In service to my on-going interest in the interface between physical and emotional well-being, I’ve recently been exploring a body based emotional practice called Focusing. Focusing was developed by psychologist Eugene Gendlin who was a graduate student of Carl Rogers (famous in humanistic psychological circles for developing person centered therapy). He was interested in understanding why some clients were more successful than others in the process of psychotherapy. Through some pretty thorough research, what he discovered is that it was not the method of the therapist that mattered as much as it was the ability of the client to pause and look inward. From this, Gendlin developed the “philosophy of the implicit” which suggests that the body implicitly carries more than the brain can process. Gendlin discovered that if a client was able to bring attention to what is actually happening in this moment in the body, they were freer to access their inner intelligence and experience lasting change.
At last! Researched substantiation for my belief that interfacing with the mind alone doesn’t produce as much lasting change as when the body is brought into the process (I knew I was in this business for agood reason).
What does it take to access implicit bodily knowing that can be such a powerful source of change? From my perspective? Bodywork received from an attentive practitioner given to a receptive participant can do it. Conscious forms of movement (dance, continuum, yoga - done with awareness) and many other body based practices can also take us to present moment bodily knowing. Focusing was the process that Gendlin developed to help his clients access this inner intelligence.
But, Focusing isn’t just about success in psychotherapy. There are many uses of Focusing, from decision making to working with addictions to helping heal a physical illness or pain. I’ve found it to be an enlightening meditative practice that allows access to my inner awareness and peace.
It’s useful to have an educated partner present when practicing Focusing. I enjoy helping to facilitate this process with others and am happy to do this as part of your session. Just ask. But, you can also do this practice by yourself. I’ve been using the practice regularly on my own and have found it to be a great way to start my day or to bring clarity to nagging or unclear feelings or sensations.
Here are the steps to one of my favored version of the practice:
1. Decide how much tine you have to spend (it may only be 5 minutes or could be an hour). Get quiet and comfortable. Close your eyes.
2. Bring you awareness inside and just notice what you feel there - especially in the center of you - in your belly throat and mouth/jaw. Notice the sensations - and they are always there. If you can’t feel anything, then just work with this step before you move on.
3. Ask yourself, “What wants or needs my attention right now?” and wait for the answer. It could be a difficulty or happiness.
4. If it’s not already clear, locate what wants your attention in your body. What for instance is the physical sensation that accompanies that emotional feeling?
5. Imagine that you are sitting down next to this feeling or physical sensation like you would sit down next to someone who you care about and who you’d really like to know better. Greet the sensation/feeling with interest and patience. Let go of any agenda to get rid of it or change it (as we so commonly tend do with our pains). Instead, try to get to know it, from it’s perspective. Even, if at first, this seems uncomfortable or ridiculous.
6. Describe the sensation/feeling the best that you can. Go back and forth to check to see that the description (words or image) fits perfectly. It may for instance be something like “a throbbing pulse” or a “ red searing spot” or “a cortisol drip”. When you get the description just right you may notice the sensation increases or relaxes.
7. Sit with it. Or, maybe ask it: What’s so (put description from above- like “red searing”) about this? Maybe ask it what it needs. Wait for the answer and receive the information, feelings or images.
8. Check to see if it’s okay to stop (there may be something more that wants to come through). You may need to assure a part of you that you’ll be back again.
9. Acknowledge what came. Don’t skip this part- it’s important!
For more information check out Ann Weiser Cornell’s Book called “The Power of Focusing” or Eugene Gendlin’s “Focusing” .
And, if you try it, I’d love to know how it goes!