Ho'oponopono is a Hawaiian word that is becoming quite well known all around the world. Unfortunately, all too often it is being misinterpreted, misunderstood, and increasingly exploited.
To truly and correctly understand what Ho’oponopono is, let’s go to the source:
The Hawaiian Dictionary, authored by Mary Kawena Pukui and Samuel Elbert, defines ho'oponopono as "to put to rights; to put in order or shape, correct, revise, adjust, amend, regulate, arrange, rectify, tidy up, make orderly or neat, administer, superintend, supervise, manage, edit, work carefully and neatly; to make ready, as canoemen preparing to catch a wave."
Language books on Hawaiian will often have a sentence like, E ho'oponopono i ka hale a me ka pa ("Tidy up the house and clean up the yard." This is the most common use of the word in Hawaiian.
Pukui adds the meaning of "to restore and maintain good relationships among family, and family-and-supernatural powers." Also, "The specific family conference in which relationships were 'set right' through prayer, discussion, confession, repentance, and mutual restitution and forgiveness."
In 1976, according to the websites of Wikipedia and Amazing Women In History, Hawaiian healer Morrnah Simeona created a new system of ho'oponopono, influenced by her studies of Christianity, Eastern philosophies and the works of Edgar Cayce, but essentially based on her deep spirituality and broad knowledge of Hawaiian traditions. What made her system so different was that it was designed for individual practice without the need for a group.
The basic practice designed by Morrnah was simply to express forgiveness for something on behalf of someone else. She used to visit battlefields and forgive all the anger and pain and suffering that happened there. As she would walk down the street and connect with the people, she would ask forgiveness on their behalf for whatever they needed. As she herself said, "Clean, erase, erase and find your own Shangri-La. Where? Within yourself. The process is essentially about freedom, complete freedom from the past." Her work has been carried on by Dr. Hew Len, who has emphasized the extension of one's identity to include anything or anyone else who needs healing. He developed the formulistic phrase "I'm sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you." By repetition of these phrases a person was supposed to connect his or her own light with the light of the Divine Source and, over time, dissolve disharmonious patterns in the subconscious.
Today this is probably the most well-known version of Ho'oponopono as a healing practice outside of Hawaii. Unfortunately because of his modern form; the word, ho’oponopono, is most often translated today as “forgiveness”. The important thing to know is that the concept of ho'oponopono is based on ancient Hawaiian tradition and one of the Hawaiian's most sacred values; and the word does not mean "forgiveness." It means "to set things right" in a morally correct way, regardless of how you do it.
And we in the western world are very fortunate to have this modern form, that is wonderful tool for problem-solving, while also having the ancient and more traditional practices as well, which the Hawaiian people have only started to share with us in recent years. With Ho’oponopono, we find a beautiful blend today of the ancient and modern forms, especially for the “making right”, to create peaceful resolutions for conflict in all relationships that occur and are a part of life.
Dance can be one way of teaching people to harmonize Body, Mind and Spirit. Hula is one of the best forms of dance in the world for teaching people how to experience that kind of harmony.
Unlike what most people think of hula – grass skirts and coconut bras of the Bing Crosby and Elvis Presley movies or the fast hip movements of the modern hula (Tahitian); the traditional ancient form of hula, like the Chinese Tai Chi, instead helps you "break free of the box". It can be a path of spiritual development as well as a source of joy to beholders and dancers alike. Even when you do it alone, it has a harmonizing effect on you and your environment. The leg, hip and upper body movements are conducive to the release of muscular tension blocks. (This is also similar to modern aerobic dancing, though in very different ways, in being low impact, calming and relaxing)
Hula was the most important part of the ancient Hawaiian way of life. It is still considered the heart of the Hawaiian people, and helps Hawaiian living on the mainland today to maintain their culture and community - their 'ohana. The ancient Hawaiians sang and danced together in all areas of their life. For the Hawaiians, the ancient hula was one of their primary tools for their “three selves” (heart,mind and spirit) to stay in pono/harmony. It was through the storytelling in the movements of the hula - grounding it into their bodies - and in the songs and chant – telling the stories of the ancient legends – that helped them to see the interconnectedness of life – past to present, to themselves, each other and to the environment. In these stories lay the lessons and meanings of being here in physical form. It also helped them to connect to the "higher form" of God through their aumakua, their ancestors on the other side, who being in spirit form were considered “lesser gods”
The spiritual function of hula is to attract the positive aspects of the universe, to increase mana (the vital life force) and to help the audience and dancer to experience a sense of well-being. It is the Dance of Nature and of the Heart. It is actually older than the Hawaiian people that we know today. The first hula is said to be God creating the world. And ultimately, the true form of Hula is the unique hula or movement for each person – how their bodies want to move and express itself.
Learning Hula is great fun; and when you acquire even just a little skill, dancing Hula is like a moving meditation that allows you to fully experience your connection with your own Inner Essence. It is truly Embodied Spirituality. .
For many people, the islands of Hawai'i represents paradise. Many of the visitors that go there often find a deep sense of connection to the land and a need to return or perhaps to even move there.
What is the magic of Hawai'i that seems to pull at one's heart? Why is this feeling of it being paradise so strong there? Anthropologists have held the opinion that the Polynesians came from India or Southeast Asia. Many elders and kahunas of Hawai'i claim that their knowledge and culture originated in the Pacific and spread from there to the rest of the world. Researchers now are finding certain key Hawaiian words and place names in other parts of the world, which seem to confirm these claims. The Hawaiian Islands that we know today are believed by some to be the tops of the mountains of the original land call Mu, which was a very spiritual land. It is also believed that this huge land mass disappeared under the ocean many generations ago and the mountain tops of Mu have just re-surfaced in recent times.
The magic of Hawai'i, then, is in the land itself. It is the intangible substance that one experiences as charm, warmth, sincerity, generosity and love known to many in Hawai'i as "the Aloha Spirit", the Way of the Heart. The ancient Hawaiians believed that this is a Power of Love that can enable each of us to fully embrace all that is implied by the term "to be fully human" and to be able perceive the oneness of all things. It is no coincidence that so much interest is developing about Hawai'i today. We are at a time in our evolution as humans where we can create a world where we can all live together in community and in peaceful co-existence. This ancient and powerful knowledge of the "Spirit of Aloha" is becoming popular at this time because it can help us to create this.
The Islands were invaded twice, starting around 1200 AD, forcing the Hawaiians each time to protect their history and knowledge by hiding it with the individual Hawaiian families and within the language itself. This knowledge, sometimes called Huna, is the understanding of life as a vital living philosophy. The word “huna” also means “hidden”; but what is meant by that is the knowledge that is “hidden” within each of us to be re-discovered now. It is about living our lives from a love-based reality rather than a fear or warrior-based one that has been so prevalent in our world for so many generations. In embracing the Hawaiian “Aloha Spirit” and all that it means, we have a practical way for understanding the true essence of who we are and for giving Love a real place in our world. The Hawaiians also had no written form until the 1800’s when the missionaries arrived and created one for them. The kahunas and elders of Hawai’i are also sharing more of this knowledge with us, to help us in the evolution of our world. And now with all that is also available to us through modern technology, we have an incredible gift and opportunity to be able to learn and embrace this way of life.
The first step is in understanding the Hawaiian Three Aspects of the Self – Heart, Mind and Spirit. In learning how to bring them into harmony (Pono) and integration within ourselves, we can move forward in the world and in our community with others with awareness, strength, confidence and in vibrant health. I will be going more into each of these Aspects in my next blogs.
Until then, E Malama Pono (Be well and in harmony),
This ancient healing art literally changed my life. As many women, I went through my own trauma early in life with sexual abuse. It left me with a lot of anger and confusion for many years. It also was the catalyst to start me on a journey of spiritual and personal exploration to find peace and relief from all the emotional pain that I was feeling. It led me to many different spiritual traditions and healing arts. They included apprenticing to a Native American Shaman for 14 years and working with women in Ceremony; and becoming a senior teacher and certified Jin Shin Do Bodymind Acupressurist. They all helped and gave me pieces that I needed as I did a lot of personal emotional and physical work on myself; but I still found my body tight and inflexible. When I tried to dance, I would get such a strong sensation of nausea in my solar plexis area that I would have to stop.
This was so hard and disturbing to me. Before the abuse I had danced as a child and loved it. I had an lp record called "Tina the Ballerina" - showing my age here. I would close the door to my room, put the record on and play it over and over while I danced and danced and danced. But than as an adult, this sense of freedom, abandonment and joy was gone with this nausea and tightness in my body there in its place.
I was finally able to release the nausea while I was at a training to become a certified acupressurist in Jin Shin Do. There was a wonderful man there who was one of the teachers who helped me in a session to release all the anger that had been there for so many years. Suddenly the nausea was gone, but my body still was unable to move and flow easily. That pattern of inflexibility had been there for so long. A counselor I was working with suggested taking some belly dance classes to see if that would help. I did, and I loved the dance; but I also found all the isolation moves still difficult and challenging. I felt awkward with how my body was unable to respond quickly to be able to do them. I would return home after a class feeling frustrated and inadequate after seeing how easily it seemed to be for the other women in the class.
This same teacher I was studying belly dance with in Florida was also just starting to teach Hula. She was attending workshops in Indiana with a group that was bringing traditional Kumu Hula (master teachers) to the mainland from Hawai'i to share with those of us here who had a love for this beautiful dance and a commitment to wanting to learn it. I started studying Hula with her; and it was so much easier than the belly dance. There were no isolated moves. The basic steps were simple and easy to do. I found myself dancing at the level I was able to and enjoying it, even with my body still tight and inflexible. I also began going to the workshops in Indiana and then to Hawai'i to work with Kumu Hula there. I totally and completely fell in love with the dance and everything Hawaiian.
What was so amazing and wonderful was that within a short time, my body began responding. Suddenly I found my lower body becoming much looser with my hips starting to sway more. Than my upper body also began to move and flow as I told the story of the dance with my hands and arms. And when I would be out with friends, dancing free form at a club with them, I began to experience that child in me dancing freely and joyfully once again as she had done in her room to "Tina the Ballerina".
This freedom in my body has continued to open up more and more over the years as I have continued to dance and share Hula; and now I love dancing both the choreographed traditional dances as well as the free form. In my Musical Storytelling concerts, I used to share just one or two hulas, thinking people would prefer the songs. Instead people would come up to me after the Concert and tell me that they would have liked to have seen more of the dances during the Concert. Suddenly I had become a professional dancer instead of just the professional singer I had been for years, because of how the Hula was touching people.
This has also extended to when I am out dancing with friends. People will tell me how much they enjoy watching me dance. It warms my heart, when I think of how I was unable to dance for so many years. It also makes me again so grateful for this wonderful gift of this Sacred Dance that has been given to me. It is said that when one does Hula, it is healing for both the dancer as well as those who are watching. Hula has helped me now to be able to do this - both with iits traditional form as well as free form dancing anywhere where I hear music. I find myself creating my own Hula, moving and dancing even when I am walking around and shopping in a store - sometimes to the embarrassment of who I am with; but I can't help it. My Inner Flow has been released through this dance, and it just feels so good to feel my body respond to the music and move and flow with it, wherever I am now. And to be able to totally let myself go and surrender to that Flow, how absolutely wonderful and amazing.
This is why sharing Hula with other women is so important to me now. I want to help them to have this same experience of joy, fun and fulfillment through their bodies to be the radiant, beautiful and sensuous woman that we all are.
A'a i ka hula, waiho i ka hilahila i ka hale - Dare to dance, leave your embarrassment at home. I look forward to having the opportunity to dance and share hula with you.
me ke aloha pumehana,
Director and Kupuna of the Halau