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New Thought Visits the Islands

Recently we have been amused by the latest Travelocity commercial, the purportedly low-budget one for hard times that features a large poster of beach hotels—possibly in Hawaii—with the familiar gnome in his pointed red hat standing in front of it. To the accompaniment of a ukulele, disembodied hands remove cue cards from a stand one at a time to supply the message. Near the end, the poster begins to peel off what proves to be a red brick wall.

Our nearly lifelong study of New Thought has recently taken us to Hawaii—at least as close as the red brick wall in that commercial. It all started unremarkably enough with a Nightingale-Conant cd album by marketing guru Joe Vitale, who was featured in the movie The Secret. His cd album is titled The Missing Secret (, and in it he attempts to supply what he feels is not covered in the movie. Nearly everybody in the New Thought movement has seen the film and its various spinoffs; one of its principals reportedly described it as "a Trojan horse for New Thought".

At first, as we listened to the cd album, it appeared to be pretty much the same old same old. We have been around the block in New Thought quite a few times. But then, Joe threw us a curve: he described how he had come across a Hawaiian spiritual practice with fairly old roots, a practice that had been updated a few decades ago by a Hawaiian woman who appears to have been much revered for her healing work. Long story short: an associate told Joe about a Hawaiian psychologist who had, in just a few years and part time, made such a huge difference in the operation of a state facility for the criminally insane that all but two of the patients got better, those two were transferred elsewhere, and the facility was closed permanently. Not only that, the extremely high rate of staff turnover and sick days dropped to near zero, and the quality of life for everyone involved improved. But the most intriguing part of all was that the psychologist kept no records, did no interviews or therapy of any sort, and simply sat in his office and read the patient files! He saw patients only as he walked through the ward, which he did in a smiling and relaxed way, whereas most of the staff sidled down the halls with their backs to the walls because attacks and serious injuries were so common in that facility. Joe tracked the psychologist down, and he learned that the man’s name was Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len and that his spiritual practice was called ho’oponopono. In Hawaiian, ho’o means cause, and ponopono means perfection.

After meeting and working with Hew Len, Joe began practicing ho’oponopono and teaching it to others. He and Hew Len collaborated on a book, Zero Limits, describing ho’oponopono, its history, and its applications. Hew Len’s updated version of ho’oponopono is called Self-Identity Ho’oponopono, and its main difference from traditional forms is that it involves only one individual rather than a group. That individual chooses to accept 100 percent responsibility for everything that happens in his or her world, then proceeds to clean whatever is not in divine order. This cleansing is accomplished with four affirmations, addressed to God (Hew Len likes to refer to God as Divinity): I love you; I’m sorry (for whatever seems to be wrong); Please forgive me (meaning please cleanse whatever memories unbeknownst to me are lurking in my unconscious mind and messing things up); Thank you. The zero-limits state refers to a state of consciousness rather like blank canvas; a peaceful, nonjudgemental state of just floating and waiting for intuition (process thought calls it prehending God’s perfect possibilities) to come to us. One then does whatever comes to one to do, whatever is on one’s path; but largely, one lets go and lets God. Numerous people have reported amazing results.

We were immediately struck with how well this technique harmonizes with traditional New Thought principles and practices. Then it dawned on us that ho’oponopono is really an application of New Thought author Emmet Fox’s beloved Golden Key: Take your attention away from the problem and put it solely on God, rehearsing what you know about God. The four ho’oponopono affirmations are convenient summaries of just that: "I love you" turns your attention to a loving, everywhere present and available God; "I’m sorry" and "Please forgive me" summarize the idea that you are accepting full responsibility—not blame—for whatever is not in divine order in your world, and offering God a channel through which to remove the wrong ideas causing it. "Thank you" represents both an attitude of gratitude and a tacit assumption that you can consider it done, that God is taking care of the situation. You are leaving God all sorts of wiggle room while standing ready to assist God by whatever means God puts into your mind or on your path to do. Further, this represents the co-creation process prized by both traditional New Thought and Process New Thought: we have the free will to say yes or no to God’s perfect possibilities, tailor-made for us and presented freshly to us in each occasion of experience. With those possibilities, God always provides a way for them to work out in our lives, no matter how impossible things may seem at first.

It is easy to see how New Thoughters might make use of this ho’oponopono technique, since New Thoughters are no more immune than anyone else to fear thoughts, appearances of lack and limitation, or friction between so-called problem personalities. Hew Len’s remedy to all these ills is "Clean, clean, clean": in other words, use the affirmations to turn your attention to God instead of the problem, get into a "zero state" of peace (Uru Salem, in Judeo-Christian terms), let go, and let God, giving thanks in advance for a happy outcome, whatever it turns out to be.

You, too, might enjoy a trip to the Hawaiian islands. Add some frangipani blossoms and ukulele music to your prayer time.