Ho'oponopono: What Are We Cleaning? Lessons from Morrnah and the River Iao

The Iao River on Maui, whose Iao Valley was the scene of the battle of Kepaniwai ("damming of the waters") in 1790. So many warriors died that the river was jammed with their bodies.  Today the river runs clean and free -- and is still a very sacred place.

Someone asked me the other day what Ho'oponopono is about, and what we are "cleaning" when practicing this process. 

Morrnah Nalamaku Simeona, the Kahuna Lapa'au who was inspired in meditation to simplify Ho'oponopono for modern times, provided one of the best answers to this I've ever read.  Ho'oponopono literally means "to correct an error," or "to make right."  But what kind of errors are we talking about, and what is there to make right?

Morrnah explained:

"We are the sum total of our experiences, which is to say that we are burdened by our pasts. When we experience stress or fear in our lives, if we would look carefully, we would find that the cause is actually a memory. It is the emotions which are tied to these memories which affect us now. The subconscious associates an action or person in the present with something that happened in the past. When this occurs, emotions are activated and stress is produced.

The main purpose of this process is to discover the Divinity within oneself. The Ho'oponopono is a profound gift which allows one to develop a working relationship with the Divinity within and learn to ask that in each moment, our errors in thought, word, deed or action be cleansed. The process is essentially about freedom, complete freedom from the past." 

She also stated:

"We can appeal to Divinity who knows our personal blueprint, for healing of all thoughts and memories that are holding us back at this time.  It is a matter of going beyond traditional means of accessing knowledge about ourselves."

The more times I re-read this, the more it intrigues me.  Ancient Hawaiians certainly pre-dated Freud, and understood that unconscious/subconscious memories influence current behavior.  These memories have nothing to do with people in our present, so they're misplaced -- and are "errors."  They lead to further errors downstream in thought, word, and deed.

Modern psychotherapeutic treatments analyze these memories, hoping that this will loosen their grip on the person's present moments.  Sometimes this is helpful in changing behavior; sometimes not.  The person still has to apply the insights and practice doing things differently.

Ho'oponopono deals with memories too -- but does not try to analyze,  interpret, manage, or cope with them.  And the memories concerned apply to the person's soul throughout time, not in the current lifetime alone. 

Rather than analyzing, Ho'oponopono provides a process that connects us with Divinity within, moment to moment.  We can ask Divinity -- the only One who can cleanse or erase memories or thought forms -- to address whatever is arising in our experiences: anxiety, sadness, anger, mistakes, delays -- anything.  Fortunately, Divinity also knows our individual blueprints, and can transmute whatever memories are "up" for release at the time . . . without our ever knowing what is going on.  

Simple. Direct.  Elegant.  

Morrnah believed that we are laden with memories -- dating from all the way back to when we were "seaweed."  It's just a part of being on the earth plane. These memories are held within the Inner Child (or Unihipili) part of us, and  can manifest in anything from depression, addiction, and heart disease to events beyond our bodies like car accidents and natural disasters. The land and everything on it can contain memories too. 

Morrnah also believed that the Ho'oponopono process allows each of us to individually petition Divinity for help letting go of these memories or errors -- allowing things to be made right, or "pono."  As these memories are released, so is our stress and other problems.  An added bonus: the memories come off of not only us, but everyone and everything connected to them also. 

She recommended that health care practitioners be especially mindful to do Ho'oponopono before treating each client or patient.  Otherwise, we can be like ground zero for all manner of pain and suffering.  

"It is important to clear Karmic patterns with your clients before you start working with them, so that you don't activate old stuff between you. Perhaps you shouldn't be working with that person at all. Only the Divinity knows. If you work with a person and it isn't your business, you can take on the person's entire problem and everything associated with it. This can cause burnout. The Ho'oponopono gives the tools to prevent that from happening."

I've broached this with some of my colleagues, and some are curious about this interesting way to address physician burnout.  Others simply give me the fish eye. :-)  Of course, none of this is evidence-based in terms of modern science, so how can we know it has any effect?  We really can't; we have to personally choose what we'll do.  

Some long-time practitioners like Dr. Hew Len and Kamaile Rafaelovich are able to see the process occurring.  Yet even they don't claim to know what all of it means; only Divinity sees the whole picture. Dr. Hew Len often says, "my only job is to clean." 

While walking in Maui's Iao Valley recently, I thought about this cleaning.  Despite the bloody battle in 1790, the Iao River runs fresh and invigorating today.  The air around it is energizing; the land exudes sacredness.  I felt Divinity cleansing me like this river, washing through every part of my being.

There's no way to know all the experiences my soul has collected over time, or how they may impact people with whom I interact. I'm so grateful to Morrnah for her wisdom, and for the Ho'oponopono cleansing process that allows me a way to work with all this -- even though I don't know what's what.  While on the island, I met a kahuna who told me she saw "Auntie Morrnah" standing behind me.  Tears sprang into my eyes when she shared this. How could she know that I feel this woman I have never met, around me all the time?  Much occurs in this world, that I do not understand.

Thank you dear Morrnah, and for your students Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len and Kamaile Rafaelovich who have become my teachers in the flesh. They have a lovely book called "Blue Ice: The Relationship with the Self," that you can read if inspired. I love it; it's brief, to the point, and provides ever more beauty and grace with each reading. 

Peace begins with me,


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