The thought manifests as the word;
The word manifests as the deed;
The deed develops into habit;
And the habit into character.
So, watch the thought and its ways with care
And let it spring from love
Born out of concern for all Beings.
As the shadow follows the body,
As we think, so we become.
–The Buddha, from the Dhammapada
A synapse fires in your body. Electricity leaps through the space between the nerves & lands on the other side. Your body screams, “DANGER! NOT SAFE!!” Immediately, a biochemical waterfall floods your tissues. Adrenal glands pump feverishly atop your kidneys, tensing your lower back. With dilated pupils, your fists and forearms prepare for battle while your leg muscles drop into sprint readiness. This is the picture of Fear.
In the past, people experienced danger at the sight of a predator’s jaws. Nowadays, a letter from the IRS might activate the nervous system into similar high alert. After enough times, this nervous system activation becomes entrenched. In the mind, a core belief is formed: “The world is unsafe.” In the body, hyper-vigilance becomes the norm. Soon, this loop of synaptic firing and muscle tension becomes a lifestyle. Some obvious examples of fear underlying repetitive nervous system stress are war and unprocessed physical or sexual abuse. Yet, habitual patterns of the nervous system happen to all of us. Sometimes it’s a dramatic event that creates a “stuck” nervous system. Sometimes, it’s a subtle accumulation of day to day stress. We all get stuck in ruts.
Take a look at the people around you. Some people slouch while others stand upright. Some radiate peace while anger seethes out of the furrowed brows of others. The body reflects the mind. “As we think, so we become.” Hakomi plus Acupuncture is a very effective combination of therapies to bring the body, mind, and spirit into harmony.
Hakomi is a body-centered therapy, rooted in the understanding that the body is the gateway to the core beliefs of the unconscious mind. Once conscious, these beliefs can be re-evaluated, and where appropriate, powerfully transformed. This helps an individual to build a more satisfying and effective life. Hakomi integrates the mindfulness and non-violence found in Eastern traditions with a unique Western psychological methodology.
Eastern traditions and modern physics understand that everything is energy. Physicists call it photons. Chinese call it Qi. Energy and matter are interrelated phenomenon. Matter is just energy moving at different speeds. Thoughts are Qi. Emotions are Qi. Qi flows through the muscles and organs keeping them alive and supple. As discussed before, core beliefs are simply repetitive thoughts (Qi) an individual gets “stuck” in and becomes reflected in the body (Qi in the form of matter).
Acupuncture is a therapy that adjusts the body’s energy, or Qi. One way of understanding acupuncture is through analogy to an electrical grid. Imagine that the midline of the body and internal organs are power stations. Electricity is generated in the power stations and distributed via power lines (meridians) throughout the city centers (head, neck, torso, abdomen, and pelvis) and into the outlying countryside (arms and legs). In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), this electricity is called Qi. There are 14 major pathways (called meridians) that Qi travels along. Acupuncture points are areas along the path where the flow of energy can be altered for therapeutic effect. They are like light switches that “turn on” the body’s natural healing systems.
From the Chinese holistic perspective, how we think and feel is not just a brain thing. Styles of thinking and emotions are not confined to the head, but originate from the harmonious flow of Qi through the internal organs and their meridians (the associated pathways through the body. When Qi flow is disturbed, psychological and emotional problems manifest. When Qi flow is smooth, virtue, happiness, and wisdom blooms within.
Both Hakomi and acupuncture offer unique insights into the interrelationship between habit patterns of mind and body. Let’s examine the use of Hakomipuncture, the combination of acupuncture and Hakomi, through a case study.
Sean is a male in his mid thirties who comes to the clinic complaining of irritable bowel syndrome and a tendency to depression. His handshake is tense, tendony, and urgent. He is gaunt, fidgety, with quick angular movements. Frustrated and with little hope that this treatment will be of benefit, he lists off his symptoms. Frequent bowels that are loose and burning. Sensitivity to spicy foods, coffee, and alcohol. His every other sentence trails off and begins with “…I don’t know…” He feels a lot of pressure from his family to enter into engineering, a safe economically sound choice in this economy. He often wakes before the alarm with a racing mind, spinning through “to-do” lists he creates for himself. He feels “under the gun” all the time. His pulse and tongue indicate an overactive nervous system and weak digestion.
A brief look into Sean’s family history reveals achievement oriented, overbearing parenting. In response, Sean learned to suppress his natural, unique self-actualizing urges throughout childhood in order to please and gain love from his parents. From the Hakomi perspective, Sean’s life themes center around Freedom and Worth. From the Chinese medicine perspective, Sean is a Wood constitutional type. Wood plays a large role in asserting individuality, overcoming adversity and making life goals. Wood is associated with the Liver and Gallbladder, the regulators of digestion, strategic life planning, and the emotion of anger. Sean’s creative energy was buried under a habit of conformity and pleasing others. Like a high volume of gas in a tightly confined space, Sean’s constricted Liver energy created pressure that interfered with his digestion’s ability to assimilate food and the experiences of life. Instead, food and life experience were swallowed rapidly and excreted with equal haste. The resulting symptoms were hidden resentment, timidity, indecisiveness, and poor dietary choices.
An atmosphere of spaciousness and respect was the missing experience that Sean needed. Sean was encouraged to relax into the table, turn his attention inwards, and become mindful of anything happening in mind and body. Hakomi verbal experiments were offered slowly and repeated three times, “You don’t have to do anything to be loved.” First, the words induced a fluttery heart panic within Sean. He felt as though he had to hold his breath and brace himself. After the second and third time, he felt a mixture of sadness and confusion as well as a knotted up feeling in his solar plexus. Each thing was taken in turn. He found the sadness manifested in a tight chest. I asked Sean to stay with that sensation of the chest. In came a deep realization of years spent racing around “doing” rather than enjoying the process of whatever he was doing. The confusion was looked at next. It manifested as a “fuzzy” headedness, cloudy thinking, and that knot in his solar plexus. I asked Sean to stay with that sensation in the solar plexus. Two acupuncture points were inserted to strengthen the digestive organs, relax the nervous system, and improve confidence and decision-making. The solar plexus responded by loosening and the “fuzzy” headedness also cleared. In this space, another verbal probe was offered, “You can do it your way.” Sean’s whole nervous system relaxed. He took a huge breath and tears streamed from his eyes. It was the missing nourishment he had unknowingly been longing to hear. In the ensuing months, Sean found the treatments a sanctuary where his dormant powers of self-actualization strengthened and he gained greater clarity on what he wanted to study and become. Three important shifts happened:
(1) Digestion: bowel movements reduced to 2-3 times a day; better food assimilation led to more energy and clarity; wiser dietary choices and habits
(2) Mind: he found a more calm, thoughtful, and self-referential quality in his daily life
(3) Spirit: felt “grounded,” inspired, and more engaged with his purpose and relationships with others
The therapeutic approach of combining Hakomi and Acupuncture is transformative. Physical and emotional relief, awareness and insight, and freedom from habit patterns can result from a course of Hakomipuncture therapy. Habitual patterns may involve relationships, sex, work, spiritual practice, addictions, body image, and life purpose. A course of treatment is determined based on severity and duration of symptoms as well as the client’s personal goals for their well-being. My specialty is depression, anxiety, sexual abuse trauma, and addiction. Loving presence, mindfulness, and a deep sense of safety and connection are central to my personal philosophy. Together, we can rest in the grounded happiness that is your birthright.
Thanks to all my teachers of Hakomi, TCM, and Buddhism. I am forever grateful.