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Freedom and Presence

You might have noticed that when you are in presence, you have a greater feeling of freedom. Freedom and presence seem to me to go hand in hand.

Consider this:

  • When I am angry, I feel beside myself,
  • When I am upset, I go within myself,
  • When I am overconfident, I am full of myself,
  • When I am reflective, I turn toward myself,

but in presence, I am myself.

In the examples above, we are not fully present, we are apart from ourselves. But in presence, we know ourselves as we really are.

Rupert Spira likens presence to a room: agitation can happen in a room, but the room itself is not agitated. When we are in presence, we know the agitation, or the unhappiness, or the anger, or the joy or the sickness, but we find that we are not the unhappiness or any of these. We find that still place within us where these things happen.

Our Focusing experience is greatly enriched by being present to what’s going on for us right now. It’s not difficult to come into presence, but sometimes we need to re-learn how to find that space, and there are several helpful techniques, which a Focusing teacher can guide you to find.

Have you ever been so completed involved in something that you feel really calm, or ‘in the flow’, and that nothing can disturb how you feel – even if just for a moment? Try it now.

  • Bring your awareness to your body right here, right now
  • Notice your feet; what are they touching?
  • What else is your body touching?
  • Can you be aware of the flow of air in and out of your lungs?

Your awareness is now focused on something that was happening automatically, without your conscious control.

This is not the same as not knowing what’s going on around us, or forgetting what the time is! It is being completely aware of our bodies in space and time.

In this place of presence and complete awareness, we can explore more deeply what is going on for us, and what our emotions are trying to tell us. We can explore these in a Focusing way and get to know ourselves better, and so enrich our lives.

 

Jez Alborough says, ‘We enter this world as the experience of Oneness, or Being, but we lose our perception of this as we grow up and become identified with our Personality. After that identification, the Suffering of Personality overshadows the Stillness and Love of our Natural State.’

 

 

Talking to yourself

So often when we talk to ourselves, we are berating ourselves, telling ourselves off.  We might regret having said or did something. We might have eaten too much, drunk too much, been too harsh with family members, angry with someone for something that wasn’t their fault, failed to reach a work target, or pass an exam.

We can be very inventive about the ways we criticise and shame ourselves.  

We can sometimes be much harsher with ourselves than we would be with others, and more critical of ourselves than we would dream of being with another person.

Sometimes this is a fleeting self-criticism, or it can go on – for a few days or weeks.  Sometimes we can spend years living with regrets and failures.

What if, instead of this one-way conversation with yourself, what would it feel like to listen to yourself?

You might begin by becoming aware of your body. 

You might notice your surroundings as if for the first time.

You might notice the floor beneath your feet, the chair on which you sit.

You might wish to close your eyes, or you might prefer not to.

You might become aware of the touch of your clothes against your skin.

You might notice the breath that flows in and out of your body – not trying to change it in any way, just being aware of it.  Some breaths might be deep, some shallow, some smooth, some a little ragged.

Then you might turn your attention to other parts of your body – your throat, perhaps.  Your chest.  Your abdomen and belly.  You might see how they are. 

Don’t rush any of this.

If this is something new for you, your body has to get used to being listened to in this way.

Like a shy child.  Or an untrusting animal.

You wouldn’t rush an encounter with these, would you?  You would take your time, being kind, letting the child or the animal come to you in their own time.

As you stay with this attention on your body, something might arise.  An image might come.  Or a feeling.  A colour maybe.  Or a memory.  Or something else. 

If something comes, however fleeting, however vague, however vivid, allow yourself to pause.

And in that pause, stay with whatever comes.

Be curious about it.  Invite it to be there, as fully as it wants to be.

Allow it to stay the same, or change, without any pressure from your thoughts or your mind.

Take as long as you like.

Try not to analyse what comes.

If it helps, you can say aloud things that arise or change. 

You might notice emotions arising – not always.

You might have an attentive listener, in which case, ask them if they might say back to you some of what you’ve said, but not everything.  And ask them not to add anything, or put their own interpretation on what you’ve said aloud.

And you don’t have to say everything – or anything.

Allow your body to speak to you in this way, without any judgement from you or your listener.

Allow your body to say as much or as little as it wants to.

Allow the feelings, or images, or memories, to change.  Allow this to come from within you, rather than instructing your body.

Resist any urge to tell yourself what you ‘think’ it should be feeling or doing.

Allow your body this time and space to let you know what its wants and needs are.

When you wish to complete this special time for yourself, take a moment to check if anything else wants to come.

Then thank your body for all that came.  Thank your body for this conversation.

Then gently, slowly, mindfully, come back to the present moment.  Open your eyes.

Rejoin your normal day after a pause – not too quickly.

And then what?  What happens next?

It might be that you realised something new about yourself.

It might be that the answer to a problem unfolds.

You might realise why you reacted the way you did in a particular situation – or every time you find yourself in a situation.

You might feel a little more peaceful.

You might find yourself being more kind and accepting of yourself.

You might find that you no longer carry things with you, such as grievances, hurts or betrayals.

You might find, in times of stress or panic, you can notice the feelings that arise, and acknowledge them, and manage them more easily.

I would be very interested in how you find this little exercise.  Please feel free to get in touch, and ask me questions.

Presence

When we settle down to Focus, we are far more likely to have a rich experience, and one that we can fully trust, if we allow ourselves a little time to settle into presence.  I have talked about this in earlier posts.  Here is a description of settling into presence; and at the foot of this page  is a pdf sheet which you can print to help you settle into presence when you are Focusing alone.  And on the same page is an mp3 audio recording, so you don’t have to keep squinting at the page.

As someone recently told me, just settling into presence brought into sharp focus the reason why she was feeling agitated and angry with a particular situation.  This completely changed her view of the situation, and enabled her to deal with a problem without all that previously unrecognised anxiety getting in the way.  Everything progressed more smoothly after that.

And sometimes we need time to explore this space, and to find out what is keeping us away from the peace which we all seek.

Being in presence gives us a clear space in which to explore our feelings, and we don’t usually have to try to hard to find them; they come up in this peaceful, nourishing space.

I particularly like the way Rupert Spira talks about presence: 

Presence is peace itself. Like the space of the room in which you are sitting (relatively speaking), it cannot be agitated. All agitated activities take place within it but it is itself without agitation. Presence is like that. It allows everything to appear within it, choicelessly, without preference, including sometimes very agitated appearances of the mind, body or world, but it is itself the inherently and eternally peaceful ‘space’ in which all these appear.

So there is no need to look for a peaceful appearance of the mind or body in order to be knowingly this peaceful Presence. Nor do you need to have any special knowledge. Knowing that you are this Presence is all the special knowledge you need. And the more we abide knowingly as this Presence, the more its inherently free, unlimited, peaceful and happy qualities are revealed in our experiential understanding.

Rupert Spira

And as well as Focusing happening more easily in a space of presence, as we Focus the space of presence expands.  And as Rupert says, knowing we are this presence is such a freeing feeling, that understanding comes to us more easily.  We, like my friend above, begin to understand why we sometimes act the way we do. 

 

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There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.

I used to think that this was a quotation by Leonard Cohen, and now I’m not so sure – he may have borrowed it.  And I don’t mind whether Cohen wrote it or someone else.  I think it’s a great concept, which reminds us to avoid clinging on to perfection.

And I learned about Kintsugi, which is an Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with gold, silver or platinum.  It shows the repaired pot as a part of the history of the pot, rather than something to disguise.  The beauty of the pot combines the skill of the original maker with that of the repairer, making something new; embracing and celebrating the imperfect; and showing us even a broken pot can be something beautiful, useful and something to treasure.

So what have these to do with Focusing or Yoga?

I have heard so many people say, ‘I can’t do Yoga because I’m not flexible enough‘, or ‘I can’t even touch my toes, so why should I try Yoga?’, and many other reasons for not trying Yoga, Meditation (‘I can’t sit still‘, or ‘My mind is too cluttered‘ are the the reasons here), or any other activity or pursuit that is unfamiliar to them.

I’ve used similar reasons myself. ‘I can’t paint because I’m not artistic‘, has been one of my excuses.

I would never want to persuade someone to do something that they have an aversion to, but it’s good to recognise that none of us is perfect.  We all have shortcomings, some of which are visible to others and some are not.

And it is in our differences that we shine.

Like the golden cracks in Kintsugi pots.

And Nature celebrates the individuality of each plant.

So please don’t ignore fulfilling practices such as Yoga, Pilates, walking, art, Focusing, sailing, trampolining, writing, embroidery, acting or any of those other activities that may have tempted you – even just a tiny bit – because you think you’re not good enough, or because someone will see the cracks in your facade.

These are all part of our histories – what makes us how we are today.

Honour and celebrate your differences.  Please.

And let the light get in to you, and shine out of you.

 

 

The Art of Listening by Alain de Botton

This is a brief post, with a suggestion that you read Alain de Botton’s view on The Art of Listening, at The School of Life.

He starts by saying:

“Many of us probably have a nagging feeling that we don’t listen enough to other people. Here we’re not going to make the guilt worse by telling you that listening is a good thing, worthy but in fact rather dull.

“We’re going to show you that listening to others is first and foremost an interesting thing to do, something that could be as pleasurable for you as it is for your speaking companion.

One of the great things about Listening is that as we listen to others, we help to clarify our own thoughts.

In Focusing, we are not trying to remember the thoughts of our Focusing partner as we listen to them; actually we try to let them go.  

However, as we listen deeply to another, something profound can happen within us.  Many Focusers I know say that as something arises in our Focusing partner, we touch on things in ourselves, and sometimes the meaning of  thoughts or events in our own lives, that might have been eluding us, become clear.

I have written before about Listening in the Focusing context here, and here, and I think Alain de Botton’s view adds another dimension.

Learn Focusing in a small supportive group

bay of firesI am delighted to tell you that I have four Focusing workshops coming up in Canterbury, Kent.

Focusing Skills for Life will be at Canterbury Christchurch University on the following Saturdays:

Day 1 – 16th September 2017 and 6th January 2018

Day 2 – 21st October 2017 and 17th February 2017

Day 1 is suitable for anyone interested in Focusing, and

Day 2 is suitable for anyone who has had an introduction to Focusing.

Reserve your places here and here.

And for more information please contact me here.

Focusing Newsletter – July 2017

The latest Focusing Newsletter is now available to read on the British Focusing Association website and here.

Most people will find something of interest to read, so have a look.  The contents include:

  • In Remembrance of Gene Gendlin
  • If I Keep Nothing Between—a Tribute to Gene Gendlin
  • Untangling Parts of Ourselves
  • Children Focusing in the UK
  • Biospirituality: a Brief Overview
  • Your Body is Your Home: Poems on a Biospiritual Theme
  • Embodied Presence
  • My Biotope: Finding Your Optimal Inner Environmen
  • Focusing with Pain
  • BFA Summer Focusing Community Camp
  • UEA Counselling Course Closure
  • The Wisdom of Groundhog Day—a Book Review
  • Practitioner Profile—Carolann Samuels
  • Workshops, Events, & Groups Listing
  • Focusing Resources Information
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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!

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Truth is an unfolding process that deepens as your wisdom increases

Taken by Carolann Samuels

Taken by Carolann Samuels

This quotation (from Kathy Tyler and Joy Drake) continues: “Live in a way that fosters your enduring and direct encounter with life”.

We each need to find this way for ourselves.  For many people, Yoga leads us on this way.  By our direct encounter with our bodies, how our body responds to the postures we ask it to take up as we practise, and how our mind responds to these requests.

It doesn’t matter to me whether or not you can ‘perform’ a shoulder-stand, or a head-stand, or whether you can sit quietly, with a straight back for five minutes, or any of the other postures in the Yoga book.  I don’t want it to matter to you either.

As we practise, we become more familiar with how our bodies respond, and we can be alert to our own present moment experience.  I believe that this is part of what Tyler and Drake are referring to in their quotation above.  Each time we practise, our bodily response changes – sometimes subtly, sometimes even dramatically.  So what matters more is that we pay attention to these responses, stay with them and maybe we can learn from them.

Focusing is another way of accessing this unfolding, this being with ourselves, our experiences and our emotions.

I hope that you can find a way to find your own unfolding process, and wisdom.