As a result of social distancing, I challenged myself to reflect on my life, choices and circumstances. During the Road of Trials, the hero spends time alone in a mountain, underwater or well. This period of isolation is a chance for internal reflection and renewal. As I contemplated on my life, I recognized choices that I am proud of and situations that I wish I handled differently. These experiences were opportunities for growth. I still have more to learn. While it is healthy to reflect on our lives, it is also important to practice self-compassion. Last month, coincidentally, I was introduced to a Hawaiian forgiveness ritual known as Ho’oponopono. What is Ho’oponopono? Let’s discuss….
Before discussing Ho’oponopono, let’s consider the intent of any type of ritual that we use to encourage peace in our environments. A ritual is ‘a series of actions or type of behavior regularly and invariably followed by some one.’ Rituals such as going on nature walks, visiting museums, meditating, yoga, listening to music, or practicing hobbies provide an energy outlet, comfort and relaxation. Even though these practices offer inherent benefits, we are cautioned from using them as methods to avoid resolving our problems.
Spiritual Bypassing, a concept introduced by psychotherapist John Welwood, is defined as a “tendency to use spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep or avoid facing unresolved emotional issues, psychological wounds, and unfinished developmental tasks.” Spiritual bypassing can be harmful, according to some therapists, because intense psychological pain cannot be cured by spiritual practices alone.
Spiritual bypassing can be a misdiagnosis on people who possess a positive or optimistic outlook on life. Friends and family may fear that their loved ones are avoiding facing the challenges of life and living in a dreamworld if they appear to be 'too happy all of the time'. In some cases, the misdiagnosis is an example of projection. We all deal with the stresses of life in our own way. One person may march, another person may donate to a charity. Both people are contributing to the world based on their innate disposition. From the Jungian and psychotherapy point of view, we all have a shadow side. Being a whole person means embracing both our light and shadow. I agree. However, let's be inclusive and make room for all manners of expression, including quiet dispositions. We need both introverts and extroverts. Some people readily share their problems, while others may be more private. To each their own.
Practices such as mindfulness, meditation, prayer, yoga and Ho’oponopono are designed to help us connect with our inner intuition and guides. Seek the help of a life coach, counselor or therapist, when needed. Carl Jung suggested we don't solve our problems, we outgrow them.
What is Ho’oponopono?
I am reading the book, Ho’oponopono, The Hawaiian forgiveness ritual as the key to your life’s fulfillment, by Ulrich E. Dupree. The ritual “proceeds from the understanding of the unity of everything in the world, which is true even though we feel ourselves to be separate” Dupree.
‘Ho’o’ means ‘to make’. ‘Pono’ is translated as ‘right’ or ‘correct’. In essence, Ho’oponopono means ‘to make rightly right.’ According to the law of causality, every change in nature is produced by some cause. Nothing happens by chance. Everything is related; both the seen and unseen.
The Ho’oponopono ritual is powerful because it recognizes the human fallibility of blaming ourselves or others when the seeds we plant do not grow, people fail to act the way we want them to, or when things fall apart. Being human means understanding that no one is perfect. We all have a shadow. Name a person who has never made a mistake. Exactly. You cannot.
The Ho’oponopono ritual involves reciting four sentences. Say these four sentences to yourself, a loved one or community:
1. I am sorry: I take responsibility for the role I played in causing disharmony. Usually, when relationships break down, we have a tendency to point our fingers at others and focus on what we think they did wrong. We ignore our own false assumptions, expectations and beliefs which contributed to the disturbance. We only see one pixel instead of the entire picture.
2. Please forgive me: Once we take responsibility for our actions, we ask to be forgiven. We cannot revisit the past and change what happened. “Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been any different”, Oprah Winfrey. It is acknowledging the harm that was done, whether consciously or unconsciously.
3. I love you: I care about your spiritual growth, as well as my own. I accept what happened, and I will change my behavior as a result. I see your humanity, as well as my own. I recognize that we are all connected. My actions impact you both directly and indirectly.
4. Thank you: I realize that life is an opportunity for growth. You taught me what I could not have learned on my own. Thank you for being my teacher. I bid you peace.
In essence, the goal of the ritual is to free an individual, family or community from carrying the heavy burden of unforgiveness, resentment and anger. I have heard of family members giving each other the silent treatment for years due to a perceived slight. As a result, they miss out on family dinners, weddings, birthdays and events. Innocent people suffer. Forgiveness is not easy. Actually, it can be difficult, especially for the harmed party. However, what is really painful is carrying around years of unresolved anger. Once we can accept our own challenges and humanity, then it is easier to forgive others.
Forgiveness is a gift we give to ourselves. If we do not respect ourselves, then chances are our relationships will reflect the same. The Ho’oponopono ritual, or any other forgiveness practice, is about freeing the past for a brighter future. In a previous post, we discussed how seeking external love and fulfillment can make us vulnerable to trickery and deception. We should forgive, but it does not always mean to reengage. If a person refuses to see you as an equal, gives you the bare minimal attention, disrespects you and has a pattern of causing you inner turmoil, then it is probably a good idea to love that person from a wide distance. Yes, we are all connected, but sometimes it is best to set healthy boundaries to protect ourselves from harm. Learn the difference between your true friends, colleagues, associates and acquaintances. A lot of pain in life comes from putting people on pedestals, making unfounded assumptions and having unrealistic expectations.
Trust Your Feelings
When a relationship feels right, you will be energized. It is natural. On the flip side, when a relationship is not right, you will feel drained, suspicious and unsafe. We often talk ourselves into situations out of fear, loneliness and regret. What we do not realize is that refusing the call to adventure only delays our progress. We are destined to learn what we are supposed to learn. When you feel naturally inspired without being manipulated or forced, then you know you are on the right path.
Ho’oponopono and Acceptance
The Ho’oponopono forgiveness ritual helps us accept two universal truths – some events are beyond our control and we all make mistakes. We cannot always control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond. Just like we would like to be forgiven for our mistakes and lapses in judgment, we should offer the same courtesy to others. Usually, we do the best that we can based on the available information we have at the time.
Do What is Best for You
Some people recite the four Ho’oponopono sentences daily. I have incorporated the sentences as a part of my meditation practice. Do what is best for you. According to Dr. Martin Luther King, “Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.”
Our New Garden!
During the pandemic, my family planted a garden. We are growing tomatoes, watermelon and peppers.
Have you started any new hobbies during social distancing? Please share!
Dupree, U. Ho’oponopono, The Hawaiian forgiveness ritual as the key to your life’s fulfillment. Earthdancer-Inner Traditions. Rochester, Vermont. 2020.
Spiritual Bypass: (7/5/2020) Wikipedia Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiritual_bypass#:~:text=A%20spiritual%20bypass%20or%20spiritual,a%20Buddhist%20teacher%20and%20psychotherapist.