Hoʻoponopono and Forgiveness

Hoʻoponopono (ho-o-pono-pono) is an ancient Hawaiian practice of reconciliation and forgiveness. Similar forgiveness practices were performed on islands throughout the South Pacific, including Samoa, Tahiti and New Zealand. Traditionally hoʻoponopono is practiced by healing priests or kahuna lapaʻau among family members of a person who is physically ill. Modern versions are performed within the family by a family elder, or by the individual alone.

“Hoʻoponopono” is defined in the Hawaiian Dictionary as “mental cleansing: family conferences in which relationships were set right through prayer, discussion, confession, repentance, and mutual restitution and forgiveness.” Literally, hoʻo is the equivalent to the English “to”. It creates a verb from the noun pono, which is defined as “goodness, uprightness, morality, moral qualities, correct or proper procedure, excellence, well-being, prosperity, welfare, benefit, true condition or nature, duty; moral, fitting, proper, righteous, right, upright, just, virtuous, fair, beneficial, successful, in perfect order, accurate, correct, eased, relieved; should, ought, must, necessary.”

Ponopono is defined as “to put to rights; to put in order or shape, correct, revise, adjust, amend, regulate, arrange, rectify, tidy up, make orderly or neat.”


  • Acknowledge—own your feelings.
  • Invoke/invite the Presence into the moment.
  • Offer your feelings, and the thoughts behind your feelings to the Presence.
  • Acknowledge yourself for being willing to forgive & Know you are on Holy Ground.


  • Making up a story about the other person that gets them “off the hook”.
  • Ask yourself if there ever was a time you could have been perceived as acting in a similar way and would you have wanted to be forgiven and understood in that moment?
  • Offer all your thoughts and feelings to the Presence.
  • Bless and thank the other.
  • Ask for your blessing & affirm you are receiving it.
  • Breathe and just let it go.

The Process Explained

Acknowledge—Own your feelings.

We are conditioned to avoid our upsets in the hope that they will go away. But how well has that strategy worked for us? Not very well. It is the one response guaranteed to make sure our upset sticks around to visit us again whenever a similar situation arises. Then we are not only reacting to the current event but we are triggering all the old similar events to make their presence known. The next time something triggers an upset, ask yourself, “Is my reaction appropriate to what’s in front of me or is there something else here?” I’m pretty confident you will recall a similar situation in the past and realize that it’s contributing to the level of emotion you’re experiencing in the current situation.

The beautiful thing about forgiving that which is in front of us in the moment is not only will we release and transform our feelings about the current trigger to our upset but all that old stuff will start to clear up as well.

So let’s try something else. Let’s try acknowledging how we are feeling. Let’s say, I feel angry right now, or sad or embarrassed or disappointed. Whatever. Acknowledging our feelings is the first step to releasing them. By acknowledging the feelings we have, we take a little of our special relationship with our feelings out of the equation. That makes them easier to let go of.

Now that we acknowledge our feelings, we can begin to own them. If someone does something which triggers the response, who is the one who is responding? Who is the one with the uncomfortable feeling? And where is that feeling? We experience it as being in our bodies. Like keeping our material possessions locked inside the house, we keep our unacknowledged and unresolved feelings in the body. But we don’t know half the stuff we have in there.

Instead of just having it, let’s own it. Instead of just labeling it, let’s describe it. Instead of saying, for example “I’m angry” let’s try “I’ve got this nine volt charge floating inside my head and it’s hot and red and buzzing”. Often this level of intimacy with our so called “negative emotions” is enough to make them fly the coop on their own.

Another benefit of owning your feelings is that they no longer own you. By saying, “I have this anger”. (Or whatever the emotion is.) You now own it. One of the conditions implied in owning something is we can do whatever we want with it. When our emotions own us they pretty much tell us what to do. When we own our emotions we assume power over them and can decide how we will act and be for ourselves. Which state is the most powerful? Which state is more empowering?

Invoke/Invite the Presence into the moment.

Primitive man thought that which we call God needed to be pleased and cajoled or called down from some high place through ritual or pleading. What we call Invocation was the part of religious ritual designed to call down to our earthly experience a distant or reluctant deity. Once we got its attention then we could ask it to do something for us that we felt powerless to do ourselves; to have a successful hunt, end famine or drought, or smite enemies on our behalf.

Though God may seem distant, most of us no longer believe in an entity that lives on a rumbling mountain top or on a cloud in the sky. So what we call Invocation now means giving our attention to a higher level of being which is always here. We are inviting ourselves to experience that which is always available to us.

In an effort to make the Forgiveness In The Moment process available to all who come upon it, the term “The Presence” is used to signify God, however you define that to be. Some might call it Father, Mother or Lord. Or we may refer to it as the Holy Spirit or the Higher Self, the Light Within or the Observer or our Higher Power or the Universe or Source. What ever we call it, It is available to us right now. We may think it is difficult to connect with, but really all we need do is just give the idea of it our attention. And when we give our attention to it, it can be experienced and felt.

By inviting “The Presence” we are calling on something wiser and stronger than us, but which also is a part of us, and we a part of it, to bear witness. The Presence empowers us, with It’s power, to confront our old habitual way of thinking and feeling and reacting.

Offer your feelings, and the thoughts behind the feelings, to the Presence.

Once we’ve become truly aware of our feelings we begin to be aware of the level of thinking which caused those feelings. And the thoughts we have about others generally point to thoughts we have about ourselves. As an example, suppose we have a fight with a spouse or lover. If we feel unloved in the moment, and are hurt or angry or broken hearted, the thoughts we have might be, “They are unlovable” or “They are really incapable of love”. If we are honest with ourselves we realize that we also hold thoughts about ourselves that are very similar. Thoughts like “I am unlovable” or “I am incapable of love” or “I will never feel loved”.

Though we may have had experiences which seemed to bear them out, these thoughts are not true. Once these thoughts are exposed to the light of day and we realize they are not the truth about us, they can be exposed for the frauds they are. Once frauds are exposed they rarely stick around. If they do, when they pop up their heads again, we can now say “Hey! There’s that fraud” and it runs away again. Its visits will be more infrequent until they stop forever.

So now we turn these thoughts we have discovered, about others and ourselves, and the feelings they provoke, over to that Presence we have given our awareness to. The level of thinking and being that brought us to the upsetting experience we may be having is not the level of thinking and being which will release and transform it. It’s as if The Presence is there with an open heart and open hands to receive these thoughts and feelings. It’s not as if the Presence waves a magic wand and “Shazam” they disappear.

That which knows the deepest truth about you is incapable of knowing the lie about you. The higher level of being also knows what to do with it. Imagine that the Presence is ready willing and able to assist you in having a more peaceful inner life. Allow yourself to feel more of its infinite power around and within you and your awareness of It will continue to grow.

The earth will not shake, neither will lightning bolt out of the sky. But your sense of calm and emotional equilibrium will return. Used consistently over time this sense of calm and equilibrium will grow and deepen.

Acknowledge yourself for being willing to forgive & Know you are on Holy Ground.

By choosing to forgive in the moment you are making a powerful choice. Acknowledge yourself for stepping out of the dominant paradigm of blaming and holding on to limiting thoughts and debilitating feelings. When we hold on to these thoughts and feelings they can cause us real harm. When we dump our upset on our fellow beings we cause harm to others. This “negative vibe” then travels out in concentric circles beyond our comprehension. If you are upset and you dump your upset on someone nearby, you may trigger their upset which they take with them and trigger upset in others, and on and on.

But by saying, “In this moment I will try another way. I choose to forgive”, you are choosing to stop the expanding levels of harm and you are taking into the world an expanding sense of peace. By choosing to forgive in the moment not only do you restore peace within yourself but you bring into the world a gentle smile on your face and in your heart which will inspire other faces and hearts to smile. In other words, when you make the choice to forgive, things start shifting in your world and when they shift in your world they start to shift in the whole wide world.

Because of the choice to forgive you are standing on Holy Ground. What could be Holier than choosing Love, Peace and Joy. And by choosing Love, Peace and Joy you are also affirming your Wholeness, your oneness with that we call the Presence.




If you practice the Forgiveness in the Moment Process, a change of state should come fairly quickly. Sometimes I have the thought “Oh, it isn’t working this time”, and go back to the activity at hand. Some time will pass and I will notice that the issue resolved itself while I wasn’t looking. And now there are times when I get upset that I just have to think,” I am willing to forgive this”,  and a smile comes to my face almost immediately. If you’ve done the process and experience only a little shift try one of the following suggestions.

Make up a story about the other person that gets them off the hook.

If the thoughts we have about ourselves are not true we are only making up a story about ourselves. We become attached to these inner narratives even when they serve only to diminish ourselves. If we are not 100 percent clear about what motivates us to behave reactively how can we be so certain about the thoughts and intentions of others. Rarely do we know all the facts about why someone is acting in a hurtful way. They are as attached to their inner stories as we are to ours. What are the stories they tell about themselves? They are very similar to the stories we tell about ourselves. When we change the story that gets them off the hook, it gets us off the hook.

We may not want to give up that story we tell ourselves, about them and ourselves, but until we do we will not be happy. We can choose to either be right or be happy. And though the person we are upset with may have acted in a way that triggered our negative feelings, what would happen if we made up a story about them that gets them off the hook. The inner narrative that fuels our upset gets short circuited.

None of this means we have to condone the behavior. Forgiveness doesn’t mean condoning. It is about restoring ourselves to peace and thereby offering peace to the world.

Ask yourself if there ever was a time you could have been perceived as acting in a similar way and would you have wanted to have been forgiven and understood in that moment?

Have you ever lost your patience? Of course you have. Have you ever lost your patience in public? Most likely. At some time in our lives we all do. What did we want in that moment?

We either wanted to scream and yell, or strike out, or to run out of the building and crawl in some hole and die and pull the dirt in after us. Has someone lost their patience with you in a public space? What did you want to do? You probably had a similar reaction. On both sides of this scenario people are feeling embarrassed, angry, ashamed and/or guilty. What would we really like for ourselves in this moment? We would really like someone to understand us. We would really like to feel forgiven. So offer it, if only in your mind and heart. We all want to feel Grace in our lives and the surest way to have it is to give it.

This is not to say you have to act as a doormat or take any kind of abuse. The next time something or someone really gets your goat and you do “The Process” but you still feel a little put, out offer some Grace and then see if that doesn’t give you a Grace-filled experience.

Offer all your thoughts and feelings to the Presence.

Sometimes we are so off center we can’t pinpoint what’s upsetting us. Acknowledge you are in that state. Then offer it all up to The Presence. Imagine you can take all your frantic feelings and jumbled thoughts, put them in your hands and just lift them up to The Presence.

Feel it taking all this stuff and creating order out of it. Keep breathing. Know you will come through this because you will.

Most traditions call this surrender. That doesn’t mean giving up (like lying down and curling up into the fetal position). It means you are giving it up to a higher organizing power. Even if you don’t believe in the Deity you have to admit that some part of your brain is more brilliant than the part you use every day and definitely more brilliant than the part that got you in this state. Also by surrendering you signify to the Universe that you are no longer willing to participate in the crazy war you’ve been raging against the world and against yourself. Instead of going unconscious start cleaning house, metaphorically and literally, and preparing for the reinforcements that are on their way.

Bless and thank the other.

If someone or something has upset you and as result you engaged in forgiveness and found that the peace and power within you is larger and stronger than you ever knew, has anything bad happened? Suppose in forgiving you uncover a thought you’ve carried for years that has caused more harm than anything anyone else has done to you, wouldn’t you be thankful it has finally been revealed so the thought can be corrected as well as all of its effects. When we are given an opportunity to forgive we are given a marvelous gift.  Bless them. Thank them. This is another way to give the grace we want to receive.

Ask for your blessing & affirm you are receiving it.

We do not live in a universe whose laws are based on reward and punishment. We do live in a universe where one of the laws is the law of reciprocity, meaning what we give out we get in return. There’s a fine Irish blessing that expresses this idea perfectly. “May you receive a hundred fold what you wish for me.”

The Universe does not reward you for forgiving; but it really feels like it does. That’s the first blessing right there. And if you stop the cycle of victimization and have faith in the power of love and the possibility of peace then that is what you are going to get. Sometimes the blessing seems to come out of left field but if you had Gods perspective, where time is meaningless, you would see the relationship. Ask the Presence for your blessing and know you are going to receive it.


Breathe and just let it go.


Make sure you are breathing. So often when we’re upset we stop breathing correctly. Give your attention to your breathing rather than your upset. Let it become slower and steadier. Imagine you are breathing in cool clear mountain air as if from the soles of your feet. Imagine this breath is transforming any remaining upset. As you exhale imagine you are letting it all go. Do this nine times. If later on you feel your feelings return run through the process again and take nine more breaths and let it go.

The Forgiveness In The Moment Process is designed to be elegant, meaning requiring a minimum of movement and effort to accomplish a specific, desired outcome. If after attempting all of the steps outlined above you are still experiencing upset I strongly urge you to go to our “Going Further” section of this webpage. Use the links provided to investigate the websites, writings and materials of others who are teaching forgiveness. Find one who speaks to you right now and begin to study their contributions. Incorporate their processes into your life and keep using the “The Forgiveness In The Moment Process” throughout the day. Consistency is a key to any spiritual practice.

The more you choose to forgive the more peaceful and powerful you will become. That is an eternal truth which you are asked to now experience for your self.


About lantanagurl

Farmstress, Adventuress, Spiritual Junkie, Community Builder, Social Justice Activist, Momma and Grandmomma :)
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