“Sometimes being a friend means mastering the art of timing. There is a time for silence. A time to let go and allow people to hurl themselves into their own destiny. And a time to prepare to pick up the pieces when it’s all over.” —Octavia Butler


We often hear the phrase, “Timing is everything,” but what does that really mean? We might say we were “at the right place at the right time” when something great happens to us. Or we acknowledge that “the timing was right” when that new relationship, job, or pregnancy showed up. Or we complain that “the timing couldn’t have been worse” when we get a flat tire on the way to any important meeting or get a huge zit right before a hot date.

But in those examples, we’re talking about timing as if it’s something outside of ourselves, something that happens to us that we didn’t generate. It’s as if timing has a life of its own. But according to Huna, we have responsibility to create and recognize good timing.


As those of you who’ve read my blogs know, I am privileged to carry on the 28th generation of a lineage of Huna, the ancient Hawaiian practice of energy work, empowerment and health in spirit, mind and body. One of Huna’s concepts that I teach in our trainings is ho’o ao.


Ho’o ao means “to look for right time and right place.” It’s the practice of paying attention to what’s happening around you, looking outside yourself to notice what’s going on in any situation—then to act appropriately with what’s happening in that moment.


Interestingly, professional comedians —at least the ones who are really funny and talented— are especially good at ho’o ao. They don’t just strut out on stage and perform their shtick. They pay meticulous attention to their audience’s reactions in each moment—when they laugh, how long they laugh, even what kind of laughter— to modify the pace of their set and the timing of their next joke. They tailor their tone and even their words to match the mood of the audience. I like how one comic, Hal Sparks, describes it:


“Vegas has the Whitman’s Sampler of audiences. They come from all different places, so you have to do some crowd psychology. You have to find the heartbeat of the room. It doesn’t shift my jokes, but it shifts my timing and my attention.”


You’re probably not an aspiring comedian, but looking for “the heartbeat” of any situation allows you to act and speak appropriately—and more effectively— within the moment. People who focus only on themselves and don’t look outside often miss this. They speak when they should listen or act silly during serious occasions. They don’t pick up on signals that someone isn’t ready to hear what they’re about to say. They talk at us rather than with us.


Huna asks us do it differently. Using ho’o ao, we stay sensitive to the people and situations around us then speak and act accordingly. Let me share a personal example:


When my daughter Skylar was five years old, she lost her best friend to leukemia. At that age, she had trouble even understanding death, much less dealing with her grief. It was very painful for her. One day, encouraged by her brother, she asked me about ho’oponopono and if it could help her. Ho’oponopono is known as the Hawaiian forgiveness process. It is also a process of release that is used when someone passes away.


I shared with Skylar why we do ho’oponopono, and what it is, and how we do it. Part of the process involves disconnecting with the person who is the focus of the process, in this case her friend. At that time, Skylar said she wasn’t ready for that yet.


So I gave her time. About two or three days later, she came up to me after school, and she said, “Okay, Daddy, I want to do it.” I took her through the process. The first time through, Skylar felt an immediate shift in the depth of her grieving. It wasn’t all gone. She still felt a little bit of sadness which is perfectly natural. Over time, as she asked me, I helped her do even more release work.


The point of this story is that Skylar had to be ready. It had to be her timing, not mine. As a concerned father, if I hadn’t been ho’o ao with the situation, I may have tried to take her through the release before the timing was right for her. My intention may have been good, but the results would not have been.


Take a moment to think about your own level of ho’o ao. Do you leap all over your spouse with your complaints when she’s just come in from a tough day at work? Do you frighten the timid children in your life with your loud voice and boisterous greeting? Do you fool around and make jokes when your team at work is trying to solve a difficult issue? Do you embarrass others by telling their personal stories in public?


Now ask yourself: Would applying ho’o ao to these situations and being more aware of “right timing and right place” serve you—and others—better?


“Observe due measure, for right timing is in all things the most important factor.” —Hesiod

To your TOTAL empowerment!

Dr. Matt
Byline: Matthew B. James, MA, Ph.D., is President of The Empowerment Partnership. Author of several books, Dr. Matt has trained thousands of students to be totally empowered using Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), Huna, Mental Emotional Release® (MER®) therapy, and Empowerment Fit, a program that incorporates targeted mind/body/spirit practices to create optimal physical fitness and health. Download his free special report, Everything You’ll Ever Need to Know to Achieve Your Goals. To reach Dr. James, please e-mail him at drmatt@nlp.com.