How to Pray in Times of Conflict

content_Shannon_and_ElephantI met an elephant this weekend.

His name is Themba, he is 17, and he lives at the Elephant Sanctuary in Hartbeespoort, an hour outside of Johannesburg.

I was wary of visiting the sanctuary because I feel strongly about zoos, and I worried that the elephants were being used for entertainment. I'm still not convinced that they enjoy their interactions with people, but apparently they've been rescued from much worse situations.

The conflict between humans and elephants has been going on for a long time - poaching, hunting, struggles over land, and generally being denied their right to roam free.

This sanctuary is meant to be a temporary place until the elephants can be placed in a larger private game reserve.

I represent the humans. Themba represents the elephants. How could I, in my one-minute feeding encounter with him, create a small wave of peace and harmony?

The Ho'oponopono Prayer, also called the Hawaiian Forgiveness Prayer, has been given to us by Hawaiian shamans to solve crises of conflict between two parties. The parties can be two people, two creatures, or two nations.

The prayer is simple; it has only four sentences:

I love you.

Thank you.

Please forgive me.

I'm sorry.

I scooped up the food nuggets from the bucket and held them in my hand. I paused and took a deep breath. The guide was calling for us to keep the queue moving, as the elephants don't have a lot of patience when they're waiting to be fed! I walked slowly up to Themba with the food in my hand, and I said clearly in my mind: "I love you, Themba. Thank you, Themba. Please forgive me, Themba. I'm sorry, Themba."

He made eye contact with me and blinked slowly. I got the message that he had heard me.

Then, as I'd been instructed, I deposited the food nuggets into Themba's trunk.

How can you use this prayer in your own life?

Picture the person who is irritating you the most: your boss, your partner, your parent, your sibling. The one you just can't cross the bridge to. The one who is driving you so crazy, you wish they would just disappear.

In your own time, on your own (not face to face), say this prayer using the name of your "enemy." Say all four sentences - now say it again. Any emotion rising up? Say it again. Try ten times, then take a break.

Why do we use "Please forgive ME" when clearly it was the other person who caused all the problems? Well, we only can work on our part. Somehow, accidentally, we played a role in the conflict, and we can take care of our business, not the other person's. So we say, "I'm sorry," even though we wish the other person would apologize.

I have had super good luck with this prayer. I was in a conflict with somebody where we hadn't spoken for three weeks, even though according to the project we were sharing, we were supposed to be speaking every day. I sat down one evening and wrote out the Ho'oponopono 100 times on paper. (That's another way to do it). Then I went to sleep.

In the morning, I found an email from the other person! It wasn't quite an apology 🙂 but it suggested that we try to work on the project cooperatively, going forward. Magic!

I wish you the same results or better. Will you let me know what happens?

And, by the way: I love you, guided friend. Thank you, guided friend. Please forgive me, guided friend. I'm sorry, guided friend.



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