For the Benefit of Others

by Christopher Lovejoy on September 10, 2010 · 4 comments

So much of what we say and do is for our own benefit, whether we take the time to realize this or not, and I’m certainly not immune to this tendency (as much I would like to think that I am).

You’ve probably heard it before: The Other is a reflection of you.

The Other is your prized possession. The Other is your favorite shirt or blouse. The Other is the amount you have in your bank account. The Other is your son or daughter who doesn’t behave.

In The Other, we find a mirror to the realization of every belief, desire, intention, and expectation we have ever had – and have felt free to have.

I say “felt free to have” because with freedom comes responsibility. Have you ever entertained the possibility of what it might be like to be as free as you can be?

To be sure, this is a rhetorical question.

Taking full responsibility for yourself would eventually bring you total freedom of the kind that you can tolerate and enjoy, even cherish.

After you read this post, you’ll know what it means to take full responsibility for yourself.

Which brings me to Dr. Ihaleakala S. Hew Len. In the 1980s, he had an unusual but interesting role to play as a clinical psychologist at a state hospital in a ward for the criminally insane.

Dr. Hew Len practices ho’oponopono (pr. ho-o-pono-pono).

Ho’oponopono simply means: “to make right” or “to rectify an error”. The ancient Hawaiians believed that “errors” (note the lack of judgment here) arose from thoughts tainted by painful memories.

Ho’oponopono offers you a way through these “errors” by releasing the energy trapped by painful memories. Not unlike the psychoanalytical method that Freud used with his patients.

Freud is famous for his triadic structure of ego, id, and superego.

But with all due respect to Freud, here’s a more enlightened triadic structure for your consideration: child consciousness, mother consciousness, and father consciousness (in no particular order).

We all have an inner child. It might even be natural, joyous, and spontaneous.

We all have an inner mother. It might even be warm, supportive, and nurturing.

We all have an inner father. It might even be firm, protective, and commanding.

You serve yourself well when you keep these parts of yourself in balance. With balance comes peace and harmony, and with peace and harmony comes a nice, easy flow to all that you say and do.

I must emphasize here the simple wisdom of caring for yourself. If your inner child tells you to take a nap, take a nap. If your inner child tells you to be with someone, be with someone.

Dr. Hew Len learned the hard way. He related, that while driving, his inner child, in a sing song voice, kept telling him to go in one direction, while he kept going in another. Ignoring the voice of his inner child, he ended up stuck in traffic for over two and a half hours. The moral of the story? If your inner child tells you, in a sing song voice, to go there rather than here, then go there!

As you will soon see, if you take full responsibility for yourself, combining ho’oponopono with an enlightened awareness of your inner family, you will have a powerful way to care for yourself, and to heal every part of your life.

To quote Dr. Hew Len: “You take good care of yourself. If you do, all will be beneficiaries”.

Another Perspective on Care

As preparation for what is to come in this post, I would invite coaches, counsellors, light workers, psychiatrists, therapists, and social workers to ask themselves the following questions.

Am I subtly manipulating my charges, clients, patients, or cases into compliance?

Am I starting with the assumption that they’re in need of my services? That they’re ineffective, ineffectual, blocked, or dysfunctional? That they need to be worked on?

That they need to be directed, healed, or saved?

If you are, then I would kindly suggest you stop doing this.

Why? Because it reveals your ignorance about what is really going on.

And because there’s a better way. A much better way.

It starts with this simple assumption:

They’re coming to you to give you a chance to look at what’s going on in you.

This bears repeating.

They’re coming to you to give you a chance to look at what’s going on in you.

Parents and teachers would do well to heed this advice. Where discipline is concerned, they would do well to learn that it applies just as easily to them and their children or students.

Have I caught your attention yet? I have? Good.

What am I talking about here?

In the beginning …

In a ward for the criminally insane, at the Hawaii State hospital in 1983, everything seemed to be in a state of decay.

Not a day would pass without an inmate attacking a fellow inmate or staff member.

Not only had the inmates committed heinous crimes, they had also been certified as insane. Either that or they were being checked to see if they were sane enough to stand trial.

Employees of the ward were careful to brush the wall when they saw an inmate approaching them in a corridor. Although shackled, such inmates were not immune to displays of extreme hostility.

All of the seclusion rooms were in use. Because of their relentlessly threatening attitude, many inmates never saw the light of day – no sunlight and fresh air for them.

The scarcity of staff was a common occurrence. Much of the time, employees, nurses, and wardens would prefer to be on sick leave rather than face their dangerous, depressing work environment.

In such an environment, toilets flushed by themselves and showers turned on spontaneously.

According to one nurse, the place was so bleak that not even the paint would stay on the walls after they were painted. Imagine that.

But all of this began to change after the arrival of Dr. Ihaleakala S. Hew Len.

What he did; What he didn’t do

Dr. Hew Len did something unusual in circumstances that seemed utterly hopeless to everyone concerned. He took 100% responsibility for his experience.

He asked himself a very interesting question, with respect to any experience in the ward that caused him pain or distress: “what is going on in me that is causing me to have this experience?”.

When he was a witness to any display of violence or crazy behavior, by inmates or staff, he would ask this question, and when he perused the files of inmates, and felt any kind of reaction to his perusal, he would typically ask this question: “what is going on in me that is causing me to have this experience?”.

He acknowledged his reactions of pain, distress, and empathy. He acknowledged them because he knew deep down that he was somehow responsible for them. He knew that somewhere, somehow, he had had a hand in bringing them about. From where and from when, it mattered not to him.

What mattered to him was that he was responsible.

With a penitential attitude, he practiced ho’oponopono.

In essence, he …

  • invited resolution of the painful or distressing memories that appeared as problems in his experience with the utterance of three simple words: “I love you”;
  • expressed regret for whatever it was he did or didn’t do with the utterance of two simple words: “I’m sorry”;
  • petitioned a broader consciousness than his own with the utterance of three simple words: “Please forgive me”; and
  • expressed gratitude for the opportunity to make amends (to be clear and free) with the utterance of two simple words: “Thank you”.

Over a span of four years in a ward for the criminally insane, and with concentration and persistence, Dr. Hew Len practiced ho’oponopono. And things began to happen.

At one point, no one entered a seclusion room anymore.

The violence became less frequent – and finally stopped.

Staff members showed up for work on a regular basis; sick leave became less frequent.

Turnaround times for the release of patients was reduced from several years to several months.

Activities for the inmates arose spontaneously, such as making cookies or polishing shoes.

As a reward for good behavior, inmates were allowed to spend time outside.

Jogging and tennis programs were initiated.

Inmates could be seen playing tennis with staff members; eventually, inmates could leave the ward without an authorizing signature to participate in the jogging and tennis programs.

The seclusion rooms were emptied – and eventually closed.

Even the paint stayed on the walls after they were painted!

I’m even willing to believe that the toilets stopped flushing by themselves.

Eventually, most of the inmates were released. Only a couple of them remained, and they were transferred to another facility. After four years, the ward was closed.

Dr. Hew Len had no compassion for the inmates. He didn’t attend to any of them. He didn’t operate from any theories. He didn’t make any plans or proposals. He didn’t start any of the programs.

He simply took full responsibility for his experience on the ward.

Resolution as Behavioral?

One might wonder, as I have, whether a calm and relaxed, smiling and cheerful Dr. Hew Len on the ward merely served as an inspiration for others to follow.

Certainly, it’s reasonable to assume that the daily practice of ho’oponopono helped Dr. Hew Len stay calm, relaxed, smiling, and cheerful in a deeply troubled and troubling set of circumstances.

Although, with the penitential attitude required by ho’oponopono, I have to imagine that his smiling good cheer was intermittent, rather than consistent.

It’s reasonable to entertain the possibility that his positive attitude and behavior positively affected staff, which in turn positively affected their dealings with inmates, creating an upward spiral of benefits.

But to assume that this was actually the case would be, in my estimation, not only naive, but absurd. The ward for the criminally insane at the Hawaii State hospital in 1983 was at the end of its rope.

Imagine yourself in such a dangerous and depressing situation, in the role of Dr. Hew Len, not knowing whether you could ever make a positive change and without knowing how long you would be there.

Dr. Hew Len was honest enough to admit that he didn’t want to be there, and I believe him.

Do you really and seriously believe that someone could bring closure to a deeply troubled ward for the criminally insane with little more than a calm, relaxed, smiling, cheerful demeanor?

I didn’t think so.

Resolution as Informational

To set a context for an explanation, here again is the key question: “what is going on in me that is causing me to have this experience?”.

Here is how Dr. Hew Len explains it:

The part of me that is not conscious contains data.

The data, or information, is causing an experience to manifest for me. In other words, the information or data that is not conscious in me is causing me to have an experience.

Feelings of pain, distress, or empathy alert me to the presence of data, which dictates a certain kind of experience in me and for me.

With these feelings, I can work with the data in me that I experience as “the other person”. So, for example, if I see you as violent or crazy, this is only my experience of you.

My experience of you is not my perception of you, which is merely an end product of the data that is causing the experience to manifest. My experience of you is the actual data processing that allows me to have an experience of you. If the data is erased, you can no longer be that way.

I can only see what I see because the processing of data is causing me to see what I see.

And the most profound feature about ho’oponopono is that you can erase the data. Or more precisely, you can petition a broader consciousness than your own to have the data erased.

Or cleaned. Through ho’oponopono, a cleaning can be performed on certain data with certain others.

But Dr. Hew Len would insist that before we can have a discussion about cleaning, one must ask what he calls “the most important question in creation”: who am I?

Who am I?

Dr. Hew Len maintains: because so many of us do not really know who we are, we’re in no position to allow the data to speak for us (as opposed to choosing not to have the data by erasing it).

So, in others words, to be at choice about erasing certain data with certain others, we must first be in a position to allow the data to speak for us.

The whole point of ho’oponopono is to fall in love with the data, with gratitude for the memories that bring back pain and distress: “thank you for showing up and giving me one more chance to free you.”

After the data is erased, what is it that remains? Nothing, which manifests as clarity.

Curiously, Nothing is the foundation out of which comes the inspiration to be moved by live data rather than dead data. Most of the time, most of us are dead to new data – as we are too stuck in old data.

What really happened?

In light of this explanation, we might inquire about what really happened in the ward for the criminally insane at the Hawaii State hospital between 1983 and 1987.

One might say that Dr. Hew Len cleaned up on most if not all of the data present in his experience in the ward, clearing a space for inspiration to transform everyone else’s experience.

Through the practice of ho’oponopono, Dr. Hew Len brought the living dead back from the brink.

For Dr. Hew Len, ho’oponopono is about releasing death (and the dead); it’s about releasing a kind of mortgage on the soul, with clarity and the release of suffering as welcome consequences.

For Dr. Hew Len, taking full responsibility means taking full responsibility for yourself, for the data that plays within you, that dictates your current experience, which has consequences for others.

According to Dr. Hew Len: even though you have little in the way of free will (there’s too much data moving through you), you do have a choice: you can be at choice about whether to erase or not to erase the data that is running, streaming, or playing as your experience of yourself and others.

To erase or not to erase. That is the question.

The data is going to run through you anyways. The question is which data is going to run you? Is it going to be merely informational (dead memories) or inspirational (live memories)?

When you talk to someone, anyone, you’re talking primarily to yourself, to the inner child who is suffering because you’re holding on for dear life to a painful memory.

Your ideal focus is not to help, heal, or save anyone, but to clear yourself of old shared data from previous encounters, directly or indirectly caused, either from this lifetime or from previous lifetimes.

The universe isn’t interested in you saving anyone; it’s interested in you being wholly responsible.

Beware the Obsession

Might we place undue emphasis on making amends, on being 100% responsible in our daily lives?

While I’ve noticed that most of us are addicted to engagement, I’ve also noticed that many of us have a fair sense of proportion when it comes to finding fault in ourselves or others.

But as you can well imagine, there’s a real danger in becoming obsessed with getting clean or clear of data you no longer need or want – i.e., with having clarity of mind or purity of heart.

Since I started learning about ho’oponopono a short while ago, I’ve already seen evidence of this in someone (probably because of a budding obsession in myself, which I’ve been careful to nip).

To be sure, energy flows where attention goes. If you keep looking for what is wrong, you will surely find it. And, inevitably and inexorably, the more you look, the more you will find.

Better to remain vigilant and clean only the most obvious instances of reactive pain and distress. Deep down, you’re perfect just the way you are and the old data coming up to be cleared is not you.

Implications, Inspiration

In light of this caveat, what might we do to “love” (or, if you prefer, welcome) the old shared data so that it can be cleared with ease, without the danger of falling into an obsessive pattern of behavior?

First of all, if we’re to avoid the specter of becoming a bumbling mumbler, mumbling our way through ho’oponopono, we need to understand what it is we’re attempting to be, have, and do.

To do this, we need to ask this question: what is it about the data that keeps us stuck? What was it about Dr. Hew Len’s experience of insanity and violence in the ward that kept him stuck in old data?

Was it a thought? A painful memory? The pain or distress itself? An assumption? What exactly? When we express regret and seek forgiveness in response to a feeling of pain or distress, is this enough?

Presumably, the so-called “data” (for lack of a better term) runs through a part of ourselves that is not conscious (the so-called “subconscious”, psychoanalytically speaking) and creates an experience.

But, in my mind, this is much too narrow a conception. Why? Because when Dr. Hew Len “erased the data” through ho’oponopono, it presumably affected everyone around him. Everyone.

This would suggest to me that we are all connected to “the data” – to an informational substrate that underlies our experience of reality, with data that streams between us, for us, and from us all.

But there’s obviously more to it than this. In the ward, Dr. Hew Len was penitent. He expressed regret. He sought forgiveness. Someone, not something, was responding to his petitions.

It seems that “the informational substrate” has a heart as well as a mind.

Is it God? Source? Divinity? Allah? Jehovah? Yahweh? The Creator? The Great Spirit? A sovereign universal mind? A collective consciousness? A cosmic consciousness? The Big Kahuna?


Dr. Hew Len’s presence alone cannot explain the transformation that took place in the ward. Dr. Hew Len did virtually nothing to effect a transformation, except make countless petitions, and in doing so, presumably had a hand in clearing a lot of old data so that Inspiration could have its desired effects.

Divine Inspiration, not human inspiration. Remember, there was precious little human inspiration when Dr. Hew Len arrived on the ward at the Hawaii State hospital in 1983.

The inspiration was presumably coming from Big Mind, Big Heart (“BMBH”), and we are all, each and every one of us, expressions of BMBH. Not only that, but we are all connected by “the data”.

Connected by “the data”, through “the data”, from “the data”, for “the data”. In a web of data.

The implications of these realizations are staggering.

First, BMBH is us. We are BMBH. We are all, each and every one of us, fully responsible for us, and for BMBH. In light of “the data”, we are one. What I do to you and for you, I do to myself and for myself.

If I clean or clear “the data” for me, I clean and clear it for you – and for us all.

But again, what exactly is “the data”?

At this point, it would be helpful to draw an analogy with our very own DNA.

On the face of it, DNA are merely strands of molecules, but dig deeper, and you realize these strands are encoded with information that are expressed through segments of these strands called genes.

If BMBH is DNA, we are its genes. I am a gene of BMBH. And so are you.

Can you see where I’m going with this?

The Reality of Karmic Data

I realize that most of this has already been covered by the world’s religions. I’m just dressing it up in a language that (hopefully) many of us can appreciate in an age of science and information.

“Karmic data” can be characterized in the following three ways:

  • “Karmic data” typically manifests as an emotional and physical reaction, which includes fear, grief, annoyance, frustration, sorrow, pain, dread, and anxiety.
  • “Karmic data”, which has been around since the dawn of creation, and has been running through us ever since, manifests as some form of pain or distress.
  • “Karmic data” is trapped, causing pain or distress, which in turn causes more data to be trapped, creating a vicious cycle of entrapment. For one and for all.

If I perceive the occurrence of an event and I feel distress, then “the data” has been processed. I am now aware of it. It can be addressed. I can clean or clear it with ho’oponopono. Likewise, and perhaps more importantly, if I perceive the occurrence of behavior in someone that triggers an emotional charge in me, then again, I can address “the data” so that it can be cleaned or cleared once and for all.

Give Yourself the Gift of Clarity

So again, what might we do to “love” or welcome the old shared karmic data enough so that it can be cleaned or cleared with ease, without the danger of falling into an obsessive pattern of behavior?

First, keep in mind that we have occurrences and we have realities.

Occurrences are, by definition, “things that take place”, especially things that take place unexpectedly or without apparent design. Furthermore, unlike realities, occurrences are invested with the meaning we give them. When I perceive the occurrence of an event or behavior, “the data” (karmic or otherwise) compels me to invest it with meaning, whether I like it or not, whether I intend it or not.

Having the presence of mind to see beyond the occurrence to the reality of an event or behavior is a very powerful way to stay calm, composed, and confident, which can do wonders for your objectivity and the quality of your relationships. To see beyond a negative meaning that you give to an event or behavior (by way of “the data”) is to see beyond the occurrence to the reality, leaving you clear and open to create your own positive meanings for the events or behaviors that you perceive.

For example, I perceive the occurrence of someone serving me without a smile, with eyes averted. Rather than dwell on the negative meaning that intrudes (was it something I said? was it something I did?), I might simply say (to myself): “I’m sorry you feel this way; please forgive me”.

Indeed, for any behavior in someone that triggers an emotional charge in me, I might simply say (to myself): “I’m sorry you feel this way; please forgive me”. And then repeat, as necessary.

Second, keep in mind that it might not be possible to release negative occurrences on the spot. The emotional charge that you feel in response to the occurrence might be too intense or persistent for you to do this. Or, you might not have the time or peace of mind to process the experience (“the data”) in the way you would like. In such cases, you might wish to apply ho’oponopono in its entirety.

This would entail the following steps:

  1. quickly acknowledge the occurrence as negative
  2. quickly acknowledge how you feel in response to it
  3. acknowledge your inability to process the experience
  4. find the time, space, and peace of mind to process it
  5. apply some variation on ho’oponopono in its entirety

The Practice of Ho’oponopono

The practice of ho’oponopono relies on four simple acts of grace that serve to clear memories experienced as problems that play over and over in that part of ourselves that is not conscious: invitation, repentance, forgiveness, and transmutation.

The basic form of ho’oponopono is quite simple: I love you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you.

I love you: For Dr. Hew Len, “I love you” means “I love you, dear memories”. Or, you might prefer “I welcome you”, or more simply, “Welcome”. The key: when you love or welcome a memory tainted with pain or distress that plays through you as a problem over and over again, you invite resolution.

I’m sorry: “I’m sorry” means “I acknowledge full responsibility for this painful feeling”; “I accept full responsibility for this painful memory”; “I take full responsibility for the creation and the accumulation of these painful feelings and memories through time, since the dawn of creation”.

Please forgive me: “Please forgive me” means “please forgive me for having a part in creating this painful feeling or memory”; “please forgive me for not taking full responsibility for it until now”.

Thank you: “Thank you” simply means “I am grateful for this opportunity to be clear and free.”

If you follow this procedure, I believe it would be important to sacralize these words, to speak them quietly or silently, in tones of sincerity, penitence, and gratitude that are consistent and persistent.

* * *

I appreciate you for following me this far. If you resisted anything I said here, perhaps you are not yet ready to hear it, but I trust the day will come when this world is free of karmic debt (data).

There is so much more I could have said here. The key takeaway for me is that I am as significant as I am insignificant in the broader scheme of things. I’ve also been humbled by writing this post – my ego has been cut down to size. 

And so the promise of clarity and purity remains, and with the promise of zero limits, nothing is missing; anything is possible.

Alone, we can change ourselves; together, we can change the world.


BriteLite September 12, 2010 at 10:52 am

While I can see your point about the seeming impossibility of one person turning around a ward with a calm and relaxed attitude, I wouldn’t underestimate the power of suggestion. If someone with a mindful presence could affect just one other staff member, the two of them together could have an even greater effect in affecting others positively, “creating an upward spiral of benefits” as you put it.

Christopher Lovejoy September 12, 2010 at 11:38 am

Hi BriteLite, I can appreciate what you’re saying, but let me give you some more context. Dr. Hew Len is quoted as saying that within three months – let me emphasize this – within three months of joining the ward, patients who had to be shackled were allowed to walk freely, others who had to be heavily medicated were getting off their medications, and those who had no chance of ever being released, were being freed; staff began to enjoy coming into work, employee absenteeism and turnover disappeared, and eventually there was more staff than required because patients were being released in greater numbers. I find it difficult to accept that all of this was the result of behavioral modification under the power of suggestion.

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