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“Ho’oponopono, a traditional Hawaiian family problem-solving process is a method of resolving family and group conflict… A rich body of knowledge about the physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being of an individual in relationship to family, community, and environment has existed in the Hawaiian culture for centuries. One of the specific practices is a complex system for maintaining harmonious relationships and resolving conflict within the extended family; this system is called ho’oponopono (pronounced, ho’o pono pono), which means “setting to right”.”


The above quote is from the first few pages of the book “Ho’oponopono” by E. Victoria Shook. This entire article is made up of direct quotes from this book. The quote pages are listed:

     Shook, E. Victoria.  Ho'oponopono. Honolulu: The East West Center, 1985


Many quotes in this book are from “Nani I Ke Kumu (Look to the Source)”, by Pukui, Haertig & Lee:

     Pukui, Mary K., E. Haertig, and Catherine A. Lee.  Nani I Ke Kumu.

     Vol. I & II. Honolulu: Hui Hanai, 1972


DESCRIPTION  direct quotes from p.10-12

Ho’oponopono is a method for restoring harmony... According to (Grandmother) Pukui, it literally means “setting to right”... “to restore and maintain good relationships among family, extended family and supernatural powers”. The metaphor of a tangled net has been used to illustrate how problems within a family affect not only persons directly involved but also other family members. The family is a complex net of relationships, and any disturbance in one part of the net will pull other parts. This metaphor reinforces the Hawaiian philosophy of the interrelatedness of all things.


The (ho’oponopono) family conference was traditionally led by a senior family member or, if necessary, by a respected outsider such as a kahuna lapa’au (healer).


FOUR STEPS  p.11-12

Ho’oponopono is opened with a pule, which is prayer conducted to ask God (Christian) and/or the ‘amakua (Hawaiian Gods) for assistance and blessing in the problem-solving endeavor.


In the beginning phase there is a period of identifying the general problem, known as kukulu kumuhana. (This term has two additional meanings that are a part of ho’oponopono. Kukulu kumuhana is the pooling of strengths for a shared purpose, such as solving the family’s problem. It also refers to the leader’s effort to reach out to a person who is resisting the ho’oponopono process to enable that person to participate fully.) The procedures for the whole (four step) problem-solving sequence are also outlined in order to reacquaint all participants with them.


Once the proper climate is set, the leader (the haku) focuses on the specific problem. The hala, or transgression, is stated. Hala also implies that the perpetrator and the person wronged are bound together in a relationship of negative entanglement called hihia.


Because of the nature of hihia, most problems have many dimensions. The initial hurt is often followed by other reactions, further misunderstandings, and so forth until a complex knot of difficulties has evolved. It is the leader’s responsibility to choose one of the problems and work it out with the family through the process of mahiki, or discussion. With one part resolved, the group can uncover and resolve successive layers of trouble one layer at a time until the family relationships are again free and clear.


The discussion of the problem is lead and channeled by the leader (channeled meaning people speak only to the leader, not to each other directly, unless told to). This intermediary function keeps individuals from directly confronting one another, a situation that could lead to further emotional outburst and misunderstanding… Each participant who has been affected by the problem in some way – directly or indirectly – is asked to share his or her feelings, or mana’o. The emphasis is on self-scrutiny, and when participants share they are encouraged to do so honestly, openly, and in a way that avoids blame and recrimination. If in the course of the discussion tempers begin to flare, the leader may declare ho’omalu, a cooling-off period of silence.


When the discussion is complete, the mihi, takes place. This is the sincere confession of wrongdoing and the seeking of forgiveness. It is expected that forgiveness be given whenever asked. If restitution is necessary then the terms of it are arranged and agreed upon.


Closely related to mihi is kala, or a loosening of the negative entanglements. Both the person who has confessed and the person who has forgiven are expected to kala (loosen) the problem. This mutual release is an essential part of the process and true ho’oponopono is not complete without it. The kala indicates that the conflicts and hurts have been released and are oki (cut off).


The pani is the closing phase and may include a summary of what has taken place and, importantly, a reaffirmation of the family’s strengths and enduring bonds. The problem that has been worked out is declared closed, never to be brought up again. If other layers of the problem need to be worked out, the final pani is postponed. Sometimes ho’oponopono may take many sessions. Each session has a pani about what has been resolved and includes a closing prayer, pule ho’opau. After the session the family and leader traditionally share a snack or meal to which all have contributed. This demonstrates the commitment and bond of all who participated and provides a familiar means to move from the formal problem-solving setting to normal daily routines.


p.88 … according to Keola the pani was the actual closure of the process. He gave his view on the symbolic importance of food during the closing phase: “Food is important. And in food, when your natural juices are moving, one tends to be much more in the mood to share in fellowship, able to relax. When you have a full stomach, one feels a lot better. So I think it lends to the process.”


p.12  In summary, ho’oponopono is a highly structured process with four distinct phases:  1. (pule/ kukulu kumuhana) an opening phase that includes the prayer and a statement of the problem; 2. (mahiki) a discussion phase in which all members involved share their thoughts and feelings (mana’o) in a calm manner and listen to all the others as they speak; 3. (mihi/kala/oki) A resolution phase that enables the exchange of confession, forgiveness, and release; and  4. (pani) a closing phase to summarize what has transpired and to give spiritual and individual thanks for sincere participation.


HO’OPONOPONO TODAY 1972   p.8-10

... Some years later the father died, leaving his wife and son alone. The son had gotten into trouble as an adolescent... Keola (the social worker assigned to help the troubled boy) reported that he thought the boy was “flirting with death,”... In one incident the boy pulled an unloaded .45-caliber pistol on a police officer; in another he challenged 15 officers to a karate duel… social worker (Keola) said,


“How am I gonna’ deal with this kind of cultural stuff? If you ask me as a native Hawaiian… I would run to a grandparent or somebody for help.”


When Keola shared this concern with his supervisor he was given permission to contact (Grandmother) Mary Kawena Pukui (also called Tutu, an affectionate and respectful name for an older female). He approached (Tutu) Pukui and requested her assistance so that the (government counseling) agency could learn how to help this and other Hawaiian families in “the Hawaiian way”.


(Tutu) Pukui consented; she, a psychiatrist (Dr. Haertig MD), a psychologist (Lee), and several social workers began meeting on a weekly basis (which they called) the “Culture Committee.”... Tutu would “talk story” about related beliefs and practices… Tutu talked about a form of ho’oponopono that she had used all her life and that had been used by her family… (Tutu) Pukui said,


“And whether my ‘ohana (family) prayed to ‘amakua [ancestor gods] or to God [Christian], the whole idea of ho’oponopono was the same. Every one of us searched his heart for hard feelings against one another. Before God and with His help, we forgave and were forgiven, thrashing out every grudge, peeve, or resentment among us.” Nana I Ke Kumu p.61


It was Tutu Pukui’s (ho’oponopono) method that Keola used… the (troubled) boy was able to finish high school and “make it in society.”…  The excitement generated by the possibility of similar beneficial outcomes… kept the (“Culture Committee”) group going for seven years… (then in 1972) they decided to publish a book. Nana I Ke Kumu (Look to the Source).



p.43 (Three practitioners) learned about ho’oponopono directly from Mary Kawena Pukui, as participants in the QLCC (Queen Liliuokalani Children’s Center) “Culture Committee” discussions… the others learned… through reading Nana I Ke Kumu.


Virginia Wahler  p.47-48

Setting things to right - because we teach so much about balance or harmony. Our body, mind, emotions, and spirit need to be in balance. That’s what I call being “together”… So we work on all four sides of man. And ho’oponopono is a process for putting things to right, back in balance, within the individual, and within their ‘ohana (family).


Ho’oponopono was used to solve problems that came up in the (delinquent boys’ school) group as well as to reaffirm positive individual and group behavior. Because it was used on a daily basis (at school), it helped cement the relations of the group and became a prevention tool. It was also a time during the day that the boys could share things like: “I had a good day“… “We had good fun doing this”… “We had a problem, but we settled it before we got here.”


Robert Padua  p.49-52

The boys at camp responded positively to this man who taught primarily by being a positive model and espousing the simple joys of life. He demonstrated an ability to be strong and firm or sensitive and yielding, whichever was appropriate


(Robert said) “I hate to say it, but some people are devilish. There’s a devil in them, and it just overcomes them. It’s like being possessed. And ho’oponopono knows this and ho’oponopono senses this and eliminates it.”


p.86 Robert (who worked with delinquent boys) … sensed that the boys he worked with were “battered up inside,” so he asked for “spiritual strength and guidance” to determine the extent of his questioning.



The so-called negative (delinquent boys’ school) leaders/teachers – they were so much turned around (after learning about and leading ho’oponopono). Much softer.


By using the process every day, he said, “You become closer, as a family, an ‘ohana. And it becomes natural. It’s just a thing that becomes love. It becomes family. …I feel the boys look forward for it.”


(Robert said) if he ever had a family of his own he would use the process. It is a process that made him feel better about himself and others… “That’s the way the world should be – a big ho’oponopono.


Jean Baker  p.53-55

Jean emphasized the value of using ho’oponopono when small problems occurred rather than waiting for large conflicts. In this way if the little problems were handled well, then the participants experienced feelings of success associated with the process and were more likely to request it when another problem arose.


The leader would step in if expressed anger or other outbursts threatened to block problem resolution. In this case the leader’s job was to reestablish a calm atmosphere and help the group understand “that they don’t have to be controlled by that they’re feeling…”


Joseph Whitney  p.56-58

 “I’ve had students say, ‘This is incredible. I wish we had more.’” More confirmation of its value came from the parents… (a parent told Joseph) My son comes back (from doing ho’oponopono at school) and all of a sudden he wants the family to sit down together and talk. What is this?”


When Joseph used ho’oponopono with the young black men on the mainland (USA) he found it to be incredibly difficult… after this frustrating experience, one of the toughest kids came up to Joseph after the course and said, “Hey, I really owe you”.


Paul Ellis  p.60-62

It was sort of a combination of psychotherapy plus a social problem-solving mechanism that I’ve never seen anyplace else.


To heal relationships. To take relationships that are strained, for whatever reason, and to begin uncovering the various layers of guck and gunk and garbage that is there, and to peel some of that stuff back and try and heal. Heal the relationships. Like doctors heal the body… in mediation you’re healing relationships between people


Kalau Souza  p.68-69

Kalau conceived that it could also be a way for a troubled couple to look honestly at their relationship to determine whether or not they should stay together. In cases where ho’oponopono might lead to a couple’s decision to end their marriage, she said the process could provide a forum for making agreements about what their behavior would be toward one another in the future.


Kalau basically thought ho’oponopono “would work for anyone who was interested and wanted to use the practice. But it requires a commitment – to sit through it and sincerely participate.”


(With one family) it still came out with, it seemed to me, everybody looking after their own territory and not really thinking of the total.


“I always used a warm-up period, where you get caught up on the news of the family and how things are. And that’s what I call the warm-up. It’s not to get into any of the problem situation, but to kinda feel like – like you know one another again. There’s been an absence, a lack of contact, perhaps. And you don’t go directly into things. So, to me that’s a very important part of the process, called kukulu-kumuhana.”


Keola Espiritu (Lani’s husband)  p.63-67

… diagnostic, remedial and preventive… The first, diagnostic, gives a group the opportunity to air feelings and identify a problem so that everyone knows where the responsibilities lie. If the group is not ready or willing to proceed through the resolution phase of the process, then the ho’oponopono could be labeled “diagnostic.”


The second aspect is remedial and occurs when the problem is identified, and the group proceeds to rectify the situation through forgiveness and restitution. The ideal outcome is preventive. Sessions serve a preventive function when the group holds ho’oponopono on a regular basis even when there are no obvious problems.


Traditionally all discussions were channeled through the leader (“channeled” means everyone spoke directly to Keola and not to each other), even during the forgiveness and release stage. However, Keola has found that this was often a time when positive expressions of concern, such as hugging and kissing, and heartfelt apologies were likely to occur. So he encouraged these expressions to be communicated directly from one individual to another


In working with other groups, particularly couples with marital problems, Keola shared the role of haku (leader) with his wife Lani… When Keola worked with a family over a period of time and the family members became familiar with the process, he said he found himself playing a less active role as leader. Eventually the haku (leader) role was turned over to a person in the family and Keola functioned more as a resource person.


I find it’s a good, good learning experience for the group itself, as well as for the therapist.


Lani Espiritu (Keola’s wife)  p.72-76

(Ho’oponopono) gives you a good assessment of the people, in the situation – an idea of the complexity of the situation itself. An idea as to who’s involved, at what level. What their behavior patterns are. Who is bounded into a problem and who is ready to move.


Second, it’s also corrective… Ho’oponopono provides a method by which people can resolve problems and move in new directions. And these generally make for happy endings.


The third purpose is one of the preventative nature. Prevention is being able to utilize whatever skills and abilities you have so that it can prevent further breakdown of the family. It prevents more serious complications and compounding of problem areas.


… when participants were hesitant to proceed, it was an indication that part of the problem had not been adequately discussed (mahiki).


p.86 “If I feel that they’re not giving me the kind of depth that’s required, my task is to initiate those questions and to get the response from them.” She said she checked out their feelings to determine whether or not they were unduly uncomfortable. Her tactics included alternating deep questioning and surface questioning



Lani and her husband (Keola) once led a ho’oponopono with three families, including their own. The session was scheduled because two boys from the other two families had burglarized (Lani & Keola’s) home.


(Lani said) “With the two youngsters, it just allowed for more of the positive vibrations to come together. And I see that as a happy ending – the harmony restored. There is increased improved interpersonal relationships between the parties. And there’s a deeper sense of “I care for you and you care for me ‘cause we’re gonna’ look after each other.” …  75% of the stolen items were returned before the ho’oponopono, and after the session the boys made further restitution by doing yard work.


Lani and Keola once worked with a couple who were moving toward divorce. “… in this case it would illustrate that one can sever the structural ties of a relationship, but that through ho’oponopono you can still maintain dignity and worth of the other individual, without being hostile.”… Lani and Keola found that using co-leaders was often very effective, particularly in a marital case where individuals might feel more comfortable speaking to a person of the same sex


Traditionally, ho’oponopono discouraged acting out any emotions, especially negative ones, but Lani believed that allowing individuals to express positive emotions could be helpful. During the forgiveness stage – the mihi, kala and oki – Lani has allowed participants to talk directly to one another rather than through her.


When Lani first used (lead the ho’oponopono) process she sometimes got stuck and did not know how to proceed in the traditional manner. Rather than allowing this to interfere with the therapeutic process, she switched back and forth to (her University learned) Western intervention methods. Later she brought these matters to her (mentors and peers)… to see how the ho’oponopono steps could have been used in the situation (instead of Western intervention methods).


(As a ho’oponopono leader/haku) Lani felt that she has benefited greatly from the challenges… “In the process of confronting and making these decisions, I think it’s developed me even more. Ho’oponopono forced me to come to grips with what I am, who I am, what I can do, what I want to do”


HAWAIIAN WORDS - Ukupau, Aloha Aina, Ohana  p.4–6 

ukupau is still used by some businesses in Hawaii. The word refers to the practice of people helping one another with their work tasks so that they can finish early and commence with fun and relaxation


The love of nature is also apparent in the popular phrase aloha ‘aina (love of the land).


The word for family ‘ohana, is derived from the words ‘oha,  for taro, and na, the designation for plural. The taro plant is linked with myths about the origin of people, as well as being the staple food (pounded into a paste called poi)… (Tutu) Pukui stated, “members of the ‘ohana, like taro shoots, are all from the same root”. Nana I Ke Kumu p.166


Pukui explained that ‘ohana is also… “sense of unity, shared involvement and shared responsibility. It is mutual interdependence and mutual help. It is emotional support given and received. It is solidarity and cohesiveness. It is love – often; it is loyalty – always…” Nana I Ke Kumu p.171


Aloha  p.7

Perhaps the importance of harmony in relationships can best be summed up by the attributes of the word aloha. This often-used Hawaiian word expresses love and also is a greeting and a farewell. More subtly, it suggests the highly valued character traits of generosity, friendliness, patience, and productivity. The spirit of aloha carries with it an understanding that the ability to soothe and prevent conflicts, shame, and other disruptive occurrences is important, and that if the harmony has been disrupted, one should have the courage to ask for and give forgiveness.


SUMMARY  p.100-102

Kalau Souza - when you come here and say you’re hurting… (one can respond) “I know you’re suffering, and I, as part of this family, don’t want to see you suffer. And if I can help relieve it in any way, I want to.” I think it expresses what aloha is.


Dr. E. Haertig MD – “Ho’oponopono may well be one of the soundest methods to restore and maintain good family relationships that any society has ever devised.” Nana I Ke Kumu p.70


E. Victoria Shook - With a rich variety of tools to use, perhaps we can truly begin to lay a peaceful foundation, beginning with our families, that will heal our vulnerable and conflict-ridden world.


Keola Espiritu p.67 - (Keola’s) wish for greater utilization of ho’oponopono was especially strong… Keola said, laughingly, “So now, move! Hele on!” (“Lets go!”)



About Mary Kawena Puiki

Tutu (Grandmother) Pukui (1895–1986) was a Hawaiian scholar, dancer, composer, and educator.


Her grandmother, a traditional dancer in the court of Queen Emma, taught her chants and stories, while her grandfather was a healer and kahuna pale keiki (obstetrician)… Her great-great-grandmother was a kahuna pule (priestess) in the Pele line.


She was educated in the Hawaiian Mission Academy, and taught Hawaiiana at Punahou School… She published more than 50 scholarly works… She was a chanter, hula expert, and wrote lyrics and music to more than 150 Hawaiian songs… She was named a "Living Treasure of Hawai'i" and was inducted into the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame.


Tutu Puiki’s music:

Nani Kipukai

I am praising the unforgettable beauty                  Mahalo a`e ana au i ka nani poina `ole

Of a flourishing land like the Garden of Eden         Uluwehi ka `âina, Mehe Kîhâpai Edena

A home that is hospitable to friends                      A he hale ho`okipa i nâ makamaka

A host with a gracious heart never changing,         Me ka haku pu`uwai hâmama

Unmeasured is the beautiful place, Kipukai           O kêia wahi nani o Kîpûkai


Pua Lililehua  (Hawaiian & English lyrics) 


Ho’oponopono Flowchart   p.89

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