The Basics of
Ho'oponopono is a method of restoring harmony within a group or an
The word ho'oponopono literally means "setting right...to restore and
maintain good relationships among family, and family and supernatural
metaphor of a tangled net has been used to illustrate how problems
within a family affect not only persons directly involved, but also
other family members. The family is a complex net of relationships, and
any disturbance in one part of the net will pull on other parts. This
metaphor re-enforces the old Hawaiian philosophy of the interrelatedness
Ho'oponopono is a process of problem solving. The process of
ho'oponopono generally includes the following:
I. The Opening Phase
statement of the problem
Discussion of the problems
Confession of wrongdoing when applicable
Restitution when necessary
ho'oponopono begins with a prayer or pule in Hawaiian. The prayer
is asked to ask our 'aumakua (personal God or Universal deity)
for assistance and blessing in finding, discussing and solving the
problems at hand.
appeal to the aumakua not only asks the aumakua or Higher Self for help
but also heightens and often strengthens the individual's personal
emotional commitment to solving their own problems and helping others in
the family to solve the problems at hand.
Prayer lays the foundation for sincerity and truthfulness, which are
necessary ingredients for making the process successful and obtaining
good results for all involved.
The Statement of the Problems
order to solve a problem one must first determine what the problem is,
define it and get to understand it. This is essential for problem
solving and it is also essential to the success of ho'oponopono. In
ho'oponopono this process is divided into several stages. These stages
are the kula kumuhana or period of identification of the problem
and the Hala.
This term has a number of different meanings in relations to
ho'oponopono. Beside the period of identification of the problem it also
represents the pooling of the strengths for a shared purpose, such as
solving the problem. Implicit then within this concept and what it
represents is recognizing the problem or problems and joining together
within the ho'oponopono to define it, understand what actually happened,
the motivations and forces that caused it and then solving it working
together for this purpose and, importantly, for no other ulterior
has an additional meaning as it refers to the role of the leader in
reaching out to a person who is resisting the ho'oponopono process to
enable that person to participate fully. Hence, the understanding that
the leader is charged with making sure that everyone does work together
to create an amicable solution.
fruit of the kula kumuhana, the period of identification, is to find
the problem as it affects everyone in the group. This begins with
stating the transgression the hurt or wrong that has been done,
the crime or offense. One of the most powerful features of Hawaiian
healing is the concept of the One Sin Rule. That is no
transgression or injury has occurred unless an individual intentionally
set out to hurt another. However, one can unintentionally hurt or cause
When intentional hurt has occurred this is a sense is seen as a major
transgression which requires a series of responses beyond a simple
apology. It may include cleansing, restitution and occasionally even
Hala implies that the perpetrator (the person creating the problem or
causing the wrong) and the person wronged (the victim) are bound
together in a relationship of negative entanglement called hihia.
This web of negative entanglement is dynamic and tends to have many
forms and shapes. It suggests that after the initial hurt or wrong has
been done there are a series of events and circumstances that lead to
new problems, deepening of the hurt or wound, increased
misunderstanding, guilt, fear, anger, shame and need for revenge. In the
Hawaiian way of thinking it creates a complex knot of difficulties that
can escalate the problem and may even take on a new life of its own.
role of the leader is to pick one of these problems and work with the
group until the knot is loosened and begins to unravel. Once one aspect
is unraveled then the process begins to uncover and resolve the other
layers of the problem one at a time until the family or group is once
again free and clear and the problem is resolved and all are free. I
refer to this process as peeling the onion. With each succeeding
layer the onion (problem) becomes smaller until at some point there is
nothing left, the crying is finished and all can join in and enjoy the
fruits of their labor.
The Discussion Phase
discussion period is where the conflict is worked out. Here is where the
layers of the problem are peeled away. This is possibly the most
structured aspect of ho'oponopono. It requires structure for it can
erupt at any time into a torrent of opinion, anger, rage or hostility.
During the mahiki it is the job of the leader (haku) to keep the people
from directly confronting one another. When direct confrontation occurs
to commonly leads to emotional outbursts and misunderstandings.
Traditionally Hawaiians believed that emotional outbursts or personally
directed expression of emotions discouraged the problem solving effort.
Hence, expression of emotion directly to another other than positive
emotions is discouraged and it is the job of the haku to make sure that
the problem solving function is not undermined.
the other hand, it is important that each person involved, directly or
indirectly, shares their feelings and gets them out in the open. The
process used is to direct the comments toward self-scrutiny. The
individual is directed in such a way that they look openly and honestly
at their own feelings (mana'o), how the events affected them,
they can examine and probe themselves and what effect the event had on
them both positively and negatively. Essential to the process, however,
is to avoid accusations, blame or recriminations.
tempers do get out of control or the discussion is turning negative the
haku may declare a ho'omalu a cooling off period, a period of
silence and self-control. This purpose of the ho'omalu is to give time
and space to allow the members of the ho'oponopono to reflect on the
purpose of the process and to bring their aroused emotions under
III. The Resolution Phase
the discussion unfolds soon everything that needs to be said is said,
the problem is exposed, the web of events is unwrapped and laid open.
Everyone can see the effects of the wrong, each person has explored
their feelings and to some degree their emotions and now it is time to
begin the directed steps of resolving all of the issues at hand. In this
stage each person has the opportunity to confess or apologize (mihi)
for their role in the wrong doing and to give and receive forgiveness.
This must be genuine and binding for the results to hold up and the
problem to be complete and experienced out completely by all involved.
is expected that forgiveness is given whenever and by whoever asks for
it. If the wrongdoer asks forgiveness from the person wronged, it is
expected that forgiveness will be given and meant. To insure this, a
system of restitution was built into the process. It is at this point
that the terms and conditions are negotiated and agreed upon. If
agreement cannot be reached then the process of the ho'oponopono is
restarted with the inability to reach agreement and the issues that
separate the parties as the new problems to be solved.
This confession and the acceptance of the apology begins the process of
cleansing (kala) that is necessary to heal all of the parties
involved. The knot is untangling and loosening and with kala it is being
entirely undone. Both the person who has confessed and the person who
has forgiven are expected to mutually release (another meaning of kala)
each other. Kala means that the conflict and hurts have been released
and are cut off (oki) and complete. The knot is unraveled and the
net is untangled all parties are once again free to function normally
work of the ho'oponopono has been done. The process is complete. The
problem resolved, the integrity of the family or group is reestablished
and harmony and balance are reestablished. All that is left is to close
the process with a ritual that insures lasting peace and harmony. This
is the pani ritual.
form of the pani is decided upon by the haku. He or she can simply call
a closing of the meeting and dismiss everyone. Often the haku may choose
to present a summary and summation of what took place. In most cases
there is certainly a ceremony of reaffirmation of the strengths of the
family or group and a pronouncement of their enduring bonds.
other layers of the problem need to be worked out the pani is postponed.
If the problem or problems have been successfully worked out this is
declared and closed forever, never to be brought up again by anyone.
closing pule, the pule ho'opau is then performed. The ceremony is
officially closed and the group traditionally shares in a snack or a
meal (breaking bread together). Usually the foods eaten is prepared by
all of the members of the group.
ho'oponopono is a highly structured process with four distinct phases:
The opening phase which includes a prayer and a statement of the problem
The discussion phase during which all of the participants share their
thoughts and feelings in a calm manner listening to each other as they
A resolution phase that allows exchange of confession, forgiveness and
A closing phase which allows a summation of what has happened and an
ability to give spiritual and emotional closure to the process and
individual thanks for participation.
Hawaiian Words of Ho'oponopono and their Meanings
Aumakua - Personal god; totally benevolent, totally trustworthy
parental spirit; guardian angel
Haku - The leader; the person who puts things in order
Hala - The transgressor; the sinner; the one who committed the
offense; the person who has missed the mark
Hihia - Entangled; difficulty; problem; state of perplexity; to be
lost by going a stray; to be offended; to be entrapped.
Ho'omalu - Shade; shelter; protection; peace; control; quiet; safe;
to restrict, suspend; to make peace between warring parties
Ho'oponopono - See above; to correct; to put order to shape or
adjust; amend; rectify.
Kala - To loosen; untie; free; release; unburden; absolve; let go;
acquit; cleanse. To forgive as a debt; to release one from payment.
Kala hala - Means atonement, to pardon or absolve from sin.
Kkula kumuhana - To pool thoughts and prayers to solve a common
problem; to set a topic of discussion; an agenda
Mahiki - To jump or leap; to pry or pull up or down; to cast out
spirits, to exorcise. In relationship to ho'oponopono, to treat in turn
Mana'o - Thoughts; ideas; beliefs; opinions; expectations;
suggestions; mind; plan purpose; counsel; strategy.
Mihi - Remorse; repentance; apologize; be sorry; contrite; to
regret; confess; break off from an evil (sinful) course of life. To
express feelings of sadness or grief in the countenance; to have regret
for past conduct.
Oki - To cut; to sever; separate; annul; cancel; to end or finish
any talk or business; to put an end to.
Pani - To close up an opening; to substitute something; fill a
breach; agreement; to put one thing in the place of another.
Pule - A prayer; a magic spell; blessing; grace; ask a blessing
Pule ho'opau - Closing prayer.
Ho'oponopono, Contemporary Uses of a Hawaiian Problem-Solving Process,
E. Victoria Shook, An East-West Center Book, Honolulu, 1992.
Nn I Ke Kumu, Vol 1, Pukui, M, E. Haertig and C. Lee, Honolulu: Hui
Nn I Ke Kumu, Vol 2, Pukui, M, E. Haertig, C. Lee and J. Mc Dermott,
Honolulu: Hui Hnai, 1979.
Hawaiian Dictionary, Hawaiian-English, English-Hawaiian, Pukui, M.
K., Elbert, S.H., University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 1971.
A Dictionary of the Hawaiian Language, Andrews, l. Charles E. Tuttle
and Company, Vermont, 1980.
To read the next article in the
Structure of Hawaiian Healing, click here.
ŠAllco Medical Enterprises, Inc. 2012