Summer is just around the corner, starting June 20 in the northern hemisphere. As always, the change of seasons presents us with opportunities for new beginnings. There's no better way to renew your outlook and your relationships than to let go of negative emotions and bad feelings you may be harboring toward yourself or others.
As we get ready for summer, whether it's a break from school, vacation travel or just time to slow down and enjoy being with family and friends, let's review what it means to be pono. Pono is the feeling of congruency and calmness, that sense that everything feels “right,” that we’ve all experienced at some point.
If you want to be pono, you must learn to forgive and let go of negative emotions. The forgiveness process I use and teach comes from ho`oponopono, which literally means to make something doubly pono. This is the indigenous Hawaiian way of forgiveness.
One of the most useful aspects of ho`oponopono is that it provides a proven process to move beyond the barriers that cause us to hold onto grudges against others or negative feelings about ourselves. One of the biggest barriers to forgiveness, I have found, is fear.
What do we fear about forgiveness? Some of my students comment that they fear the other person’s response when they ask for forgiveness or offer it. Others say that forgiving or asking for forgiveness makes them feel vulnerable or weak. And some confess that forgiveness opens up new and unknown aspects of their relationship with that person.
Fear is a negative emotion, and no good decisions come from fear or other negative emotions. Look at your personal experience, at the history of our country, or at the events of someone you know. When has anyone made a positive decision based on fear? There are times when we must respond quickly, and we’ve all had to make decisions in the midst of negative emotions. However, when you have time to make a decision from a positive feeling place, the result is always much better.
My suggestion is that you realize the same thing that you might tell a child: Fear of something is not necessarily a signal to avoid it. When you face your fear and move forward from a positive state of being, no matter what happens, you will have a positive outcome. You will learn more about yourself and what is possible in your life.
Once we have faced our fear and are ready to forgive, how do we (1) forgive, (2) release the negativity, and (3) learn from the event?
Let's review the steps of ho`oponopono:
Ask for and offer forgiveness
Understand that forgiveness takes two: In western thinking, when a wrong is done, the person who commits the offense is expected to say, “I’m sorry.” That form of apology is a one-sided statement that asks for no response from the one harmed. Huna understands that forgiveness is a dialogue, not a monologue. So the first step is to ask for forgiveness then for the other to give forgiveness.
I’ve had heated arguments with people that definitely required an apology at the end. But it’s like a meal that doesn’t last: Within a short time after all the apologies and making-up, either I or the other person brings it up again: “This is just like the last time….” So even though we were sorry, we weren’t done and complete.
Getting to pono is different. When you are pono with someone, nothing else needs to be said or done. You are right with one another.
To become truly pono with someone, you first ask for and offer forgiveness for anything you may have done. Though I’ve had situations when I didn’t really think I’d done anything wrong, I still say, “Please forgive me too” to complete the process. Saying, “I forgive you. Please forgive me too” brings the other person into the picture and gets them actively involved. Rather than merely “being sorry,” a two-way street of forgiveness forms.
Talk it out
After this, remember to allow the space for you and the other person to say everything that needs to be said. Unburden yourself and say it all. Express what needs to be expressed without hiding or holding back. When you have both shared your thoughts and feelings, you should experience a sense of “I have said it all, and I am done.” Once again, give and ask for forgiveness from one another.
Learn from it
Finally, move forward. Huna says that we must learn from all of our experiences in life. So once you are pono, ask yourself, “What do I need to learn from this event that will allow me to continue to be pono?” Learning is positive, about the self, and future based. Take this learning with you to help you change your behavior and thinking, make better decisions, and to create the relationships and situations you desire. Although difficult times may occur again, once you are pono, you won’t bring baggage from the past into new difficulties. You will begin new interactions from a place of being pono, and with the insight from the learning you received.
Forgiveness was required in ancient Hawai’i because the Hawaiians knew that holding onto negativity causes harm to the one who doesn’t forgive. Holding onto negativity, and even the memory of that negativity, prevents true forgiveness from taking root. We owe it to ourselves to experience true forgiveness—to become pono.
Matthew B. James, MA, Ph.D., is President of Kona University and its training and seminar division The Empowerment Partnership, where he serves as a master trainer of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), a practical behavioral technology for helping people achieve their desired results in life. His new book, The Foundation of Huna: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Times, details forgiveness and meditation techniques used in Hawaii for hundreds of years. He carries on the lineage of one of the last practicing kahuna of mental health and wellbeing. To reach Dr. James, please e-mail him at info@Huna.com.