Self love. A crucial part of finding our way back to our healthiest and most balanced self. Not a woo-woo term that has been coined by the new-age spiritual community, but an essential aspect of staying healthy, and be the best possible version of ourselves we can be.
Introducing Ho’oponopono. It’s a Hawaiian practice of reconciliation (making right), mental cleansing, and forgiveness. It translates literally to ‘correction’. Traditionally, it was practiced by Indigenous Hawaiian healers, but in recent years, the practice has made its way to the self-development spheres. In many Polynesian cultures, it is believed that a person’s errors caused illness, in the sense that it angered the Gods, which had its repercussions. This isn’t so far removed from how Ayurveda sees the cause of disease, but rather than holding the Gods responsible, it gives US full responsibility. It postulates that the failure of intelligence is the main cause of disease.
To put that a bit differently, Ayurveda says the development of disease is caused by ignoring our inner wisdom. When we use the body and external senses for pursuing selfish pleasure, rather than considering its organic nature and needs, we risk losing balance and developing disease. For example, staying up too late because we can’t stop scrolling through our social feeds (chasing after those sweet dopamine hits = external pleasure), results in a bad night’s sleep, which impairs our immune functioning. Alternatively, indulging in an uncontrollable desire for sweet and greasy foods deviates from what we know is good for us, and will inevitable have a toll on the body.
Back to the traditional practice. In the islands of Vanuatu in the South Pacific, people believe that illness is caused by sexual misconduct or anger –if you are angry for a few days, sickness will come. Again, a parellel is found in Ayurveda that also says disease can stem from disturbance of the mind. This is why there is such a huge focus on mind clearing practices like meditation. The Vanuatu people believe that secrecy gives power to illness, so when the error is confessed, it no longer has power over the person and together with apology, harmony can be restored.
Besides healing from disease, the Hawaiian Ho’oponopono ritual was also used to restore harmony amongst family members after fights or disagreements. The most senior member of the family would hold a ceremony to correct, restore and maintain good relationships among family members and with their Gods by getting to the source of the problem. Throughout the ceremony, confession, repentance (expressing regret) and forgiveness takes place, which allows everyone to release the past.
In 1976, Morrnah Simeona (a healing priest) adapted the ho’oponopono of family mutual forgiveness to the social realities of the modern age. She was the one to extend the ritual to problem solving processes outside the family spheres as well as psycho-spiritual self-help method. The purpose of her version is mainly “to release unhappy, negative experiences in past reincarnations, and to resolve and remove traumas from the ‘memory banks’.” (The idea of karma was brought from her philosophical studies about India, and isn’t necessarily a Hawaiian belief). Her teachings say that altruistic prayers like ho’oponopono reach the Divine plane or Cosmos because of their high vibrations, which then transforms the painful part of the memory of the wrong actions to ‘pure light’. Via this transmutation in the mind, the problems lose their energy for physical manifestation and healing begins.
It wasn’t until 1992, after Simeona’s death, that one of her former students Ihaleakala Hew Len, co-authored a book with Joe Vitale called Zero Limits, where he refers to ho’oponopono as a way to reach the ‘zero state’, where we have no limits, no memories and no identity. It’s a subject on its own, but to reach this state, he includes the mantra:
“I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.”
I might not even need to tell you how to use it in your own self-love practice. We are our own worst critics, and we're capable of saying the most horrid things to ourselves: "you're worthless", "you can't do this", "you look disgusting" – things we would NEVER say to a child version of ourselves, so why do it now? I certainly remember those days where I’d stand in front of a mirror and pick apart every little thing I hated about myself: my awful skin, my frizzy hair, my small eyes, and jiggly arms. But I’ve come a long way, and practices like this have helped me get to a state of full acceptance and love. Even during my 10 kg weight gain 2 years ago, I don’t recall a single moment where I reverted back to the self-hating days. I would hold my soft belly in both hands and say “I love you, I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you.” All you need to do with this practice is repeat it until you believe it.