Pono ke Ala: The 3 Minute Rule


As I write this, four people I know have had pressing interpersonal challenges in their lives this week and came to me for ideas, and for all of them the best feedback I could give them was the “Three Minute Rule.” As I reflected how truly empowering this rule was and still is to me, I thought it would be a valuable thing to share with you now. 

This “rule” was part of the Pono Circles teachings I enjoyed for many years in Hawaii with Aunty Mahealani, aka the “Aloha Spirit Aunty” who, for me, brought the concept of ho‘oponopono alive. I met her in the late 1990s in a Hilo print shop, next to my Hilo massage school, where I saw her lovely artistic designs for POGs (long story, but basically a 1990’s rage in Hawaii for circular—and later collectable—cardboard cards similar to the ones produced by the Passion fruit, Orange, and Guava juice bottles of the time). There she was with her gorgeous drawings, enchanting Hawaiian smile, and long dark hair, and we started chatting. As I was looking for a new logo for my school, and noticed her artistic talent, I later asked her to design one for me, using my vision of hands outstretched, with young unfolding fern shoots coming up from them. My vision of the shoots, young and tender and unfolding into powerful hapu fronds, captured to me the journey of my students as they gained skills and confidence leading up to their new careers, massage licenses and businesses. And she did indeed provide a lovely drawing that I used for a decade while owning my Hilo Academy of Massage (1991 to 2003).


But back to the story… This rule is ultimately about respect and healthy boundaries between individuals. RESPECT for those involved, but also a deeper spiritual understanding of the importance of being fully responsible as adults for all of our own choices, moment by moment. This includes all the situations we get ourselves into, good or bad, consciously or not, and all the ways we respond or react.

As listeners/friends/therapists we practice empathy but should not get caught up with the ‘victim’s’ issues, pains, worries, problems (aka pilikia). We can be empathetic, but also must respect them enough to let them go through their situations and experiences, while also respecting ourselves and not falling into the enabling trap. This is so tricky at times, for it is human nature to offer solutions and advice to others, or to take control and ‘fix it’ for them, or to ‘feel the pain’ of someone we care for or a client on our massage table. But this is actually what we must not get ourselves amerced in, for it hinders our own clarity and may feed our ego. Also, any massage therapist experiences a transference of energies, sooner or later, and how the client’s or friend’s pain and anxieties can easily get absorbed into our own bodies.

This is not to say we shouldn’t be caring and sharing – not at all. Rather this is to say that ultimately we need to respect the divine plan and the highest self of everyone concerned. We need to sort it out, learn the lessons, and make new choices in life. We can support one another, but each and every adult must stay in the ‘driver’s seat’ of their own life’s unfolding, and take full responsibility for the pilikia that they may find themselves in, especially if they are chronic offenders. We can be supportive and good listeners, but must remember they must make their own choices and be responsible for the results. This is the Universal plan, and a Law that we all must follow.

At first, we were shocked when Aunty announced this! After all, it seemed so rude and cold. What about the ‘aloha spirit’ and all the caring and sharing that we were able and supposed to give others?! Were we to just cut them off during their despair and suffering? To ‘turn the other cheek’ and go on to our own affairs while they struggled? To put their cries for help aside while we went back to our own lives and priorities? AAAUUUWWEEE!

But alas, as usual, there was a method to her ‘madness’ and it centered around respect for the sacred process of the spiritual journey of waking up as human beings and being responsible for our own choices and actions. Wow!!! That was heavy!

But truth be told, she had just shifted ‘Being a Victim’ to ‘Being in the Driver’s seat of your Life.’ And, truly, in which position would you rather be? Which reflects your divine nature?

So let’s look at this in real scenario terms. A massage client, dear friend or even family member rings you up and tells you of his/her dilemma or situation. They need to download and find someone to truly listen to them. This could involve a new or ongoing crisis they are facing, physical or emotional pain, sudden loss, ongoing drama and chaos, or worse yet a chronic pattern that they’ve adopted to gain sympathy from others. As a massage therapist, you no doubt understand the difference between sympathy and empathy for others, as well as energy transference. I dare say that no massage therapist has not experienced ‘absorbing or picking up’ their client’s pain or anxiety while they were sincerely massaging them, nor has any caring loving person not picked up the stress of another’s suffering when they stopped to deeply listen and feel someone’s heartfelt story. Thus in care-giving we must have discernment and ‘keep professional boundaries’ to protect ourselves.

The bottom line, however, that energy moves where attention goes. Serge King has been saying this for decades. We’ve heard the expression that “what you resist, persists.” It’s a fundamental law of the Universe! Even Western Medicine has finally recognized the ‘body mind connection’ of our thoughts, actions and subsequent physical symptoms and manifestations. There is no separation.

So in our sincere efforts to help others, and our natural instincts to protect and nurture our family members and loved ones, along comes the ‘Three Minute Rule.’ So what exactly is it? And how and when do we apply it?

The Three Minute Rule is a guideline to help you stay pono and free from excessive pilikia (problems, traumas, dramas, etc.). It is built upon the fundamental truth that ultimately we are each fully responsible for ourselves.

Putting emergencies, the needs of little children and the disabled, ‘freak’ accidents and horrible crimes  etc. aside for now, when we look at ourselves (as adults) and our precious gift of Free Will divinely endowed upon us, we must at some point in our lives grow up and take responsibility for our choices. We have, each and every moment, choice. Choice is not about controlling others or our material world, but about how we choose to respond (not react) to each and every moment in our lives.

This is huge, as it turns out, but also extremely empowering. Life is not a ‘dress rehearsal’ … this it real and this is your moment in time to LIVE and CHOOSE and CREATE your moments. You may have beliefs about destiny and your divine purpose, but you still co-create your life because you are part of the divine plan and not a mere puppet or victim, for God’s Kingdom is way too magnificent to need to control you. Your future and present moments are largely dependent on your present thoughts and choices.

Therefore, do not dwell on the past. It’s history. It’s over. Perhaps you messed up, or did your very best, or whatever. The bottom line is that it is history, so “Get over it” as Maka‘ala Yates used to remind us—whatever ‘it’ was that seems to be holding you back. And better yet, it does not have to dictate your future. Yes, that’s right … you and your choices NOW can change your future as well as your present moments and reality. Do you realize how precious and empowering this truly is?!!

But you have to be ready and willing to let go of the past—all those ‘wrong’ things that you did or happened to you. OMG that is also termed ‘forgiveness’ of yourself and others. That is huge in itself. But that is exactly what the Hawaiian practice of ho‘oponopono is all about. And it frees your soul as well. But that is another story.

So how and when can we use the “Three Minute Rule” when dealing with others? Well, our Pono Circle teachings taught us that whenever we found ourselves listening to the negativity and pilikia that other people were downloading on us, we were encouraged to literally give them no more than three minutes maximum. We can certainly be good friends and listeners, and give them time to share, while we truly care … but now we have permission to cut it off after three minutes.

The chronic offenders, those people who’s comfort zone is always singing the “Poor me” blues, are living in the Hell Hotel, according to Mahealani. And people in the Hell Hotel love company! They need to download, and this usually drains us. Do you know someone who is always negative, and you find yourself trying to avoid this person? Perhaps they seem to love the messes they get themselves into sometimes, and they love to talk about it.

But more importantly, they and they alone can decide to move out of the Hell Hotel … when and if they are ready. And if they are ready, or not, is where respect comes back in, for it is important to respect their choices, as good or bad as they may seem, and allow them to experience the consequences of those choices. This is so hard to do when you see them suffering or damaging themselves. So you can support and encourage them, but do not take over. Allow them to learn their own life lessons in their own unique ways, and not drag down other people while doing so.

Lo and behold, when this teaching came to us, the whole group was taken aback by the seeming coldness (not to mention selfishness) of it all, but we soon discovered the wisdom behind it all. Since each and every one of us is responsible for our own lives, and each and everyone of us is responsible for our own manifestations, challenges, emergencies, joys, hopes and rewards of our own lives, we are actually freeing others to be self-reliant and find their own inner wisdom and strengths. I know this is huge, but (as it turns out) it is also True. And the Truth shall and does set us free.

It all comes down to a Universal principle that has time and time again proves itself to be interwoven into the fabric our day-to-day lives. For one of our greatest gifts to others (beyond caring, sharing, massage, and even loving) is to acknowledge the divine spirit in one another, including our ability to choose present and future moments and all resulting consequences and manifestations. In this way, each and every one of us becomes fully empowered for everything we do, create, and manifest.

So as it turns out, whenever we are being overly sympathetic or enabling to others, we often are getting caught up in drama ourselves. We are potentially feeding into the pilikia, or acknowledging their victimhood, and therefore actually perpetuating it … Wow! While we are seemingly caring, we are likely reinforcing the very stuff we don’t want! Instead, if we say (after three minutes) “so sorry but I have to go … I trust that you will find a solution … and I love you” (or whatever seems appropriate), we are best serving them and ourselves by honouring our mutual divinity.. We are allowing them to sort out their own stuff, and ultimately honoring their karma, highest selves and their relationship with the Universe, as well as our own.

This is one of the best and most generous, loving things that you could do, actually, although it may go against your instincts at first. It also requires trust in Akua (God)—a higher power and greater universal intelligence. Stepping outside of your cozy and familiar comfort zones and fixed beliefs is challenging. Be willing to relinquish control over others and try new approaches. Blaming others and perpetuating old habits is the easy route. And regarding the past, just ‘get over it’ so you can get busy and embrace your precious life and each and every one of your precious moments fully!

Put the stuff others are sorting in their lives back into their own hands. This is in harmony with the Divine Plan because it is empowering to all and truly pono. And it also frees you to be loving, happy and a light for others. This is so much better than enabling them to be victims or co-dependent, regardless of your loving intentions!

So listen, and care, and love … and after three minutes, perhaps move on and trust that the Universe will speak to their spirits with the answers and actions that they need to follow, if they are ready to hear. And if not, that’s okay too.

By the way, after about a year, for our group Auntie changed three minutes to 30 seconds! But that, too, is another story …  For more of Aunty’s teachings, click here.