Accepting What ‘Is’ with Hoʻoponopono
This feature has been extracted from Hoʻoponopono: The Ancient Hawaiian Practice of Gratitude and Forgiveness by Carole Berger (Eddison Books, 2019) and has been reproduced with permission from the publisher.
by Carole Berger
The great malaise of our modern societies is our permanent struggle against reality. ‘No’ becomes a whole way of thinking. Refusing to face up to reality has become a deeply rooted way of functioning for us. Most of the time, we refuse to accept the facts; instead, we enter the hostile territory of complaining and we settle there.
By denying reality, we’re refusing to see what ‘is’ and this creates painful inner conflict. The emotions that emerge as a result are difficult to manage and cause internal turmoil that leads to a deep sense of anxiety.
By fleeing ‘what is’, we often think we can protect ourselves and thus avoid pain. In fact, the opposite is happening. By refusing to see things as they are, we’re putting up a resistance that causes us even more suffering.
What is terrible and implacable is that no matter how we decide to live out a situation, we can’t escape it because it’s already occurred. The only choice we have now is to decide how we’ll react to it. At every moment of our lives, we have choices to make in the way we face up to our experiences. And it’s these choices that will determine our reality and our perspective on the world.
This relationship to the world determines our state of being, whether in relation to small things like someone jostling us in the street or taking the parking space we’d spotted, or big things like a separation, serious illness, the death of a loved one or the anxiety of ageing. We don’t always choose what happens to us (at least not consciously); on the other hand, we always get to choose how we’ll react to situations (even if our choices are most often unconscious and our reactions automatic).
It’s time to ask ourselves the following questions: what am I going to do with this situation I’m experiencing? Will I use it as an opportunity to grow and learn something about myself? Or will I fall apart and lose my inner harmony because it’s just too difficult? The choice is ours! And it’s here that our free will comes into play. We have the power to choose the most appropriate way in which to respond to a situation: a pono way, in the here and now, or an impulsive, compulsive reaction dictated by our memories, habits, weariness or moods.
‘Accept things as they are’ is an old adage that’s often interpreted as ‘resign yourself’. But this isn’t the lesson the Hawaiian elders are teaching. As Hindu masters also say, ‘denial is useless’.
By adhering fully to ‘what is’, we become part of the natural flow of life and continue to be one with it. There is no ‘me’ and ‘the world’, or ‘me’ and ‘what I see’, but rather there is ‘me in the world’, who observes what’s happening without judgment. ‘What is’ is perfectly neutral from the point of view of energy. What’s happening – the situation that’s occurring at a given moment – just ‘is’. It’s our little human brains that constantly want to interpret, judge and classify things.
Gaining a clear perspective can be painful. Often, we don’t want to see things as they are and find a thousand ways to arrange reality to suit ourselves so that we avoid feeling bad, embarrassed or hurt.
When an event occurs, it’s already in the present.
Whatever the whys and the hows, it’s happening.
Not accepting it throws us into an internal turmoil
that can be so acute that it leaves us drained of our energy.
Facing reality as it is requires courage, because it’s about accepting things that we dislike and seeing them as they are, without illusion or mental justification.
When the neighbour’s annoying you!
Every day, at the first light of dawn, a man starts up his motorbike right in front of your house. The noise wakes you up, which annoys you. You can’t get back to sleep, and that puts you in a bad mood for the rest of the day.
It’s annoying; it’s a fact; it’s your reality. Yet, if you start to feed this feeling of anger, it will become like a coat that you never take off. You now know that this feeling serves no useful purpose. Unless you accept ‘what is’, you’ll be fighting against its effects like a person trying to swim against the tide who’ll eventually wear themself out. In fact, you have no choice but to accept. However, you can choose to consider different solutions to solve your problem: discussing calmly with the biker to see if a solution is possible (he may not be aware that he’s bothering you), using earplugs, choosing to incorporate this noise into your sleep cycle as a ‘marker’ at the beginning of a new day, etc. The action you decide to take will be useful for reaching your goal, whether the noise stops or whether you simply choose not to let it bother you any more. Feeling annoyed, on the other hand, isn’t helpful; it troubles you and only you.
We’re not always wise and, inevitably, in the various experiences life presents us with, we sometimes allow ourselves to indulge in mental and emotional self- deceptions that can send us off into an inner turmoil of obsessive thoughts and improbable scenarios. Our minds go into a tail spin and can take us way off course. We can all fall into that trap, but the perspective on life that the Hawaiian masters offer us enables us to turn the tables and take our thoughts captive – by saying ‘stop’ to the continual flow of judgments that flood our minds and emotions.
How many times have you thought that someone was looking down on you? You feel insecure, judged, criticized, and it’s not a pleasant feeling. Instead of letting this emotion get the better of you, face it, observe it and take action so that it doesn’t disturb your inner wellbeing. For example, you can ask the person concerned a simple question: ‘I feel like you’re judging me; can you explain to me what’s going on?’
At least you’ll be facing this unpleasant feeling rather than allowing yourself to make assumptions. If the person is honest with you and with themselves, they’ll tell it like it is: ‘Yes, you’re right’ or ‘no, not at all, I was thinking about something else at the same time and my attitude has nothing to do with what you were saying to me’. Whatever their response, you’ll have sought out information, identified the feelings that the other person brought up in you and chosen not to let them get the better of you, and you’ll have implemented a strategy to help you understand. You’ll have stopped your imagination from creating all sorts of ideas and, in place of a mere supposition, you’ll have the facts, or least a reaction that will tell you a bit more about the other person. Now it’s up to you to decide what to do about it.
About the author:
A massage therapist and life coach, author Carole Berger discovered the philosophy of Hoʻoponopono while being trained in Hawaii, where she lived for four years. Carole is passionate about Hawaii and has written many books on the subject and also gives lectures.
Visit her website at: caroleberger.sitew.org