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My Hakomi Psychotherapy Journey, Part 3: Being Held

On the last day of Hakomi, our facilitator read out loud this passage for us.

The following is an excerpt from the book Mortal Lessons by Richard Seltzer, MD. Seltzer is talking here of his experiences seeing Dr. Yeshe Donden, a Tibetan physician, as he reads the pulse of a patient at Yale Hospital.

At last he takes her hand, raising it in both of his own. Now he bends over the bed in a kind of crouching stance, his head drawn down into the collar of his robe. His eyes are closed as he feels for her pulse. In a moment he has found the spot and for the next half hour he remains thus: suspended above the patient like some exotic golden bird with folded wings, holding the pulse of the woman beneath his fingers, cradling her hand in his.

All the power of the man seems to have been drawn into this one purpose. It is palpation of the pulse raised to the state of ritual. From the foot of the bed where I stand, it is as though he and the patient have entered a special place of isolation, of apartness about which a vacancy hovers and across which no violation is possible.

From time to time she raises her head to look at the strange figure above her then sinks back once more. I cannot see their hands joined in a correspondence that is exclusive, intimate, his fingertips receiving the voice of her sick body through the rhythm and throb she offers at her wrist. All at once I am envious, not of him, not of Yeshe Donden for his gift of beauty and holiness, but of her, I want to be held like that, touched so, received, and I know that I, who have palpated a hundred thousand pulses, have not felt a single one.

Our last experiential exercise was to get into groups of three and chose something nurturing for the other two to do to one.  I chose to sit on a couch with my two group members on either side. I placed my hands over each of their pulses to see if synchrony would happen. We stayed like that for ten minutes.

Like watching two sets of indicator lights at an intersection we went in and out of synchrony — in fact we synchonised very little — but the lack of synchrony had its own rhythm and I was gently rocked up and down, side to side, like a canoe on a gently flowing river. As I felt the waves it created a sense of oneness, of harmony, and calmed my spirit. It was as though our blood was all flowing in one direction in a circular movement.

This is how it must have felt like being in my mother’s womb.

My Hakomi Psychotherapy Journey, Part 3: Being Held

Sonia Neale

Sonia Neale was recently awarded the Inaugural Barbara Hocking SANE Australia Fellowship to study and research Borderline Personality Disorder overseas in the USA, Canada, UK and Ireland. Her previous Psych Central blog was called Therapy Unplugged. She is the author of two books, The Bad Mother’s Revenge and Death by Teenager, both published by ABC Books/Harper Collins. She lives in Western Australia, is married with three adult children, has studied psychoanalytic psychotherapy, has a Certificate IV in Mental Health and is studying for a Psychology/Counselling degree. She currently works as a peer support worker in the mental health field.

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APA Reference
Neale, S. (2010). My Hakomi Psychotherapy Journey, Part 3: Being Held. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 2, 2020, from


Last updated: 30 Mar 2010
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