I’ve been suggesting you explore various body practices that allow the egoic mind to still while the body shares a wisdom that goes beyond intellectual understanding. In one previous post, I suggested you try a very simple breath meditation. Today I want to discuss focusing, a way of coming home to yourself.
Focusing was originally developed by Eugene Gendlin at the University of Chicago. On one level, focusing helps people resolve human conflicts and get in touch with their own inner direction. On a deeper level, focusing becomes a form of spiritual meditation that helps people discover their own form of self-transcendence.
Focusing is best practiced initially with a partner who has been trained in the focusing process. The subject sits in a comfortable chair with her eyes closed. The partner becomes a mirror for the subject engaged with focusing. Focusing sessions generally last for 20 – 25 minutes. Each session begins with the subject choosing some “thing” that is preventing him/her from feeling “really free, alive and at the top of your game.” If nothing jumps to mind, the subject is encouraged to take an inventory and then choose the topic or issue that is most prominent. It’s interesting to note that the subject does not have to reveal the theme, topic or issue.
The partner initiates the focusing dynamic by asking where and how the subject feels the topic in her body. The subject responds in various possible ways: “I feel a tightening in my stomach.” “My throat feels dry.” “I feel a warmth around my heart.” The partner asks if the subject wishes to “stay with” the sensation, perhaps putting her hand over the part of the body where the sensation is being experienced. Throughout the session, the subject is always free to opt out (“I don’t want to stay with this.”) at any point. The overwhelming majority of subjects opt to stay with the topic.
The session continues as the “felt sense” moves throughout the body, emerging as a physical sensation, a visualization, a thought, a memory. The subject tells her partner how the topic feels and the partner repeats her exact words back to her, asking for further clarification if she has not given the exact words as voiced by the subject. At some point, the subject decides that there is nothing more to be explored and that it’s a good time to stop.
At this point, the partner asks the subject to trace her steps from the time she first took up the issue to when she decided to stop. The subject complies. Often, but not always, the subject experiences a felt shift within the body. Someone who complained of pain or discomfort, for example, might find that the pain has decreased or stopped entirely. If the subject had been diagnosed with chronic pain and felt herself a victim or punished by God for some sin, perhaps she might still feel some pain but with the sense of victimhood now taken away.
No amount of description can truly capture the body wisdom of the focusing process. It can only be appreciated by experiencing it for one’s self. Feel free to contact me if you would like to experience the power of focusing.