‘Why always “Not yet”? Do flowers in spring say “Not yet”?’ – Norman Douglas, An Almanac
‘Tomorrow is often the busiest day of the week’ – Spanish proverb.
I’ll bet most of us recognise times when that ‘not yet’ or that ‘tomorrow’ holds us back. We feel that something on occasion seems to hold us back from doing what we want. That letter or book we want to write; the holiday we would like to take but keep putting off; the job we want to change but don’t; the diet we want to maintain; the resolution to get up early, or get out more, or make more friends, or… I’ll leave you to fill in the blanks.
Focusing is a fantastic way of enabling this impasse to unfold itself and move forward into some kind of action, or inner resolution. Whether it’s a small thing or something that leaves you feeling disappointed with larger aspects of your life, Focusing can help you connect with both the wanting and the not-wanting felt-senses; if you just try ‘hearing’ them in this way you can be surprised by what you will find, and how things open up in new ways. You may find that this thing is not what you deeply want after all. Or you may find that it is, and that the rest of you is now OK with that.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing 10 things about Focusing. I hope you can get an idea of what Focusing can do for you.
Take you into a place of inner peace and calm
In Focusing we call this ‘finding Self-in-Presence’. How to describe it? It’s just a very quiet, still place of being. It can be like finding the still point in a whirlwind of thoughts, feelings, doings and active life. It can be like coming behind a wall out of the wind. It can be like finding still water. It can feel like coming home to a comfortable chair. It’s a kind of space inside yourself, which also isyour Self. Usually, when I find it, I almost automatically breathe a sigh. It’s a kind of ‘Here I am’ moment. Very often, clients who experience this for the first time tell me, ‘I’ve never felt peace like this in my whole life.’
So far this sounds similar to mindfulness. But Focusing goes further. This inner awareness space of Self-in-Presence can also be a calm Presence given towards other aspects of ourselves, often aspects that are not so calm: aspects that feel stuck, or emotionally tender or overwhelmed, that feel stressed, angry, depressed, lost or trapped in some situation. Being ‘in Presence’ means we have a different way of approaching these parts of ourself, one that is able to be in relation to the part rather than overwhelmed by it, and one that can enable that part to be heard, accepted, understood empathically: all conditions that enable it to shift from its stuck state into where it really wants to be. There is often a sense of release, a kind of inner sigh as something moves and changes. This process is one that can turn what feels difficult into what feels less uncomfortable, less painful, or even joyful.
Focusers are passionate about all this, because we have experienced such wonderful benefit from it. As a counsellor, I have also seen how learning this skill can be releasing and healing even for very deep and long lasting hurts.
I’m probably showing my age here, but it is like the old Heineken advert: it refreshes the parts that other things can’t reach!
I’m putting my toe into the water for the first time with a video blog. I am looking forward to talking about counselling in lots of different ways. If you have any questions, just let me know, and I’ll do my best to respond.
The first of my four one-day experiential workshops at The Bleddfa Centre. This workshops reintroduces the practice of Focusing as a way of knowing one’s Self more deeply, with compassion and empathy, using the sense of our embodied feelings as a doorway into our inner awareness.
This workshop is for you if:
you are interested in mindfulness and would like to engage further with your inner life?
you are a counsellor or psychotherapist who would like to explore how this gentle, healing practice can help clients
you would like to deepen your sense of your own spiritual life, grounded in physical awareness
you would like a relaxed and self-nurturing day of gentle self-discovery
9.30 am – 4 pm. £40 including lovely home-made lunch (sorry, early-bird rate now over).
…it is the spirit which can bear things, not simply with resignation but with blazing hope. It is the quality which keeps a man on his feet with his face to the wind. It is the virtue which can transmute the hardest trial into glory because beyond the pain it sees the goal”
by William Barclay
Some years back a client sent me a card in which she quoted these words. I came across them again today.
It is not only the mountain-climbers of this world, the Olympic athletes – people like Edmund Hillary or Mo Farah – who can exercise endurance. Most of us can only watch these heroes from the sidelines. But all of us have our own mountains, and the quality of endurance – just putting the next foot in front of the other – can hold us to the tasks of our own life to get us through.
Don’t give up. Keep doing the next thing in front of you. And if you’re still struggling, ask for help. Counselling means that, for a time at least, you are not tackling this particular bit of mountain on your own.
This client of mine made this discovery. She said it changed her life.
It would be nice if we can all take advantage of the warm summer months and holidays to slow down a little and find time to connect with ourselves more fully. That’s not always as easy at is seems, is it? But even half a minute to let a moment of free time be felt inwardly can be hugely helpful. Here’s a small exercise to help find that Inner Presence refreshment even if you are busy:
Think of all the things, tasks, people, obligations and inner thoughts that we carry with us at any time during the day. Imagine it this way: it’s as if we hold each one in our hands like a piece of string that ties us to it. Many strings. Now picture yourself carefully laying the strings on the ground and letting go of them momentarily. You can pick them up again whenever you want, but for now you release them. Now take a breath in and ‘sigh’ it out. And again if you want. Let your shoulders drop. Now sense this moment of freedom inwardly. Let it come to rest in you. Stay
with it as long as you want. Be refreshed. Be still. When you are ready, you can pick up the strings again.
You can do this anywhere and at any time, whether at work, waiting for a bus, or in the kitchen. You don’t even need to shut your eyes. In fact you may want to draw into the moment all the beautiful things that may add to it: a smell of a garden, birdsong, sound of children chattering outside, the image of a flower, stone, or the sky outside your window. Register them inwardly in this moment.
Bookings are now being taken for Focusing: Inner Presence, and experiential workshop I am running with Sue Akehurst in June. We are excited about the programme and looking forward to introducing this gentle and inspiring way of being. Bookings are already coming in, so make sure you stake your place if you want to come along.
The mind was in the driving seat of the personality, and emotion was a result of what the mind thought. Floating over the top of this was the spiritual life. Others might call this bit intuition, religious life, or perhaps not have this in their model at all. For me, it represented the highest part of me, definitely on a higher plane than the rest, and sometimes at war with the mind. The body was there to carry the brain and therefore the rest of me around from A to B.
Now I have changed my mind – and all the rest of me.
I now see it more like this:
In this way of looking at at it, I recognise that all parts of us are equally essential to our sense of being. Above all, I realised that obvious: that we are embodied beings. Each of these parts of our self overlaps, influences and is moved by the other.
We now know much more about the interrelation between the body and the mind, for example. We know that the body remembers things that we experience, good and bad, in its own way. Think of how a scent, or a piece of music, can conjure the past in great immediacy in a way that mere thinking might struggle to do.