Ho’oponopono is an ancient Hawaiian practice which translates as: to make right.

The “modern” form of Ho’oponopono that I practice was originally created by Morrnah Nalamaku Simeona. She was born in 1913 in Honolulu and became a highly respected Kahuna Lapa’au (Priest who heals with words). In 1976 Morrnah was inspired to update Ho’oponopono and make it more accessible and she developed a 12-step Ho’oponopono process that she called Self I-Dentity through Ho’oponopono (SITH).

Originally Ho’oponopono was a healing process for family groups that required a facilitator and could take several hours. Everyone present had the opportunity to air their views and the session would continue until a mutually beneficial outcome had been achieved and agreed by all. Morrnah removed the group aspect to create an individual process that required no-one else to be present or even know it was going on. It was a healing work that was done purely internally by the individual.

Morrnah shared SITH through seminars and it was through these teachings that Dr ˋIhaleakalā Hew Len eventually learned Ho’oponopono. I say “eventually” because he walked out her seminars three times because he thought she was crazy! Thankfully for us, he got fed up of wasting his money, made the decision to learn and became a student of Morrnah’s to the extent that he eventually taught alongside her. He stayed with Morrnah until her transition in 1992. But it was Dr Hew Len’s experience of using Ho’oponopono with astonishing results that helped bring Ho’oponopono to the mainstream.

In 2004, Dr Joe Vitale was at a trade show where he was told a patchy story about a therapist who had healed an entire ward of 23 criminally insane patients. It took him a while to track down the therapist but after a lot of searching he did.

Dr Hew Len was that therapist. He worked as a psychiatrist at Hawai’i State Hospital for four years on a ward for the criminally insane. It was a dangerous, volatile place. Attacks were not uncommon. Staff frequently called in sick or simply quit. Paint peeled off the walls, it was like the entire building was sick and suffering and feeling the pain. A toxic place to be.

Dr Hew Len agreed to help the patients but he never saw them personally. Instead he would sit in his office and review their files. He would let the disgust, hatred, pain, upset, despair and tears well up in him as he looked over their notes. He understood that whatever was going on in him was a direct connection to them that until that moment he knew nothing about. But because he took 100% responsibility for his life, he knew that now that data was in his awareness and he was reacting to it, it was his responsibility to clean up the mess.

This is taking 100% responsibility to a whole new level!

But it worked.

After a few months of joining the Hospital, miraculous changes were beginning to take place. Patients who required medications were coming off their medications. Patients who needed to be shackled were being allowed to walk freely. Off-campus activities began to take place. Patients began to be released. Staff began to enjoy coming to work and absenteeism stopped. The paint began to stick to the walls.

Things went so well that eventually the ward closed.

Joe asked Dr Hew Len if everyone was healed to which he replied, “No. We never did get Billy well. He was moved to another facility.”

Even so, a 99% success rate with criminally insane patients is quite something. Although, as Dr Hew Len has admitted, “I didn’t do it alone and it wasn’t easy.”

So what, was Dr Hew Len doing to create such incredible transformations?

If you have read Zero Limits – a book Dr Hew Len co-authored with Joe – and At Zero – a follow-up book Joe wrote independently – you will know that he was using Ho’oponopono, constantly repeating the four phrases that became his mantra:

I love you, I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you.

But could these simple phrases on their own really have done the trick as suggested in the books?

My own conclusion, having done some additional research into the story, is that Dr Hew Len was using Morrnah’s 12 step Ho’oponopono process several times a day and that she was using it in relation to the patients as well. This 12-step process is never mentioned in the books although Morrnah’s prayer – “I” AM THE “I” (Step 4) – is included there. However, I have no doubt that when ˋIhaleakalā was walking through the ward, he was constantly repeating the short mantra.

So, the best of both worlds!

Either way, it’s a remarkable achievement.

If you feel moved – inspired – to try Ho’oponopono, the easiest place to start is with Dr Hew Len’s mantra. At the very least, what harm could come from having “I love you” on a constant tape-loop as your self talk? In my view it’s got to be worth a go!

If you’re interested to find out more, these resources might be useful:

For a more in depth introduction to Ho’oponopono, I’d recommend reading Who’s in Charge, written by Dr Hew Len.

And if you’d like to incorporate Ho’oponopono into your business, find out more about Sacred Money Archetypes® coach training.