Hoʻoponopono, the Forgiveness and Releasing Ritual
I have been warned not to speak of this, not to write of this. Yet, I feel compelled to capture a smidgen of beauty in what has been a time of great pain and jagged edges.
Some people think of the Ho’oponopono ritual as some kind of cute little forgiveness meditation to make things better with your mate or siblings. I was taught differently. Yes, it’s about forgiveness and healing, but not in a light and fluffy sort of way. It is a releasing ritual, and not just releasing of pain, love turned to hate, wrongs done to each other. It is a goodbye ritual in every case for me. A severing of bonds, and for an empath like me, severing a deep bond is like slicing up my own self.
I don’t do the Ho’oponopono ritual lightly. I do it only when I absolutely must, for my own sanity, let go of someone.
I dislike funerals, so I usually end up sometime after the funeral, sitting in my backyard next to a small bonfire, within my own cast circle, attended by loving forces…and quietly murmuring the words of the Ho’oponopono. I don’t really remember my dad’s funeral, but I remember my solitary ritual on my brick patio, the cold bricks under my feet on a chilly December night while the kids were warm inside. Just me, a small fire in the chiminea, and…my dad while I poured out all the reasons I both loved and hated him and then…just let go.
So while the Ho’oponopono is my version of a private funeral, it’s also my way of moving forward from a relationship that is too full of pain to dig my way out of otherwise. I’ve released long-lost friends, an ex-husband, several boyfriends, and even a few co-workers. One or two have come back into my life, in a cleaner and purer way, without all the baggage of our previous relationship. Most? Good riddance.
But here I am, still smelling of Dragon’s blood incense, smoke still in my hair, and awed by yet another Ho’oponopono evening by a raging fire that managed to explode the fire pit. I’m awed by the visual impressions, by the earth-shaking sobs, by the insights that come out of the air around me, by the beauty and the undeniable honoring of the passing of a relationship.
I didn’t mean to honor it. Honestly I didn’t. I just wanted the pain to stop. But then the beauty became clear to me.
What does it take to turn deep love to hate? I’ll draw you a map…and then find myself there one day unexpectedly. What are my deepest fears? The other person’s deepest fears? Watch us co-create our current reality by manifesting those fears for each other rather than our wildest dreams and highest hopes.
Out of nowhere in the midst of the Ho’oponopono, I get the whole download, understand everything, finally. I’m busy tending the fire that is, without warning, spewing over the edge of the fire pit, popping like fire crackers into the nearby blanket I’ve set aside to stave off any chill while I sit in the grass and speak my heart to the flame. I’ve not even started the ritual when understanding washes over me. It’s like a voice asking, “What was it about this relationship that you were most afraid of?” and then answering me, “Of course, this is where you are! And it took both of you to get here, to turn love to hate.”
I’m a powerful manifester, I remind myself. Of course. Of course. And so is he. Of course.
There is a strong element of the Ho’oponopono that is about forgiveness as part of the releasing. You cannot truly release a bond if you still have your claws in them, unable to forgive and heal yourself. Some follow the ritual by stating:
Please forgive me
I love you
I could not get through even repeating the words without dissolving into sobs that disturbed the neighbors’ dog. How two people who love each other can be so wounded by each other’s betrayals that all they can do is stab each other in the heart repeatedly is beyond me, but it happens, and–I think–all too frequently.
When I do the Ho’oponopono ritual, I offer up a specifically worded apology, asking for forgiveness for whatever I’ve done or whatever is perceived that I’ve done. It doesn’t matter if I did or not or even why. What matters is how the other person feels and the pain they believe I have caused them. It is always a genuine apology or it is not part of the ritual, and if it is not part of the ritual, then the ritual is not done. I then forgive them for whatever they have done to me, or at least what I perceive that they’ve done to me. It doesn’t matter if they think they’ve betrayed me or not–it is my forgiveness of whatever acts that sets me free of them, keeps me from carrying that poison inside. Hate is a heavy burden.
But if there is one thing that always amazes me about this ritual, it is the way I envision the ties that bind me to the other person and that bind that person to me. The cords. The attachments. This part of the ritual never ceases to amaze me.
Toward the end of the ritual, after forgiveness has been given and granted–the other person isn’t physically present but the bond is always so deep that I can feel a Higher Self before me–comes the part where the attachments are severed. They can be ropes, chains, cords, whatever. That’s what I was taught to look for the first times I performed the rit.
Only…the nature of the relationship I’m severing becomes very clear to me through these “cords” and the form they take. With my dad, a farmer, the cords of attachment he’d wrapped around me were made of spiderwebs, barbed wire, and hay baling twine. With a controlling friend I was desperate to get away from, the instruments of attachment were her own intestines. With another friend, it was her arms. One big surprise was with my ex-husband’s ritual, post-divorce. I had severed the gold chains he attached to me when I realized that I had an attachment to him–a bullwhip wrapped around his neck. I hadn’t realized that I’d been wanting to punish him and that resentment was still holding me to him.
Etheric threads of attachment can come back. Sometimes, I have to perform the rit a second time to free myself, as happened with an ex-inlaw. Sometimes they come back naturally, after healing has occurred. But their form is always the most telling about the relationship, and some forms are quite beautiful.
I wasn’t sure what form the attachments would have this time. I braced myself and waited to see what form they took in my rapidly changing vision as I stared into the rolling flames. They weren’t cords at all. Not this time. And when I saw what it was, I didn’t even know where to begin slicing through.
Rather than wild tangles of cords, there was golden, translucent light between us like taffy from head to toe. It emanated from each of us and blurred together. I couldn’t tell where one began and the other ended. There was no end, no beginning, just a solid blur that stretched as we stepped away and drew together as we came closer. But the color and consistency never changed. I started to sever at the top of our heads but no, that wasn’t right. The soles of our feet? No. I finally brought an athame down the midpoint between us and cut through the light.
The light withered for each of us, retreating to the person to which it was still attached. But the light was the same light that I normally use to patch the holes left by severed cords, and the light retreated to each of us, withering as it did. I looked at him, without that light, and saw a good third of his etheric body gone, empty and pock-marked. And I knew that a third of my own etheric body had faded away as well. I brought in light to patch the holes and make us each whole again, but it was the same light that had been our bond.
That was the biggest surprise, that beauty of the bonds between us. I’ve never experienced anything like that with this ritual. It’s something I can hold onto in the future–not the intense need for both of us to return the hurt, to offer up betrayal for betrayal, destroying dream for dream. Not that. Instead, I can remember that even in ritually releasing the bond, the bond itself was exquisite. And for that….
Please forgive me.
I love you.