Monday, December 29, 2008

Putting Ourselves First: Self-ish or Self-Care?

Listening to Ho'oponopono teleseminars with Mabel Katz and Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len, we often hear about the need to "put ourselves first".

What does this really mean?

Cartoonist Mark Parisi (see his "Off the Mark" comic above) shows us one possible interpretation -- and it looks like those stampeding have taken the book title to heart.

We often find humor in exaggerating troublesome concepts. With this, Parisi hits the nail on the head!

People can derive widely different ideas from hearing the same phrase. For some, being told to "put ourselves first" might justify narcissistically exploiting others as if they exist only to satisfy our needs. Or, it could suggest ignoring the legitimate needs of others when they inconvenience us.

I don't know that such interpretations express the true spirit of Ho'oponopono, since we can't hurt others without also hurting ourselves.

In fact, some of Dr. Hew Len's most memorable teleseminar calls have been about acknowledging the needs of even seemingly "inanimate" objects such as houses, chairs, computers, cars, and land. He's discussed how ignoring these causes chaos. Even the rooms in which Ho'oponopono live seminars are held are are viewed as sacred, and attended to lovingly. They are given time to "rest" between class sessions.

On the other hand, ignoring our own needs and sacrificing ourselves to others creates set-ups for resentment. All kinds of tangled relationships can result -- not only in the present, but perhaps future generations as well.

Instead of lopsided arrangements, Ho'oponopono seems to advocate more equal energy exchanges between people. For instance, reasonable fees are charged for training seminars. Also, people are treated as capable of receiving their own Inspirations through the cleaning processes shared; no human guru claims to have the absolute final answer on what is correct. That is left to Divinity.

Managing our own needs while also being responsive to others is a basic and longstanding human struggle.

Some of us may never have learned how to care for ourselves, but Ho'oponopono assists us with this. Through the ministrations of an inner Mother (Uhane), Ho'oponopono models care and concern for our Inner Child (unihipili). Also it describes a caring inner Father (Aumakua) which is always in harmony with a loving and responsive Divinity. Ho'oponopono offers processes and tools to "tune in" and strengthen connections and interchange between these aspects of ourselves.

Learning to care for self has to come before caring appropriately for others. After all, a dry well can nourish no one.

Ho'oponopono also embodies the essence of Love, whose very nature is to give of Itself. Perhaps a natural outgrowth of healthy self-care is the ability to give unselfishly to others, without expecting anything in return. This is very different from masochistic self-sacrifice, and has an entirely different feel. There is freedom in unselfish giving, but self-sacrifice is full of bondage and expectation.

Some will call me childish, but with last week's holiday I can't help but think of Father Christmas' kind of giving. He and his elves have such fun preparing toys for all the world's children -- and it's an outflow of the Love in him. When we share ourselves with others (even other adults!) in this joyous way, this loving spirit is alive in us, too.

Let's hope Santa takes some "personal" days on his calendar to rest, recharge, and care for himself. Even the heart, the busiest muscle in the body, has both systole (contraction) AND diastole (rest).

Maybe Dr. Hew Len and Mabel will tell us more in person, when they share in Marina del Ray
in January. I'm looking forward to it -- they always have surprises in store!

Peace begins with me,

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Thinking vs Cleaning: from Darkness into Light

It is Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year. From this night forward on our calendar, days lengthen and contain more light.

What a gift, that out of darkness comes light!

And how profoundly Ho'oponopono is changing me. Through learning from Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len, Mabel Katz, Kamaile, and others, many of my previously rigid attitudes have started to slip away. From darkness, into light.

I noticed this in the optometrist's office the other day, when I went for my annual eye exam.

The doctor, a solid, no-nonsense woman, went about her business in checking me over. "Oh," she remarked, "I can see there was a time you wore your contacts too long." Blood vessels were growing on my cornea -- a sign of irritation. "Those will never go away," she said. "If they grow across your pupil, you won't be able to see."

"Blood vessels are tricky," she continued. People who smoke, for instance, damage retinal blood vessels the same way others in the body are damaged. They constrict, and the smallest ones die. "If that happens to enough of them, you've got macular degeneration," she said. "Nothing can be done about that."

I was glad I'm not a smoker.

My vision prescription had changed, enough for new pairs of glasses and contacts. "I hope you're not thinking about Lasik [eye surgery to correct vision]," she said. (I wasn't). "It will only correct your far vision, and you won't be able to see up close. Your eyeball is just the shape and length it is. It can't change."

I listened quietly, cleaning with "thank you" and "lightswitch". If my eyeball can't change, I wondered, then why is my vision changing? Could one's total mental, emotional, spiritual, and physiological state possibly affect eyeball shape, length and refraction? I really don't know, but was amazed to find these questions arising within me rather than automatically accepting the statements.

It was a watershed moment for me.

A few years ago I myself was probably also pronouncing medical curses like this. Of course I didn't mean to do that, but I didn't understand what I was doing. I thought I was only informing people of "the facts". Also, I was "smart" and wanted people to experience my competence. (please forgive the accompanying arrogance!)

I originally trained in conventional medicine, where we were supposed to inform people in such a definitive manner. Nothing wrong with that, but what of allowing for something unexpected to happen? If your consciousness can't imagine it, will you miss it when it's in front of you?

Curiosity led me to train also in integrative medicine and classical homeopathy -- fields where there seems more room for possibility.

And even further with Ho'oponopono, it seems that anything at all is possible. After all, we're asking for Divinity's help in releasing problems.

While listening to my optometrist, I recognized with gratitude that my consciousness is more open today than it was a few years ago. I'm moving from thinking alone (relying only on my intellect) to allowing for intuition, heart-sense, and spiritual grace. The optometrist's comments highlighted the contrast between my yesterdays and today.

When consciousness opens, possibility opens too.

In 1999, Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len wrote an essay titled "Unfolding" that speaks to this difference. An excerpt reads:

"Handling the situation by thinking causes chaos and confusion . . .
Thinking deals only with effects, what is perceived, not causes as cleaning does. . . .

Thinking is about being right, about taking positions, about making your point.
Cleaning is about bringing peace into a situation, peace beyond all understanding, followed by perfect and right solutions.
Thinking is aggressive, telling the other person what is so.
Cleaning is about love, about allowing love to transmute memories to love.
And it does it lovingly.
Cleaning is about creating a peaceful and wonderful relationship with love and everyone and everything. . . ."

Thank you Dr. Hew Len, for sharing your light in this season of light. I am grateful.

Peace Begins with Me,

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Being Clear ~ Being Peace ~ Being Present

Jimmy Piver's new blog, "Here to Be Clear," is a gift to all of us. In it, he shares his life while applying his understanding of Ho'oponopono, Eckhart Tolle, Byron Katie, and more.

Recently he posted about dealing with his own emotions during his wife's suffering and trip to the Emergency Room. Ho'oponopono holds that whatever we experience on the "outside" is also in us -- a huge difference from our usual perceptions, which say that problems are "out there", not within.

It's very hard to remain present with someone's pain.

Jimmy did help his wife get the medical care she needed. But he also used Ho'oponopono cleaning tools such as mentally saying "I love you", "Peace of I", "Thank you," and "Ice Blue" (said to be especially helpful for painful situations). They were able to return home a few hours later, and his wife was resting well the next morning.

Did Ho'oponopono "do" that, or did the doctors? Perhaps Something in Jimmy's wife clicked in? I have no idea.

I do know from personal experience that detaching from my reactions to others -- simply observing instead of plunging ahead blindly -- makes a huge difference in what happens next.

I can make a mess, or I can stand back a moment and breathe. My usual automatic reactions include wanting to "fix" it for the other person, in order that they not suffer and I can feel like I'm doing a good job. I have been raised from childhood to respond this way, and to feel guilty when I do not. My medical training honed this still further.

Actions or statements fueled by my own personal, messy needs may be very vigorous and dramatic, but will not serve the person I want to "help".

What Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len has said numerous times about helping others is very interesting.

He says that when we humans try to "help" or "do" for others in an unconscious way (ie, without doing our cleaning first), we're interfering with God's process of solving problems. We know nothing about what's going on, yet act like we know more than God. Wouldn't it make more sense to get ourselves out of the way so that God -- who DOES know -- can come through?

This doesn't mean doing nothing, though. In fact this might be the best preparation possible for "doing" anything. As Dr. Hew Len shared on a conference call with Mabel Katz earlier this year:

"I'm not saying it's bad to help people, but . . . we get burned because when you take on a client, you're not just taking on that client, you're taking on the client's entire family, relatives and ancestors back to the beginning of creation. So if you're not looking and letting go and cleaning in yourself, you're going to get burned. You're going to get burned to the max. The way not to get burned is to do your cleaning. To let go, cut your ties so that instead of you giving any help then help will come directly from Inspiration. Our job is to let go and let God. If we don't let go and let God, we're going to get burned. It's just the way it works."

So this becoming "clear" that Jimmy and Dr. Hew Len talk about allows Divinity's inspiration to come through without being impeded by our "stuff" (maybe what Eckhart Tolle calls "ego"). Then what we "do" is more likely to be real service. We need to be at "Zero" first, before this can happen.

It also means that in every moment, our first task is to take care of ourselves through our cleaning. As Mabel Katz says, "If we want to help people . . . the best help, the best gift we can give them is really to clean. To take 100% responsibility and like Ihaleakala said, whatever gets erased from us will have to be erased from them."

I've known surgeons who pray before operating on patients. As a medical student I would be nervous in the OR, worried about making a mistake or getting in the way. (Even then, my wanting to be perfect showed up -- as irrelevant to the situation as it was!)

Just before starting, the surgeon would stop a moment and ask God to guide his hands and vision, inspire his mind, and keep the team working together smoothly. Perhaps this happened because I went to a Baptist medical school (Bowman Gray, part of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem NC) but it always impressed and calmed me. Only much later did I recognize it as an act of self-care as well as supporting the patient.

I'm even more grateful now. There's an old joke that strikes home for me:

What's the difference between a doctor and God?
God doesn't think He's a doctor. :-)

Maybe that one's good for any of us to remember, the next time we feel driven to "help."

Peace Begins with Me,

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Ho'oponopono: the Original 12-Step Process?

Recent family events have led me to review my 12-Step work in Al-Anon . It's a coming back to center on important principles that have helped me before.

Some of the similarities between this and Ho'oponopono are striking.

For instance, the first 3 "Steps" in Al-Anon say:

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol -- that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

We make moral inventory of ourselves, taking responsibility for our wrongs; we humbly ask God to remove our shortcomings. Through prayer and meditation we seek to improve our conscious contact with God, praying for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

For some, Step One is extremely hard; so is the thought that any power but us will really be there for us. Learning to trust in something like this (as we understand it) can be a major struggle.

In Ho'oponopono, we also are taking 100% responsibility and asking God to transmute our errors -- making more room for Him in our lives through inspiration. There is also complete acceptance of Divinity's being "in charge", and, having created us, knowing what's right and perfect for us.

Some of us struggle with this too.

A life coach I had at one time was adamant that human intention ruled outcomes. For her the alternative was complete lassitude and giving up. Feeling that this was a very limiting view, I soon stopped working with her. It wasn't that I felt my actions didn't matter, but the sense of a partnership with Divinity resonated deeply within me.

Another similarity between Al-Anon and Ho'oponopono is concentrating on caring for the self -- as opposed to trying to "fix" or control other people or situations.

Many of us in Al-Anon have tried to change the alcoholics in our lives, sacrificing self-care to do it. That's the "unmanageable" part in Step 1. Time and again I'm shown where I'm not taking sufficient care of myself, and whose business I really need to "mind": mine!

Ho'oponopono also suggests we're here to save ourselves rather than anyone else.

In this way it's an antidote to co-dependent behavior where we focus on others to the exclusion of our own needs. Ho'oponopono's attitude could sound completely selfish until you realize that it also recognizes the universe as one. We are all connected whether we like it or not.

This means that what I clean from "me", comes off of you at the same time; also, what you clean from yourself comes off of me. Our only mutual chance at freedom is if we each take care of ourselves -- yet it benefits the entire planet if we do. That's why Mabel Katz and Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len can say, "If you are fine, everyone else will be also."

I don't know if Bill W. (the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous) knew of Ho'oponopono, but the two spiritual processes do seem to harmonize well together. There is even a "12 Step Process" taught at Ho'oponopono Basic seminars. Though these are not the same 12 Steps described in Alcoholics Anonymous and other groups, the names are curiously similar.

Perhaps someone can shed light on this? I am grateful to have both ways of working with myself these days.

Peace Begins with Me,

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Cultivating Gratitude, for Those of Us Who Sometimes Forget

There are days when nothing seems to go right -- and when maybe, like the "sat on" bird above, we might question even getting out of bed. Cultivating gratitude during these times can be a real challenge, and yet Ho'oponopono encourages saying "thank you" even in the midst of problems.

Needing some help with exactly this, I was fortunate to come across a wonderful poem written by one of my colleagues, Martina Nicholson MD. It spoke to me so deeply I wanted to share it here. With her permission, here it is:

by Martina Nicholson, MD

"You don't have to like it."

On my knees,
I thank You for the hardest things,
This floor,
This sink full of dirty dishes,
This house of unmade beds.

I am sorry for the grumpy way
I woke up this morning,
Absent praise.

I thank You for the tiniest goodnesses,
The cyclamen on the porch
With flames like Pentecost,
The swirl of dust motes
In the morning light.

I thank You for the sunlight,
And the cold winter air,
And the quiet morning.

I thank you that there are not bombs
Falling here,
There is no rape here,
There is no murder in this house.

That my children are healthy
And have enough to eat.
And can think,
And go to school.
And that they come home again,

How many times I don't like what's in front of me, and mumble under my breath about it. Yet how gently Dr. Nicholsen shows us that even the house full of grumpiness and dirty dishes is still one with safety and a roof overhead.

I don't have to like it, and can still give thanks.

An Obstetrician-gynecologist practicing in Santa Cruz, CA, Dr. Nicholson writes from her heart about topics such as medicine, healing, family, love, awe, and everyday life. Her poems are both soothing and surprising. She discovers meaning and lessons in all kinds of places, such as surgical suites, delivering babies, the wonders of nature, or cleaning house. As I've come to know her, she embodies service itself.

For those interested, she's published 2 poetry books: Walking on Stars and Water (containing the work above), and My Throat is Full of Songbirds. These can be purchased directly from her for $8.00 each (shipping included) or $24.00 for 4 books:
Martina Nicholson MD
PO Box 890
Soquel CA 95073-0890

In the meantime, I'm simply taking lessons in gratitude. After all, "Thank you" is a powerful Ho'oponopono cleaning tool . . . and my inner house could definitely use some help. Thank you, Dr. Nicholson, for your words and your wisdom.

Peace Begins with Me,