Ho’oponopono – restoration & justice

The Huna practice of Ho’oponopono that most people are coming to know today is remarkably different from its original roots.  The origins of the practice are a community reconciliation process – like many Pacific Island restorative processes – which involved entire communities taking responsibility for restoring balance, harmony and forgiveness when this had been broken.  

“Restorative justice is a philosophy that embraces a wide range of human emotions including healing, mediation, compassion, forgiveness, mercy, reconciliation as well as sanction when appropiate. It also recognises a world view that says we are all interconnected and that what we do be it for good or evil has an impact on others.” 

— “Restorative Justice – The Pacific Way” Paper presented at the 7th International Conference on Prison Abolition; Barcelona, Spain, 17 – 19 May 1995;  by Jim Consedine (link here

I first learnt about restorative justice in law school in Waikato University, Hamilton, New Zealand.  Thankfully, I was at a very culturally connected law school, where we openly spoke about community justice systems and how the Pākehā system failed to take into account restoration of balance within the community.  It simply punished the offender.  But the community continued to suffer and hurt.  

Restorative justice was more than just punishing an offender – it was a way of ensuring that the conditions that had allowed the offense to take place would not be repeated within the community. And it avoided retribution and revenge, by dealing with all the thoughts and emotions that the parties were feeling. It’s not just about the victim and the offender – it’s the family, the extended family and affected third parties.

Because we have all had moments when a friend was hurt and we feel a pain and grudge against the offender, even though we were not directly affected by their actions!

Restoring balance in my life 

I love you, I'm sorry, please forgive me, thank you

So, when I came across Ho’oponopono as a meditative practice, I knew that it was so much more than simply 4 lines:  

  • I love you 
  • I’m sorry 
  • Please forgive me 
  • Thank you 

Not because I knew anything about the Hawaiian Huna practice itself, but simply because I recognised that there was so much more to restoration than simply saying “sorry”!  The place to start, as always, was within myself.  First, I had to be at peace within myself, in order to be able to connect with others and think about forgiving them.  Ultimately, forgiveness would be about restoring all balance and returning to center. 

“The Hawaiian people solved their disputes through a restorative process called Ho’oponopono. Everyone in a traditional Hawaiian family is expected to work for the good of that family. Aloha is the spirit that guides their thinking. At a Ho’oponopono all must commit themselves to a peaceful solution to any dispute being heard. The truth must always be told and confidentiality respected. The gathering was presided over by a haku, a respected leader, and placed very much in the context of a spiritual occasion. Confession, apology, forgiveness and repentance were at the heart of the traditional process. Offenders had to be willing to seek forgiveness for their deeds while the victim must be able to truthfully forgive. The gathering continued until this point was reached. This is where a common commitment to be part of the solution is important, and where the family (ohana) must focus its energy to encourage mutual forgiveness for the sake of its continued wellbeing. When this point is reached, kala (freeing or forgiveness) is ritualised, and a celebrationary meal held.”

— “Restorative Justice – The Pacific Way” by Jim Consedine (link here

I don’t know about you, but I grew up in a Christian environment.  I had it drummed into me that we were to forgive and forget.  And yet, I was sorely lacking in knowing HOW to forgive.  I repeatedly heard “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who trespass against us” and that we were to forgive 7 times 70 times (=490) for each offense. 

But what does that really mean?  

Where do you start the process of truly forgiving another, especially when the pain is more than just skin deep?  

You start by looking in the mirror and recognising that within yourself is the person that hurt you the most. 

Yourself. 

Why? Because you are probably harbouring feelings of guilt and shame that this happened to you! Because there may be a level on which you are blaming yourself. But most importantly, because of how you have chosen to respond to the situation – harbouring those feelings and thoughts that are not yours to carry.

Ho’oponopono is based on the knowledge that anything that happens to you or that you perceive — the entire world where you live — is your own creation.  Everything in your life is entirely your responsibility: 100%. No exceptions. 

Please don’t misunderstand what I mean.  I did not say it was your fault.  I said it’s your responsibility. You are 100% responsible for:

  • healing yourself; 
  • changing the relationship you have with that other person; and 
  • changing your perception of the world and making it a better place.  

And so, with Ho’oponopono I started a journey of learning to restore balance within myself.  Of changing my inner world in order to effect change in the exterior world.  

I started to look within – what do I need to release in order to be whole again?

Three steps PLUS gratitude 

How did I heal myself with Ho’oponopono?

I started by reminding myself, regularly and consistently of love “I love you“.  “I love you” just as I am today, with mistaken views and perceptions of the world, with perceptions that have not allowed me to grow and change my situation, and with all the baggage that I have chosen to carry around.  And I love you. 

And because I love you, I recognise that whatever comes to me in this life is my creation – it is the outcome of memories I have buried in my mind, and I have been holding onto, thereby attracting more of the same!  

Once I recognise this, I can tell myself “Sorry”.  Sorry for the errors of thought, words and actions that created those memories and held onto that energy.  Sometimes there is a lot to release – perhaps it’s years of carrying baggage and weight unnecessarily. Often, it’s that I’ve refused to let go of something earlier – I’ve chosen to continue to carry it, even when I’ve recognised before that I have a choice. Occasionally, it’s forgiving myself for oversight and not paying attention.

Please forgive me – is giving myself permission to release that – to set myself free. I love doing this with a physical exhale – pushing all of the air (including the stale air) out of my lungs. Sometimes I will energetically wave my arms or stomp my feet – imagine that I am clearing the energy from my body. And then letting it go.  Relaxing. Knowing it is done.

And then, of course, the practice of gratitude – gratitude for the freedom that this brings!  Gratitude for the change in my way of thinking, speaking, and acting.  Thank you for the new opportunities this creates.  Thank you for the changes that will start happening in my relationships and how I relate to others.  

Ho’oponopono practice can start as simply as saying the mantra – I love you, I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you. But once you have worked with it on the surface issues, I invite you to go much deeper. Allow yourself to explore forgiveness for anything and everything in your life. Forgiving those who hurt a family member or a friend. Forgiving a friend who is still carrying baggage that they should already have released. Forgiving someone who still holds a grudge against you for something you did years ago, after you have already forgiven yourself.

Forgiveness is a practice that can change the energy in each and every relationship you are in.

Forgiveness is a practice that can change the energy in each and every relationship you are in. I invite you to join me on this journey of discovery – where we can learn together what it means to heal the world and restore balance to hurting communities, by starting within.  

Additional reading: 

“A Kind of Mending: Restorative Justice in the Pacific Islands” by Sinclair Dinnen (Author), Anita Jowitt (Author), Tess Newton (Author) – you can find this on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Kind-Mending-Restorative-Justice-Pacific/dp/192166682X 

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