What would it feel like if everything was okay?

P1010676There are times when we’re Focusing, when we can get a bit stuck. We are aware of our felt sense, we’ve become curious about it, and yet something stops us moving forward with it.

This can happen when we’re Focusing with a Listening partner, or Focusing alone.

Sometimes just staying with the whole feeling of it allows us to move on, and see a new perspective – but not always. Our Listening partner may be able to offer a helpful suggestion, or they may not feel confident or comfortable to do so.

If this happens to me, what I have found helpful sometimes is to ask – What would it feel like if everything was okay? This is one of Gendlin’s suggested tactics, and I find it very helpful to look at the broader picture in this way.

Coming at it from this direction enables me to sense the whole issue afresh.

And a key aspect is that it often invites a tangible action to follow.

An example of this is when I was Focusing on a tangle of issues, and an image came of tangled tree roots. Asking myself what would ‘all okay’ look like, brought an image of each root connected with an issue, and then images and sensations came ‘thick and fast’ (according to my notes of that session). It became clear that there were two quite small, but definite actions that I could take that would move the issue forward. And immediately I knew that I could work with these and I felt that lovely sense of release that comes when a shift comes in this way.

Have you had experience of this? Please share it and tell me how it worked, or not, for you.

Focusing on physical sensations

Today I would like to tell you about a personal experience of Focusing.P1010684

I have found Focusing so very helpful in many ways, some of which I have described on this website and blog. This particular experience surprised me more than I expected.

In a session with another person, I experienced a sensation of something happening to my upper back, slightly to one side. It was an intense discomfort, even quite painful. At the time I related this to my partner, and remarked that this is a place when I sometimes experienced back pain, usually when walking.

The discomfort was always in the same place, and did not seem to alter whichever shoes or boots I was wearing, or whether or not I was using a rucksack, shoulder bag, or no bag. I had tried altering my gait and, of course, Yoga postures, but it was always there after walking for twenty minutes or so.

At that time the sensation appeared towards the end of my Focusing session, and left me curious, but I did no more about it. Then in another Focusing session several weeks later, I had the same sensation in my back. This time images and events from years ago came to mind, and the emotional qualities were strong. I stayed with these, and continued to Focus and be curious. I felt I reconnected with something from a past experience – something that had been emotionally painful.

The interesting thing is that this pain/discomfort in my back has not recurred since then.

The more interesting thing is that I recently wrote about the incident – which was the first time I have ever voiced, even on paper, how I felt on that day years ago. And I have let go of a little part of something that was holding me back.

I am very pleased that it is no longer with me, and I also feel that I have healed something from my past. If I Focus on that part of my body now, I can just feel the area – almost like the remnants of a bruise. And I can walk without that discomfort.

When I first started Focusing it was a surprise to me that I could Focus on physical discomfort. I have done this several times and very often something shifts in my body. And more importantly my body shares its wisdom on a deep level within me.

berries, leaves and stones

Clearing a Space

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There’s a lot going on in my life. I don’t know where to start – what to look at first.

Some of it will take a short time to sort out, other things might take days, weeks, or even longer.

Do I tackle the high priority items first, or those that will take just a few minutes, even if they can wait?

Does this sound like you?

You have probably read or heard of techniques that help you to organise yourself. Many of them require that you prioritise your list with letters or numbers, and then go down the list. Or reduce your list to just three things each day. There are Apps to help you keep things in order.

All well and good, but the first action – of prioritising – can be the most difficult.

And it’s not just about To-do lists – there are other things in our lives that need our attention – and our time.

 

What does your list look like?

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This is mine at the moment (just in the order that is occurring to me as I write):

  • Check my holiday dates
  • Does my elderly aunt need more help?
  • Phone my friend to firm up a date for our day out
  • Print leaflets
  • Buy milk
  • Pay bills
  • Tidy my desk
  • Go for a walk
  • etc.

I’m sure you don’t want to read more of my list. I’ve only included it here so that you can see how difficult it is to work with this. But of course you know that.

Deciding whether tidying my desk is more important than going for a walk – well, it’s like apples and pears – not comparing like with like. I’d like to start tomorrow with a tidy desk, but the world won’t fall in if it’s not. A daily walk is good for my health and well-being, but one day off won’t make much difference. And how do these compare to checking on my mother, and my elderly aunt?

Focusing is of real help here.

When I’m feeling even a little bit overwhelmed with lots to do, I start by ‘clearing a space’. Eugene Gendlin describes this in his book ‘Focusing’. 

Clearing a Space

Start by asking yourself (or asking your Listener to ask you) what is in the way of you feeling alright now?

Then just say what comes first. So if I were to start with my list here, I’d say, ‘Oh I need to check those dates for my holiday, and I have to do that because the flights need to be booked.’

Then without going into detail, mentally put the issue of the holiday to one side away from your body, in whatever way feels helpful to you today. You may choose to mentally put it on a shelf, a window sill, on the floor beside you, or by a tree over there.P1030898

Another way might be to attach each issue to a helium balloon on a string. How you do this doesn’t matter, you just need to imagine it’s there on one side, and that you can pick it up later if you want to.

Then choose something else that’s on your mind. The order doesn’t matter, just the next thing that comes to mind. Spend a minute or two describing the issue, and then put it next to the first.

Continue doing this, asking yourself what’s in the way of feeling okay right now, until nothing else comes. This part of the process is rather like clearing your desk before you start on a project, or clearing the work surface in your kitchen before you start cooking.

Then take a pause, and sense the feeling of these issues being lifted. Often a new freeing energy comes into the body. Enjoy this space for a while.

And when you feel ready to move on, look at your row, or pile of issues, and sense which stands out from the others. It might be more brightly coloured, it might be shiny, it might be jumping up and down, or showing itself more subtly. That’s the one to prioritise, or to Focus on right now.balloons-154949_640 (1)

If you chose to attach the issues to balloons, you might decide to hold on to one, and let all the other strings go, so that the balloons float up and away.

This may be all that you need right now – to help you organise yourself. Or you may have chosen to spend time Focusing, and this method can help you to Focus on what’s really calling for your attention; the one your inner self has decided to Focus on, even if it is quite a surprise to you which one came as the most pressing.

And be curious about what unfolds. The others will wait until another Focusing time.

And there are other ways of starting a Focusing session, some of which you may find more helpful. I don’t always use ‘clearing a space’, but I do when a list like the one above is nagging at me.

One of the benefits of this method is that, as the Focuser, you begin to see that you are not those issues that you have cleared. There is a deeper self that is the real you. Yes, these are our thoughts, and we are not our thoughts.

When did you last feel really listened to?

Can you remember when someone listened to you without an agenda of their own, and didn’t offer to fix you, change your mind, or suggest something that did not fit with your sense of what is right for you? 

We tend to remember these times because often, even though the listener might not say so, we feel understood.  And it can help us reach our own conclusions about things in our lives, things that we might have been struggling with.

When we are not listened to in this way, but our companion offers advice, or says how it is for them, or veers off the point, our own experience is very different.  This may have happened to you. 

True, deep listening feels supportive, non-judgemental, reflective, compassionate, and even empowering. 

Eugene Gendlin has said: “Listening is like adding something to the motion of a fly-wheel.  The wheel is already moving, and you want to add movement to it.  Therefore you don’t stop it first, so that you can push it.  You give it short spurts that can go with the movement it has already.”  Ann Weiser Cornell, in her book, “The Radical Acceptance of Everything” goes on to say that nothing dramatic appears to be happening, yet a space is created for the greatest of human miracles: how much more happens when we allow what is to find its own unfolding, than when we try to make something happen.

This listening to others can also be applied to listening to ourselves – and in all sorts of contexts.  When we Focus, we usually spend time with a Listener who might say back what they’ve heard without advising us or try to fix things for us.   This allows space for the miracle that Ann describes, this gentle unfolding in which we understand ourselves that bit more, where we can make decisions with confidence, where our creativity can shine through, where clarity and purpose deepen and expand.

I particularly love how Focusing has enhanced my own ability to listen to my body in my Yoga practice.  I have written in more depth about it in this article here.  I find I can sense more fully into what my physical body needs by truly listening to what it is telling me.  I look for that place where I am working, but not stretching to my limit.  In this place I can be aware of what is happening in my physical body.  At this place I am aware that I am working my body safely with good alignment and I am giving my body full attention.  Then I can release my thoughts about which muscles are stretching and what I’m going to do next, and I can enter a more meditative state where I notice my feelings, and I witness myself here, now in the present. 

Sometimes in this place I become aware of new insights, and I can connect with myself at a deeper level.  Michael Lee describes how he found these places in his yoga practice, and he went on to develop a whole system called Phoenix Rising Yoga.  I was delighted when I read his book recently, as this is my experience too, and I have found it through Focusing.

I would be very interested in hearing your thoughts and experiences when you have listened to yourself in this way, or when another has truly listened to you.

primroses

Coming to rest

P1010729I think that ‘coming to rest’ best describes my recent five-day retreat on Dartmoor with a group of Focusers. 

A retreat is a break from our usual routines, with time to step away from life for a while.  It’s a chance to get away from everydayness, giving an opportunity for rest, reflection and revitalisation.  The time is to use as you wish, and often (not always) there is a framework which you can choose to follow, or not.

There are many ways to go on retreat – you may be aware of some that are organised by religious organisations, yoga teachers, artists, writers and others.  And, of course, you may go on retreat alone.

I heartily recommend a retreat – this was just a few days of sharing a space with others.  Focusing with each other, cooking for each other, spending time in nature all nourished me.  I also found some insights into my life – some surprising, some affirming – all interesting, and seeds were sown that now seem to be on the verge of germinating.

The days quickly settled into a rhythm: qigong or yoga, then breakfast, followed by some time for meditation, and Focusing.  I particularly enjoyed learning the basics of qigong, and most days we were able to practise outside accompanied by birdsong, spring flowers and semi-curious sheep.  Walking, cooking, more Focusing, discussion time and even some daytime sleeping filled the days in an easy way.  And I feel better for having been there – outside life waited for me until I returned.

Many of us benefits from retreats, and I encourage you to dip your toe in this special water.

The retreat I went on was organised by fellow Focusing Practitioner, Gordon Adam.  Gordon runs several Focusing retreats each year, and if you would like to participate in one you can read more about him, and contact Gordon at the British Focusing Association website: http://www.focusing.org.uk/Gordon-Adam .

If you decide to participate in a Focusing retreat, most retreat leaders would prefer you to have some Focusing experience before you go.  I can help you here, and I would enjoy accompanying you on your Focusing journey.  You can contact me here on my Contact Page.