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School of Spiritual Direction:
Spiritual Direction Supervision
! Focusing shows how to pause the on-going situation and create a space for new
possibilities for carrying forward. This practice, developed from the
Philosophy of the Implicit, shows how to apply open attention to something
which is directly experienced but is not in words.
! Your body knows more about situations than you are explicitly aware of. For
example, your body picks up more about another person than you consciously
know. With a little training, you can get a bodily feel for the 'more' that is
happening in any situation. From that bodily feel comes small steps that lead
toward resolution.
! “Focusing” is to enter into a special kind of awareness, different from our every
day awareness. It is open, turned inward, centered on the present and on your
body’s inner sensations. When doing Focusing, you silently ask, “How am I now?”
! Waiting attentively, something forms inside you that is vague, indefinite, difficult
to put into words. You try to describe this sensation and maybe a sentence
comes, or an image, maybe a word or two which describes this sensation, and
lets you know that it has something to do with a certain situation or experience in
your life. For instance, a depressing problem might cause you to say “I feel
heavy,” or “It’s like an empty cave inside,” or “there’s a huge ball there, dark,
fiery, no, it’s more like--” etc.
! This sensation in your body is called a “felt sense.” It lies behind your thoughts and
feelings and is significant and full of meaning. It is a message from your body to
you, and will speak to you when you listen. Contacting the felt sense is the
important first step of Focusing.
! Focusing is the ability to stay with the felt sense as it develops, to look at it with
curiosity, without judging. Focusing is the ability to welcome what comes, to
maintain a friendly attitude to whatever is inside you. Focusing is the ability to
listen to that place that is trying to tell you something and to be ready to be
! Staying with the felt sense helps you learn that which you don’t already know. As
you pay attention to the felt quality of your current experiencing, you develop
new expressions, words that are fresh, appropriate and alive. The felt sense talks
to you in words and symbols that are not separate from your experience, but
which evoke that experience for you in the present moment.
! When in contact with this sea of experience which you carry in your body, you
come to understand how you are living a situation, a relationship, a problem. As
you search for a name for what you feel, there is often a wonderful result.
Something inside you changes. You relax; your body is energized, grateful tears
may come and a deep breath. This change, which is perceived directly in the
body, is called a ”felt shift.”
! Two approaches to Focusing are highlighted in the next slides:
! Eugene Gendlin’s orginal Focusing technique
! Ann Weiser Cornell’s Inner Relationship Focusing
! Review both. You may then choose to practice the one that
resonates the most with you or you may choose to practice
! Either can be a tremendous help in self-supervision and/or in
Original Approach to Focusing
! 1. Clear a space
! How are you? What’s between you and feeling fine?
Don’t answer; let what comes in your body do the answering.
Don’t go into anything.
Greet each concern that comes. Put each aside for a while, next to
Except for that, are you fine?
! 2. Felt Sense
! Pick one problem to focus on.
Don’t go into the problem.
What do you sense in your body when you sense the whole of that
Sense all of that, the sense of the whole thing, the murky discomfort
or the unclear body-sense of it.
! 3. Get a handle
! What is the quality of the felt sense?
What one word, phrase, or image comes out of this felt sense?
What quality-word would fit it best?
! 4. Resonate
! Go back and forth between word (or image) and the felt sense.
Is that right?
If they match, have the sensation of matching several times.
If the felt sense changes, follow it with your attention.
When you get a perfect match, the words (images) being just
right for this feeling, let yourself feel that for a minute.
! 5. Ask
! "What is it, about the whole problem, that makes me so _________?
When stuck, ask questions:
What is the worst of this feeling?
What’s really so bad about this?
What does it need?
What should happen?
Don’t answer; wait for the feeling to stir and give you an answer.
What would it feel like if it was all OK?
Let the body answer
What is in the way of that?
! 6. Receive
! Welcome what came. Be glad it spoke.
It is only one step on this problem, not the last.
Now that you know where it is, you can leave it and come back to it later.
Protect it from critical voices that interrupt.
Does your body want another round of focusing, or is this a good stopping
THEN YOU HAVE FOCUSED. It doesn't matter whether the body-shift came or
not. It comes on its own. We don't control that.
! Adopt a "split-level" approach to all instructions: On the one hand follow the
instructions exactly, so that you can discover the experiences to which they
point. On the other hand be sensitive to yourself and your own body. Assume
that only sound expansive experiences are worth having. The moment doing it
feels wrong in your body, stop following the instruction, and back up slightly.
Stay there with your attention until you can sense exactly what is going wrong.
Inner Relationship Focusing
! Bringing Awareness into Your Body
! Take time to bring your awareness into your body. Perhaps first the outer area of
your body, like your feet and legs, your arms and hands, and then sense the
contact of your body on what you're sitting on. Now bring awareness into the
middle area of your body, Sensing your throat, and your chest, your solar plexus and
abdomen, and belly.
! Sensing or Inviting What Wants Your Awareness Now
! As you let your awareness rest here, in this whole middle area, take some time to
notice what is wanting your awareness now. Perhaps there was something that you
noticed as you brought your awareness into your body. Perhaps it might need to be
invited to come. You might say to yourself something like "I'm wondering what is
wanting my attention right now." If you're wanting to Focus on a particular issue, say
"I'm wondering what is wanting my attention right now about that issue."
! Waiting Until Something Comes
! And then wait until something comes into your awareness.
! Beginning to Describe Something
! Now something is here. You can sense it somewhere. Take some time now to notice just
where it is in your body. Notice if it would feel right to begin to describe it, as simply as you
might tell another person what you are aware of. You can use words, images, gestures,
metaphors, whatever fits, captures, expresses somehow the quality of this whole thing. And
when you've described it a bit, take some time to notice how your body responds to that. It's
like you're checking the description with the body feeling, saying "Does this fit you well?"
! Acknowledging It
! Now you might want to acknowledge it: "Yes, I'm noticing that's there."! Take time to notice
how it feels in your body after you've acknowledged it.
! Settling Down with It
! Now you might imagine settling down with It, like you settle down with a friend. Just keep
your awareness with It. Notice whatever comes.
! Keeping It Company
! You might just keep it company, spending time with It just as it is. And notice how It feels in
your body.
! Sensing its Point of View
! Now take some time to sense how it's feeling from its point of view. Sensing for
its mood, its emotion, how it itself feels.
! Letting it Know You Hear It
! When you sense something from it, like how it feels emotionally, or what it's
wanting you to know, let it know you hear it, or see it, or sense it. You are its
listener. There is absolutely nothing more you need to do, other than let it know
you understand. Notice if it feels understood, and if there is more. Stay with it
as long as feels right, or until your time is nearly up.
! Sensing for a Stopping Place
! Take some time to sense inside if it is OK to end in a few minutes or if there
something more that needs to be known first. If something more comes then
take some time to acknowledge that.
! Receiving and Experiencing What Has Changed
! Take some time to sense any changes that have happened in your body,
especially anything which feels more open or released.
! Letting it Know You're Willing to Come Back
! You might want to say to it "I'm willing to come back if you need me."
! Thanking
! And you might want to thank what has come, and appreciate your body's
! Bringing Awareness Out
! Take some time to bring your awareness slowly outward again, feeling your
hands and feet, being aware of the room and letting your eyes come
naturally open.