Exploring the Traditional Hawaiian Therapy of Ho’oponopono

Addiction Recovery Publishing Addiction Recovery September 13, 2023

Exploring the Traditional Hawaiian Therapy of Ho'oponopono

Dr. Hew Len, a clinical psychiatrist and contemporary component of the therapy of Ho’oponopono, once said that “The purpose of life is to be restored back to Love, moment to moment. To fulfill this purpose, the individual must acknowledge that he is 100% responsible for creating his life the way it is. He must come to see that it is his thoughts that create his life the way it is from moment to moment.” This concept of “restoration” is a big reason why Ho’oponopono is such an effective tool for treating issues of addiction and mental health because the ultimate goal of recovery is to be wholly restored and heal at the cellular level.

Healing at the Cellular Level on the Hamakua Coast

Here on the Hamakua Coast on the Big Island, the culture of Hawaii runs deep. The epic landscapes and ocean offerings are reminders of the ancestors that cultivated this beautiful setting. This is why these ancestors must be honored because, in doing so, we honor both the land and ourselves. Acknowledgment of those that came before us on the Hamakua Coast is very important to us at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab.

One of the ways we honor our home is by practicing the cultural community practice of Ho’oponopono and integrating it into our comprehensive style of recovery. Ho’opononpono is an ancient Hawaiian practice that was originally used between families or communities to resolve their conflicts in order to restore balance, resolve issues, and reconcile differences.

Now adapted to recovery, the therapy of Ho’opononpono utilizes the same principles to help individuals better understand their core root issues and ultimately change the behaviors associated with them. It is also an exceptionally therapeutic practice that can be utilized long after leaving the treatment center. However, there is no better place to begin a practice of Ho’oponopono than on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Why Environment Matters in Recovery

There is little doubt that one’s environment greatly affects their mood and well-being. So, why not pick the most serene environment possible? That is why we here at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab believe that the location of our 30-acre property has healing powers of its own.

With Spencer Beach, Carlsmith, and Richardson Beach mere minutes from our recovery center doors, the majestic Kilauea Volcano towering just beyond us in the distance, and the sounds of the Pacific Ocean and Rainbow and Akaka Falls in the background, the Hamakua Coast is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Being enveloped in this beauty also makes it an ideal place to practice the therapy of Ho’oponopono and recover. But this is not the only therapy elevated by Hawaii’s epic landscape. The Hamakua Coast also makes for some of the most superior nature immersion therapy.

Utilizing Nature Immersion Therapy and the Therapy of Ho’oponopono

A big part of Ho’oponopono is cultivating self-awareness; sometimes, it takes outside energy to bring that self-awareness out from within. This is what nature immersion therapy on the Hamakua Coast can offer.

Many people today have lost touch with the natural offerings of the world around them. This is not unique, nor is it their fault. It is merely the reality of living in the 21st Century. The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health reports that “Worldwide, countries are gradually losing their ecosystems… [and] more than half of the world’s population has lived in an urban environment since 2014, and this is expected to increase to 65% by 2030. Along with the progression of urbanization, there has been an increasing amount of urban land and a decrease in forested habitats.”

This lack of connection to the natural world can cause real-time negative effects on one’s emotional well-being. Now, this is particularly true when this lack of connection is combined with issues of mental health or addiction. Nature immersion therapy can counter these negative effects and bring about the rich levels of restoration that are also central to the therapy of Ho’oponopono. This is nature meets culture meets healing on the cellular level.

The Therapy of Ho’oponopono: Why Culture Matters in Recovery

Culture can be critical when it comes to recovery. Also, culture can be represented in several different ways. For example, one might say there is a long culture of alcohol and substance use in the US Another type of culture can be regional or familial, such as a legacy of academia or a regional beach culture of surfing. Then there are the types of ancient culture that are spiritually significant. This is the realm in which Ho’oponopono resides.

When an individual’s culture becomes corrupted due to addiction or mental health issues, it can be difficult to reconcile who they were, who they are, and, most importantly, who they want to be. That is why it is critical in recovery to dig deep under the surface to find the issues that corrode a personal connection to one’s positive culture and history.

The culture of Hawaii offers an exceptional example of how one can restore themselves through cultural immersion. This culture is even emblematic when the name “Hawaii” is deconstructed. 

Hawaii can be broken down into three different local terms. “Ha,” which translates to “the breath of life.” “Wai,” which translates to water or “the life force,” Then the “’i,” which translates to “supreme.” Now, while these components of breathing, inner strength, and spiritual power can be critical to recovery in their own right, they can be significantly elevated when utilized in the therapy of Ho’oponopono.

Understanding the Therapy of Ho’oponopono

While the origin of Ho’oponopono was cultivated out of necessity, it was critical that communities and families be able to resolve their issues peacefully to avoid conflict and keep the island society fully functioning. However, now Ho’oponopono can be utilized as therapy that can be used to heal at the cellular level.

Now, when people think of the “Twelve Steps,” they most likely think of 12-Step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA). But, many people may be interested to know that there is another set of Twelve Steps that can help people recover from addiction and mental health issues. These are the Twelve Steps of Ho’oponopono. Though it should be noted that Ho’opononpono can be practiced in many forms and composed of many different interpretations.

The therapy of Ho’oponopono can be as simple or as complex as one wants to make it. Some people utilize its basic principles to resolve conflicts from time to time but do not utilize it as a practice of recovery, or spiritual practice, on a daily basis. This a great use of Ho’oponopono and a highly effective tool for resolving issues at the moment.

Then there are others that utilize the principles of Ho’oponopono daily as a practice of recovery. This is similar to other forms of 12-Step recovery because when Ho’oponopono is utilized with rigorous honesty, it can offer a balance that can ward off emotional corrosion and ultimately help avoid relapse and maintain long-term recovery.

Utilizing the Therapy of Ho’oponopono

The first step in Ho’oponopono is offering gratitude to “the Creator.” As with other 12-Step programs that offer the concept of God as a “Higher Power of one’s understanding,” the Creator can be personal to the individual. For example, at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, Madame Pele (the volcano goddess that lives in the mountain visible from our recovery center) is offered as an option for the Creator.

The following eleven steps involve a series of prayers, purification, meditations, breathing exercises, and acknowledgments that offers a sense of wellness and gratitude for the environment, the community, and, perhaps most importantly, the individual. This process also offers an essential aspect of personal development that is vital for recovery growth and healing at the cellular level. However, these are not the only benefits that Ho’oponopono has to offer.

Healing With the Therapy of Ho’oponopono: The Benefits

The following is merely a small fraction of the benefits that Ho’oponopono has to offer. Many individuals in long-term recovery find that the more they practice and experience Ho’oponopono, the more the benefits and the more they discover. The therapy of Ho’oponopono offers:

  • Improved mental clarity and focus
  • Reduced stress
  • Lowered levels of anxiety and depression
  • In addiction recovery, reduced cravings and the elimination of what is often referred to as “the obsession of the mind” regarding alcohol and substances
  • Greater sense of physical well-being
  • The ability to better recognize and regulate emotions
  • Helps with relationship building and creating positive connections
  • Offers the often essential component of “inner peace”

Now, while Ho’oponopono can be beneficial on its own, its benefits can be positively compounded when it is utilized in tandem with other treatment modalities. Comprehensive recovery plans (including those that integrate the therapy of Ho’oponopono) can be key, as “cookie-cutter,” overly broad recovery rarely seems to work.

Integrating the Therapy of Ho’oponopono Into a Comprehensive Recovery Plan

Here at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, we believe that comprehensive addiction and mental health care is critical for addressing underlying core issues and healing at the cellular level. That is why we comprise all of our recovery plans with the best experiential therapies, modern psychotherapies, holistic and nutritional treatments, and cultural and traditional practices.

Various recovery methods can work symbiotically to elevate the benefits of one another. For example, yoga and meditation can offer greater levels of clarity that can be essential for psychotherapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) to be effective. 

Another example is how nutritional therapy can boost all other aspects of recovery because, without nutritional wellness, one cannot participate in treatment to its fullest potential. This example is also why we use the maxim “Food is medicine” at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab. Ho’oponopono works similarly to nutritional therapy. Rather than add a specific, quantifiable benefit to a certain treatment modality, it can offer heightened efficacy to an entire recovery plan by overlaying a sense of inner peace and ease.

Adding Ho’oponopono to a Plan With “Traditional” Mental Health Treatments

“Traditional” or evidence-based treatment methods can be essential foundations of any recovery plan. Therapies such as CBT, DBT, and narrative therapy offer an opportunity to unearth the core issues that often correlate to the negative behaviors that require attention.

When these underlying core issues are uncovered, then the negative cognitions, emotions, and behaviors can be mitigated, modified, molded, or even avoided altogether. The practice of recognizing these underlying root causes can also continue to be cultivated in a way that makes handling serious situations less stressful and positive situations more profound.

Some people use a “mantra” or prayer in their Ho’oponopono practice that goes, “I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you.” While people are free to personalize these words to their preferred composition, ultimately, the message can be used in tandem with the lessons learned in psychotherapy. 

When an individual recognizes a negative emotion starting to surface, they can step back and recite their version of “I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you,” and take the next right step instead of succumbing to previous negative, detrimental, and toxic behaviors. This Ho’oponopono mantra can also be used in other holistic practices such as meditation, breathwork, and yoga.

How the Therapy of Ho’oponopono Can Help With Breathwork, Meditation, and Yoga

According to the International Journal of Yoga, “Regular practice of yoga promotes strength, endurance, flexibility and facilitates characteristics of friendliness, compassion, and greater self-control, while cultivating a sense of calmness and well-being. Sustained practice also leads to important outcomes such as changes in life perspective, self-awareness, and an improved sense of energy to live life fully and with genuine enjoyment. These are similar benefits that a constant practice of Ho’oponopono has to offer. When combined, they can create an elevated sense of self that not only offers ultimate inner reconciliation but the permeation of positive energy in every aspect of day-to-day life.

Ho’oponopono and yoga also share the important practice of breathwork. Focusing on the breath offers the space necessary to navigate life in a more serene style. This can be beneficial when dealing with conflict at work, issues at home, or inner strife and turmoil. 

The therapy of Ho’oponopono also offers a prime opportunity to either cultivate a new mediation practice or strengthen an existing one. In meditation, Ho’oponopono supplies the safe space needed mentally to reconcile resentments and eliminate internal hostility. 

Also, there may be no better place to take a breath, practice yoga, and meditate with Ho’oponopono than in the serene setting of the Hamakua Coast of Hawaii’s Big Island. Looking out over the Pacific Ocean’s horizon line while in peaceful contemplation is like no other experience in the world. This is just one of the unique opportunities for exceptional recovery we offer at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab.

Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, the Big Island, and the Hamakua Coast: A Community of Recovery

Here at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, we respect and cherish where we are on the Hamakua Coast. We relish in its natural beauty, are grateful to be fed by its amazing organic foods, and are blessed to get to practice and pass along its traditions and culture. 

As previously mentioned, the condensed version of the Ho’oponopono mantra often goes, “I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you.” But, there is a longer, more culturally traditional prayer from which it came.

The ancient prayer concludes, “So be well, and as you heal, I say to you: I am sorry for the memories of pain I share with you. I ask your forgiveness for joining my path to yours for healing, I thank you for being here in me, and I love you for being who you are.” Now, this is the true type of connection, reconciliation, and love that is needed to heal on a cellular level. This is the healing of Hawaii, the healing of Ho’oponopono.

Here at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, it is important for us to draw from the rich local tapestry of local culture when creating our recovery plans. One piece of traditional healing that we draw upon is Ho’oponopono. Ho’oponopono is a type of mantra used to help clients interpret and express their innermost thoughts. This profound approach to healing can help clients understand the inner conflicts that affect them, and it helps them restore their relationship with themselves. If you feel like you or a loved one are struggling with issues of addiction and/or mental health and have a desire to heal on the cellular level, we can help. For more information, reach out to Exclusive Hawaii Rehab at (808) 775-0200.