Forgiveness – a Hawaiian ritual

This summer I spent some time in Ukraine on an Ecstatic Dance Festival. During this festival I did not only dance a whole damn lot but also engaged in some beautiful workshops. One of them particularly stuck to my mind: a Hawaiian ritual about forgiveness.


This ritual was called ho´oponopono and is an ancient Hawaiian ceremony for forgiveness. It took place in a tent with a fire burning in the middle of it.  The whole floor was covered with carpet and everyone was standing in a big circle around the fire. We started the ritual with greeting a person we chose with the breath of life. For this breath we were leaning our foreheads against each other while slowly breathing in simultaneously. Then we let go of the breath together. We shared a few breaths like that which instantly connected me deeper to my partner.  

We then had to sit down in front of each other to start the forgiveness ritual. First, we had to think about a person we had hurt in the past. When we were sure about that person, we told our partner about the situation and the person we wanted to ask for forgiveness. I didn´t even have to think about it. One person came to my mind right away. Someone who’s´ forgiveness I wanted more than anyone else’s. So, I told my partner about the situation and he listened without judgement. He just gave me room to prepare myself. Then we started. I put my hands on my heart and started to repeat the mantra of the ritual: “I´m sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you.” My partner was only there to provide space for me. He just sat in front of me while I kept repeating the mantra over and over again.  

So, I started and soon the mantra began to unfold its effect on me. The situation I had thought about came back to me as it was yesterday and the words slowly began to sink in. I was sorry. I wanted that person to forgive me. I love that person. And I was thankful indeed. For everything. Soon I felt tears rolling down my face. It was impossible not being touched by that memory. It was impossible not to feel sorry. But at the same time weirdly also be okay. So, I let the tears be. I just kept on repeating the mantra until I felt it was enough. Then I stopped. I thanked my partner to having provided the space for me. It had helped tremendously to know that there was someone who supported me in that situation. It was enough for someone to be there to not feel alone with the weight of the situation. Then we changed and it was my partners turn. To my surprise he wanted to ask for forgiveness for almost the same situation. When he started the mantra and I was just there to provide space as he had done for me before. Observing closely while sending love, compassion and understanding in his direction.

Circles around the fire

After that we had both done the ritual we exchanged a hug, the men went out of the tent and we women stayed inside. We held hands around the fire and then did the forgiveness ritual for ourselves. To forgive ourselves as well. The men did the same by themselves outside. When we were done the men joined us around the fire and formed a circle around us women. The men started asking us for forgiveness with repeating the mantra “We´re sorry. Please forgive us. We love you. Thank you.” standing there for all the men who have ever hurt a woman. We were still sitting around the fire, absorbing their words, eyes closed. When they started speaking the mantra I got goose bumps. I instantly wanted to scream out loud “I forgive you!” In this moment I felt nothing but love in my heart. I could think of many situations I had to forgive someone, but I still I felt no anger or hatred at all. It was just gone, it vanished with the voices who softly spoke the mantra to us, again and again. It was powerful. It was beautiful. It was love.

When the men finished we changed places. Now the women stood around the fire and the men were sitting around it. Now we repeated the mantra standing there for every woman who had ever hurt a man. In the end, we could also speak up and tell them what exactly it was we were sorry for. We then shared our experiences in a circle. It was beautiful to see that no one remained untouched from the ritual. Everybody had learned something. Everyone had done some healing – for themselves as well as for others.

Sacred touch

To finish and leave with a positive feeling, we practised sacred touch. Sacred touch basically means touching a person just for them and their wellbeing. Not wanting to achieve anything for yourself with this touch. We started with asking our partner if there was any part of their bodies they didn´t want to be touched – or if there was a place they especially wanted to be touched. When I knew about these places I started just following my intuition while paying close attention to what felt good for my partner. It was beautiful to not expecting anything in return – and still I felt so good to do this just for another person. In the end we were hugging each other tightly, holding onto each other for minutes and minutes until we finally were told to softly let go.  

leave. We all still had to process what had just happened and wanted to stay to still absorb this special atmosphere. I laid down on my back and looked up in the tent. There was a small opening on top where the smoke of the fire could leave. Waves of smoke spiralled up the tent and left. Like this experience. It had come, but now it was over. Now it had left. I could have starred at the smoke forever. I felt so peaceful and yet so full of thoughts. I didn´t want to talk I just wanted to lay there and be with myself for a while. Therefore I was one of the very last ones to leave. And when I finally did leave the tent I knew that I would leave this experience behind. This ritual would stay in my mind forever.

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