This is a continuation of my post from July 10th, so if you haven’t read that one, you might want to start there.
When I first heard the concept of taking responsibility for absolutely everything in my life, it made me effin’ mad. Okay, so I could see taking responsibility for my own shit, which was hard enough because it meant I needed to stop whining about it and DO something to change what could be changed. And I could also see that taking responsibility for my ATTITUDE about everything in my life could be a healthy thing.
But what in the world did it mean to take responsibility for, say, terrorist attacks (a sensitive issue for me because I’m a survivor of a grenade attack by an early Al-Qaeda group that killed 2 of my friends and left me with shrapnel to this day). What did it mean to take responsibility for all the domestic violence of the world, the homeless and mentally ill guy panhandling at the intersection, the sleazy politicians, global warming, and on and on.
Take responsibility for things completely beyond my control? It just plain didn’t make any sense to me.
But I was first hearing about the concept in the context of learning about a man named Dr. Hew Len, a psychologist working in a facility for the criminally insane in Hawaii. It sounds like it was about as dark and dismal as it gets in that prison. I can’t remember the whole story (you can Google his name and ho’oponopono to find it) but he started doing something seemingly pointless with each of the inmates. He would take their case files, one by one, and say:
Please forgive me.
I love you.
As he did this, it apparently brought up a lot of his shit, because he said about that time, “I worked on myself.”
And the situation in the prison completely turned around.
So…what is it and how does it work? The technique of using these four phrases and taking responsibility for everying in your life is now called ‘ho’oponopono,’ although it sounds like that word actually refers to a bigger process of reconciliation in Hawaiian culture.
Let me walk you through an example of how I do the process, and what comes up for me.
I have a friend with a grown son who is schizophrenic. I’ve known him since he was a boy, and he’s very frequently on my heart. I ache for him, and for the people who love him.
But how do I TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for his disease? And why should I? I didn’t have anything to do with creating it!!!
Yet here’s what happens in my heart when I say those four phrases, from a place of willing openness to accept my responsibility for creating him and his disease in my life:
“Devon [not his real name], I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Please forgive me for any way, however subtle and sneaky and hidden from my conscious mind, that I may have wanted someone with a mental illness in my life so that I could feel safe in my own mental health. Please forgive me for any icky fascination or curiosity I have with mental illness that discounts you as a person. Please forgive me for being part of a society that doesn’t know how to help you. Please forgive me for every time I’ve had anything but love in my heart for anyone who shares your disease — the smelly homeless guy, the woman talking to herself on the corner. Please forgive me for all the ways I’ve scorned or discounted someone with your disease, or gotten a subtle ego-boost out of thinking I was better, healthier, more valuable than them. I’m so sorry, so very sorry I’m part of a culture that isn’t conscious enough to help you become the shaman or priest you’re probably meant to be. Thank you for all you’re teaching me — to love even the most complicated people in my life. Thank you for your sweetness and your seeking soul. I love you. I love you.”
Even as I typed that paragraph, it became a prayer, an outpouring of my energy toward him and every other mentally ill person who has walked their tortured path through life.
Has Devon become mentally healthier because I’ve been speaking these four phrases over him regularly? No, not in any outwardly obvious way. But I’ve taken responsibility by holding him in my heart, by sending him as much love and healing energy as I know how to send, and by holding his family in my heart. And it’s made me hold many other people with mental illnesses in my heart too.
But you didn’t FIX anything, you say.
I don’t have an answer for that. But I challenge you to try saying these four phrases to all the situations and people that are causing you pain, and just see what happens. You may experience yourself becoming empowered in some magical way, and you may experience something change outwardly.
And for those of you whose hearts are aching with the pain of things that ‘happened to you,’ please know that I’m holding you in my heart right now. I’m sorry — sorry for the pain in your life. Please forgive me for being part of the whole of humanity that is mostly unconscious. Please forgive me for my shadow parts, and the ways that my shadow parts have injured you. Thank you. Thank you for being my teacher. Thank you for bearing your particular pain right now, because it caused me in this moment to seek to be gentler toward you and everyone. I love you. I love you. I love you.
Want to talk about this more? Join me in my Facebook group, How to Create a Magical Life.