A brief introduction to Hakomi: What is it? What to expect.

Jennifer MitchellAnxiety, Jennifer Mitchell

My personal experience. My first exposure to Hakomi was a 30 minute segment that apprehended remarkable insights into myself.  In the course of the two year training I made deep shifts in the way I thought about myself and most significantly my relationship with anxiety. As one of our wise teachers said;

“you can’t change the cards you are dealt, but you can

change your relationship to them.”

 I learned to accept my anxiety – I could not become whole by amputating the parts of myself that caused discomfort (more wise words from my instructor). In essence, I learned to accept anxiety as part of myself, but also heal the core material that drives the anxiety. Using another metaphor – anxiety rides in the back seat while I drive the bus – anxiety no longer drives the bus.

What exactly is Hakomi?

Hakomi is a Hopi word and translates in English to –

‘How do you stand in relation to these many realms?’ (or ‘Who are you?’).

This  Hopi word reflects Hakomi’s emphasis on the client’s self-study. Clients are encouraged to study the organization of their experiences – What beliefs do they hold about who they are? How do they enter and meet the world? What is their perception of their world? Is it safe? Is it unsafe?

Hakomi is a body-centered psychotherapy.

Hakomi is part talk – part observation while working with the body and mind. It recognizes that embodied expressions (postures, gestures, facial expressions, body habits such biting lip, twirling hair etc., tone of voice) are often invaluable sources of real time-present information about the chiefly unconscious beliefs and assumptions that influence behaviors, outlook on life and interactions in relationship.  These are often our “core material”

The Hakomi institute explains :

Core material is composed of memories, beliefs and emotional dispositions. It shapes the styles, habits, behaviors, perceptions and attitudes that define us individually. Typically, it exerts its influence unconsciously, by organizing our responses to the major life themes such as safety, belonging, support, power, control, responsibility, love, sexuality, spirituality, etc. Some of this material supports who we wish to be, while some of it, learned in response to acute and chronic stress or learnt as young children, continues to limit us. Hakomi allows the client to distinguish between the two, and to willingly change material that restricts wholeness. (http://hakomiinstitute.com/about/the-hakomi-method)

Hakomi uses mindfulness to explore core material.

Mindfulness. Mindfulness invites observation, with non-judgement, about what is presently occurring – this may be emotional, physical, spiritual, mental or sensory. It is “impartial watchfulness” – it does not follow only good mental states, nor does it try to avoid bad mental states.

Mindfulness allows acceptance of the elements that may need the most observation, such as examining fear, depression, anger, and frustration – “in order to observe our own fear, we must accept the fact that we are afraid.” Mindfulness allows the observation of experience without being caught up in the experience. Often when we are automatically in our anger, in our fear, in our frustration we may react in patterns that may no longer be serving us.

What can you expect in a Hakomi session?

    • First, we establish a loving presence (gentle acceptance and care). This ensures safety and respect.
    • Client are taught and guided into mindfulness.
    • Mindfulness is used to study core material.
    • Core material can be studied by working with the client’s present-real time, felt experience
      • This felt experience may be spontaneous or evoked by having them study their body, a memory, a sensory experience, movements or thought.
  • As unconscious material emerges into consciousness – clients become aware, can process and transform the core beliefs that have not been serving them
  • Integrations of new beliefs and new strategies into real-life action and choice help with lasting changes

Hakomi is gentle, effective and best understood experientially. As with any therapeutic method, it needs to be the right fit for the client and clients are encouraged to do their own research on the method or even attend a Hakomi workshop.