The Season of Hoʻoponopono


One of the common purposes of Makahiki and Thanksgiving is that it is a time for ‘ohana. A time to reconnect and strengthen relationships. However personal hurts and grudges between family members can stand in the way of enjoying this holiday, creating anxiety and uneasiness among those involved in the celebration. Holding on to hurts and grudges can affect our health as well, either by causing illness, making existing illnesses worse, or slowing healing within the body.

The Native Hawaiian healing practice of hoʻoponopono is a traditional method of restoring relationships among ‘ohana. This practice is also understood to be a method of conflict resolution and can be expanded to include other relationships as well, including friends and co-workers. As Mary Kawena Pukui describes, “…it is to set things right with each other and with the Almighty”. This involves deep personal reflection on one’s own thoughts, feelings, and motives. Assigning blame or judgement for one’s thoughts or actions, or justifying one’s actions, isn’t part of this process. The end goal is to forgive and be forgiven.

In order for ho’oponopono to work, all those most involved with the problem needs to be included; having too many people involved is not as helpful. A belief in the process, a sincere intention to participate throughout the process and seek resolution, is also a must.

The haku leading out hoʻoponopono needs to be someone unbiased and experienced in doing so. This could be a trained practitioner or a trusted kūpuna or elder in the community.

The important first step in any traditional healing work, including hoʻoponopono, is pule. It is a recognition of Akua as the Source of healing and a prayer to work through the practitioner and the healing of all people involved.

Following this, the haku sets-up the discussion by sharing the purpose for that session. A reminder to speak only through the leader is often made, as to help keep everyone’s emotions under control. Periods of silence throughout the session may be called upon by the haku to calm emotions or to allow time for reflection.

With honest reflection and examination of one’s own motives and feelings, each person then confesses their role in situation, taking ownership for their actions and decisions. The haku may ask questions or for more information. Each person then asks sincere forgiveness for their choices, which may include offering some type of compensation or restitution, depending on what was done. Equally important to this process is accepting forgiveness and releasing the hurt and guilt, also with sincerity and without doubt.

A hoʻoponopono session lasts as long as needed for everyone to go through this process. After everyone has had their turn, the haku summarizes what was shared and closes with pule. The dispute is considered to not exist anyone. This is followed by a meal together, to celebrate healing of relationships and renewed aloha between each other.

Taking the time to strengthen your ʻohana can build a strong family for generations to come.