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Alfred Adler, cofounder of the psychoanalytic movement, went so far as to say that a patient suffering from depression could get well within two weeks if he or she consistently tries to think of ways to make someone else feel better.
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The Art of Healing through Conscious Loving
As a physician and classically trained scientist, I have become increasingly aware that pharmaceuticals and other allopathic therapies often treat only the symptoms of disease. Antibiotics are undoubtedly vital in the treatment of an infection, and surgical procedures can save the lives of accident victims or treat life-threatening conditions. But I believe many forms of dis-ease are triggered by our thoughts and emotions. In my search for ways to empower my patients to become more conscious of the part they play in their own healing, I have explored many methods and modalities, including faith healing, Reiki, West Indian Obeah, Moroccan folk medicine, and Korean Su Jok acupuncture.
The indigenous wisdom of shamanism – in particular the Hawaiian process of Ho'oponopono – has proven to be an especially powerful tool. Ho’oponopono means “to make perfect.” It is an ancient Hawaiian practice of forgiveness and reconciliation traditionally performed by a kahuna lapa’au, a Hawaiian Huna priest, but anyone can perform the modern variation outlined below. Special recognition for making this method popular belongs to kahuna lapa’au Morrnah Simeona, who has been honored as “a living treasure of Hawaii.” Over the years, she has taught the Ho’oponopono method throughout the United States, Asia, and Europe.
- I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you. These four sentences can override and stop the compulsive flow of unwanted or negative thoughts and, according to the Hawaiian Huna teaching, clear away even old negative memories and programming.
- This method is highly effective and practical because it is simple and can be done anywhere at anytime.
- People can easily use these sentences whenever they catch themselves brooding or thinking incessantly about something negative.
- The constant process of Ho’oponopono seems to bring about what Carl Jung would have called positive synchronicities: beneficial coincidences that seem to arise everywhere.
Shamanism is a heterogeneous term which commonly refers to a range of beliefs and practices regarding communication with the spiritual world. In promoting the practice of Ho’oponopono – what I consider a simplified shamanistic approach – I am not encouraging my clients to become shamanistic healers, for this would presuppose extensive training and often a special aptitude. To adopt a shamanistic attitude doesn’t make one a shaman any more than watching an operation makes one a surgeon. Shamans are seen as intermediaries between the human and the spiritual worlds. They are said to “cure an illness by mending the soul.” Even without the traditional shamanistic use of music, songs, and ritual objects, however, we all have the potential to heal ourselves, each other, and probably a good portion of the planet. Viewed in this light, anyone can strive to become an “unofficial healer.”
To that end, I encourage my patients to develop a sense that virtually everything is consciousness, not dead matter or only energy. This approach has led many of them to experience a new interconnectedness with the world around them, which in turn eliminates an often chronic feeling of loneliness and lack or the craving for love (negative emotions that often lead to depression, addiction, and disease). I also encourage my patients to become lovers of everything, to love, love, love, as Dr. Hew Len did when he healed a ward of mentally ill people at the Hawaii State Hospital with Ho’oponopono.
The Hawaii State Hospital once had a special department for the criminally insane – “a prison within the hospital.” This ward, occupied by severely mentally ill patients, murderers, and rapists, had a disastrous reputation for many years. Although many patients were handcuffed, violent assaults still occurred on almost a daily basis. Because of the extremely stressful and unpleasant conditions, many doctors and nurses did not report for work or simply quit their job, causing severe staff shortages.
In 1983, Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len, a student of Morrnah Simeona, accepted the position of psychologist in this hospital. Soon after, the staff became curious about this odd psychologist who kept reading the patients’ files without ever talking to the patients. Dr. Hew Len explained that he was treating the patients by treating himself with the incessant practice of Ho’oponopono. He believed that everything that was wrong in the outside world – including the ward’s patients – only proved that there was something wrong within himself. So he repeatedly used the four key sentences (I am sorry; please forgive me; thank you; I love you) to remedy what appeared to be wrong within himself. The staff, of course, was skeptical, but three years later, all of the ward’s patients who were still present had been cured. This borders on the miraculous! From an allopathic point of view, most of these patients were afflicted with virtually incurable mental diseases.
Overcoming the Obstacles
To practice this kind of love is a challenge; our rational minds tell us that such customs are esoteric, nonscientific, and therefore useless. We are vulnerable to doubt. Indeed, in my general practice, I often encounter the widespread human problem of the “weaker self.” The weaker self usually manifests in the guise of excuses and dogmas:
- I don’t believe in (any) method
- I’ve tried everything, and nothing seems to work
- I’m too lazy
- I’m too tired
- Life is already complicated enough
- It is my fate to suffer
- Somebody’s got to heal me
The list is long, and there is no method or technique simple enough to avoid the incredible internal resistance most people seem to have by birth. Many people come to a healer or a physician expecting the healer to take on the entire responsibility for their recovery. As soon as a patient is expected to assume self-responsibility, the weaker self usually strikes, and an effective kind of self-sabotage kicks in. Consequently, the disease remains and often becomes chronic.
On another, mostly subconscious level, people try to avoid the pressure of “must,” as in “I must take time to use that method to get well, but I just don’t have the time.” Most modern lives and agendas are already overfilled with musts, chores, tasks, and obligations. No wonder the weaker self finds excuse after excuse not to put any method or approach into action.
I also can’t stress enough how important it is to warn my patients of the ego’s tricks when I tell them about this ancient practice. The ego – the imp that probably dwells in our brain’s left hemisphere – will often suggest that such a practice or belief is childish or that it’s much too simple to produce any radical change. When it comes to using specialized healing methods such as EFT, meditation, visualization, positive affirmations, self-hypnosis, or changing one’s diet, the ego often wins by putting all kinds of excuses or obstructive thoughts in our minds.
Another important ego-based obstruction is prejudice. If someone hears about “that shamanistic stuff” over dinner, for example, he or she might sneer and dismiss it as “so much esoteric mumbo-jumbo.” It is wise to be critical about anything new in our life; our brain is programmed to assess whether something is dangerous or good for us. But a critical assessment should include a portion of candor and the courage to try something new, even if it’s totally out of sync with our present ideology (and as long as it clearly isn’t dangerous to us). The bestselling Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho is right when he says that in life we sometimes need to add “a pinch of craziness.”
Practice Equals Transformation
Despite the obstacles, I was impressed when many of my patients readily tried Ho’oponopono in their daily lives. They practiced loving everything and everyone as much as possible, without reserving a special time for the practice. They learned to fill the dead zones of everyday life, such as waiting for the bus, driving a car, standing in line, and so on, with thoughts of love, respect, and appreciation.
According to these patients, a general sense of well-being often ensued after only a few days of practice. They reported that over time their lives became richer, more colorful, and more rewarding. Many feel liberated from the guilt, fear, and self-condemnation that caused their emotional and physical dis-ease. Furthermore, they found that all of a sudden – as if by chance – their lives felt smoother. Whereas they usually encountered resistance and inconvenience, they now experience beneficial coincidences or providence – those synchronicities Jung spoke of. As the saying goes, “The fragrance always stays in the hand that gives the rose.”
The simple repetition of I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you, and I love you seems so natural; it’s as though a truth that’s always been within us has been rediscovered. It reminds me of a sacred Hindu tale. Long ago, all humans were Gods, but the people misused their divinity. Brahma, the Chief-God, decided to withdraw humankind’s divine power and hide it in a place where it could not be found. After much deliberation with the high counsel, which offered many suggestions, Brahma decided the best place to hide humanity’s divinity would be where people were least likely to look: deep within themselves.
Some of my patients who tried Ho’oponopono did find it hard to feel love for everything, no matter how hard they tried. This was especially true of depressed clients, who found it challenging to feel any positive emotions at all. I encouraged them instead to use thoughts and words, to say or think, “I love you.” Why thoughts and words? First of all, we can consciously control what we think and say, whereas it’s much harder to control our feelings. Secondly, remember as children how we learned about the magical power of words like “abracadabra” and “hocus-pocus”? Growing up we learned that such beliefs were children’s fantasies, nothing more than wishful thinking. But are they really? In modern times, when so many people are aware of quantum physics and its discovery that everything is energy, we should consider this: If millions of people think or say a word, such as “love,” and associate that word with a special feeling, and if we remember that everything is energy and thus interconnected, shouldn’t it be evident that even thoughts and words are filled with a special vibration, a special energy?
Fundamental Cosmic Laws
An essential element of the shamanistic approach (whether feeling love for everything, acknowledging that everything is consciousness, experiencing respect, gratitude, and forgiveness as often as possible) is the principle that by practicing it, we put some of the most fundamental energetic, cosmic, and spiritual principles into action. Millions of people are aware of these principles but never get around to practicing them! What is the value in reading a hundred books about love without ever experiencing the feeling? I believe the true problem is not a lack of knowledge or even willingness but the ego’s influence and a cultural zeitgeist that favors skepticism over the risk of looking or feeling silly. And yet even this rebellious ego is not an enemy but a signpost. Whatever it’s pointing to, we just need to choose the opposite direction.
The shamanistic approach reminds us of another ancient cosmic principle: love is the only thing that is multiplied when shared. Physician, psychotherapist, and cofounder of the psychoanalytic movement Alfred Adler went so far as to say that a patient suffering from depression could get well within two weeks if he or she consistently tries to think of ways to make someone else feel better. As always, we must sow before the reaping, and actions speak louder than words.
Consider the profound message in the Hindu legend of Brahma – that our divinity is hidden deep within us – and it becomes easier to believe that practicing the principle of love will result in the rediscovery of that divinity. I believe that a return to the practice of ancient rituals and shamanic wisdom, using simple techniques, can transform the lives of modern people.