The Book of Ho’oponopono: The Hawaiian Practice of Forgiveness and Healing, by Luc Bodin, M.D., Nathalie Bodin Lamboy, and Jean Graciet
Destiny Books, 978-1- 62055-510- 1, 150 pp., 2016
I discovered Ho’oponopono in the midst of a horrible break up. More or less every “releasing” technique I tried, ranging from Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) to the Sedona Method, did very little for me. Though I trusted those techniques’ lasting efficacy for others, I saw them as being emotional band aids and not what I was looking for. After practicing Ho’oponopono, an ancient Hawaiian practice of reconciliation and forgiveness, I was able to peel back the layers of regret, hurt, unhappiness and anger that centred on my failed relationship.
When a negative feeling arose, I’d pause and say the technique’s very simple mantra, “I’m sorry. Forgive me. Thank you. I love you,” and then continue on with my life. I was not addressing anyone other than myself when I spoke these words, and though I first worked on letting go of superficial thoughts like “I can’t believe she did x,” or “How could I have said y?” soon I found myself applying the technique to core issues like insecurity, incompleteness, self-love, and other problems I didn’t realize were affecting my life because of their deep programming within me.
Flash forward several years to today and I’ve incorporated Ho’oponopono into mostly everything I do. When I’m stressed, anxious, resentful, witnessing suffering of any sort, or if I find myself in any less than desirable situation I start saying those words: “I’m sorry. Forgive me. Thank you. I love you.” There weren’t many reputable resources to guide me through the practice when I started and over time I had to cobble together effective ways of using the technique. When I learned that a new book on the subject, The Book of Ho’oponopono: The Hawaiian Practice of Forgiveness and Healing, was published, I quickly jumped into reading it.
The authors, Luc Bodin, Nathalie Bodin Lamboy, and Jean Graciet, lay out the technique in an easy-to-understand manner. Ho’oponopono itself is not very difficult to learn, consisting primarily of those four phrases, and the book emphasizes that the effectiveness of the practice relies on one’s willingness to see them self as the creator of the world around them and to take responsibility for their thoughts, actions and experiences. For example, when we are upset by something, it is us who allowed ourselves to be upset, according to this method. We subconsciously create narratives in which we cause suffering, therefore to disrupt this pattern we must change its underlying cause. Ho’oponopono is a way to accomplish this.
Admittedly this borderline solipsistic perspective may be hard to palate for some readers but the authors do try to explain subjective versus objective experiences to help alleviate this concern. According to them our world is our creation, and objective reality is simply a collection of our inner experiences. Under even a little bit of phenomenological pressure this assertion begins to crumble, but they do emphasize one should trust the Ho’oponopono system and try it for themselves as it does produce results.
The authors spend the first section of the book guiding readers through the basic method of the technique, spending just a few pages on its history and then delving into the fine points of Ho’oponopono. It’s this first section I find to be the strongest, and perhaps of the most use to readers with no prior experience to this technique. A few reads through this short section will impart a fair deal of knowledge about the practice and how to effectively utilize it.
It the book’s second section in which things begin to falter. Whereas the first section deals primarily with the application of the technique, section two delves into the theory of how and why Ho’oponopono works. Though it starts out promisingly enough, with mention of neurolinguistic programming and how it applies to this method, soon we are taken on a long road full of questionable pop psychological assertions regarding values, beliefs, conflicts, memories and our inner selves. This all leads to an unfortunate anecdote about a woman who, beat by two husbands and a son, was basically bringing it all upon herself because of an “erroneous memory” she refused to let go of, something that may turn off many readers.
I agree with the authors that if one is working within the Ho’oponopono paradigm — and I also agree that this is a lifestyle and a mere self-help technique — then one has to develop a certain understanding of the plasticity of their values, beliefs, as well as the nature of conflict in order to utilize this practice’s full potential. However, the authors’ portrayal of these subjects lead readers to a reductionist overview of quantum mechanics that is so bereft of actual science in lieu of spurious conjecture and outdated “facts” that it’s best to skip these 15 pages altogether. The short page-and-a-half sub-section on “The Consequences of Ho’oponopono” that follows is perhaps the single best part of this section and properly ties up many of the loose ends encountered up to that point.
The third and final section of the book (there is actually a fourth section, but it is more of a glorified “thanks for reading!” letter than a proper epilogue) is entitled “From Spirituality to Abundance” and may be more agreeable to reader than its immediate predecessor. I wasn’t particularly thrilled by its overly general approach to religion, though I found this section’s perspective to be a relieving palate cleanser than the pseudo-scientific treatise preceding it. Here the authors focus on attraction, love, family, spirituality and how Ho’oponopono can be used by anyone who wants to effectively transform their life’s narrative. This section addresses a wide array of spiritually related subjects and most readers will find several that appeal directly to them (as well as some they can dismiss altogether).
It’s the inherent versatility of Ho’opoonopono that I find to be its greatest strength. We all come from various backgrounds, our life stories intertwining with and diverting from one another’s. What I’ve noticed, and what this book does well (despite some misgivings I have for it), is approach the technique from various angles. Though I did not agree with certain elements of this book, I do understand that readers from different perspectives and traditions may resonate with these sections. I’ve found a place for Ho’oponopono in my daily meditation practice, and the authors do explain how practitioners of yoga, qi gong, tai chi and other practices can benefit greatly from this technique.
I initially used Ho’oponopono to get through a break-up, and over time and repeated use of this technique I’ve discovered the myriad benefits this method offers. By focusing on distressing feelings when they arise we can delve deep into ourselves, changing ourselves, and consequently the world arose us, from within.
The Book of Ho’oponopono is a good resource for both long time practitioners of the technique and those who are entirely new to it. Though not everyone will agree within everything in this book, every reader will walk away with a very powerful transformative technique they can utilize over a lifetime.