Hakomi is body-centred psychotherapy that makes it possible for clients to discover the habitual, automatic attitudes, both physical and psychological, by which they generate patterns of experience. This gentle therapy teaches clients to follow the inherently intelligent processes of body and mind to promote healing. It is particularly helpful in working with the effects of trauma and abuse, emotional pain, and limiting belief systems. Through the use of simple experiments, unconscious attitudes are brought to consciousness where they can be examined, understood, and changed.
Hakomi integrates body, intellect, emotions, and spirit, taking into account the whole person, without separating out individual aspects. Hakomi is a Hopi word which means, "How do you stand in relation to these many realms?"
The Hakomi Method of Body/Mind Therapy is grounded in a set of principles that reflect this revolution or what is often called the shifting paradigm. The work is just one inspired expression of these principles. Our methods and techniques, the relationships we develop with our clients and each other, are all expressions of the principles, scaled down to meet each task and moment of the work. They are about holism, unity and a participatory universe; about relationship; about the nature of living beings and their differences from the material, mechanical realm. They are about the reality of nonviolence. They are the "dharma" of Hakomi, its source of wisdom, clarity and power. These principles are the heart of the work and a refuge for therapists lost. My first concern as a teacher of Hakomi is that my students understand and work within these principles: non-violence, mindfulness, unity, organicity, and mind-body holism.
People are living beings, different in fundamental ways from machines. We are self-organising. We are systems that self-create and self-maintain. We heal. Machines don't do that. So, we look at people as self-organising systems, organised psychologically around core memories, beliefs and images. This core material is at the very heart of what we have made of our lives. It creates and maintains our images of self and of our culturally acquired world. It directs our perceptions and actions. Core material expresses itself through all the habits and attitudes which make us individuals. Our feelings, actions and perceptions are continuously influenced by core material around major themes: safety and belonging; support, love and appreciation; freedom and responsibility; openness and honesty; control, power, sexuality, membership, and the social and cultural rules. These themes are the daily grist of therapeutic work.
Hakomi is a method for helping people change their way of being in the world through working with core material and changing core beliefs. It is a transformational method and it follows a general outline: First, we work to build a relationship, which maximises safety and the cooperation of the unconscious. With that relationship, we help the client focus on and study how he or she organises experience. Most behaviour is habit, automatically organised by core material. Thus, when we study the organisation of experience, we are studying the influence of this core material. It is usually a simple step from that to direct contact with core feelings, beliefs and memories.
To study the organisation, we establish and use a state of consciousness called mindfulness. Many books have been written on mindfulness; it is part of every transpersonal tradition we know. It is a distinct state of consciousness, characterised by relaxed volition; a surrender to and acceptance of the happenings of the moment; a gentle, sustained focus of attention inward; a heightened sensitivity; and the ability to observe and name the contents of consciousness. It is self-reflective. In psychotherapy, nothing is as useful as mindfulness. For example, the client could be slowly raising an arm upward in a real or imagined context of reaching out to someone, all the while studying the experience thus created. Perhaps, at some point in the arm's travel, the client notices fear. Casually and quickly raising the arm, especially if it is part of doing something like getting a jar down off the shelf, won't evoke that fear. It is mindfulness -- the slowness of the action, the self-observing and the focus on experience (rather than the contents of the jar or thoughts about the recipe) that does the job. The fear most likely relates to memories and beliefs about reaching out to others. Following the evocation of the fear (or whatever experience is evoked), a transition to processing takes place, if the client is ready.
Processing is state-specific, because core material, especially organising memories, is state-specific. There are three different states we work with: mindfulness, strong emotions, and a state in which child-like consciousness appears. We use different methods with each. Hakomi is a non-violent psychotherapy. It is a way to help people change that allows for the wisdom and healing power in each of us. To work non-violently, we must drop notions about making clients change and, along with that, any tendency to take credit for their success. That doesn't mean we have to be passive; non-violence is not inaction. We can work without using force or the ideas and methods of a paradigm of force.
If we are not going to use force, we must use our ability to wait for the right moment, to recognise what is growing here and what is ready for expression. In therapy, this is the highest skill: to know each moment for what it can be. Some part of the client already knows this truth, knows the holding back and the longing to move on.
Psychotherapy has been called "the talking cure." Over the past few decades, the nature of that talking has changed dramatically. Psychotherapy used to be talking about -- about feelings, about relationships, the past, or anything else the client wanted to talk about. It was conversational. Focusing on present experience, especially on emotional expression, came later. It came with Reichian Therapy, Psychodrama, Gestalt, encounter groups and all that followed. At that point, much of psychotherapy moved from merely talking about experiences to actually having them.
The shift towards experience was also a shift towards the present, where experience is. In encounter, one of the rules was: talk only about what is going on here and now, at this time, in this room. Stay in the present.
In the 80's, the therapies at the cutting edge, like Feldenkrais and NLP, took the shift one step further. These therapies deal not only with experience but, more importantly, they deal with the organisation of experience. In meditation, for example, we study what follows in the flow of mental life, how the mind puts experiences together. In these new ways of working, we're still having experiences, but we're not just having them. We're also studying how experiences are organised. We're studying the systems that put experience itself together. The goal of this new therapy is to contact and understand the events, which create and maintain the flow of experience itself. We do it in order to transform the way we organise all experiences. This therapy is transformational. When you change not just what you experience, but how you experience, you have transcended, you have become a different self. You have changed at the level of character. Your personal paradigm has shifted. This is how psychotherapy has changed. In Hakomi, we don't just talk about experiences. We don't just have experiences. Rather, we study how each of us organises his or her experience.
In therapy, we attempt to establish and enhance communication between conscious and unconscious, and between mind and body. In using mindfulness, we create opportunities which allow the unconscious a clear chance to express and be seen, heard and felt. In our focus on the mind-body interface, we work to create channels of communication between them. When we work with the child, we are often hearing from a part that has long been suppressed and silent. When the client comes into insight, meaning and self-acceptance, again it is one part understanding or accepting another.
The unity principle states that the universe is fundamentally a web of relationships in which all aspects and components are inseparable from the whole and do not exist in isolation. We embrace unity when we bring attention to aspects of ourselves and others that are in isolation and conflict. We embrace it when our way is acceptance and curiosity; when our goal is to bring together all aspects of the person: mind/mind, mind/body and self/universe; when we know as part of our being that we are connected, to each other and this world. That knowing is the healing power of this work.
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