The Art of Connection: Loving Presence in Hakomi Therapy

Love Love happens between humans, and Hakomi is a very human practice.

Our actual experience is an internal one—an absorbing of physical sensory data and an internal reality created through that experience. Hakomi moves toward the inside, knowing that to arrive at those sacred, protected internal places requires alignment at a subconscious level—an alliance and a softening of rigid defenses.

In simple terms, many in body work see the path to this alignment, at a somatic level, as love … or loving kindness, loving presence—whatever core human acceptance/appreciation/admiration broadcasts out into the world. Our animal bodies scan continually for visible, physical cues of such attunement and acceptance. On one hand, such attunement provides external permission to come out, to experience the freedom of simply being with another. At a physical level, bodies sync. Love calms. Even without touch, love provides the experience of being held. Opening to love and speaking (verbally and nonverbally) from the heart tends to regulate the nervous system both in Self and others. This is where curiosity and integration of old experience become possible.

The Human Therapist

Therapists often hold a crucial vantage point in the room—being able to see through defensive strategies to the beauty and value of parts being defended. Hakomi provides techniques and methods to access these precious regions. However, this generally requires cooperation of a whole being, and it is not something to be forced. Hakomi first honors (and models honoring) the whole: the hidden treasures and the parts that keep guard—the parts being contained and the parts that have worked so dependably for years to contain and preserve.

Loving presence requires risk. In a world of change, intimacy is not safe. Our gifts, our presence, our Self desires to be witnessed, known, and loved. Our head remembers the times we have been hurt, and relives those times internally as a means of protecting against further harm.

So we come as therapists with human hearts and frailties, knowing that those who come seeking help often see and judge, that they may feel both attraction and disgust in recognition of our frailties. In our capacity to allow and be with these parts, we both experience and create compassion, for Other as much as for Self.

Attunement and Intent

Some love feels triggered, a spontaneous opening of one heart to another—a felt empathy in recognition of shared experience. This love is as much a love for Self as for Other. In fact, in this love, Self and Other become the same. This is a limbic resonance.

Another path to love begins with intent—an internal process of connecting with Self, grounding in the body, and simply being with our actual experience in the present moment. It is a moment of existential compassion—our capacity to be with pain in Self or Other without judgment or withdrawal, knowing that none of us is a master of anything, trusting that each of us is just improvising life one moment to the next, knowing judgments for what they are.

In allowing what is, need falls away. Love needs nothing. We are OK in the moment. We are present, available, alert, and alive. And the regulation of our own body creates the interpersonal container needed to relate to the core of Other.

Exercising our human capacity to love in the therapy room provides an internalizing experience for those around us—one that instills a model of love: an experience of feeling loved while at the same time knowing and feeling at a present, physical, tangible level that we are OK.


  1. Kurtz, R. (2009). Beginnings of the method: Eastern philosophy, psychotherapeutic technique, and systems theory (pp. 1-11). Ashland, OR: Ron Kurtz Trainings.
  2. Kurtz, R. (1990). Body-centered psychotherapy: the Hakomi method: the integrated use of mindfulness, nonviolence, and the body. Mendocino, CA: LifeRhythm.
  3. Porges, S. W. (2011). The polyvagal theory: Neurophysiological foundations of emotions, attachment, communication, and self-regulation. New York: W. W. Norton.

© Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Jeremy McAllister, MA, LPCI, Hakomi Experiential Psychotherapy Topic Expert Contributor

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • april

    November 14th, 2014 at 1:44 PM

    It makes it so much easier when you can feel that love being reciprocated from another

  • Channing

    November 15th, 2014 at 12:26 PM

    I really like ho this approach truly seems to encompass all that is good about the human spirit. It seems to be much more human centric than other approaches with a great deal of emphasis on thoughts, feelings and emotions.

  • Clay

    November 22nd, 2014 at 3:48 PM

    Can anyone explain to me why we seem to hold onto only the things that have been bad instead of taking the things that have been good and focusing our lives on these?

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