Recently I traveled to beautiful Big Sur, California, to attend a training at Esalen (pictured). It was a fitting location for a course based in mindfulness, since the beauty of nature regularly stopped me in my tracks with a welcoming reminder to be in the moment. There, I enjoyed immersing in a mindfulness-based therapeutic method called Hakomi. This elegant technique offers a gentle, yet powerful way to elicit change through mutual mindfulness in therapist and client.

There’s a lot of talk these days about mindfulness, but what exactly is it? There are many definitions. Two that get right to the point were shared by renowned  leader, Rob Fisher, MFT. The first definition of mindfulness he quoted was “High resolution awareness.” The second was, “Golden retriever consciousness.” Take a moment to experience what each of these evokes in you. For example, as I engage in “High resolution awareness,” I notice the smell of dog food in the bowl behind my feet, the almost empty coffee mug sitting carelessly atop my journal, the change in lighting as clouds part outside, the strain of my eyes attending to my laptop screen, my heart beating, my breath deepening with my attention, a honk of a horn on the street outside, an airplane overhead—all as I write this. Take a moment to engage in high resolution awareness. What do you notice?

Now let’s consider the second definition. If you’ve ever seen a golden retriever, or any typical breed of dog, you have witnessed mindfulness. Now is what matters. Golden retrievers reside effortlessly in the present, with ready curiosity. Not a lot of mental evaluation gets in the way of their experience. “A smell! Wow! (Investigates with urgency). A person? Amazing! (Wags tail, meets with eager eyes). For a canine, what is happening moment to moment is the most exciting, fascinating, epic thing ever–regardless of what that is. Can you imagine living your life like that? “The washing machine stopped and the laundry is ready for the dryer! Let’s go!”

Mindfulness, as modeled by dogs everywhere, is the foundation for the practice of Hakomi. It’s deceptively simple and remarkably evocative. For the practitioner, Hakomi requires less questioning, less interpreting, less agenda and more leaning back, observing and reflecting the obvious. There is likely more going on behind the scenes that it appears, however. There is a tried and true protocol certified clinicians follow, undetectable though it may be.

The delicate art of Hakomi utilizes mindfulness as a means to invite the client to go deeper into his psyche and gain self-knowledge. Insights tend to arise quite naturally and effortlessly in the process, as inner wisdom is disarmed. Sometimes the best “work” comes easily. For more about Hakomi, check out hakomiinstitute.com.