Living Resiliently with Hakomi and Tai Chi

by Carol Ladas-Gaskin Certified Hakomi Therapist

“Learn how to be resilient and responsive to your surroundings, to time and to yourself.”
Al Huang, Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain

Hakomi is a process of personal growth and a form of psychotherapy based on Taoist and Buddhist principles. Founded by Ron Kurtz and practiced and taught internationally, all aspects of Hakomi are based on the practice of mindfulness and compassion for self and others. The core work emphasizes relaxing the body and allowing a restful space to form along with a sense of quiet. From this centered place in Hakomi, we are able to discover underlying thought forms that cause unnecessary suffering. Through the use of simple experiments in mindfulness, we begin to see ways in which our lives can flow with more ease. Tai Chi, also based on Taoism, is similarly about embracing energy and rather than resisting what comes to you, finding and inviting its flow. Both disciplines embody a compassionate inner attentiveness that assists us in slowing down and centering both physically and mentally. The practices are deeply compatible in giving us tools to live life more resiliently.

The primary key to both Hakomi and Tai Chi training is to develop presence. Jack Kornfield, in his book, Path with Heart, says, “you have to be present to win.” Presence is a steady quality of attention within which we learn to deeply listen, to ourselves, to each other and to our environment. In Tai Chi we train this quality so that our movements emerge from a place deep within us. We feel, as the Tai Chi Classics say, like we are “pulling silk from a cocoon.” And though this is a beautiful image, oftentimes being present means also to be aware of when tension occurs. In Tai Chi we learn to respond in these cases not with panic or anxiety but by relaxing and looking within for our sense of balance, where we stand in time and space.
In The Present Moment, a recent series of audio recordings, Thich Nhat Hahn introduces a simple meditation with the breath that teaches presence. On the in breath we say, “I am arriving;” on the out breath, “I am home.” This meditation helps me personally in all the Tai Chi sequences to be more aware of each moment: stepping out, “I am arriving.” Sinking down, “I am home.”

In Hakomi we learn to resolve this tension by similarly looking within. We compassionately inquire inside of ourselves as to the internal conversations that maintain tension. Becoming aware of the tension is a way to find the key to an unheard aspect of our consciousness, a voice that can now be gently explored. In both arts, we learn to not rush the inner process, instead trusting the organic way that growth occurs when there is inner listening and the presence of another.
In both Hakomi and Tai Chi we learn that by letting go of fighting, whether be it with gravity as we move through space or with how we wish things were different, we find our true center. We learn to balance, we learn the present moment can exist without rushing about and we can be here, neither focused on past pains nor imagining catastrophic futures. We are alert without anxiety. Moving within life in this way certainly allows us to cultivate a positive, joyful expression of self and a spontaneous creative approach to living

As Al Huang says in his marvelous book on Tai Chi, Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain we learn to accept both constancy and change. Both the words Tai Chi and Hakomi give us insight into harmonious and resilient living that is steady and constant with the natural changing cycles of living. Tai Chi translates as “The Grand Ultimate” and through its practice we find our center within the yin and yang movements of life. Hakomi means “where do you stand in relation to all these realms.” Here we also become aware of our center with the polarity and moving forces of life. We are aware of the unity that lies within, which in Tai Chi we experience as chi. Life does not require brute force; these inner and outer practices allow us to be supported by the vastness of universal energy and to sense it within the body, not as an intellectual idea.

These are ways that require practice. They are teachings that help us to return to balance over and over again in a natural way. Tai Chi is pure, natural, organic form while in Hakomi we trust in organicity, a trust that each person has the capacity to self heal, to grow naturally through inner awareness. There is a deep desire within each person to be authentic and joyful. We experience these states when we know that we are connected to our inner selves, to universal energy and each other.

Carol Gaskin, MA, LMP and registered counselor is a certified Hakomi therapist, teacher and trainer and a Progoff Intensive Journal consultant. She enjoys a massage and body-centered therapy practice in Shoreline in addition to teaching Hakomi workshops and trainings. Carol is an instructor at Brenneke School of Massage, a published poet and author of Instant Stress Relief published by Andrews McMeel and Co.
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