Learning Hakomi

Yesterday, through the training I’m taking with Gabor Mate, I participated in an experiential workshop in something called Hakomi.

Hakomi is a somatic, mindfulness-based approach to psychotherapy.

We didn’t talk much about the modality, and I still don’t know a lot about it — but after experiencing the approach, I’m interested in learning more.

I want to share with you the practices we did. We were in groups of 5 or 6.

For the first exercise, we were invited to pay attention to what was happening inside ourselves in the present moment and share what we felt with other group members. The instruction included not commenting on other people’s experiences; it was to be in touch with yourself and the moment. While doing this exercise, we paid attention to somatic (body), mental, and emotional states. Expression was popcorn-style. Anyone who wanted to say something jumped in.

You hear a lot of talk these days about being present, getting into the present moment, being in your body. This is a wonderful exercise to have this experience.

It’s simple once you begin. I’ll do it now as I write this; I notice the thought; I hope this newsletter is well received. I notice a bit of discomfort in my stomach. I feel my fingers touching each key on the keyboard and the soft, rubbery texture of the keyboard cover. I notice I’m getting a bit antsy and want to get up and move around instead of writing this. There’s tension in my shoulders. My tongue is exploring my mouth, tasting the salt from the pretzel I just ate. When I mention pretzel, I notice thinking about this gadget I saw on Shark Tank, designed so you can eat snacks without getting your fingers dirty. I just noticed taking a deep breath.

Another thing I see as I write this is that a witness isn’t necessary to feel the benefit. Recognizing and writing down what’s happening at this moment brings me into it. And now I have a smile on my face.

The second exercise needs more than one person. The premise for this one is that therapy often looks at the problems; what happens when we switch the focus to look at resourcefulness and strengths with the difficulties.

A person in the group tells a short story about a recent conflict or struggle. The people listening focus on the person, not on the story, then reflect back the strengths and resources they see in the person sharing: clarity, humility, the ability to survive, etc. After everyone has shared what they saw, the storyteller talks about how they felt as they received the feedback; what came up for them.

The third and final exercise is called Remembering Wholeness. It is simple and profound. Each person in the group talks about a time they felt whole.

Listeners notice what happens inside of themselves while hearing another report a state of wholeness. It’s also informative to pay attention to what happens within the group.

When the person is complete on relaying their story, others in the space tell the person what happened inside them as they listened.

The story I told about a time felt whole is not extraordinary. It’s ordinary. I was driving down the road, looking at the mountains and absorbing the environment around me. I felt like I was soaking in the beauty, and I could feel it fill my body. I felt my heart expand. I was a part of all that is, connected. It was exquisite. I didn’t have to do anything except exist. And pay attention to the road, haha.

I find it’s not necessarily the grand gestures that bring forth the feeling of wholeness. It’s the tiny, seemingly insignificant moments where I can see and feel grace.

I am still moved by the stories told by my group mates. They spoke of being out in nature, of hearing the sound of snowshoes early in the dawn amidst the silence of a new day, of seeing a sunrise. One expressed the feeling that fell over her when she came upon a beaver in the wild. Another told about the sweet experience she had dancing solo in her living room and realizing that her body in motion is as connected as sitting in meditation.

Georgia Marvin, our presenter, quoted the founder of Hakomi, Ron Kurtz, “Healing is real and powerful and will happen on its own if given the right conditions.” “Just like a cut on a finger,” Georgia said.

What are the right conditions for you to heal? Are you curious?

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