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The Guest House

This being human is a guest house

Every morning a new arrival,

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome them all!

Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honourably.

He may be clearing you out 

for some new delight.

from “The Guest House” by Rumi

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.

News from the British Focusing Association

I am very happy to tell you that the latest edition of the British Focusing Association (BFA) newsletter is now available to read on its website here.

There is something for everyone, and this contents list may give you an inkling of just a few of the ways that Focusing is used.

  • Congratulations Gene Gendlin on Your 90th Birthday 
  • ‘The Shift’—a poem by Helen Evans 
  • Listening—a Precious Gift by Karen Liebenguth 
  • We Need to Listen Fully 
  • Becoming a Better Focusing Partner through Community by Marilyn Harding 
  • Focusing and Touch—an Experiential Review by Gordon Adam
  • To Touch or Not to Touch—Focusing, Healing and Touch by Pamela Carr 
  • Focusing and the Enneagram by Chris Wilson 
  • Focusing and Photography by Manjudeva 
  • Introducing Focusing to Women who have Experienced Prison or Immigration Detention by Suzi Mackenzie & Alex Brew
  • Practitioner Profile—Rob Matthews
  • Letters to the Editors 
  • Workshops, Events, Groups Listing 

Read the newsletter in full hereand sign up for future editions here.

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.

Is Focusing the same as Counselling or Therapy?

No.

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

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.

bfa-logoThe latest issue of the British Focusing Association’s newsletter is themed around the 27th International Focusing Conference in Cambridge, which was attended by around 270 people from 60 different countries, and it contains a wide variety of articles by presenters and participants of the conference. 
 
The newsletter is free and is produced by British Focusing Association, partly with the aim of supporting the development of Focusing community both within the UK and internationally. Please share it and pass it on to anyone else who might be interested in reading it.
 
If you haven’t already signed up to receive the newsletter, and would like to receive it regularly, go to the BFA website www.focusing.org.uk and enter your email address in the ‘Subscribe’ box on the Home page of the website – that’s all there is to it!

http://www.focusing.org.uk/PDF/BFA%20NEWSLETTER%20(November%202016).pdf

Introduction to Focusing – two day course in Canterbury Kent

I am so pleased to be offering a two-day introduction to Focusing in Canterbury Kent.  You can find more details here: introduction-to-focusing

Please contact me if you are interested in coming and want to reserve your place, or if you have any questions.