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Typical Training Format

Training in the Hakomi Method

Hakomi Experiential Method

Reflective Presence: a Buddhist Hakomi Training




Donna Martin, Hakomi Trainer:

About our training style…


There is a strong focus in our trainings (Vancouver, Montreal, Edmonton, and Charlottetown, in Canada, as well as Maui, Japan, the UK, Ireland, Argentina and Mexico) on the importance of personhood and the state of mind/being of the therapist or helper. The approach is based on the belief that the presence and “beingness” of the helper is the key to his or her effectiveness in a helping role, which might be psychotherapy, bodywork, social work, teaching, or any other professional or personal situation.


Rather than focusing on teaching the method academically, we focus on using the Hakomi Method experientially for this self work. We create a group situation where people assist each other in this approach to self-study, self-discovery, and emotional healing. What is being healed is any attitude, habitual behaviour or belief that interferes with being fully present for oneself and/or others in a creatively loving and peaceful way.


Hakomi is an experiential method. We use experiences evoked in mindfulness to discover and explore how we organize experience in our life. We use this method to assist others to become aware of how their life experiences are organized by old habits and beliefs, many of which may be limiting or hurtful. We use the method to learn how to help others have experiences which can increase the possibilities for their life to be nourishing.


Experience forms the basis of our emotional life and the way we relate to others… our emotional and relational habits are learned by the experiences we have had and the meaning we made of them. For any meaningful change to occur in how we experience life, we need to have new experiences, and new relationships. This becomes the point, not only of Hakomi as a method of personal healing and psychotherapy, but also of the method as a training approach.


Experientially, the training gives lots of opportunity for people to learn about mindfulness, about paying attention to nonverbal expression, about being present for what is happening and what is emerging, about recognizing “indicators” of limiting beliefs and/or missing experiences, and being present for each other in a loving way as the process of self-study and self-discovery moves in the direction of personal healing and spiritual transformation.


The training group becomes a supportive community for this self work. The elements of collaboration, of assisting each other, of believing in and following the “client”, of a warm and loving attitude, have been shown to be contributing factors to successful outcome in psychotherapy.[1]


The foundation for being present with each other in this Hakomi way is the practice of loving presence. This revolves around the whole idea of limbic resonance, as described in a General Theory of Love.[2] We want to help each other to develop our capacity to “prize others”. [3]


We have seen that even a few days of this way of supporting each other and being supported can be carried into people’s lives outside the training and begin to change how they relate and how they work.


Certainly, after two or three years of being in this kind of Hakomi training, the participants demonstrate an understanding of the method as assisted self-discovery based on using little experiments done in mindfulness to help someone experience a new reality by having a missing experience of being related to in a more loving and wholesome way. The focus is on therapy in a group setting. After two or more years, they have learned a lot about individual and group therapy using the Hakomi Method. More importantly, they have learned a lot about themselves in relationship to others, and have learned ways of staying present and loving in difficult situations.


What we help people do, which they can then begin to help others do, is be more conscious of themselves, of the impulses and feelings that arise inside them before they become reactions, of the feelings and needs of others, and of what the present situation actually calls for … or offers.


The idea of doing this through “assisted self-discovery” is inspired by an idea expressed this way by Moshe Feldenkrais:

You cannot do what you want until you know what you are already doing.


So we learn to assist each other to pay attention to what we are doing and to the ideas behind it in order to find more open-hearted, conscious, and effective ways of being in the world.


This growth in consciousness and heart means we can be responding in more creative and healthy ways instead of having the kind of automatic thoughts and knee-jerk reactions that perpetuate old patterns and experiences. We can be more compassionate with others and with ourselves. We learn to live and relate to others in a community of support, peace, and love. We become true bodhisattvas.


The very specific skills of the method that enable us to do this, which are learned experientially rather than didactically, include paying attention to nonverbal indicators of our own and someone else’s present experience, recognizing our own and another’s feelings and how they express beliefs and needs, responding skillfully and appropriately to others in both verbal and nonverbal ways, using experiments in mindfulness as a way of assisting someone in their process of self-discovery and healing, and creating a nourishing missing experience.


We also develop a practice of mindfulness, of loving presence, of relating consciously and compassionately to others, and of understanding our relationship to suffering… our own, in other people, and in the world.


As Ron Kurtz has said about his training approach: I think of my students as a music teacher must think of his: there are skills and then there is something called “musicality.”  There are techniques and method and there is a sense of what is beautiful and good. 


We like to use this quote of Chogyam Trungpa’s as a reminder of what we are doing:

The basic task of helping professionals in general, and psychotherapists in particular, is to develop full human beingness,  in ourselves, and in others who feel starved about their lives.


Our training style is both experiential and multi-level.


This new training approach, with roots in Ron’s Higher Ground training, is based on experiential non-linear learning for personal and community development. It teaches the basics of Hakomi and focuses primarily on teaching and developing those aspects of the method which research now shows to be most important for psychotherapists and helping professionals, and essential for effective therapy, namely the strengths and resources of the client, the state of mind of the therapist, and the healing relationship.


The training proceeds at a different rate for everyone. There is a minimum number of group training days required for most people to get a good basic sense of the method and be introduced to the various skills that would make someone a more effective helper to anyone in distress, the kind of person who prizes others and who also has the ability to demonstrate that in ways that are felt by others.


After the basic training each student will have been given the skills to recognize and participate in offering an insightful and healing/nourishing experience for someone else.


We like to provide 30-40 days for this basic training, followed by 12 or more days of advanced training, which includes personal supervision. The training sessions are four to six days long, and can be spaced out over one to four years.


A typical training (as offered in PEI, Canada, and in England and Mexico City) might include three 5 or 6 day sessions a year for two to three years. If there are enough people in a local training, it can be done in four 4-day sessions four months apart with a 2-day weekend session every month, totaling seven weekends (as offered in Edmonton, Alberta and Vancouver BC.)


The training sessions are designed to be multi-level. In addition to a core training group of about 8-15 participants, it is possible for new people to attend some of the training sessions.


In some places or situations, participants in a Hakomi training may only be required to commit to one session at a time. This depends on number of participants and other factors. All participants may not necessarily take the entire training. Others will want to follow through to certification.


The training is done in such a way that a participant in even one session will experience the spirit and flavour of the method and have a taste of the practice of loving presence, the use of mindfulness and an experimental attitude for self-study, and the importance of paying attention to nonverbal indicators of present experience and core material.


The components of personhood development that will be included in every session include the practice of loving presence, quieting the mind, nonverbal expression, and emotional nourishment (the art of comforting).


Since the whole approach is one of assisted self-study, the experiences will gradually develop in each person a higher and higher level of self-awareness and a more compassionate way of understanding and relating to others. Whatever else, this becomes a significant Hakomi contribution to a better world.


We place a strong emphasis on the personhood, presence, and self-awareness of the therapist, and on the subtle aspects of intelligent compassion and an experimental attitude. The application of the method could be in individual or group therapy, or in some other context more suited to the particular skills of the practitioner. There is encouragement and support to integrate Hakomi Experiential Method (and the Practice of Loving Presence) creatively into the work people already do (psychotherapy, bodywork, family counseling, conflict resolution, mediation, law, teaching, business, art therapy, parenting, etc.) This takes the work into a much wider context and offers the healing intelligence, compassion, skillfulness, and love cultivated in the training back to the community and to the world.



[1] The Heart and Soul of Change: What Works in Therapy Hubble, Duncan and Miller, (a 1999 APA publication): the difference between effective and less effective therapists is their ability to form and maintain a therapeutic alliance with the client… therapists who are able to communicate warmth, understanding, and positive feelings toward the client … will be more likely a positive treatment alliance.


[2] A General Theory of Love, Lewis, Amini, Lannon: limbic resonance… a symphony of mutual exchange and internal adaptation whereby two mammals become attuned to each other’s inner states…    limbic resonance is the door to communal connection.


[3] The Heart and Soul of Change: Changing the emphasis in graduate training toward the development of the therapist as a person who prizes others can only make the enterprise of therapy more valuable, meaningful, and effective.





Typical Training Format

Training in the Hakomi Method

Hakomi Experiential Method

Reflective Presence: A Buddhist Hakomi Training

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