? Or even Zero?

Constructions of the mind in between immediate experience masking reality?

Someone said if on your path to truth you come across a Buddha…kill him!

4 years ago

is there a training schedule at the end of December 2019 @hawaii

4 years ago

This is absolutely beautiful!! Thank you so much for writing this!! As I was reading those words, I literally felt & still do feel very light & tingly..


K Johnson
4 years ago

Hi this is a wonderful article and I really want to incorporate this every morning. My son is 12 and was diagnosed with ADHD when he was 3. We’ve been through a lot and I’ve suffered with the guilt of possibly passing this to him because I had ADD when I was a child. Not to mention I constantly worry about his social life and progression as an adult due to his symptoms. I want him to be healed of this and live a prosperous healthy life but I know both him and I need help and some sort of spiritual cleansing. I try to speak with him about meditation and having self control but sometimes I feel he is not focused enough. I pray this gives me some insight and helps me heal mentally and him mentally and physically. Any advice would be greatly appreciative. ❤️

Marc Lapierre
4 years ago

I am continuously banging my head against the wall because about 10 years ago my sister, the eldest in my family stopped all contact with me. To this day, I do not know why.
There was slight differences after my parents passed, but NOTHING to toss her baby brother to the curb forever. My sister and I were very close. She is the eldest and I’m the youngest of 4.
She was married before I was 5 years old and has always lived out of town, but we’ve stayed connected, always, up until about 2004, when my father died.
I’ve heard through the grapevine that she could actually be my mother, not my sister … some of my family (cousins) say, it could be, but some say absolutely not.
What do you think I should do. I miss her very very much.


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