Walking the Talk: Focusing in the Moment

Focusing sessions involve an interesting leap of faith: we settle in with curiosity, not knowing what might come or where it might take us, but trusting in the aliveness that reveals itself to us. Lately, I’ve been noticing real benefit when applying the same principles outside of formal Focusing sessions, as uncomfortable things arise in daily life.

Here’s a lovely example of a just-catching-up-with-each-other conversation that became something much more, bringing a shift from feeling stuck in resentment to feeling a sense of ease, empowerment and joy.

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My friend began the conversation talking about an event that had gotten her very upset.  Both she and I practice Wholebody Focusing, so we automatically slipped into that way of paying attention and responding. As she talked about what had happened, her feelings of anger and resentment seemed to grow even stronger. 

This is one aspect of the ‘shared field’.  I had barely said anything at this point, but often, when we feel someone listening to us with their whole attention and heart, it can be like an invitation to something that has been seething below the surface of our conscious awareness. 

At first, my friend was startled and embarrassed by the tight, harsh tone in her own voice and the ‘resentful rant’ (as she called it) that was spewing out. She also noticed that instead of feeling better as she talked, she was feeling much worse. It felt like getting overtaken by an avalanche of feeling, too much to keep company with. So when she paused and commented on how tense her body was feeling and the harsh tone she was noticing in her voice, I invited her to slow down. 

We took a few moments to ground, and then turned our attention back toward whatever was behind the tension and harshness, knowing that it needed to be heard. 

Having the freedom to just let the words tumble out and be received with empathy and without judgment or advice, she gradually felt more relaxed.  A memory came of WBF sessions where she had experienced a deep sense of calm and clarity after allowing herself to feel the full depth and breadth of something she’d been avoiding. 

That memory brought even more breathing space, and a willingness to slow down and allow all of the feelings that were there.  Along with the feelings of outrage, she noticed deeper pain. And how familiar this particular pattern was.

So I suggested (half teasing), “Maybe this is a time when we could check to see where we (meaning you) might need to set better boundaries.”

She took that in and said “Yes, but somehow that still doesn’t feel good. Now I’ve gone from making the other person bad to making myself bad. This brings on self-shaming and blaming – I’m in the wrong now, I should have set better boundaries…”  Hmmm. Yes.  We paused and slowed it down even more.

What was needed here?  What might feel more right?  We both sensed into it.  And we both received similar answers.

We sensed it calling for a gentler approach. Inside of me, I heard it in the form of a question:  “Where are you being invited to take more loving care of yourself?”  And inside of her, she experienced it as a sort of invitation from Life to open up to the loving support that surrounds each of us on so many levels.  

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Now this felt good!

And the next step showed itself – to pay attention to the pain inside and to open herself to support right at the point of suffering.  For her, it felt like a willingness to let in the gentle, unconditional love she had felt in the past from her own Grounded Presence and from a vast Something More.

I invited her to notice the sense of it in her body as she let herself bathe in that feeling of unconditional support. We stayed with it for a bit, allowing long moments of silence, giving time for this new experience to integrate. 

In the space of one conversation, there was movement:

- from blaming others (didn’t feel good),

- to blaming self (didn’t feel good either),

- to getting curious (felt much better),

- to opening to being held and receiving help with all of this (yahoo, this felt GREAT!)

From a victimized sense of isolation, hurt and rage my friend had shifted to a joyful, relaxed sense of feeling held and supported by the Larger Field of Being.  It was, she reported, a stunning change, a tremendous relief. 

NOTE: To avoid confusion, let me say that anger is an important and valuable emotion. At times, simply noticing our anger is what’s needed: paying attention to it with curious, respectful interest. But in this case, my friend noticed that what was happening felt very different from that. Instead of being more in touch with something inside, it felt she was becoming LESS in touch, less present with herself.  She reflected later that it felt like being swirled up into a tornado, with the upset feelings feeding on themselves and amplifying — or like a volume turned up so loud that you can’t hear what’s actually being said.

For this reason, we both gravitated toward a different approach, helping her get a sense of her feet on the ground and the WHOLE self that included these feelings. Rather than dismissing or trivializing the anger, this actually gave her a way to pay attention to it, turning the volume down so that she could catch the nuances of words or music.