Healing - Making Whole
by Anisha Anilraj
Three decades ago, the Hawaii State Hospital had a high-security ward for criminally insane patients. The inmates had been charged with heinous crimes like murder, rape, assault, molestation, and battery. They were being detained either due to an established mental disorder ranging from bipolar to schizophrenia or because their level of sanity needed to be established prior to trial. Despite the use of shackles and seclusion rooms, each day there were reports of inmates attacking each other. There were days when even the staff members were not spared. The level of aggression among the inmates was so high that it was impossible to allow them any freedom. If they were allowed out of their rooms, it was only for medical or court-related reasons. Nurses and other staff members at the hospital felt so threatened by the environment that they were constantly on sick-leave. Doctors deputed to this ward were known to resign from their position within a month.
All this changed with the arrival of Dr Ihaleakala Hew Len who worked in the ward for the criminally insane from 1983 to 1987 at the hospital. When he first arrived, people found his ways extremely curious. For a start, despite the bleak environment, Dr Hew Len always seemed cheerful. Secondly, he never asked to meet any inmate in person. Instead, he sat in his office looking over patient files. Shortly after Dr Hew Len’s arrival, the situation in the psychiatric facility started improving. Instances of violence became increasingly rare. Patients began acting more responsibly and the need for shackles and seclusion rooms ceased to exist. The quality of life for both the inmates and staff improved considerably, and patients began recovering faster. How did this miracle come about?
Dr Hew Len did not counsel patients, nor did he administer therapy. He used an ancient Hawaiian problem-solving technique called ho’oponopono, a practice which essentially involves working on one’s own self and taking full responsibility for everything that comes one’s way.
Dr Hew Len’s story is almost alw ays received with a mixture of curiosity and scepticism. While a part of us does not want to disregard the possibility of such an amazing achievement, it does appear to be something of a stretch to our intelligence. However, for people who have successfully incorporated ho’oponopono into their lives, Dr Len’s story is constant source of inspiration.
Origins in ancient Hawaii
The history of Hawaiian spirituality has been passed down generations through stories narrated by elders. Their tales are resplendent with the importance of family, and how each of them is but a stepping stone, bridging the past generations with the future ones. Furthermore, the Hawaiians believed that any misconduct or harboured anger would mean incurring God’s wrath, which would manifest itself in the form of illness or misfortune.
Given that each member of their blood-line was inextricably connected with the other, if a person was not absolved, it could even harm his descendants. Hence ancient Hawaiians strove to live harmoniously with each other and the forces of nature. While mistakes were accepted as part of life, they needed to repent for their sins, forgive, and make amends. If there were conflicts that could not be resolved by the concerned members alone, they would come together in the presence of a senior member of the family or a priest, whom Hawaiians call kahuna. It was in these settings that the beginning of what is today known as ho’oponopono was practiced.
The ancient process started with a prayer, followed by a discussion of the problem where every member was given an opportunity to speak. The discussions continued, sometimes interjected with time for reflection and were concluded with each person asking for forgiveness of the other.
Ho’oponopono is a Hawaiian term which means ‘to make right’ or ‘to rectify an error’. Modern ho’oponopono was started in 1976 by the late Kahuna Morrnah Simeona. Being influenced by her Christian education and the doctrines of reincarnation and karma, Kahuna Simeona reformed the traditional practice to makeit applicable to contemporary ways of life.
While traditional ho’oponopono was an interpersonal process, she adapted it to make it entirely self-directed. It now became about establishing harmony between members of an individual’s internal family: the subconscious, conscious, and superconscious mind. She extended the foundations of ho’oponopono to include the laws of cause and effect. Her rationale was that once peace was established within oneself, the world outside would reflect the peace within.
As a student of Kahuna Simeona, Dr Hew Len took his time accepting her odd ideas. However, being of Jungian predisposition, it was easy for him to grasp the idea that change had to begin with oneself. Today, Dr Len continues to teach what is called Self I-dentity ho’oponopono; an updated problem-solving process involving repentance, forgiveness, and transmutation.
Self I-dentity ho’oponopono
Contemporary ho’oponopono is a mélange of ideologies adopted from the philosophies of different faiths. It proposes that past misconduct creates memories which we carry from one lifetime to the next as karmic baggage and an unpleasant incident is a stored memory replaying itself. Problems are thus not an ordeal, but an opportunity to heal oneself.
Dr Hew Len says that we have the capacity to act from memory or from inspiration. When we act from memory, we find ourselves in a rut, replaying the same events, suffering the same woes. However, inspiration comes to us from the Divine and offers us a chance to grow closer to God. In order to allow the Divine to inspire us, we need to clean out memories that block this path of communication and this is what ho’oponopono helps us achieve.
To quote Richard Bach from the book, Illusions – The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah: “Every person, all the events of your life are there because you have drawn them there.” This is the basic premise that ho’oponopono works with.
None of us can see, experience, or attract something into our life if we did not know of its existence. If an occurrence is part of our reality, we must have drawn it there, either consciously or subconsciously and hence we must take full responsibility for it.
This is simple enough to accept, however, 100 per cent responsibility in ho’oponopono includes the actions of others. They may be completely unrelated to you, but if they come into your life and are part of your reality, however briefly, you responsibility extends to their actions too. Once a person accepts that they are 100 per cent responsible for everything, including the actions of complete strangers present around them, they then begin the process of cleansing.
When Dr Hew Len looked through patient charts at Hawaii State Hospital, he was not judging the criminals. Instead, he took full responsibility for their transgressions. He worked with the mindset that if these people were a part of his reality, it meant that he shared memories with them. What Dr Hew Len did sitting in his office, was to work towards erasing data from their shared memories. As he worked towards eliminating the memory from within himself, the patients healed.
Susitha Reddy, a stress management trainer from Bangalore says, “When I learned ho’oponopono at a workshop conducted by Dr Hew Len, I felt immense relief. I was finally free of the victim mentality. I liked the idea of being 100 per cent responsible because that meant I was 100 per cent in control. If I am responsible, then I can correct the situation.” Susitha has successfully incorporated the techniques of ho’oponopono along with other techniques while conducting corporate workshops.
The cleansing process of ho’oponopono is a technique to erase data from our subconscious mind. The method can simultaneously sound both simple and ludicrous since it merely involves the repetition of four lines: “I am sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you.”
When I heard this, the first question that popped in my mind was: ‘Who am I apologising to?’ Surely, if I was minding my own business, and someone disturbed my peace of mind, I didn’t owe them an apology! In fact, chances are, I wasn’t feeling any love at that moment either. This was when the meaning of 100 per cent responsibility first hit me. It meant that if someone upset me, it was no one’s fault, but entirely my responsibility.
To begin conditioning ourselves towards taking 100 per cent responsibility, we need to understand the role of our intellect or conscious mind in the grand scheme of things. Our intellect is the problem-solver, the manager of our choices, reactions, and even our perceptions. When dealing with an unpleasant experience, our intellect resorts to reasoning or rationalising the incident in an effort to cope. Thus, our intellect is skilled at managing problems, but otherwise inept at letting go of problems. The practice of ho’oponopono as taught by Dr Hew Len, appeals to the Divinity within oneself to release the painful memory and neutralise the energy, thus cleaning the slate and returning the person to a zero state, where there are infinite possibilities.
In practicing ho’oponopono, the idea is not to analyse but to erase. Also, ‘responsibility’ does not translate to ‘fault.’ If we encounter unpleasantness in any form, we take responsibility for it because we understand that this is a memory from our subconscious manifesting itself as a problem. It is not our fault that we stored the memory, nor is it our fault the memory replayed itself.
Thus, in a scenario where someone hurts you, you work towards cleaning out the stored data or the memory permanently. The significance of the four lines of cleaning are: “I have hurt you, for which I am sorry. Please forgive me. I love you for being a part of me and for showing up. Thank you for presenting yourself to me once again and allowing me the opportunity to let you go permanently so I can be free.” Whom these words are spoken to depends on the individual who utters them. Some believe they are speaking to the Divinity within themselves, others say they are speaking to the specific memory in their subconscious mind and some simply say they are talking to themselves. The fact remains that the repetition of these four sentences, and sometimes merely the phrase, “I love you”, brings about a great sense of peace.
Dinaz Dastur, a Mumbai-based artist and healer who practices ho’oponopono describes her experiences: “When I say I love you, I am speaking to the divinity in that person. I am thanking God and I always say it with feeling. It is very important to clean out the memories, because it eliminates all negativity and you feel a great sense of peace.” Dinaz, like a lot of people who practice ho’oponopono, immediately starts silently repeating the four sentences when she senses anything negative coming her way.
Bangalore-based therapist and journey practitioner, Lalitha Matthew has taken to chanting the four phrases 108 times using a japa-mala as part of her morning meditation. Lalitha, who also teaches ho’oponopono, says, “We should not focus on the results. Our duty is to clean. By constantly cleaning I find my life is changing for the better, I feel limitless and ready to make the most of whatever comes my way.”
Power of inspiration
People who have learned to allow divine inspiration to flow through them by practicing ho’oponopono can extend the cleaning to others. Meera Kotak, a Mumbai-based corporate trainer combines ho’oponopono with EFT to help others. Meera says, “I visualise them and I say the four sentence of ho’oponopono. If my feelings dissolve then the energy thread connecting all of us also dissolves and we have set each other free.” When asked if she ever told the concerned parties that she had helped them Meera credits Divine inspiration for the miracle. “Why should I take credit for something which has been done through me and not by me,” she says.
The simplest ideas are sometimes the hardest to explain. Even Joe Vitale, the main promoter of ho’oponopono, marketing guru and star of the DVD, The Secret, says that it took several emails and meetings with Dr Hew Len before he got used to the man and his surreal form of healing. Vitale and Dr Hew Len have co-authored what is currently the main book on ho’oponopono called Zero Limits, which speaks of reaching a state where one functions solely on Divine inspiration and there are zero limits to what can be achieved.
Swahilya Shambhavi, editor of Simply Spiritual e-magazine, has taught ho’oponopono to school children and believes that the power of ho’oponopono can change the world. “It is because we are not in a state of meditation that bad vibrations come up. When we express love and ask for forgiveness everything evens out. Instead of complaining about things, we should consciously visualise the situation we want to change, and keep cleaning with ho’oponopono. It will remove all blockages and make room for blessings to flow.”
If ever there was an act of selfish altruism, Ho’oponopono is it. You accept that you are the creator of your life and circumstance. You clean all accumulated data in hopes of being closer to God. Since we are part of the collective consciousness, our actions affect others and we restore balance in all of creation by creating balance within ourselves. The hardest part of starting the process is dealing with our intellect. Perhaps it might help to say to it, “When you want to improve something about your life, you have to start within yourself.”
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