Are you in the Driving Seat of Your Life?

Are you in the driving seat? Carolann Samuels

Are you in the driving seat? Carolann Samuels

Mmm. Sometimes I feel I am and sometimes not.

I can say with certainty that the balance is now tipped more on to the ‘Yes I am’ side than the ‘out of control’ side. Of course there are still times when I feel all at sea: life continues to test all of us. But I have learned that I am more easily able to ride the storms now. And yes, it’s Focusing that has helped me so much.  And how has that come about?

 

When I first learned about Focusing, it was more about curiosity.

 

What is it about this method of paying attention to what’s going on inside us, that people say is so helpful?

It took me a little while to understand what Eugene Gendlin was saying in his book ‘Focusing’. His method of ‘clearing a space’ at the beginning of a Focusing session didn’t work very well for me at that time. And even though I wrote down the sequence of instructions so that I didn’t have to keep flicking the pages of the book, I just didn’t ‘get it’.

So I sought a teacher, and came across the very talented Kay Hoffmann. With her I found myself in a Focusing experience that very first time.

Later I did find Gendlin’s method useful for me some of the time – depending on how I was feeling at that moment. Of course the rest of his book is wonderful, instructive and inspiring.

 

Having experienced Focusing, I couldn’t get enough of it.

 

I embarked on training with Kay and finding out all the ways in which Focusing can benefit people – all people.

In those early days of learning Focusing, I found that it helped me to get more in touch with my own creativity. I found myself, almost accidentally, writing more. I embarked on a course in ceramics.  

I even picked up a paintbrush, which I hadn’t for decades. I had no confidence in any of these, and in a way, I felt shy about trying them. I was even slightly furtive when buying the equipment, in case I met someone I knew in the shop and they might question me.

I’m almost embarrassed to admit this in such a public place, but I would like you, my reader, to get a glimpse of just what a change was happening, oh so subtly, in my life.

 

The results of Focusing can sometimes happen immediately, and sometimes they trickle quietly into our lives, almost unnoticeably, until one day we realise the subtlety, or even the enormity, of what’s occurred.

 

So the creativity side was definitely one of these trickles. And there are others too.

Later, I made a big lifestyle decision which I found very difficult to justify to anyone else. Something in me knew that it was the right thing to do. I spent quite a few Focusing sessions testing it out with the part of me that confirmed this ‘rightness’, and the parts that were worried for me. Each time my body affirmed very definitely that yes, this was the right path.

And so that’s what I did then. And now there’s another change as I let go of something that has been very rich in my life for a number of years. There’s fear; there’s apprehension; there’s sadness there too. I can acknowledge and respect all of these, and I can feel very open to the new doors that are just beginning to show themselves.

I cannot be certain whether without the reassurance of Focusing I would have made these decisions or not. What I can be sure about is that Focusing enables me to feel much more confident about changes, and being open to the new that will come – whatever it is.

yoga platform

How can I feel more calm and relaxed throughout the day?

yoga platform

  • Do you come back from your Yoga or Meditation class feeling calm and relaxed?
  • Do you wish you could feel more like that every day?

Well you can. For most of us it takes a little while to practise, but it’s so worthwhile, why wouldn’t you?

The stillness we find at the end of the class isn’t just for the Yoga class, when we’re sitting quietly, maybe with candles lighting the corners of the room, with the temperature just right.  I think we all want to take this stillness into the world when we leave the class. Soon after we’ve packed up our kit we might find ourselves negotiating weather and traffic, other people, even.

Can we take this energy of stillness with us?

Can we, in our daily lives, as we become involved with disagreements, arguments, joys and sorrows, can we come back to stillness then, without sitting on the floor with peaceful music playing in the background? Or do we need to go back to join the race of the rat?

Do we need to be right? Do we need to persuade ourselves to become better – better at our jobs, better at parenting, better at being a friend, a better person?

Toni Packer calls this the “smog of our daily lives” that we not only suffer from, but also become attached to – it’s our existence after all.

I suggest that the more often we come back to quietness, in the midst of whatever is our daily life, the more we can get a glimmer of how we are acting when we’re in the smog.

We can catch ourselves, observe ourselves, remind ourselves that there is another way. We can change how we think.

We might find that we begin to notice those times when we speak harshly to a colleague, or are angry with another road user, or find our child irritating. Maybe not soon enough to change anything just then, but the next time it happens a little voice might say to us:

Slow down, choose how to feel, choose how to respond.

As we sit quietly, we remind ourselves of what has happened, and think about our future responses.

Habits take time to acquire, and time to change.

We might think we can’t change the habits of a lifetime – whether our lifetime is twenty years or sixty years. I think we can. When you start a new job you have to get used to the way things happen in the new workplace. When you move to a new town, you get used to the layout of the town and that you might have to drive twenty miles to buy clothes, but food is now five minutes walk away. When you learn a new activity or hobby, you learn new ways of doing things.  

Kindness works best with all beings, especially with ourselves.

And the best person to start with is ourself. Being aware, that’s the answer; awareness is always available. As we watch ourselves how we act, how we respond; we can think of different ways of acting and responding.

When we go home from the class we quickly find ourselves caught up in our routines of yesterday. One way that works for me is to set myself a reminder.  You might too – something that will work for you. Think ahead to the next day and choose a time when you will have ten minutes to yourself, then set yourself a reminder in your diary, on your phone, maybe a sticky note on your desk or fridge.

For that ten minutes take yourself away from everything – you might find a park bench, or walk down the aisle of a shop, or sit in your car – somewhere you can bring yourself into the present moment. If it’s really difficult not to be interrupted, you might pretend to be reading a book, or on the phone to give yourself some privacy. Or you might choose your quiet time to be first thing in the morning before the rest of the family is awake.  

Then observe yourself and your thoughts. By the time you get to the place you’ve chosen you may have only five minutes, that’s enough. Be aware, if only for a moment. Then reset your reminder for the next day – maybe it will be the same time, or another.

And it you don’t have ten minutes, five will do.

Another little trick is to choose something that you do fairly often during the day. It could be waiting for the kettle to boil; or walking through a particular door; or waiting for traffic lights to change colour. It doesn’t matter, just choose something.  And if that doesn’t work choose something else. At first you might need tangible reminders, such as a note by the kettle. Then in those few moments while you are waiting, bring yourself to the present moment.

Ask yourself how you are feeling – here in your chest, or in your gut, or if your teeth are clenched. That’s all. Just notice and be aware.

And if you find that you haven’t done any of this for a whole day, or a week or more even, then don’t be cross with yourself, but be curious as to why you couldn’t find that space – and be kind.

Kindness is what matters.

There will be times when it doesn’t work – that’s the same for all of us.  But I have noticed that those people who practise more often, find more parts of each day where they feel calmer, and more able to cope with the turbulence of life.

And I have found that Focusing has enhanced my ability to observe how I respond to the difficulties of life.  It has brought me a new calmness and ability to cope when things get tough.