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by Mary Weeks, LMSW

Before the sun goes down, forgive.

– Hawaiian proverb

Last May, I attended a conference here in the city, where a colleague shared a Hawaiian forgiveness practice that she offers to her clients who are incarcerated, the Ho’oponopono ritual. It has a fancy name, but a simple enough application: When you act or speak in a way that you feel is out of alignment with your deepest, truest sense of who you are, just say these four phrases to yourself: I am sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you. She talked about how, when one of her clients comes in seeking support around forgiving themselves, she gently offers them the following four-step reflective, meditative practice:

Visualize, conceptualize, and feel that thing you have done that you know has put you out of alignment with yourself or another. Then say quietly or silently within your own mind:

I am sorry that you are having this experience. OR I am sorry that I did/said what I did.

I forgive you for having this experience. OR I forgive you for doing/saying what you did.

I love you for having this experience. OR I love you for doing/saying what you did/said.

Thank you for having this experience. OR Thank you for doing/saying what you did/said.

With each of these phrases, you can insert your own name at the end. Using my name… I am sorry, Mary… I forgive you, Mary… I love you, Mary… Thank you, Mary… You get the idea. As my colleague noted that many of her clients have some heavy things to forgive themselves for and way too much time to reflect, I was humbled. And inspired by what felt to me like a pretty expansive tool for accountability AND self-acceptance.

As luck would have it, weeks later I was in a grocery store on Maui when I noticed a blue glass water bottle with the four Ho’oponopono phrases etched into it. Now, I KNEW this practice was coming for me! So I bought the bottle. Ever since, little by little, I have been experimenting with those four phrases, test-driving them in my own practice. It’s early days, but the one thing I consistently notice is a visceral softening. Sometimes it’s in my heart. Sometimes it’s in my solar plexus. But it’s always easier to breathe. Who knows? Maybe it’s the association to Hawaii, which is to me the gentlest, most generous spot on earth. Or maybe it’s the humbling I felt at the courage of my colleague’s clients, carving out time for self-care in a challenging environment, saying a genuine “I’m sorry,” asking for forgiveness, offering themselves love, and sealing it all with gratitude. Or maybe it’s something else entirely that, at least for now, remains an elegant mystery. For whatever reason, Ho’oponopono is trying to work its way into my heart. So, over the next several blogs, when it’s my turn to post, I will write about this ritual, its origins, its applications, and my adventures within it. And, in the process, perhaps it will work its way into your heart, too. But because it’s the holidays, the season of forgiveness, when, with any luck, we choose to forgive ourselves and somebody else, I offer this practice to you. Aloha!

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