tangled tree roots

An Undervalued Human Gift

tangled tree roots

Helping someone to untangle their thoughts

The capacity to listen is the most persistently undervalued human gift.  Marcel Theroux.

When we have a conversation, one of us talks for a while, the other listens and then takes a turn at talking.  We don’t measure the length of time each of us has for talking. 

When we’re speaking we’re sometimes aware that our companion might not be fully listening.  We know this by their reactions, which might tell us either that they have not been fully listening, or that they haven’t understood. 

How do we respond to that? 

How does it make you feel when you’ve been talking and your companion hasn’t been listening? 

Or when they have interrupted you?

Or when they try to advise you, when you might not want advice. 

Or when they sneaked a look at their mobile.


Then when we are listening to someone else, how does it feel to really listen to them? 

  • Do we sometimes find out mind wandering? 
  • Wondering about something that might be happening later?
  • Something that our companion has said has reminded us of something that we want to say too.  And our minds switch off from them, and we’re thinking about how we’re going to say it.
  • How might we make our part of the conversation sound entertaining, emotive or sensational
  • When we’re listening to someone else do we try to analyse what they’re saying, interpret it, or judge it?

All this doesn’t mean that our everyday conversations are any the less valuable, enjoyable, fun, supportive or interesting.  It’s just that there is another way of Listening that we can use as well.  It looks similar, but it feels different.  And it’s something that anyone can learn. 

You may know people who are naturally good listeners, and you find that after a conversation with them that you come away feeling, perhaps, refreshed in some way.  You feel as though you have worked through a problem.  You see something in a different light.


In Focusing we learn to really Listen to our companion.  (I am using a capital letter to differentiate from everyday listening.)

  • We sometimes say back to them what they’ve said.
  • We don’t judge.
  • We don’t analyse.
  • We don’t say they’re doing well, or not doing it right.
  • We don’t even try to understand what they’re saying.
  • We Listen. 
  • We give the person this time entirely for them.
  • We stay with them while they pay attention to their inner world.
  • We give them our full attention for this time.
  • And that is all.

It is a great gift for someone to give us their time.  And as Marcel Theroux says, an underrated gift.

We can all improve our Listening skills – would you like to?


The next one-day Introduction to Focusing will be on 4th February 2017  in Canterbury.

Day 2 will be on 28th February.

Ways in which Focusing can be helpful

Do you believe in magic?

Do you believe in magic?

Do you believe in magic?

Do you have a problem that you can see no way to resolve?  And you hope a little magic will fix it?

You’ve thought and thought about it.

You’ve asked colleagues, friends, family.

They all offer advice, but nothing seems quite right.  It doesn’t quite match with how you feel you could fix it.

It might be work-related?

To do with relationships?

How to deal with a child’s difficult behaviour

Or even what colour will you paint the kitchen?

It happens to us all.  Some of the problems are big, life-changing issues.  Some are seemingly trivial, but still take up quite a bit of energy.

When I sat down to write this post, I knew the theme I wanted to write about.

But I couldn’t see a way in, without long, dusty sentences that you probably wouldn’t read.

So back to the magic.

This is some magic that you can make for yourself.  The magical process that takes place as we connect to our inner feelings.

We become aware of our surroundings.

We notice how it feels to rest our feet on the floor.  The touch of clothes against our skin.  The breath coming in and out of your body.

This helps to bring us into the present moment.

We wait. 

We are patient.

As we rest in this space, we can pay attention to our physical sensations.  The situation that has been occupying us brings a bodily awareness.

Can we trust this?

Let me give you an example.

Someone I know has a work-related issue in his life right now.  He called me and asked if he could talk it over with me.

I wanted to help, but I have no knowledge of the work that he does.  I listened to the problem, then I encouraged him to turn to his present-moment experience. 

How he was feeling in that moment.  The room around him.  Where he was sitting. 

And what the whole of the problem felt like to him.  I suggested that a word might explain it.  Or picture.  A colour.  Or a description.

He then talked, and I said very little, just enough response to let him know I was still listening.  I didn’t even need to understand the whole of the situation. 

After about twenty minutes, he thanked me for helping him.  I hadn’t helped him fix the problem.  He’d worked out a next step for himself.  I’d been an attentive Listener, guiding him to do his own Focusing. 

I could see he was Focusing (although we didn’t call it that just then).  I could see him wanting to get just the right word to explain how he felt about it all.  He wanted to say exactly how it was. 

If I said how I understood it, he sometimes corrected me.  And that was okay.  It was important for him to be able to phrase it exactly right.  Exactly how it was feeling for him in that moment – rather than any interpretation I might give it. 

I didn’t feel affronted.  I felt pleased that he was able to stay with the process, and work though what was right for him to do next.

This is the magic.

When we become aware of what is going on – physically – for us right now.  When we stay with it.  When we are willing to wait and see what unfolds.  This is when change comes.  Or a next step.  We may not solve everything all in one go, but something changes.  We feel more confident about going forward.

What do you think?

How to start a Focusing session

ArmchairFocusing happens best if we can spend a few moments settling in.  This partly means getting comfortable.  You might be sitting in a chair, standing, lying down, or even walking.  However you prefer to Focus, get comfortable, ensure you’re warm enough, and turn off any devices or phones that might distract you.  You don’t have to sit in any special position, and you can move around whenever you want; it’s just really good to feel comfortable at the beginning.  It’s not only good, but being comfortable and getting into a receptive state helps enormously.

So how do we get into this receptive state?

There are several ways, and Focusers tend to have their favourites.  It’s a good idea to begin your Focusing session by deciding which way will work best for you today.  I have recorded an introduction on my Free Resources page here.  When you use this, have your computer close to you so that you can press the pause button now and again if the recording is going too fast for you.  Sometimes we just need to spend a bit more time in some stages – it’s individual for each of us, and it’s individual in each session.

As Eugene Gendlin says in Focusing (P71)

“You give yourself what might be called a ‘positive set’.  You put yourself into a state of mind and body in which the other Focusing movements can take place freely.  Your inner actions in this movement are much like the overt actions of artists when they start to work each morning.  They make sure their brushes are cleaned and free of hardened paint, scrape dried residue off the palette, stir the pots and knead the tubes to work out any stiffening or coagulation that may have taken place in the paints overnight.  This may seem to be peripheral to the main work, but until it is done, the rest of the work can’t begin at all.”

If you have ever been to a Yoga or relaxation class, some Focusing beginnings might sound like the relaxation at the end of the class.  However, the aim of getting into the receptive state is not to relax completely.  The aim in Focusing is to relax any tight muscles, but to remain completely alert to what is going on inside, and to be watchful for any changes, however subtle.  These changes might be physical, and they might also be images, colours, words, phrases or even inner gurgling. 

As we stay with these sensations, etc., then the space arises for change to happen.  We don’t expect change, nor do we force it.  We acknowledge what it feels like now (good, bad, somewhere in between).  This feeling, this pain, this joy, wants to be fully heard, so we give it that space.  Some people call this being in Presence.  We stay with all that is here, which might be contradictory feelings and emotions.  And it might take a few minutes, or much longer. 

As we stay with this, something shifts.  Something happens that allows us to feel Yes, I can stay with this – this sadness, this pain, this joy.  And we feel a bodily shift, an easing, a sense of Aha – that feels better.  I’m okay with this.

How to Focus on Your To-do List

list-372766_640Life can sometimes feel overwhelming with so many things to do.  Do you feel you can never keep up? 

Every time you manage to cross off one thing on your to-do list, something comes along to replace it, and it’s often two or three.

I know what it’s like.  I’ve had to juggle lots of things in my life: children, pets, jobs, garden, oh and some life for myself too.

Would you like to learn the simple trick that has worked for me, and still does?

I wish I’d worked it out sooner, because my life would have run much more smoothly, and I wouldn’t have forgotten those urgent things that just have to be done, and had to somehow squeeze them in when I felt exhausted at the end of the day.  But never mind, it works really well for me now. 

Its simplicity almost embarrasses me now, but I tried a lot of different variations before I found this way.

And how did it come to me?  It has been a mixture of finding out what others do, and then Focusing on my problem, and making it my own system, one which works well for me.

At one time I had different notebooks for the different aspects of my life, but that got messy, and now I only have to carry one tiny book with me (or you can use your phone).  It wasn’t a bad system, but with all the different things in my life I was juggling, it was just too complicated.

And I’ve tried several electronic methods, on-line diaries with integrated to-do lists, apps that help you prioritise, and lists that will sort things in any order you want.  They’ve all worked after a fashion, but were never quite good enough.  I still saw that ever-lengthening list, and it would take precious time just to keep it under control.

I also find that writing things down, with a pen, onto paper, not only helps me to remember it, but helps me think around any problems associated with it, sometimes getting a new perspective.  

This system has helped me feel much more in control of all the things that have to be done, and as a result, I am much more relaxed.

Would you like to feel more relaxed and in control?  Here it is:

  • Take one journal book – like this one:

  • Many designs will work.  You need one that’s going to last, and not fall apart before it’s full.  I like this style because the pages are stitched in, are already numbered, there are Contents pages at the front, and an expandable pocket in the back cover where you can keep loose pieces of paper.
  • And you need a smaller notebook that will fit in a pocket (and the smaller notebook might be the notes page on your phone.)

I start at the beginning of the book and write my first to-do list on page 1 (after the Contents page).  I add a note in the contents page of the heading and page number. 

This list might be quite long, and I keep adding to it until the page is full.  It might include things like: collect dry cleaning before Wednesday, get quotes for painting the house, write a novel, where shall I go on holiday next year, etc.  Some are immediate tasks, some more long-term and some are wishful thinking.

I use this book for all my notes and lists, always adding the page number in the contents page.  For example, I have a page for admin/business; one for books that friends have recommended to me.  Another page lists possible gifts, so that when it comes to birthdays I am not struggling to remember what I discovered three months before would be the perfect gift for my daughter.  I have a list of things I need to do in the house; one of blog ideas (!); one of thoughts about future yoga lessons and equipment to buy; questions to ask my mentor, etc.

  • Everything that is urgent has a star next to it, or is highlighted. 
  • Everything that has an important timescale has the date next to it.
  • Each new page/list starts on the next available fresh page.  There are no blank pages in between the pages that are already used.
  • Each page heading has a number in the contents page, and if the content goes on to a further page, I just add this to the contents page, so it might look like this:
    • To-do list – pages 1, 5, 9, 27.
    • Recommended books – page 2
    • Admin/business – page 3
    • Birthdays – page 4
    • Yoga notes – page 6        etc.

Doing it this way means that:

  • everything is in one place
  • you never run out of room until the book is full
  • you can find everything in the book because it is (very easily) indexed

So far, so good, but it can still seem overwhelming with all these different pages.  So what I do next is the simple thing that has made all the difference.

I have a separate small notebook that fits easily in a pocket, and each day I transfer from the bigger lists those things that absolutely must be done, and those that I feel I can achieve today.  In the main book, I cross off what I’ve managed to do, or that may seem irrelevant now (and that does happen!).  I prefer to do this in the morning, but you can do it at any regular time. 

This smaller list has to be achievable in one day.  It takes less than five minutes to flick through the main journal and write out.  And it means that I don’t feel overwhelmed with the multitude of things, some of which are urgent, and some wishful thinking.

Changing the way you currently organise your list of jobs to do may seem an impossible task, but it’s not as difficult as it seems. 

The secret to organising it is this:

  • Buy yourself two notebooks – one larger, one smaller (or create a page on your phone for the smaller one)
  • Set aside an 30 minutes to an hour (and it make take less) to get down in the larger book all those tasks that have to be done.  Set up and index other pages you might need.  This is a one-off task.
  • You don’t need to get everything down at this stage, just the really important stuff that’s nagging at you. You can keep adding to it whenever you want to.
  • Transfer to the smaller book (or your phone) what you can achieve today – nothing more.
  • Tomorrow, in the larger book
    • Cross out what’s been done
    • Add anything new. 
    • And on a new page in the smaller book or phone, add today’s tasks.

And that’s it.

Would this simple system work for you?  Would it help you manage your to-do lists?

If it would, just use it.  Get started.  It’s easy, takes very little time, and you can adapt it to work for you.  But do get started.

I’ve included this article in a Focusing blog, because I found Focusing on the issue helped me to work out how to achieve something that was bugging me.  

And I thought you’d be interested to know another way that Focusing can be really helpful in everyday life.

Don’t add this advice to your To-Do list.  Do it!

Is Focusing the same as Counselling or Therapy?


And it isn’t because the relationship between me, as a Focusing Practitioner, and you, the person I am teaching, is an equal relationship – one human being with another.

Counsellors and therapists who have also trained as Focusing Practitioners, might include Focusing as part of their therapeutic work, but Focusing can be practised on its own.  It is a process for helping your mind to listen to the wisdom of your body.  

You can read more about what Focusing is in my introduction and other blog posts (search for posts with the tag ‘Focusing’).

  • As a Focusing Practitioner I am teaching and supporting a self-help skill.  Sometimes our relationship may be brief, sometimes more long-term.  Nevertheless my aim is always to teach Focusing and Listening to you, so that you can continue Focusing alone and with others.
  • I am not an expert on your inner world: you are, or you will become so with practice.
  • You and I can share as much or as little as we wish with each other.  If you want to say aloud what is going on for you, then that’s okay, or you may prefer not to – that’s okay too, and I won’t refer to it again unless you want to.
  • Focusing Practitioners tend to be honest with our students, and say how we are feeling – without pretending that everything is okay when it’s not.  At one introductory day I felt a bit nervous, because it was a large group, in a new venue, and I didn’t know the layout of the building.  As I demonstrated Focusing early on in the day, I was aware of a collective intake of breath when I shared with the group that I felt a little anxiety, and how that felt in my body.  It was actually really helpful in demonstrating the equal footing that we were on, and gave the students permission to own how they were feeling in that moment.  I have trained as a Focusing Practitioner, I am sharing what I know with you, and we are both getting to know our inner worlds in this way.
  • Our time together as a Focusing Practitioner and a student is yours to use as you wish.  We have no agenda, no outcome to achieve.
  • I will not analyse what comes up for you in the Focusing session, and I will not even comment on it unless you ask me to. 
  • I will not attempt to diagnose any condition you might, or might not have.

So even if you have not worked with a counsellor or therapist, you will see that there are differences, the main ones being the equality of the relationship.  

Focusing is useful for getting to know yourself more.  The best way to find out how it works is to have a 1:1 with a Focusing Practitioner, or go to an introductory session.

“Carolann created a safe and supportive environment, encouraging participation but without pressure.. She made the subject interesting and clear.”  Lynn

You can contact me to join one of my courses, or to learn Focusing 1:1 at

csfocusing [at] carolannsamuels.co.uk, or here.

“I enjoyed the course very much.  I was surprised at how powerful the Focusing exercises were and helpful in connecting to my inner feelings.”  (Course participant at an Introduction to Focusing.)

3 Ways to Learn Focusing for Free

Focusing is a process for helping your mind listen to the wisdom of your body.  It is a skill we all have, but many of us have forgotten how to use it. 

Imagine you didn’t use an arm or leg for a few weeks.  After a surprisingly short time the muscles don’t want to work any more, and you have to train the muscles to work again.  If you have ever had a limb in plaster, you might remember that you were advised to exercise your fingers or toes while the plaster is still in place.  Then afterwards, before you are fully mobile, you need to exercise to get back the mobility you had before the accident or surgery.

It’s the same with Focusing.  But it’s less visible. 

Children are master Focusers.  Even before they can speak, they know when they need food, a cuddle, help, praise, exercise, sleep, and everything else in a child’s life.  As they grow, we teach them different ways to respond to these needs, so that they don’t cry whenever they are hungry, and to ask for attention at appropriate times, not just when things are not going their way.

Sometimes children are taught these things so assiduously that they, to some extent, submerge some of these feelings.  And as adults they (we) can find it difficult to get in touch with things going on inside us. 

Our bodies still hold this knowledge and wisdom, and Focusing is one way of getting to know it again.

So how can we learn this for free?

  1.  When we train as Focusing Practitioners, we need to have practice in introducing newcomers to Focusing.  So one way to learn Focusing for free is to contact a Focusing Teacher and ask if any of his/her students would like a volunteer for their practice.  You can find Focusing Teachers on the UK website  and on the US website.  Don’t worry about the distance as Focusing works very well on the phone or Skype.  (And just a reminder here that Focusing is not therapy or counselling.)
  2. On the US Focusing Institute website is a self-help guide.  On occasions, the Focusing organisations offer free or pay-what-you-can on-line courses.  Keep an eye here and here. Other information includes a video clip of two people Focusing on Skype.
  3. And there are books.  Three I can highly recommend are:
    • Focusing: how to gain direct access to your body’s knowledge: How to open up your deeper feelings and intuition by Eugene Gendlin
    • The Power of Focusing by Ann Weiser Cornell
    • Bio-sprituality: Focusing as a way to grow by Peter Campbell and Edwin McMahon.  This last book is written from a spiritual point of view, and I would like to emphasise that Focusing is available to everyone, whatever your beliefs.

To join my introductory Focusing course, contact me on my contact page,

or email csfocusing [at] carolannsamuels [dot] co [dot] uk

Photo credit: Flickr

What’s your favourite chocolate?

Photo credit: Flickr

Photo credit: Flickr

Imagine someone has just opened a box of chocolates in front of you.  Is your mouth starting to water at just the thought of choosing? Are you tempted by the truffles, or a perfect praline?  Can you imagine biting into the chocolate ginger?

Are you the sort of person who loves to choose from a full box, or is that a teeny bit overwhelming?  Maybe you like it when there’s not so much choice – a whole box of chocolate ginger, maybe, or Maltesers?  Or you may prefer the surprise of not knowing what’s hiding under the perfect pale spiral on the top.

Notice how, when you were thinking about your favourite chocolate, your body responded.  Maybe your mouth started to water?  Maybe you could already begin to taste it?  Maybe a little smile came at the delightful anticipation?

Your body knows all about your choice in chocolate!

Change is about choices.  When we are contemplating change, there are at least two options – the possibility of change, and that of doing nothing.  One part of us wants to do something differently, and another says no, stay with what we know.  And sometimes, like the chocolates, there are lots to choose from.

And now and again it’s a choice to make a change, and at others the need to change is out of our control.

When change is a choice, there is a wanting and a not-wanting inside us.  Something in our life is not quite the way we want it to be – the not-wanting – and the wanting to alter it.

It’s helpful here to sit with the wanting and the not-wanting, and to sense the whole of the issue.  At first we may just go over what we’ve already been thinking about, and it might seem futile to go over it all again.  But there is value in waiting a while, and noticing what might come that is new and fresh. 

Credit: Andy Arthur - Flickr.com

Credit: Andy Arthur – Flickr.com

As an example let’s imagine that you are contemplating moving to a different town, and the options are to stay in the town you are living in, or move to the other one.


Credit: Sebastian Werner - Flickr.com

Credit: Sebastian Werner – Flickr.com


So first, let’s connect with the place you are living now.  Just for a little while, find yourself somewhere quiet to be, where you’ll not be interrupted for twenty minutes or so.  Turn off your phone, and shut the door.

As you sit or stand quietly, feel the support of what’s below you – the chair, the ground, the bed.  Connect with your breath, without altering it in any way – just notice it.  Take a couple of minutes to bring yourself into the present moment, just as you are. 

Then bring your attention to the town in which you currently live.  What is the feeling you get when you’re in the town (even if you’re not there now)?  Can you describe this feeling?  You might say something like, “It’s comfortable”, “I feel distant”, “It feels like a warm blanket”, “I feel cold”, or something completely different.

You might not know if this description is exactly right, but be patient.  Be curious.  Ask yourself what is it about this town in which I live that makes me feel … ?  It might feel like the right description, even if you don’t understand it.

Then wait again for a little while, wait for something new that is different from what you said about the town in the first place. 

Maybe this new thing comes as a surprise.  Maybe something came to you that you wouldn’t have thought to say before. 

Then have a little break – have a stretch, get a cup of tea – just a few minutes, and then try all of this with the place you’re considering moving to.  You may not know it very well, but that doesn’t matter.  You at least know it well enough to consider moving there. 

Don’t rush this exercise, but it neither need it take too long.  You can then take some time with the two new feelings about the places, which in my experience, can be a powerful tool in helping make the decision.

With many thanks to Bebe Simon for teaching me this exercise.

Click here to join me on the Introduction to Focusing in Canterbury on 4th February.  Or contact me for a 1:1 in person, by phone, or on Skype – or for more information.


Oak tree - Carolann Samuels

Resisting change

Oak tree - Carolann Samuels

Oak tree – Carolann Samuels

Many of us are good at resisting change.  Security is, well, secure – and it’s difficult for us leave security behind.  Sometimes I tell myself that I’m good at change – I have embraced many changes in my life.  But then I look at myself honestly, and I can see more times when security has served me well.

I like the way that Sally Lever has written about this in her newsletter earlier this month – you can read the full article here; and here is an excerpt:

“Change involves letting go of the past and letting be of the present.  An acorn grows into a sapling and then a huge oak tree. If the consciousness of the tree remains with the acorn (its seed) then there will be no further manifestation. As each day of this new year dawns, we can choose to see each one as something absolutely new that we’re going to co-create in our lives. This becomes difficult if we assume from the outset that this ‘today’ is ‘simply another Monday’”.

So how do we let go of the past, and let be of the present?  Meditation is an ideal method, letting us ‘be’ simply in this moment.  One of the great benefits of meditation is that it requires nothing – no special equipment, we don’t have to go anywhere or be with another person or group of people, there are no resources.  We just have to be quiet, in the present moment, letting go of anything that comes into our minds.  It is easy to explain, and it is always challenging to practice.

Yoga, Tai Chi, Chi Gung, gardening, walking mindfully – all are excellent ways of letting go of the past, and being totally in the present.  You may have another practice that does this for you, and I would be interested to read what works well for you.  Drop me a line.



Be brave enough to live creatively

Cactus Forest - Carolann Samuels

Cactus Forest – Carolann Samuels

“Be brave enough to live creatively. The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. You cannot get there by bus, only by hard work, risking and by not quite knowing what you are doing. What you will discover will be wonderful: Yourself.”                     Alan Alda

This quotation is new to me.  I read it in Jamie Catto’s book “Insanely gifted”, and I thought it so true that I looked up Alan Alda, and where and when he said it (at his daughter’s graduation ceremony).

And I agree, it does need bravery to live creatively, to move away from comfort, to listen to our intuition.  Our intuition can feel like a wilderness until we learn to trust it, and when we do, we discover all sorts of things about ourselves that we didn’t fully know.

On the journey, Yoga has worked well for me; Focusing works better.  They are not the only ways, they are safe, gentle, non-judgemental.  They are worth a try.

Book on a course or a 1:1


Carolann Samuels
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We could never learn to be brave and patient if there were only joy in the world

Carolann Samuels

Carolann Samuels

I’ve read a few quotations by Helen Keller which have inspired me, and especially this one which is new to me.  If you haven’t heard of her, there is an article about her on Wikipedia here.  I remember hearing a lot about her when I was young as she was the first deaf-blind person in the US to attain a BA degree, and went on to be a vocal and respected campaigner for human rights.  It is worth reading how she overcame huge difficulties with communication – not learning to speak until she was around six years old.

And it’s so true, isn’t it?  If we did not know difficulties, hardship and struggle, how can we ever learn bravery and patience.  All of us can reflect on aspects of our lives which have proved difficult, or even monumentally impossible.  Tackling these, and sometimes overcoming them, brings us new strength.  

So how does this relate to Yoga and Focusing?

When we first practise Yoga, some of the postures we see others tackling can seem difficult, or even impossible.  I remember a new student in my class, who said, I’m here to learn Yoga, but you’ll never catch me standing on one leg.  Well, of course one day she did.  With no fanfare, no cajoling, no special encouragement, she found it quite natural to lift one leg off the ground while she balanced with comparative ease on the other.  In just a few weeks more, she was embracing Ardha Chandrasana – the half-moon pose.  And it was a joy to see.  Bravery and patience are both within her.

For each of us, the posture may be different.  Going to a Yoga class (or anything new) requires bravery for some of us – stepping into the unknown with people who may already be familiar with what is to come.  For some of us it is turning up-side-down; for others it is stretching our arms and legs wide and holding them there; for some it is remaining silent, unmoving for five to ten minutes in Savasana (the corpse pose) at the end of the class.  I have known Yoga students with all of these difficulties, and facing them in Yoga, helps all of us to face problems in our everyday lives.

My body is naturally flexible, which makes some of the stronger postures a challenge to me.  Navasana (the boat pose) is always difficult.  And as I practise it, I reflect on where in life I need to be stronger, hold my own, not always be too flexible.  I find Yoga so helpful, in how my body and mind respond to the posture work. 

In Focusing, we can enjoy the ease, clarity and aliveness that come.  Usually we have to be patient, and sometimes brave, to step through what comes first – but not always!