Ho’oponopono. Go on, I dare you to say it out loud. Months after discovering it, I can still only pronounce it correctly on every other occasion. I usually manage to end up with too many ‘ponos’ or ‘nopos’ where my ‘ponos’ should be. The upside is that my son thinks it’s hilarious when I do say it, complete with silly faces while chasing him around the lounge room.
A friend introduced me to the ho’oponopono about six months into my journey of recovering from divorce. As well as being a toddler entertainment tool, it’s a handy ancient Hawaiian forgiveness ritual.
One of the hardest things about divorce is learning to let shit go. You want to hold on to all the wrongs and the blame and unfairness. You’re entitled to it, DAGNABIT! It’s easy to become convinced that if you let go, you’ll be allowing the person who wronged you, and who is perhaps still wronging you, to walk away scot-free thinking it was ok to treat you the way they did. And, heaven forbid, if you do find yourself starting to let go, instead of being grateful that you’re healing, you pick the pain right back up again, gripping it to your chest like a child possessively hanging onto their favourite ball and yell ‘No, that person doesn’t deserve me to drop it like nothing ever happened, they don’t deserve my forgiveness!’. Now, I don’t know if that person deserves your forgiveness, but I do know that you deserve to give it to them.
You see, there are two catches to refusing to forgive someone: 1) Holding on to how wrong or unfair a situation is (and I mean holding onto it, not working through it) whether righteous, justified or otherwise will stop you from healing and moving on to a bigger and better life and 2) It’s actually pretty damn pointless as your wrong-doer most likely isn’t moping about worrying that you are still furiously foot-stompingly pissed with them.
Now, I know forgiveness isn’t as easy as saying ‘Ok, I forgive you, all done’, and then stepping out into the world feeling lighter than air with a new hop in your step and twinkle in your eye. Forgiving and letting go are ongoing processes, and ones that take time. The ho’oponopono is a tool that can help you with that. And, not only can it help with forgiveness and letting go, it encourages you take responsibility for the way you feel instead of giving away that power to another person. By taking responsibility for your emotions, you empower yourself again, you take back control of your life. It’s all about how you see your reality and your reality is all in your mind.
So, the idea of the ho’oponopono is that you think of your wrongdoer and say…
I Love You, I’m Sorry, Please Forgive Me, Thank You
At the end of each statement, you give a brief but genuine description (and it has to be genuine no matter how difficult it may be. Start small if you need to) e.g.
I Love you… because you were doing the best you could/because once you were an important part of my life/because you helped to shape who I am today/or even because you have lovely toenails (see, even if you’re desperate you can find something)
I’m sorry… for feeling not good enough/for not standing up to you when I knew you were doing wrong/that we couldn’t solve our problems or work out our differences/that you felt you couldn’t talk to me
Please forgive me… for not removing myself from this situation earlier/for tolerating your behaviour/for giving up on fixing the problems I knew were there but didn’t know what to do about anymore/for not seeing the reality of the situation
Thank you… for releasing me to a better place/for giving me the opportunity to be stronger/for the good times we had/for any good things you did do
You might go through this process once and feel better, you might turn it into a little ritual, writing it down on a piece of paper, burning it and then letting the ashes drift away with the wind, or you might have to repeat the process if you’re finding yourself resisting it.
If you are resisting, certain thoughts will probably try to dominate your brain space… things like whether the other person even cares that they’ve done you wrong, why they wronged you, how they could treat you so badly, if they feel guilty or whether they’ll ever attempt to make good for it. It’s tempting obsess over the possible answers, but the truth is, you’ll probably never really know, and in the end, it doesn’t matter. Those questions are your wrongdoers weight to carry, they don’t have to be yours. Long after you’ve found your way to forgive and let go, chances are that they’ll still be lugging them around in one way or another, whether they know it or not.
One of the biggest things to understand about forgiveness and learning to let shit go is that doing so doesn’t absolve the other person of their actions, it frees you from them. It doesn’t mean you forget what that person did. It doesn’t mean you have to invite them back into your life and be their friend, you can still set very firm boundaries with them if you do have to remain in contact with them. What it does mean is that you accept the reality of the situation, find the lessons you can pull from it and release yourself from it so it can’t hold you down anymore.
About the author
Naomi is the editor of Lift e-Magazine and single mum to two year old Jim. Naomi documented her journey of single motherhood from day 1 in her award winning daily blog ‘365 Days, a Diary of a Newly Single Mum’. When she’s not experimenting with new cookie recipes or planning her next trekking, climbing or snowboarding adventure, you can find her at her desk in the picturesque city of Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, weaving together solo mum stories… whether it be handy tips, triumphs, tragedies, exotic tales of travel or other tidbits to publish here. And before you ask, no, she doesn’t mind the freezing cold Tasmanian winters and yes, she had her second head removed years ago in an unfortunate accident involving a curtain rod and a drunk moose (and no, she’s not interested in hearing from anyone who doesn’t believe that drunk mooses exist in Tasmania… or those who may suppose that ‘mooses’ is not really a word).