Remembering Ron Kurtz, 1934 – 2011

In remembering Ron we also remember his family; his wife Terry and their daughter Lily and send them love and sincere condolence in their loss.

In love and thanks to Ron, a few individuals share some memories…

It was by a happy accident that when I was searching for training courses, someone forwarded my email to Ron Kurtz in 1999. I received an email one morning from Ron saying “why don’t you come train with me”. I did not know who Ron Kurtz was. I got his book “The Body Remembers” and there read the line “when I see a therapist efforting I know something is wrong”. That had me interested.

I arrived out to Ashland, Oregon in summer 2001 for 3 weeks of “intensive training”. In typical Ron style, the level one training scheduled had been postponed to allow live supervision of people who had completed several years of training. And in typical Hakomi serendipity, this was exactly what I needed to see. Sitting on comfortable couches or cushions on the floor we watched session after session and I was hooked.

When Ron did sessions he usually relaxed in to the corner of a couch or sat on the floor with the client to his side. He would have a cup of coffee nearby at all times. Even though the client was being observed by many people, you could see the client almost immediately connect and relax.

Why was this? Well I think it was many things; he was obviously so at ease and so much the master of his method that it inspired confidence in the client.  His being at ease and his irreverent sense of humour took away the idea that something was wrong and needed to be fixed.

But, as he was to teach over and over again and which he personified in his work, the foundation of what he did was loving presence. And it was palpable for the client and for everyone watching. He was there for that client, he was tracking and he cared.

I often heard Ron being asked how he could use humour in even the most sensitive of moments in sessions and he said firstly it was part of who he was and to suppress it would mean he was not being real. But also he believed that once the client knew they were being held in a respectful and loving way then the humour ensured there was no atmosphere of pathology and often allowed the client go even deeper in the next part of the session as their body relaxed with the joke.

He would start most training days with a joke or 2 and they became very much part of how he taught, raising energy levels as the laughter filled the room.

He loved the science of what he did. His key principles of loving kindness, mindfulness, limbic resonance, etc. were not just grounded in his experience and belief of them working but in hours and hours of research he did everyday. A lot of the more recent publications on neuro-biology and resilience speak of the research that Ron has been excited about for years.

That first time in Ashland, I felt like I had ‘landed’ on a different planet not just a different continent. The words “there is another way” kept going round and round in my head. I was struck by this each time I saw a training happening. A couple of years later I went to Ashland again for another month and then went to England to join their training.

It seemed to me that Hakomi was as much a method of psychotherapy as it was a way of being or a philosophy. What do I think the philosophy is?: that we are here to heal, to learn to love ourselves and others better. And that we can have fun while we work it out. And that we can also use the latest research to support us in our development and fulfilment.

The “Refined Hakomi Method” as he called his method in later years would literally be refined every day. Organicity is a key principle in working with Hakomi but this refining of the method meant Hakomi always felt so alive, so organic. We would receive emails from Ron saying: “I read this great book and ……”. He was extremely generous with all that he read. As soon as he read a book he would give it away and then he would give out reams of quotes at his lectures and workshops. He would follow this with emails of details he had mentioned, DVDs and audios as well.

This is another striking piece about his death that takes time to process. The evolution of the method will now be taken over by the wonderful Hakomi trainers and therapists throughout the world but there is a real sense of loss and needing to adjust to the fact that the spring that was so bountiful is not now flowing.

In the latter years he was aware of getting older and had been working on creating a legacy library of writings, audio and DVD material that everyone could access. He had been writing a book with one of his key trainers, Donna Martin so hopefully that will be published soon.

When Ron was coming to England in the year 2005, I emailed him to ask if he was also going to visit Ireland. He emailed back “here are my dates and these are the workshops I can do”.  I became the organiser for the Refined Hakomi Method in Ireland without planning to. Ron came to Ireland twice for trainings and we run a training 3 times a year with a developing community of therapists and people who are drawn to Hakomi for its support in living a meaningful life.  But, though thrown in at the deep end in 2000, I am so so glad to have had the opportunity to be trained by Ron, to watch him work and hear his words of insight and explanation, to get to know him as a friend and to have made so many wonderful friends through Hakomi in Ireland and abroad.

I will finish with one of my favourite jokes from Ron: this man Thompson, in his 70’s, decided to get in shape. He started going to the gym, walking every day, eating well.  He started to look good and feel good about himself. He decided to go to buy a new suit which he wore out of the shop. Next he went to the Barber’s and as he was crossing the road after leaving the Barber’s, he was knocked down by a bus and he was killed. When he met God he said: “God what were you thinking, I was looking and feeling better than I have in years” God said: “I am really sorry Thompson, to tell you the truth I didn’t recognise you”.

We heard yesterday Ron was at the Barbers just before he died.!

Rosemary Fitzgerald

I feel enormously grateful to Ron – for developing The Hakomi Method (which has been home for my work this past twenty years), and for coming to Ireland to demonstrate the work so wonderfully. Watching Ron work was really inspiring. He called the work Assisted Self Discovery. It is supported firstly by the therapist developing the state of mind he called Loving Presence. The client is guided in the practice of Mindfulness, and the cooperation of the unconscious is gained, so that the experimental work can follow.

Three words stand out for me in describing Ron – authentic, creative and playful. His authenticity and loving presence went hand in hand. He didn’t try to look good or be nice, nor to hide his limits or mistakes. He was himself, natural, shuffling in the chair with his britches belt and braiding jokes. He was like a loving grandfather, completely given to the person he was working with, relaxed, warm, open and apparently wanting nothing else in the world, except to be there and to connect. Enjoying and letting himself be touched by that person, he was curious to understand how he or she was organised around core beliefs. That kind of loving presence makes it feel safe and easy to open up really deeply.

Rachel Sweetman

My knowing of Ron was when I attended two of his training workshops here in Dublin. Ron was compassionate and infused his work with wonderful humour. Fundamental to his practice as a trainer was his respect for the individual and the contact point of shared humanity. His humility was as palpable as his willingness to “experiment” to assist clients with their process within the bounds of safety. His warmth was soothing and his reflective consideration inspiring of how to mindfully consider how best to assist a client.

Hugh Fahey

Ron, you never failed to emphasize that loving presence is the state of mind required from a practitioner to facilitate healing in a therapeutic relationship. And you lived this truth every moment of your life. I often wondered why it was so easy for people to connect with their deepest issues when they were in your presence. You didn’t even have to work with them personally, it happened just the same when your students engaged in practice sessions with each other. I believe the deep love you had for all living beings created such a sense of safety that people found it easy to let go of their defences and access their uncensored core self. Whenever you were around, truth, honesty, compassion, and authenticity were just some of the qualities that were so palpable that people naturally aligned themselves with the spirit in which you expressed them.

I admired your sharp and never tiring intellect and your natural curiosity, which made you want to understand how people, nature, and the universe worked. The way you kept refining the Hakomi method bore testimony to your understanding that in order for things to stay alive they need to change.

And last but not least, you knew how to appreciate Irish wit and humour, and many a light-hearted comment made at the right time and in the right manner was able to gently soften a person’s pain and bring a ray of light into the darkness of their experience. I will miss you deeply

Helma Mair

I experienced such a deep sadness on hearing of Ron’s passing and the grief I feel has surprised me. I had the pleasure of meeting Ron on only three occasions, the last being in January 2010 when he had kindly agreed to meet up for a conversation for publication in Inside Out. It is January 2011 and I am mindful of beginning another year and the place that Ron Kurtz holds in my heart.

I’ve been hearing a voice in my head questioning why I feel such grieve in the loss of Ron and alongside this come the judgements at such an expression of sorrow. I remind myself of the lives past and present; the heroines and heroes both real and fictional who hold meaning for me; the authors of the myriad of books and plays and songs that have touched me so deeply and I feel gratitude. Out of this I emerge intact and free to say without reservation that I feel love in my heart for a man I had the pleasure of sitting with for a while and I welcome a knowing within that words don’t belong to, where his teachings, his spirit, his generosity, his gift reside in my today and into my tomorrow.

I believe Ron was a risk taker, someone who was unafraid of his frailty and vulnerability; who was willing to share his passion for life and his work and who, with sensitivity, kindness and compassion came into relationship with another for however long the moment. He has gifted us a wonderful legacy and through example has illustrated an embodied life, a life that even in death we can lean into…

Rest in natural great peace…

                                                                         Thérèse Gaynor