The Oriental Medicine & The Hakomi Method
Hakomi integrates the principles of mindfulness and non-violence found in Taoist and Buddhist traditions with a unique, Western methodology to promote self-study, empowerment, and healing.
When combined with Oriental Medicine theory and practice, Hakomi skills create a gentle, yet powerful and effective approach to working directly with qi in all sorts of physical, emotional, and spiritual conditions. The combination brings patients greater self-awareness of their qi flow in harmony and disharmony, as well as practical steps to correct imbalances in qi that produce dis-ease in body, mind, and spirit.
Simple but profound, this work transformed the problem far more effectively than either the traditional talk therapy or acupuncture I’ve had in the past. —AJ, patient
Hakomi is a mindfulness-centered, somatic approach to healing. The body is viewed as a door that can be opened to bring our awareness to the actual, but often unconscious, connections that exist between our symptoms and feelings, behavior, and beliefs.
In Oriental Medicine, symptoms are the manifestation of patterns of disharmony. Hakomi skills can be used to deconstruct these patterns more clearly. Using the two modalities together, the body’s symptoms and chronic patterns serve as powerful “indicators”—direct access routes to the unconscious and to the way in which qi and experience are habitually organized in a person. In addition to the body, Hakomi provides skillful means for being with and working with the realms of emotions, thoughts, memories, and beliefs as they spontaneously arise in the treatment room.
When we, as practitioners, follow the access routes arising in the moment with our clients, our treatments become more efficient and effective, and our patients gain access to a profound understanding of themselves, their patterns of disharmony, the route to health and wellbeing, and any internal obstacles that may get in the way.
The Hakomi Skills We Teach
When given the choice between two practitioners with equal technical skill, where one practitioner has a warm, understanding, and kind bedside manner and the other is detached or brusque, most people would choose the former practitioner. While this makes common sense, research shows that a kind, compassionate bedside manner actually has a significant effect on the healing process and treatment outcomes.
Loving Presence and the healing relationship are foundational Hakomi skills. In this method, we cultivate the skill of being with our patients in relaxed attentiveness. We learn to develop an exquisite sensitivity, attunement, and compassion for our patients—both their conscious and unconscious processes and how this material is expressed through the qi. Loving Presence creates a sense of safety, allowing our patients to deeply connect to and participate in their own healing processes.
The Hakomi method facilitates the emergence of the essence of the practitioner. We cultivate knowing oneself in the treatment room—seeing deeply and learning to course-correct in places where we get “stuck” or fall out of compassionate presence as clinicians. We learn to fully engage our compassion, wisdom, and action with all types of clients.
Seeing Deeply: Tracking
Grounding in Loving Presence toward our patients allows the next skill, tracking, to come online. Tracking gives an ability to sense the qi in the moment, to see what is really happening, to recognize what interventions are working and where there’s some adjusting of the qi needed. Tracking includes things like: hearing the fluctuations and quality of tone and speed in speech; cognitive perceptions like noticing themes and emotions underlying the story being told; and watching various gestures and postures that relay the movement of qi and tell the inner story behind the patient’s symptom presentation. While observation is one of the core diagnostic methods in Oriental Medicine, in Hakomi work, this skill is refined to a sophisticated degree. We notice small, often unconscious (to the patient) shifts in body, mind, and emotion that are indicators of underlying qi patterns, and then bring them into the patient’s awareness so they can be studied, worked with, and if necessary shifted toward more functional and healthy balance.
The skill of contact sets up a collaborative relationship between practitioner and patient, empowering the patient to be a primary part of his or her own healing process. While many practitioners say that this is a goal of working with their patients, few have in-the-moment skills that make this collaboration happen. Contact is the moment-to-moment verbal acknowledgment, in short, simple statements, of the patient’s present experience—including the things arising that the practitioner is tracking, which the patient might not be fully conscious of (gestures, posture, emotions, attitudes, themes, and so forth).
Mindfulness: Directing Awareness
A fourth Hakomi skill—working in mindfulness—is the hallmark of the Hakomi Method. Mindfulness is a present-centered, receptive state of mind where one observes what is. Mindfulness is a gateway to discovering and resolving the complexity inherent in chronic disease patterns. For example, we can start with the pain a patient feels in her stomach area. From here, we guide the patient’s awareness to “stay” with the direct experience of her bodily sensations in the moment. With the spaciousness and curiosity that mindfulness provides, other channels of information about the current “held” pattern become available: thoughts, emotions, images, and memories. By staying with the present-moment experience that is arising around the symptom, practitioners can translate present experience back into qualities and movements of qi, in order to aid both the practitioner and patient in constructing effective and efficient treatment plans.