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


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. 


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.