Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Ho'oponopono: It's not what you think

I've been fortunate to attend several teleconference calls with Mabel Katz and also a live seminar with Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len this past week. These are two of my most treasured teachers in the ho'oponopono process, a way of living that keeps me mostly sane these days.

At first my intellect was doubtful that saying things like "thank you" "I'm sorry" "please forgive me" or "I love you" could make any difference in this tumultuous world of ours. How can such a nonsensical process solve problems? I'm trained to think through problems, dissect causes, consider options, and pick the most sensible way to fix them. My intellect loves to think it's in charge.

Instead, ho'oponopono holds that our intellects can't possibly know what the problem truly is. After all, our conscious minds can be aware of only ~15 bits of information at a time, yet there are 15 million bits of information flooding our brains in any one moment! (Please check out "The User Illusion" by Tor Norretranders for more about this.)

We could be thinking about something, but be clueless about the real problem. Dr. Hew Len likens problems to Gordian knots, intertwining throughout billions of people, places, eons, and lifetimes. They are the unconscious memories we carry within us, manifesting before our eyes.

So what's a thinker like me supposed to do? Get frustrated and gnash my teeth? Unfortunately this is what sometimes happens -- the ego can hang on with a grip like alligator jaws.

But the idea of ho'oponopono is to let go, and recognize that we don't know what's going on. This allows the part of us that DOES know to get to work. This part is in direct contact with what some call God, Divinity, or other names. Supposedly if we let go and keep on "cleaning" by using "I love you" or other tools, we will be more open to divine inspiration . . . leading to effective action on our parts.

This is far from a passive process -- in fact it's mighty hard at times to do! But through examples, questions, and commentary, Mabel and Ihaleakala show how. And I can attest to the peace within and without that results. I may not know just how things will show up, but somehow something always does.

When I was in therapy earlier in my career, my analyst told me that I needed to let go of certain life situations and hoped-for relationships. In confusion I asked him, "But how do I do that?" He really couldn't explain; it wasn't found in psychoanalysis.

Years later, I think practices such as meditation and ho'oponopono are more likely to show us "how" to let go -- even when our intellects are running amok like crazed monkeys. If I never personally solve another problem in my life, I'm clear that letting go of those monkeys is a far, far easier way to live. Lots more possibilities can come up in the process, too!

If interested in further learning yourself, the Foundation of I, Inc. offers live seminars -- and Mabel Katz has wonderful teleconference calls. Each seeming problem offers another opportunity to let go of one more little piece of the Gordian knot. Here, "coming undone" is actually healthy!

Thursday, July 24, 2008


I've just returned from a workshop with several other doctors, discussing how to modulate the stress in our own lives and teach others to do the same.

Our perfectionistic personalities make us ripe for overwork, guilt when things go wrong, shame when we make mistakes, and anger when we can't control outcomes. Through both lectures and exercises, Lee Lipsenthal MD of Finding Balance Productions helped us see ourselves . . . and the view was not always pretty.

Much of Dr. Lipsenthal's teaching involved ways of dealing with our own reactions, and how to keep what's important central in our lives and hearts. In fact, many of the exercises focused on heart-based breathing and meditations.

I thought about how my personal practice of ho'oponopono fits into these ideas. It's a moment-to-moment working relationship between all parts of me and Divinity within, leading to forgiveness and peace. And, it's definitely heart-based.

The process involves noticing whatever is arising in my life or emotions, etc, and saying simply (within myself): "I'm sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you." Maybe it is a little like a mantra, for some.

I am accepting (as much as I can) 100% responsibility for whatever shows up in my life or my office. Ho'oponopono holds that we are all one -- including through holding certain unconscious memories that distort what we see and experience. So even when we don't know what these are, we can apologize to Divinity within for them, inviting help and release from them. As these are released from us, they are released from everyone else as well.

The only purpose is to feel peace, not to create a particular outcome -- similar to mindfulness meditation or some of the exercises that Dr. Lipsenthal led us through the last few days. To be sure, though, things can shift in unexpected (often pleasant!) ways with consistent practice.

The idea of asking Divinity for forgiveness is very ancient. But in ho'oponopono it doesn't come from the perspective of something being 'wrong' with us. Instead it is about accepting that data collected over eons is running within us, like a movie that won't stop playing. We can be just fine as we are. But the movie shows up in our lives, through our experiences. My goal is to clean up whatever is happening within me that is presenting as seeming "problems", chaos, discord, lack, whatever.

This inwardly asking forgiveness and saying "thank you" for what is present, allows peace to reappear. Then we can move ahead as guided. When I remember to do this, there is more compassion within me for others. Sometimes my ego gets the best of me, though. I begin again, and again, and again.

I think of how alone, helpless, and overwhelmed I've sometimes felt when faced with people's suffering, and how these feelings are echoed in my colleagues. Few of us would freely acknowledge this; we do the best we can anyway. Wouldn't patients ultimately benefit from processes that calm their doctors? I believe so, and keep on practicing.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Who's Helping Who?

Throughout training, physicians and other health practitioners are taught that patients come to us for help. They are 'sick', and in need of a cure. Medical interventions might come through surgery or other procedures, medication, or more rarely through focused talk. Still, the patient is always seen as the one with the "problem".

At times, my patients' situations have uncannily resembled my own. Before Ho'oponopono, I would note the seeming similarity but not investigate further.

Imagine my shock at hearing Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len, a psychologist who teaches ho'oponopono, tell me that patients don't come to me to be healed. Instead, they come to give me another opportunity to "clean", to make things right.

Basic to Self-Identity through Ho'oponopono is the idea that what we think are "problems" in others is actually skewed vision on our part. Our vision is skewed because of unconscious memories or data in us distorting our view of something perfect: the patient's core being. Actually, we ourselves are perfect too -- and were it not for this memory stuff hanging around, we would be able to see and experience this.

According to Ho'oponopono, the easiest way to deal with this is to accept 100% responsibility for whatever shows up in our lives -- including our offices. It is only there because we carry unconscious data (shared with our patients) that is complex, ancient, and impossible for our brains to unravel. The patients present opportunities to do the ho'oponopono process on this in ourselves, allowing it to be transmuted, zapped back to nothingness.

Transmuted by what? Divinity, the only one who really knows what is going on. Some will chafe at this, but nearly everyone can imagine the existence of a power greater than we are. However we experience that will do.

So, not only are patients coming to help US rather than the other way 'round, but also WE are not the ones in charge of what happens.

In the words of Dr. Hew Len:

"Ho'oponopono is really very simple. For the ancient Hawaiians, all problems begin as thought. But having a thought is not the problem. So what's the problem? The problem is that all our thoughts are imbued with painful memories, memories of persons, places, or things.
The intellect working alone can't solve these problems, because the intellect only manages. Managing things is no way to solve problems. You want to let them go!

When you do Ho'oponopono, what happens is that the Divinity takes the painful thought and neutralizes or purifies it. You don't purify the person, place, or thing. You neutralize the energy you associate with that person, place, or thing. So the first stage of Ho'oponopono is the purification of that energy.

Now something wonderful happens. Not only does that energy get neutralized; it also gets released, so there's a brand new slate. Buddhists call it the Void.

The final step is that you allow the Divinity to come in and fill the void with light. To do Ho'oponopono, you don't have to know what the problem or error is. All you have to do is notice any problem you are experiencing physically, mentally, emotionally, whatever. Once you notice, your responsibility is to immediately begin to clean, to say, “I'm sorry. Please forgive me.” "

Yes, these ideas take some getting used to. But what relief is possible! I can listen carefully to my patient's (or anyone else's) pain, do what seems medically appropriate, and allow Divinity to transmute whatever's coming up. It means I can hear rather than react, and can allow the other person to be as s/he is. I can simply say "thank you" inside, seeing each moment as an opportunity rather than a test of my competence. As I clean my own "stuff", it comes off others too.

There's much more, of course, and there are many ways to learn.

There are live teaching seminars, found through The Foundation of I, Inc.

Also there are telesminars, including one coming up 7/15/08 with Dr. Hew Len and Mabel Katz .

Who's helping who, indeed? It's a very different point of view, but allows for a lot of compassion on both ends -- with a healthy dose of humility too.

Be well,

Peace Begins with Me