I have recently discovered a decription of accessing the inner me that is exactly what I have been doing since I was 18 years old. I was very excited by this as it affirmed what I had been doing, and may helping others to do it too.
It is known as Focusing.
It was invented by Eugene Gendlin, working with Carl Rogers in the 1950’s and 1960’s. It was in response to research that showed that when therapy worked, it wasn’t so much because of the type of therapy or the therapist, but more the client’s ability to stop and listen to their ‘felt’ level of experience… or as Gendlin said, the gap between the conscious and the non-conscious. Over 30 research studies since then have agreed with Gendlin.
Focusing has 6 steps. These are:
Clearing a space
Stopping, then allowing thoughts to subside enough that a space appears. Then having a willingness to listen with the space.
To just feel this inner space… What is my inner sense of me, where I am, where I am tense, anxious, whats driving my thoughts and my actions… and then just staying with, feeling this felt sense.
Letting a word or image that best describes this felt sense float in. It could be any word that fits, or a sentence, or a set of words. If you get more than one word, see which one feels like it fits the felt sense best.
Gently float back and forth between the felt sense and the word/image/sentence. Check that they resonate with check other, and let that resonance grow, come more into focus.
Now ask a question. One like ‘What is this ……?’. Or ‘What’s going on that I’m ……..?’. Then a willingness to listen, to wait patiently for whatever answer comes up.
Allow yourself to hear and take on board the answer that comes. It may be more words, a greater feeling, a picture, a memory. It will be significant. It will expand, or open you more to what’s going on with your felt sense and words. This may take you into a past experience when you were small, or to a realisation about how you are inside, or with other people.
As I said, I had been doing this naturally since I was 18. In fact, as a child I used it externally as a way of solving problems and learning. At 18, I turned it more inwards, as I began doing my version of zen meditation 2 hours a day, and Shintaido movement practice 2 hours a day. The 6 steps of focusing were a core part of these practices. Without those 6 steps I somehow knew that all the work I was putting in would be useless, and get me no-where.
And yes, focusing took me to my non-conscious and opened me up to an ocean of tears. All the emotions of my childhood that I had buried. Then 4 years later, with focusing, I dropped out into an ocean of spacious unconditoinal love. Since then, I have used it for hours a day in my clinic, doing counselling, cranial work and acupuncture. I have been teaching it every week in movement classes. I have used it constantly in my relationships, both for myself and others. I
It is my main tool to name the truth of what’s really going on underneath.
And I have found that you can use it for others as well as yourself. When with someone else, I am constantly focusing with both me and them. This allows me to listen at a far deeper level, and to be able to name and understand what’s going on and for both of us. It allows me to see which emotions and thoughts in me are mine, and which are theirs. When I teach a class I use focusing to monitor the whole class, and by doing focusing for each person in the class continually I choose what we do next based on what comes up when I put everyone’s focusing I’m doing into a central focusing pool.
An essential quality of Focusing is letting go and dropping into and through. I have learnt through years of practice that I can keep letting go and dropping through, until I drop out the bottom into space, the unconditioned, where the love is. The first time this happened fully it took 4 years of crying to happen. Now it can often take me just 15 minutes of sitting, or an hour’s shintaido practice.
Focusing is the road to the subconscious. Without accessing and becoming friends with our subconscious, we will never find where we hold, so we will never really let go.
Without focusing, my sense is that my spiritual practice would have been stagnant, and I would never have opened as I have.