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The Hakomi Name Origin Story

Memories from this Creative Time

In 1980 Ron Kurtz was working with a group in Connecticut, including several who would become Hakomi’s founding trainers. This group, which included Jon Eisman, Halko Weiss, Pat Ogden, David Winters, Maya Shaw Gale, and others, had come together to study and evolve Ron’s method of body-centered psychotherapy into a teachable format. They discussed how to form an educational institute and spent months searching for a name for the work that would not be as generic as “body-centered psychotherapy.”

Halko Weiss, a founding trainer of the Hakomi Institute, describes:

“We were without any good leads for quite some time. Then David Winters arrived one morning and reported a dream in which he handed Ron a piece of stationery with the letterhead ‘Hakomi Institute.’ We had no idea what Hakomi might mean. David was an anthropologist, and given the method’s roots in Taoism and Buddhism, he researched the word in Eastern languages but didn’t find a meaningful connection. However, as a student of Grandfather David Monongye, the last of four designated Hopi prophets, David also consulted a Hopi lexicon. He found the word Hakomi, which meant “Where do I stand in relation to these many realms?”– an ancient way of inquiring, “Who are you?”

Another founding trainer, Jon Eisman, notes:

 “David Winters said he would check to see if Grandfather David, in his wisdom and connection to the dream world, might have insight into the dream. David spoke with him during that time (early 1981) and reported that Grandfather David was surprised to hear the word. He said, ‘it came from the old Hopi language that we don’t use anymore’ and confirmed its meaning. He also gave David Winters his blessing for our group to use the word.” Jon said, “The word’s meaning resonated with what we understood the work to be, and so stirring as a kind of sacred transmission, arriving as it did in a dream and with such sacred origins that Ron and the rest of us said yes to Hakomi.”

 “[Later in 1981, when Hakomi Institute moved to Boulder, Colorado, Ron Kurtz went to the Southwest.] At that time, Ron tried unsuccessfully to meet with Grandfather David. By then, we had already adopted the name and had received Grandfather David’s blessing. Ron was following up to say thank you, to honor Grandfather David as an elder, and to get any more insight he might offer.”

Maya Shaw Gale, currently a trainer emerita and member of the Hakomi Reconciliation Team, writes:

“As part of that initial group studying with Ron in Connecticut (fall/winter of 1980-81), I remember Ron reflecting that calling the work “body-centered psychotherapy” was too generic and inviting us all to come up with a more specific name. It was David Winter who arrived one morning excited about a dream he had in which he handed Ron a printed pamphlet with the name Hakomi Body-Centered Psychotherapy written as the heading. (I wrote this down in my notebook at the time). Not knowing if the word had a meaning, David researched in the linguistics library at Columbia University and discovered that it was a word from the Hopi lexicon, a greeting like namaste or aloha, which had a deeper meaning: “How do you stand in relation to these many realms?’ We were stunned by how well it described our work, and Ron decided to adopt it. Later in 1981, David was able to meet with Grandfather David Monangye and received his blessing to call our work Hakomi as Grandfather David felt there was a strong correlation between our principles and the Hopi philosophy.”


Phil Del Prince, another founding trainer, said:

When he joined the group in 1981, he remembers hearing that Grandfather David was not only surprised but found it deeply significant and powerful that the word had come in a dream, as in his tradition the dream world was a medium for receiving sacred transmissions.

Greg Johanson, another founding trainer, writes:

 “It was a stunning dream since the essence of what we were doing was inviting people into a mindful state where they could view where they stood in relation to many core issues in their lives. For many of us, it carries the quality of the sacred even though, as an institute, we have tried to avoid embracing any particular spirituality.”

Pat Ogden, a founding trainer of the Hakomi Institute and founder of the Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute, remembers:

“David Winters, who was a friend of mine, had a dream in which he put a pamphlet on Ron’s desk that had the word Hakomi on it. It was during the time we were all trying to think of a name for the somatic work Ron was creating. David researched & discovered that it was a Hopi word that meant, “How do you stand in relation to the many realms?” We all agreed that it was a wonderful description of the work and decided to adopt it.”

From Ron Kurtz:

In his 1991 book Body-Centered Psychotherapy: The Hakomi Method, Ron stated his desire to meet Grandfather David but was unaware that he had passed away in 1988. Due to the sacred way the name came, Ron decided to call his body-centered methodology the “Hakomi Method”. In recent years, the Hakomi Institute’s faculty decided that Hakomi Mindful Somatic Psychotherapy is a more descriptive name for their work. HEN (Hakomi Education Network) describes their work as The Hakomi Method of Assisted Self-Discovery.