Category Archives: Writings by Our Community

Refined Hakomi

By Roger Langmaid

We are especially fortunate to be participants studying, training in and practising the Refined Method of Hakomi which Ron Kurtz continued to develop until his death in 2011. The refinements were not only the addition of new practices and emphasis but also the leaving behind of some practices such as character theory, that Ron felt the refined method had outgrown.

“Since the early 90’s, when I resigned as director of the Hakomi Institute, I have continued to refine the method and to teach these refinements in workshops and trainings along with a few trainers who have studied and worked with me the last fifteen years or so.” (1)

Ron KurtzRon moved the method away from being confined to professionals or institutions.

“Over the years, my vision of the method has evolved. You’d expect that over forty years. It’s evolved not only in its fine detail, but also in a larger sense. I see the method now more as a natural process, not something very complicated. I see it as a way someone with developed skills for caring and relating can assist someone who has the courage and intent to seek a happier way of being through self-knowledge.” (2 )

Ron lists the original Hakomi components and later refinements of practice in his writings. (1)

Perhaps the most significant refinement of all is loving presence, as over technique and method Ron stresses the importance of our relationships, our ability to be with each other in ways that truly support our own study and healing.

“I realized during one mind-opening session that my own state of mind (or state of being) was the most important aspect of the healing relationship. I called it loving presence and began teaching it as the first and most important thing to learn. It was about how one creates that state of mind and what it means to be present with the facts of every moment.” (1)

Before his death Ron acknowledged those who had remained with him and practiced the Refined Method by declaring them his legacy holders.

“So much of Hakomi is an expression of a personal spirit, a way of being. I believe much of that spirit was lost to those who took a different path. The original inspiration has been filtered through too many generations of Hakomi teachers and trainers whose connection to me was broken years ago. Hakomi is no longer a single coherent method. It has mutated into different species, one taught by the Hakomi Institute, another by the trainers and teachers who continued to study and work with me.” (1)

1. The Esalen Hakomi Group Handbook Appendix 1. Evolving vision Ron Kurtz
2. Talk on the refined method by Ron Kurtz – Ireland 2009 transcribed by Trudy Walter

Assisting in Hakomi

By Roger Langmaid

Those of us training in Hakomi become familiar with the role of assisting the therapist and client during a session. This practice of using assistants is one of the features that Ron Kurtz brought to the method that remains outside of many traditional private therapist – client practices.

“I now have trained many assistants – it’s a very good way to involve people and teach them the method. I even use assistants in private practice, there are many things you can do with a client when you have assistants that you can’t do when you’re alone with a client.”(1)

Ron KurtzOne function of assisting is for us, with the therapists consent, to offer our own care and loving presence to the client. Ron talks about this:

Another thing I introduced into the method, a long time ago was the use of assistants. Here’s how they assist when a client experiences a painful emotion as an outcome of an experiment. They offer comfort. If it’s accepted they provide it. Sometimes it’s just a hand on a clients arm or shoulder. Sometimes it’s being held in someone’s arms for a while. That’s the second thing I do when an experiment evokes a painful emotion, give the client the opportunity to be touched or held. Almost always it’s my assistants that do that. When they do, like me they remain silent.” (2)

Assistants may also be asked by the therapist to support the client by taking over – another of the unique Hakomi practices. The therapist may offer the client that either their inner verbal statements or physical experiences such as tensions or movements be taken over or supported. This is often best done using assistants. Ron talks about the value of taking over:

“Taking over is a way to offer a person a chance to relax, to give up some effort. Even when you are taking over a thought the person has in reaction to a probe, by giving someone else the expression of the thought, that’s something the person need not do. More accurately it is the parts that operate from an involuntary place that that give up the effort. When that happens, the person often begins to feel what was hidden from consciousness.”(3)

Having the client work within a group setting with assistants can itself have a significant impact. Discovering and revealing painful material to others can be healing in itself. For many of us, part of the missing experience is the lack of recognition, understanding or companionship in those painful moments of our life. The practice of having other people involved purely as witnesses in loving presence is often therapeutic for the client.

“Assistants can help contain the process when strong emotions are being expressed. With assistants there is a semi public aspect to the therapy. The process is being witnessed. It’s not just therapist and client. It’s happening in a group of some size, from three or four to a whole group of people. That has a powerful effect on the client mind. You have told your story and others have heard it.”(2)

Assisting is one of the best ways we become trained in the practice of Hakomi, by being right there in the process with the client and therapist. Our own sympathetic loving presence is naturally aroused when we get to witness others self exploration and work.

1. The Esalen Hakomi Group Handbook Appendix 1. Evolvi ng vision Ron Kurtz
2. Overview Talk on the Hakomi Method Ireland 2009 Ron Kurtz
3. Talk given in Tokyo Training 2001 Ron Kurtz

The vulnerability hangover

Kenny AskewIt’s New Year’s morning and I’m suffering from a hang-over, a vulnerability hangover, my hangover I wake up to when I share too deeply – maybe expose too much; wake with the fear that somehow this truer me will put me out of the fold.

“Don’t be weak, don’t be afraid, at least don’t show it, don’t talk about it. Don’t talk about who you are, your weaknesses and fears, about your sensitivities and how you can be hurt, your spirituality and your relationship to the something more.”

It is the tug of war of living in two worlds, that of the healing arts and that of a carpenter…worlds that can seem very far apart. And vulnerability seems to be the bridge linking the two. Somehow vulnerability, courage, fear and shame seem to share this bridge. How we organize and expose these elements can have incredibly different outcomes.

Sitting with people in a Hakomi way, we are asking them, inviting them and ourselves to go to the edge of what we know and open to the unknown, the unknown of ourselves; living on the boundary with a foot in two worlds like a fool jumping into the unknown, longing to open to the mysteries of ourselves.

When I look for the cure for a vulnerability hangover, rather than say, “I will never be vulnerable again,” I find safe places, like Hakomi, where I can be real and let my truer self come to the party.

One voice says, “Hide, don’t expose.” Another voice says, “Be willing to be vulnerable for it is the birthplace of creativity, imagination and connection.” With loving presence we give our vulnerabilities a soft place to land.

There has got to be something incredibly powerful in vulnerability, otherwise I wouldn’t be so compelled to share, to expose and to explore these depths. To explore these places puts me in touch with the extraordinary realms, and as soon as I am in touch with them, I want to share their brilliance. When we find something incredible that puts us in touch with the more – the more of who we are, we want to share it. But how to find the words? Is it in the words or the experience? How do we share an experience? Maybe by truly letting ourselves feel our experience.

In the zone of vulnerability, I find things that feel valuable and worth talking about. I think there is a healer part of ourselves that is an elegant opportunist, a master of present experience, that recognizes an opportunity and puts us on the path to epiphany. I love that part and I hate that part. That part looks for growth opportunities, not necessarily comfort opportunities. I don’t know how I got the idea that vulnerability was weakness, because it sure seems like it takes a lot of courage to be vulnerable.

My vulnerability hangover feels better. Maybe it’s time to hit the sand and expose a little more.

Freedom From or Freedom To

How Hakomi helps…

kenny_smBy Kenny Askew

One of the questions new clients often ask is how many sessions will it take. Certainly if counselling was covered by insurance, they would want to know how many.

Mental and emotional health seem to take on a more nebulous quality than physical health does. With physical health, we can measure healing with the level of pain experienced, with range of motion or functional tests of one sort or another.

No matter where we are in our life process, there is always more to learn, more to experience, new frontiers to explore.

Emotional health is a little trickier. To me, life is a process of learning, growing, and experiencing. No matter where we are in our life process, there is always more to learn, more to experience, new frontiers to explore.

This is where Hakomi comes in. It is a system of assisted self-study. We can help each other and our clients by walking with them in their exploration of themselves and the way they are organized.

Sometimes I think of the self-discovery process as a process that may start out looking for freedom from something… freedom from pain, freedom from fear, freedom from loneliness. At some point, we have freedom to… freedom to create, freedom to make choice. By illuminating our beliefs, habits, and unconscious strategies and programs, Hakomi allows us the freedom to make choices that are conscious.

I think this is where it gets a lot more scary… “You mean it’s up to me? My choice matters? I get to choose? I think I want to go back to thinking it’s my childhood or my mother. If that was different in some way, my world would be whole. I think I’ll go back to freedom from again.”

What creates relief is realizing and experiencing that we have agency in life, that our thoughts and beliefs do shape the world we live in. This of course is where it gets scary, because blame and victimhood don’t work so well when we realize we do have power in our personal lives.

From problems to possibilities, freedom from to freedom to.

On this journey, it is helpful to have someone accompany us. The gentle walk of Hakomi can offer freedom on our path of self-discovery.

The greatest gift I have received

imageAs I accept that autumn is indeed on its way I begin to prepare for the waning light by nesting, organizing and stocking up on healthy foods from the harvest. I also turn inward. I notice this is the time of year that I want to make commitments to my health and my creative projects.
Something that I notice in this shift toward myself is that I am impatient with the transition and with my progress. I want it all to happen now and that can create frustration.

I can watch this happening and that is one of the gifts I’ve learned on my Hakomi path. Instead of reacting without realizing what is happening, and ending up in a cycle of frustration and impatience, I am able to watch my actions. That witnessing usually allows a space big enough so that I can choose a kinder, more gentle way of being toward myself in response. I am deeply grateful for this compassion that I continue to cultivate for myself and in turn for others. It is the greatest gift I have received.

The Hakomi Method slows things down so that we can study ourselves in relation to the world around us. Being hijacked by our habits or beliefs can leave us in a cycle of actions and reactions that are unhealthy and cause needless suffering. The self discovery that Hakomi offers is a gentle, playful and insightful way of finding out who we are so that we may celebrate ourselves and also make space to change what isn’t working for us. Moshe Feldenkrais, the founder of the Feldenkrais Method, says “you can’t do what you want until you know what you are doing”. I love the simplicity of this and also the implied responsibility: lets look at our habits so that we may learn something new.

Embodying a new way of being can have a deep, long-lasting impact on our lives. As the new habit is practiced in daily life, the new neural pathway gets more travelled, easier to find, and the old neural pathway (old habit) “grows over” and is no longer the immediate choice. This idea alone is very powerful. We can embody a new pattern, change our brains, live life more freely. Consciousness is choice and choice is freedom. Hakomi is a method of assisted, mindful self discovery so that we may have less suffering, more freedom, more happiness.

~Angela Davis