Ho'opononpono: the Hawaiian Method of Problem
long, long time ago in Hawaii, I met a kahuna named Morrnah
Simeona. She came to a lecture I once gave on astroendocrinology
and presented me with a maile lei, a great gesture from someone
so wise. As I lectured, I kept looking into her eyes, saying, "but
you know this and can add to my material." She smiled gently
and said, "Just go on." Morrnah became one of the most
influential figures in my spiritual unfoldment, and I studied
with her for several years.
Morrnah explained a ritual called ho'oponopono that
has been used in Hawaii for countless years to clear the way to
healing. The word ho'oponopono means problem solving. What
Morrnah said is that before a patient can get well, he or she must
remove the obstacles to cure. The obstacle may be a feeling that
one does not deserve to be cured or some more objective physical
issue. Morrnah said that guilt and the inability to forgive oneself
were the most common causes of failure to heal.
Over the years, I have had occasion to hear many
stories giving credence to this theory. The first one was
from a man who had embezzled money from his company in order to
provide better opportunities for his family. Then, I heard about
extramarital affairs that had caused guilt for the one who had
strayed and suffering for the partner. As can be imagined,
once searching for the obstacle and the secret behind it, a simply
enormous array of different causes for guilt became known to me.
In my own opinion, most guilt is greatly exaggerated. Parents
blame themselves for not understanding better what their children
were feeling or for being distracted by their own issues and interests
when children wanted attention. Some are so hard on themselves
that they expect to have superhuman foresight into all that might
go wrong so that they can better protect those dear to them.
Others do not suffer from guilt but grief. Though
the belief is not always conscious, some people imagine that life
after some disappointing event or tragedy is not worth living. The
types of events that are associated with this feeling are often
those involving loss or separation from family, especially deaths
and divorce, but I have seen similarly exaggerated reactions to
something as minor as a scar on the leg or the inescapable signs
of aging, issues that should not be life-threatening but can become
so if the interpretation placed on them is that life after the
loss or degradation in appearance is worthless.
Some people do not feel worthy. They aren't special;
they aren't creative; they aren't interesting; they aren't significant
enough in God's eyes to be saved from a dreaded disease.
Addressing the Obstacles
Today, as I work with people, I look for the hidden
obstacles so that we can find creative ways to atone or remove
the obstacle. If a rich person donates money to charity, he
might be able to have his cake and eat it too without embarrassing
his family by revealing the things he did in the past. If people
do not feel life after loss or injury is worth living, they may
need to discover a lesson in their personal tragedies that puts
a new spin on their beliefs. Finding the purpose of life and why
one was born and what one might still do to fulfill destiny works
for many people.
As noted, the obstacle can be psychological or
physical or a mixture of both. One woman did not reveal to me that
she was bulimic. For a long time, she concealed this fact
so well that I had no knowledge of how dangerous her eating habits
were to her. Many people live or work near environmental hazards
that make health impossible. Regardless of the obstacle and its
cause, it is important to identify the obstacle and then to remove
or overcome it.
Where the issues are psychological,
it may be necessary to revise subconscious scripts. Sometimes,
circumstances need to shift. In nearly every instance, once
the obstacle is addressed, healing proceeds swiftly, whereas, in
my experience, failure to eliminate the obstacle diminishes the
effectiveness of whatever treatment is used.
In Hawaii, there is a ritual for ho'oponopono that
involves an elder, a priest or priestess or senior family member,
and the entire family. Everyone is urged to speak, "spill
their guts" as Morrnah used to say, until all the skeletons,
resentments, and guilt come out. During the ritual, no one is permitted
to leave the room. Eventually, a point of clearing and resolution
occurs and the ritual is concluded. I urge everyone to reflect
on the wisdom of this ancient practice.
Reminiscenses of Morrnah
9 April 2006