Monday, February 27, 2017

The Truth Behind the Story

zero limits 13 :The Truth Behind the Story

It’s not your fault but it is your responsibility.
—Dr. Joe Vitale

I wasn’t done with Dr. Hew Len. I still didn’t 
have the complete story on his work at that 
mental hospital.
“You never saw patients?” I asked him again one day.“Never?”
“I saw them in the hallway but never as a patient in my office,”
he said.“One time I saw one of them and he said,‘I could kill you,
you know.’ I replied,‘I bet you could do a good job, too.’ ”
Dr. Hew Len went on to say,“When I started at the state hospi-
tal working with the criminally mentally ill, we had three or four
major attacks between patients every day.There were maybe 30 pa-
tients at that time. People were shackled, put in seclusion, or re-
stricted to the ward. Doctors and nurses walked through the halls
with their backs against the walls, afraid of being attacked.After just a
few months of cleaning, we saw a complete change for the better: no
more shackles, no more seclusion, and people were allowed to leave
and do things like work and play sports.”
But what did he do, exactly, to begin this transformation?
“I had to take complete responsibility within myself for actualiz-
ing the problems outside myself,” he said. “I had to clean my owntoxic thoughts and replace them with love. There wasn’t anything
wrong with the patients.The errors were in me.”
As Dr. Hew Len explained it, the patients and even the ward
didn’t feel love. So he loved everything.
“I looked at the walls and saw they needed to be painted,” he
told me. “But none of the new paint would stick. It would peel off
right away. So I simply told the walls that I love them.Then one day
someone decided to paint the walls and this time the paint stuck.”
That sounded weird, to say the least, but I was getting accus-
tomed to this sort of talk from him. I finally had to ask the question
that had been bothering me the most.
“Did all of the patients get released?”
“Two of them never were,” he said.“They were both transferred
elsewhere. Otherwise, the entire ward was healed.”
Then he added something that truly helped me understand the
power of what he had been doing.
“If you want to know what it was like during those years, write
Omaka-O-Kala Hamaguchi. She worked as the social worker during
the time I was there.”
I did. She wrote the following to me:
Dear Joe,
Thank you for this opportunity.
Please know that I am writing this in collaboration with Emory
Lance Oliveira, who is a social worker who worked on the unit with
Dr. Hew Len.
I found myself the social worker assigned to the newly opened
forensic unit at the state mental hospital in Hawaii.This unit was called
the Closed Intensive Security Unit (CISU). It housed prisoner-patients
who had committed often heinous felony crimes of murder, rape, assault,
robbery, molestation, and combinations thereof, and were also diagnosed
with or thought to possibly have a serious mental disorder.
Some of the prisoner-patients had been found not guilty by reason
of insanity (NGRI) and sentenced to be there; some were floridly
psychotic and required treatment, and some were there for examination
and assessment to determine their fitness to proceed (i.e., their ability to
understand the charges against them and participate in their own
defense). Some were schizophrenic, some bipolar, and some mentally
retarded, while others were diagnosed psychopaths or sociopaths.There
were also those who were trying to convince the courts they were one or
all of the above.
All were locked in the unit 24/7 and allowed to leave escorted in
wrist and ankle restraints only for medical or court appointments. Most
of their day was spent in a seclusion room, a locked room with concrete
walls and ceilings, a locked bathroom, and no windows. Many were
highly medicated.Activities were few and far between.
“Incidents” were expected occurrences—patients attacking staff,
patients attacking other patients, patients attacking themselves, patients
attempting escapes. Staffing “incidents” were also a problem—staff
manipulating patients; drugs, sick leave, and workers’ compensation
problems; staff discord; perpetual turnover in psychologist, psychiatrist,
and administrator positions; plumbing and electrical problems; and so on
and so on. It was an intense, volatile, depressing, and wild place to be.
Even the plants would not grow.
And even when it was relocated to a newly renovated, much more
secure unit with a fenced recreation area, no one expected anything to
really change.
So when “another one of those psychologists” showed up, it was
assumed he would try to stir things up, attempt to implement state-of-
the-art programs, then leave almost as soon as he came—ho hum.
However, this time it was a Dr. Hew Len, who, besides being
friendly enough, appeared to do next to nothing. He didn’t do
evaluations, assessments, or diagnoses; he provided no therapy and did
not perform any psychological testing. He often came late, and did not
attend case conferences or participate in mandated record keeping. He
instead practiced a “weird” process of Self I-Dentity Ho’oponopono
(SIH), which had something to do with taking 100 percent
responsibility for yourself, looking only at yourself, and allowing the
removal of negative and unwanted energies within you—ho hum.
Weirdest of all was the observation that this psychologist seemed
always at ease and even to be really enjoying himself! He laughed a lot,
had fun with patients and staff, and seemed to genuinely enjoy what he
was doing. Everyone seemed to love and enjoy him in return, even if it
didn’t appear he did much work.
And things began to shift. Seclusion rooms began clearing; patients
were becoming responsible for their own needs and business; they also
began participating in planning and implementing programs and projects
for themselves. Medication levels were also dropping and patients were
being allowed to leave the unit sans restraints.
The unit became alive—calmer, lighter, safer, cleaner, more active,
fun, and productive.The plants began to grow, plumbing problems
became almost nonexistent, incidents of violence on the unit became rare,
and staff seemed more harmonious, relaxed, and enthusiastic. Rather
than sick-leave problems and understaffing, overstaffing and losing
positions now became a concern.
Two specific situations made an especially memorable impact on me.
There was a severely delusional, paranoid patient with a history of
violence who had seriously hurt several people in the hospital and out in
public, and who had had multiple hospital admissions. He was sent to
CISU this time for committing a murder. He was creepily frightening to
me.The hairs on the back of my neck stood up whenever he was
anywhere close.
It was, then, much to my surprise that a year or two after Dr. Hew
Len showed up, I spotted him walking in my direction escorted sans
restraints and the hairs on the back of my neck did not stand up. It felt
as if I was just noticing, without judgment, even when we passed each
other almost shoulder to shoulder.There was not my usual getting
ready-to-run reaction. In fact, I noticed he looked calm. I was no longer
working on the unit at that time but had to find out what had
happened. I learned he had been out of seclusion and restraints for some
time and the only explanation was that some of the staff were doing the
ho’oponopono Dr. Hew Len had shared with them.
The other situation occurred while I was watching the news on
television. I had taken a mental health day off to get away from work
and relax.The court appearance of a CISU patient who had
molested and murdered a three- or four-year-old girl showed up on
the news.This patient had been hospitalized as he was deemed unfit
to proceed on the charges against him. He was examined and
evaluated by several psychiatrists and psychologists and given an
array of diagnoses which, back then, would have most likely gotten
him a not guilty by reason of insanity (NGRI) judgment. He would
not have had to go to prison and would have been committed to the
less restrictive setting of the state hospital with the possibility of a
conditional release.
Dr. Hew Len had interacted with this patient, who eventually
asked to be taught the SIH process and reportedly was very persistent
and consistent in its practice, like the ex-marine officer he was. He,
by now, had been deemed fit to proceed and had a court date to state
his plea.
Whereas most other patients and their attorneys had opted and
would probably always opt for the NGRI plea, this patient did not.The
day before he was to appear in court he dismissed his attorney.The
following afternoon, he stood in court facing the judge and regretfully
and humbly proclaimed,“I am responsible and I am sorry.” No one
expected this. It took a few moments before the judge could grasp what
had just happened.
I had played tennis with Dr. Hew Len and this fellow on two or
three occasions and, though the patient was most polite and considerate,
I had judgments. However, at that very moment, I only felt tenderness
and love for him and sensed a huge shift in the entire courtroom as
well.The judge and attorneys’ voices were now gentle, and all those
around him seemed to be looking at him with tender smiles. It was a
So when Dr. Hew Len asked if some of us would like to learn
about this ho’oponopono after tennis one afternoon, I jumped fast and
high, anxiously waiting for the tennis game to come and go. It’s now
almost 20 years later and I am still awed by what I have since learned
was the Divinity working through Dr. Hew Len at Hawaii State
Hospital. I am eternally grateful to Dr. Hew Len and the “weird”
process he brought with him.
By the way, in case you’re wondering, this patient was found just
plain guilty and was in a sense rewarded by the judge, who granted his
request to serve his sentence in a federal penitentiary in his home state
where he could be near his wife and children.
Also, though almost 20 years have passed, I received a call this
morning from the former secretary of the unit wanting to know if Dr.
Hew Len would be available anytime soon to get together with some of
the old staff, most of whom have since retired.We will be meeting with
them in a couple of weeks.Who knows what may unfold? I’ll keep my
antennae up for further stories.
And there it was. Dr. Hew Len had indeed accomplished a mira-
cle at the hospital. By practicing love and forgiveness, he transformed
people who were hopeless and in many ways considered throwaways
of society.
That’s the power of love.
I wanted to know even more, of course.
As I was completing the first draft of this book, I sent it to Dr.
Hew Len for review. I wanted him to check it for accuracy. I also
wanted him to fill in any holes in the story about his years at that
mental hospital.About one week after he received the manuscript, he
wrote the following e-mail to me:
Ao Akua:
This is a confidential note to you and to you alone. It comes from my
reading the draft of Zero Limits. I have other comments to make on
the draft but I will leave them for later e-mails.
“You’re done,” Morrnah said without being emphatic.
“I’m done with what?” I replied.
“You’re done with Hawaii State Hospital.”
Although I sensed the finality of her comment that summer day in July
1987, I said, “I have to give them two weeks’ notice.” Of course I
didn’t. It never came up to do so. And no one from the hospital made
mention of it.
I never returned to the hospital even when I was invited to attend my
farewell party. My friends had it without me. The farewell gifts were
delivered to the Foundation of I office following the party.
I loved my stay at Hawaii State Hospital in the forensic unit. I loved
the folks on the ward. At some point, I don’t know when, I passed
from being staff psychologist to being a member of the family.
I lived closely with staff, patients, rules, polices, cliques, and forces
seen and unseen on the ward for three years, 20 hours a week.
I was there when seclusion rooms, metal restraints, medication, and
other forms of control were regular and acceptable modes of
I was there when the use of seclusion rooms and metal restraints
simply evaporated at some point. When? Nobody knows.
Physical and verbal violence evaporated, too, almost completely.
The drop in medication use occurred on its own.
At some point, who knows when, patients left the unit for recreation
and work activities without restraints and without needing medical
The transformation of the ward from being crazy and tense to being
peaceful simply occurred without conscious effort.
The transformation of the ward from being chronically understaffed to
being “overstaffed” simply took place.
So, I want to make it clear that I was a close and active family
member on the ward. I was not an onlooker.
Yes, I provided no therapy. I did no psychological testing. I attended
no staff meetings. I did not participate in case conferences on
patients. I did, however, become intimately involved in the workings
of the ward.
I was present when the first in-ward work project—baking cookies for
sale—appeared. I was present when the first off-ward activity—car
washing—appeared. I was present when the first off-ward recreation
program started.
I didn’t carry out the usual functions of a staff psychologist not
because I felt that they were useless. I just didn’t do them for
whatever unknown reasons.
I did, however, walk the ward and took part in the baking of cookies
and in jogging and tennis games off-ward.
But more than anything, I did my cleansing before, during, and after
each visit to the ward week in and week out for three years. I cleaned
with whatever was going on in me with the ward every morning and
every evening and if anything about the ward came up in my mind.

Thank you.

I love you.

Peace of I,


I loved this further clarification.While it revealed a humbleness
on Dr. Hew Len’s part, it also helped explain what he did and did not
do while employed at the hospital.
I wrote him back and asked for his permission to include the e-
mail here, to share it with you. He wrote back one word—the one I
expected him to write:“Yes.”
I’m not done with what I can learn from this amazing man.We de-
cided we would begin to lead seminars together and of course be co-
authors of this book. But at least now I had the complete story on
how he helped heal an entire ward of mentally ill criminals. He did it
like he does everything: by working on himself. And the way he
works on himself is with three simple words:“I love you.”
This is the same process you and I can do, too, of course. If I had
to sum up the modernized Self I-Dentity through Ho’oponopono
method that Dr. Hew Len teaches in a few short steps, it might look
like this:
1. Continuously clean.
2. Take action on ideas and opportunities that come your way.
3. Continuously clean.
That’s it. It may be the shortest route to success ever created. It
might be the path of least resistance. It might be the most direct
route to the zero state. And it all begins and ends with one magical
phrase:“I love you ."

That’s the way to enter the zone of zero limits.

And yes, I love you.

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