I Love You, I’m Sorry, Please Forgive Me, Thank You
Hoʻoponopono (IPA [ho.ʔo.po.no.po.no]) is a Hawaiian practice of reconciliation and forgiveness. The Hawaiian word translates into English simply as correction, with the synonyms manage or supervise, and the antonym careless. Similar forgiveness practices are performed on islands throughout the South Pacific, including Hawaii, Samoa, Tahiti and New Zealand. Traditional Hoʻoponopono is practiced by Indigenous Hawaiian healers, often within the extended family by a family member.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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