Leaving Your Emotional Baggage Behind

11/16/2010 02:47 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Few of us make it through life with a light load. At some point, we intentionally or unintentionally become hoarders.

I don't necessarily mean hoarders of physical stuff, although that can be part of it. Anything that manifests in physical form has emotional, mental and spiritual components behind the scenes. Even if we're not physically holding onto things though, most of us carry plenty of emotional baggage. Eventually it's time to toss it or run the risk of it becoming so bogged down we can't carry the weight. When that happens we can no longer grow; we become stuck in one place, barely able to move or breathe, like those horrifying scenes from the A&E reality show on the same theme.

The question, always the question, is how? How do you dump the emotional baggage? How do you throw out the mental garbage? How do you take out the trash?

It's funny, as I see this written in black and white, how ridiculous it looks to wonder how to unload our burdens in the physical world. (True compulsive hoarders aside) we don't get confused about how to take the trash to the curb or how to put down the heavy shopping bags or how to clean out a closet. We just do it as a matter of course. It's routine.

How liberating would it be if letting go our spiritual, mental and emotional baggage could be just as easy? Just as routine? I'm here to tell you it can, and to share how.

For those who don't know me that well yet, I'm a big believer that the truest and best things in life are the simplest. The same goes for the most powerful and effective emotional-garbage-cleaning method I've found yet, a process called the Ho'oponopono.


Let me explain.

About a year ago I was invited to a women's spirituality group that gathers about once every two weeks near where I live with normally between 15 and 20 women. It's a fantastic group of ladies comprising different ages, races and stages of exploring or deepening their spirituality, and I felt blessed to have somehow drawn it into my experience. Aside from what you would expect in such a gathering - we meditated, sang, shared problems or stories - the leader would have us repeat a short series of phrases four times immediately after the group meditation:

"I'm sorry
Please forgive me
Thank you
I love you"

Sometimes we'd say it with the "I love you" at the beginning, sometimes at the end, and the rest would stay the same.

Meeting after meeting women would ask why we did this and what the process was called. Tami, the group leader, explained it's called the Ho'oponopono. It stems from an ancient Hawaiian healing and conflict resolution practice, and that if we wanted to know more we should read the book Zero Limits by Joe Vitale and Dr. Hew Len PhD.

I wanted to know more. I read the book. In the process I cried the entire way through. Yes, two full days and 220 pages of almost nonstop blubbering were not only exhausting but also unbelievably cleansing. I dumped a lot of emotional baggage that weekend. Better yet, I learned how to transform any that was left and how not to accumulate more.

You see, the premise of the book is that the way out of problems, disease and all else that ails us is to be 100% responsible for creating your life moment to moment. Just let that sink in for a second. That means you - yes you - must own everything in your experience. You accept that because it is in your life or even your very awareness, you share responsibility for its existence. It means you can blame no one and nothing for your present circumstances.

If you actually take that to heart and genuinely accept everything that is in your experience (including and especially other people and their problems) this is "a head-warping, mind-opening, brain-cramping concept" that can really bulldoze you like it did me.

So to avoid emotionally bulldozing yourself, let's get one thing really clear from the get-go: The fact that anything (dog shitting on floor - crabby baby - angry sibling - broken car - disgruntled boss -unemployment- natural disaster - cheating husband - it doesn't matter) is in your experience doesn't mean you caused it to happen. It also doesn't mean you didn't cause or contribute to it, but it doesn't mean it's your entire fault. As I read the book, I was feeling the weight of causal responsibility, hence the strong emotional impact it had on me.

But I want you to be clear on the difference between responsibility and fault. I want you to understand the distinction between what's in your life and how you're going to go forward given your present circumstances, and blame. The intent of the responsibility concept is NOT that you get mired in self-recrimination. The intent is that you become an owner, a creator, an architect of your life rather than a victim and in that lies incredible power.

The power to transform not only yourself, but everything and everyone around you. The power to heal. The power - and now the way - to throw out the garbage. The simple and routine process is all you need to get started. You can "clean" anything by simply saying:

"I'm sorry
Please forgive me
Thank you
I love you"

You clean whenever you're in or thinking about a negative or damaging situation. You clean on anything and everything that you wish transformed. Starving refugees in Africa? Clean. Post hurricane New Orleans? Clean. Current economic or political situation? Clean. Problem child? Clean.

You say it to yourself or aloud. I've experimented with all sorts of ways to clean from repeating the mantra as a meditation for a set period of time (15 or 20 minutes is good), to saying it in my head during an argumentative discussion, to using it when someone cuts me off in traffic. The goal is to make it so second nature you have this tool at the ready whenever you're challenged by negativity and would like to transform it.

I'm sure you have lots of questions, so if you're curious like I was I encourage you to invest in the book. It's the best, most recent and possibly only title on Ho'oponopono out there, tells the incredible real-life story of how Dr. Hew Len cured an entire ward of criminally insane mental prisoners with the process, and is an engaging and fast read. Or, ask your questions in comments below and I'll do my best to answer them.

I'm not done with this topic yet. I'll write more about Ho'oponopono in an upcoming blog post because it's worth exploring the "why" behind the "how", although the savvy will figure it out on their own.

In the meantime . . .

"I'm sorry
Please forgive me
Thank you
I love you"

. . . and keep cleaning!

Dr. Hew Len conducts Self-Identity through Ho'oponopono (SITH®) seminars and workshops around the world. If you're interested in a deep dive into this practice, visit his site at for a complete schedule and registration information.