Who is navigating your life? or "why are you looking at your phone daddy?"

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Recently my son Albie, who is 6, has been asking me "why are you looking at your phone daddy?" It's easy to lie or fudge an answer to be honest but very often it's because I am either restless or needing some way or removing myself from the painful present. It's a habit... and addiction and a useful handheld device that helps my life.

At heart. my son's question is vital and alive... it invites me to stop and ask, why? Why am I doing this? and it's a question I am growing more fond of. It's not a demanding question or critical… it's not "WHY? am I doing this? (and you know you shouldn't)" It is a more curious enquiry... what is beneath this thing I am doing ? What is wanted right now? Read More...
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Going beyond labels... and why it matters

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I was talking to a friend recently and he was having a hard time with an issue to do with an intimate relationship. After he while he said that it was all "just craving" and this, it seems was the end of the conversation. I very much doubt it ended the issue! but it struck me how often our use of labels puts us at a distance to direct experience. It's convenient, yes, and yet this distance means it never really changes. It never changes because we haven't taken the time to really listen, to really see what is happening. To feel it' and register it's truth. Why? Because it's painful probably and it's an easier choice to avoid the pain. Read More...
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I don't feel it in my body... Am I Focusing?

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Sometimes it is hard to know if we are Focusing? Especially early on when we are perhaps newer to the practice. An image I heard many years ago that describes it well is that Focusing is like tuning into a new language, at first the sounds make no sense, then gradually as you become accustomed to it, you begin to hear words and then phrases.. and then it makes sense. The language of the body takes time to learn and what can make it more difficult is that each of our bodies has a different way of "speaking"... and also that we can easily have expectations that obscure what is actually happening. One such expectation is about "feeling it in the body" but do we always feel it in the body, or what is it we feel in the body? And if not - then how do we know we are doing it? Well, here are three signs that might help. Read More...
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Carry the fear with you...

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I've finally learnt that it's ok to be scared and anxious! Well, to be more precise, that it's ok if part of me feels that - even strongly.

For many years, I would feel afraid... let's say when facing a new and challenging situation. I would feel scared and at the same time try and not feel scared, I'd try and talk myself out of it, or ignore it, or reassure myself. Or even worse I'd get caught in some kind of self judgement - feeling low or a failure because here I was again feeling afraid. A painful place. Read More...
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Our body feels the bigger picture...

Sometimes we have this deep sense something is wrong....

What is that?

Many times in my Focusing I have felt this, and without realising my assumption, expected it to be "about me"; some deep pain waiting to be heard (or so a part of me fears)... then after spending time with it, I sense that this wrongness I feel is about something bigger. Yes, it is about me, but me as part of a much larger process; processes in our world, that we are faced with often without much choice. I was struck by this paragraph from the writer and activist Charles Eisenstein.

"A multiplicity of needs go chronically, tragically unmet in modern society. These include the need to express one's gifts and do meaningful work, the need to love and to be loved, the need to be truly seen and heard, and to see and hear other people, the need for connection to nature, the need to play, explore, and to have adventures, the need for emotional intimacy, the need to serve something larger than oneself and the need sometimes to do absolutely nothing and just be." (Page 147, The more beautiful world our hearts know is possible)

When I read this, something deep inside both relaxed and woke up! Read More...
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I love curiosity

We all have addictions, we may not recognise them as this. For me and for many people I know, a good example is checking my emails or Facebook on my phone. As soon as a little bit of boredom or discomfort kicks in... out comes the phone. One definition of an addiction is something that has control over us, some behaviour that makes us change our course in the day. We think "i'll just drop by that store on the way home, it's not much of a detour" Or you could define it as something you simply feel compelled to do.
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Overlooked trauma

For some time now, I have been reflecting on the meaning of the word trauma, or more precisely, what does it mean to say something was traumatic? It is not always the more obvious things that leave us traumatised. We can too easily dismiss an experience, when comparing it to other peoples "bigger " more obvious trauma.

In reality, a traumatic experience is not so much defined by the type of event, but more about how a situation impacts upon an individual, or community. It's defined by a meeting of an external situation with the unique intricacy of each person. It is too simple to say x event = x
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Living from your "bigger self"

Though you may not be able to tell by looking, some of the time I feel like a scared child: vulnerable, cautious, defended,... to name a few qualities. I look out from those scared eyes.

And at other times, I feel like an adult, a grown up... neither of those labels quite feel right (and as we and my son know, not adults are grown ups!) I feel undefended, curious, I can take risks, speak out when needed, feel and act from my values. It feels better to live from here, not just for me but for my family and the broader world.

How come we can switch from one to other in a moment and how can focusing help us get bigger? Read More...
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Who meditates? (or does Focusing?)

Sometimes I get stuck in Focusing. Usually this is because I have become identified with some part of me that wants something to happen - or conversely wants to avoid something happening. Or it could be the part of me that wants to understand. It can take me a while to spot this has happened. Once I do, the process invariably changes.
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The power of empathy: how being heard calms the body.

For a while now I have been pondering how Focusing differs from Mindfulness and for me one of the key factors is the place of an empathic listener when we practice Focusing in pairs. This relationship with a companion or listener changes the whole process for me. There is a lot that happens in the interaction that changes the process so what I write next is about just one aspect of that.

It starts with this question, why does the presence of another matter and what do they bring to the relationship?

In 2013, I was lucky enough to be present at a day conference with Stephen Porges, a psychiatrist and researcher at the University of North Carolina. His studies on the nervous system are well known in Somatic Experiencing and other trauma healing disciplines. His model, the polyvagal theory has many dimensions to it but one essential aspect is what he calls the "social engagement system" - in essence this is all about how our safety is regulated by interaction with others.
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The unknown is a powerful place

I often say to people when they are learning Focusing that there is a lot of hanging about in the unknown and encourage others (and myself) to acknowledge that this means you are on the right track. More than ever now, I am appreciating just how important this is, in Focusing and beyond.

To put it another way, if we already knew everything there was to know about our life, then all our issues would be resolved, right? The fact that we have unresolved situations in our life means there is something yet to know, something to be discovered. I like that and funnily enough it brings hope. Read More...
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Misunderstandings about Focusing

Over the last twelve years I have been teaching Focusing, I have come across many misunderstandings about it, both from those who have simply heard about it and those who practise it and even know it well! - including me. So I thought I would explore a few misunderstandings.
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Who makes the new years resolutions?

Who makes the new years resolutions?

Like many others, I have been reflecting on last year and giving time to thinking about the year ahead… and wondering shall I make some kind of resolution?

In the past I have made many resolutions and to be honest, they have not come to much. They have usually been far to vague to be actualised. Things like “I’d like to be more fearless next year”. The intention is good I know, but it soon gets forgotten or lost. Also, as I look back I see that this resolution was being made from only one side of myself (my Focusing teachers call this a partial self). The trouble is, that no matter how wonderful and well intentioned our resolution is, if it comes from only a part of us (even a very positive one), we will probably be in trouble: What happens for me, is that all the other parts of me that did not sign up for the resolution kick in and rebel! and the resolution fails. We all have these partial selves, even famous people it turns out - I was listening to the radio 6 last week and heard an exact from Russell Brand’s new book “Revolution” He very clearly and humorously spoke about having some part of him that was scared…and went onto mention that there was “more than one of him in here”… insightful. Read More...
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Ego - what ego?

I have been pondering this word “ego” for many years now. It crops up a lot in spiritual circles and in the personal development world… but what do we mean?

When someone says something like “it’s just my ego getting in the way” or “so and so has such a big ego” I realise that something in me cringes slightly. Not from embarrassment but more from a sense that it doesn't fit what is happening at the time and for me, can point to lack of empathy for what is there.

I often end up saying that our poor ego gets a bad name!

Speaking from my own experience (rather than any academic or psychological/spiritual definition of ego) I have never found “an ego” - that is, some kind of discreet entity that lives inside me doing its ego thing. It simple is not like that for me. But before you might think I am saying I have gone beyond this… I will add, I have found many processes in me that could be called “ego like” if you wanted to label them. They are many…trust me. And as i notice them i sense they are not even things really, but more like processes. And I am open to the fact that maybe there is an “ego” as yet unfound!

It seems to me that to call all that “ego” is an unhelpful label that might create distance and a lack of empathy and curiosity for what is actually there. It can be a useful shorthand perhaps but to actually begin to change those deep seated self oriented processes, I think we need to get beneath the label of ego and sense freshly what is there. Read More...
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Small steps from wholeness

Small steps from wholeness

Following on from my other posts on decisions (what the body knows and voting with my body) I wanted to end the series with a post on how we can make small steps towards our goal - and in a way that works.

I have just returned from two weeks holiday. I loved it in so many ways, and having two weeks away from my emails and phone was just wonderful! Life was spacious again. I did not miss them at all. I say this because before I went I found myself regularly checking my emails on my phone or getting involved in apps and online shopping with my phone at all times of the day. I would even switch it on when I woke up at 6am. Quite rightly my three year old son sometimes shouts “put away the phone, no phone!” (see my previous post on this here with a funny and insightful clip from US comedian Louis CK)

In a Focusing session recently, I sensed how good that spaciousness I felt on holiday was for me. I sensed a deep wanting for more time like this and what it brings for me (in particular a deeper connection to others, to life and “the bigger picture”) and found myself coming up with a simple and small next step to have more of that in my current life. Don’t turn on your phone before I start work! When I checked inside if that would work, there were no alarm bells or rebellions. Sure, it is not a lot in some ways, it does not create everything that I wish for! but is it a step and it will bring something. And it has so far. I like being more present to my son and wife in that precious part of the day. I feel more present to what is there - less in planning or obsessing mode.
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What the body knows (about decisions and more)

Following on from my recent post on decisions, I wanted to say some more about what the body knows. Why would we ask “it” about decisions anyway? And perhaps do we ask too much of it?

Very often, we we are stuck with a decision, we ask ourselves things like: What should i do? Which is the right way? or even just “help!” The trouble is that the body (and I use this word broadly) finds it hard to answer these questions. They are either too open ended or too binary: too limited by an A or B response. I am not sure our body works like that… let me say more. Read More...
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Guest Blog: "Why do I go blank?"

My friend and fellow trainer Elizabeth English, shared some helpful teachings on “pausing” This is the name we give for that crucial but often overlooked moment in Focusing and life. It also connects to my series on decision making so I thought I would share it here.

Why do I go blank – just when something matters?

Pausing is what our systems do because they're alive to a complicated set of circumstances that we call 'now'. It's what happens when we find our normally intelligible words and sentences turn into unexpected umm's and er's; or even grind to a halt completely as we go blank. But this is neither daft nor decorative ....
Read More... (opens Elizabeths blog page)

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Voting with my body

Whilst teaching a recent workshop on using Focusing with decisions, I was struck by this simple truth: That if we are not doing something that we think we should do, that something in us has already made a decision about it. No matter what we think, something in us has already acted.

How many times have you left that email for weeks or months, not replying? How many times have you meant to make that call but not ever found the time? These situations can cause a bit of stress and difficulty in our life, they are like loose ends blowing about in the wind.

The tangle might get worse, we can then start criticising ourselves for not acting, we make excuses or lie to cover our inaction to ourselves and others. We endlessly avoid the issue, pushing it to the edge of our awareness. At the heart of it is this simple truth. Read More...
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Using Focusing with Meditation

Whilst on retreat last week, i took some time to gather a few thoughts about how you might use Focusing with a meditation practice. I came up with seven ways they can interact. Each one of these could be expanded upon and I am sure there are more but if you are wondering about how they might work together then read on...
 
1. Use Focusing as a way to prepare for meditation. Take some time at the beginning of your practice to meet and acknowledge everything that is there. You could let it know you can come back if needed. This can be particularly helpful in everyday meditation practice when there might be a lot going on in our lives. It is like clearing a space.
 
2. Focusing creates space for deeper meditation. By giving time to practice Focusing and processing the experiences of our life, it becomes easier to let go and just be in meditation. If we only have one space in our life when we actually stop, then everything that wants attention jumps in. No wonder our meditation can feel crowded.
 
3. Working with "visitors" in meditation. Things come in meditation that need attention. They cannot simply be let go of, they need it there and then. Both meditation and Focusing are open spaces and therefore invite what wants attention. If something big or important arises in meditation, spend some Focusing time with it inwardly. It may need some more time after the meditation.
 
4. What practice would feel right? Sometimes are not sure which practice to do, why not sense inside and see what would feel right, sense for what qualities are missing; perhaps you sense you need calm, or more kindness or to just sit and absorb. Something in you knows what would feel right.
 
5. Saying hello to our agendas. Even now, after many years of Focusing and meditation, I notice something in me wanting to have a "good" meditation, whatever that means! Maybe we really want a calm mind or to feel some peace inside. A few moments acknowledging these in a Focusing way can really help to settle things and allow space for what is really there to emerge.
 
6. Using the felt sense in Mettabhavana (loving Kindness) practice. Instead of just recalling a person in one of the stages in the Mettabhavana, why not sit with a felt sense of that person. How does it feel inside, in the body to be with that person. What stirs inside the body? Take time to just be with this before trying to develop any kindness. As we sit with an awareness of another living being, in this bodily felt way, is likely that some Metta is already there. Remember they are a shaky human being just like you. Mettabhavana is not about liking or not liking but about resonating with living beings, and this resonance flowers into kindness, compassion, joy etc. Our body knows how to do this.
 
7. Saying hello to distractions, resistance and hindrances. Like everything in Focusing, each of these visitors in meditation will appreciate acknowledgement and empathy. They may just need a moment or perhaps they are a communication from something deeper and more important. Try not to judge and label before saying hello... I wonder if they would call themselves resistance or a hindrance?
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Don't pick up the mobile phone... and open to your experience.

It is hard not to reach for my mobile when I feel that inner urge.... “must check my emails, must look at such and such”. In our pockets we have whole worlds awaiting our interest. Even before smart phones, I used to do this and the phones had made it all the more compelling. In all honesty I love my gadgets and to some part of me it is like I am living in the future of my childhood....

And yet something is amiss.

I notice something else, that whenever I feel uncomfortable I so often reach for the phone. Like many of us do. So when I saw this clip from an interview with us comedian Louis CK, I was struck by his honesty and insight into this...

Louis C.K. Hates Cell Phones

He really points to an important point. Can we actually bear to have our experience in a more direct way? Can we allow in the feelings we have been keeping at bay all day or week... Or longer?

It is interesting that he says after he cried that happiness came, it's like allowing the suffering to be met and felt, allowed the happiness or joy. Isn't it like that? But so often I just reach for the phone.

It might not be a phone for you. It might be a book, or the computer or food. It does not matter. And just because we have a phone or read books or eat food, it does not mean we are running away. It's all about what is driving us. Who is it in us making the hand reach for the phone? And what is our relationship to it?

Well, I imagine there is
something in us doing that, and in all likelihood it does not want us to experience something... For a reason to be respected. Or it wants something for me, and again it needs respect.

So, the next time I feel that discomfort and reach for the phone, I'll be curious and see who is there beneath the surface. Maybe I'll cry, who knows? but for sure it will take me closer to what is going  on.
 
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So what is it that we feel inside? And is it always to do with me?

The following words came to me during a recent focusing experience.

This sense of wrongness I carry inside is about what is wrong “out there”.

The “out there” I am talking about is the world, in particular, all that does not feel right in they world. And let's face it, there are many situations out there that we know about that do not feel right. Climate change, the economic situation, the un sustainability of how we are living in this culture, wars, conflicts, abuse of women and children, humans and animal hardship of many many kinds....the list goes on.

Strangely. A feeling of relief followed. So often, some part of me thinks that if I feel something icky and difficult that it is because of me, or because of some fault in me. (This part needs some company for sure!) but here was a clear message that this particular sense I have was not about me.... It was about out there. Following the relief came a big sigh... about how huge the difficulties are that we face as a species.
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Reflections on the differences between Focusing and Meditation.

Over the last 10 years of practicing Focusing, the question of how Focusing works with meditation has been asked many times. For me it is an ongoing exploration. Many times over those years, people have remarked that they are the same thing and to me that never felt quite right. It was usually offered by those who perhaps did not know Focusing so well. Either way I have felt keenly aware of the difference, so wanted to share my current reflections on this. This is really about honouring the unique qualities that Focusing offers that are different from meditation. Of course someone could easily write an article about the unique qualities of meditation and it would also be true.

There are three main areas of difference that I want to explore: the relational nature of Focusing, its origins and context, and finally its aims.
Read the PDF
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“vibrant intimacy” - previewing a new book by John Amodeo “Dancing with Fire: A Mindful Way to Loving Relationships”

His love and passion for this area is the first thing that struck me, he mentioned to me that this book has been many years in the making, and this deep exploration comes through his words. You can really see the journey he has and is making.

I love this:

“Living with spiritual sensitivity means having a love affair with life. It is the juiciness of being alive—a vibrant intimacy with ourselves, others, and life itself.” 1

Something in me says YES! to this and it illustrates well the passion and aliveness of his exploration. His book seems to be about much more than relationships... more about our relationship to life itself.
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Meeting the demons

Fear is a powerful emotion. And something in us is scared of it! Fear of fear. Fear grabs you at such a visceral level that it often feels like all of you. If you examine it on a physiological level, then you can really see how powerful it is and for good reason. See my article on Trauma and Focusing for more on this.
Can we really meet the most scary places in us with Focusing?
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Saying hello to a "no"

Saying hello to a "no"

It's hard to say hello to something in us that says no. It takes a lot of trust to stay with it enough to listen and hear what that is all about.

Very often my first reaction is to want to push the no away. For so many reasons the no can be unwelcome; maybe we are in a situation that does not welcome it, others may find it hard if you express it or maybe inside of us, we find it hard to hold ambivalence or conflict. A no can be awkward and difficult to have.
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Welcoming the guests. What wants attention part 2

In my last post, I wrote about how the simple invitation of “what wants attention” points to a deep and profound principle that lays at the heart of Focusing: that of letting the body lead the way. So what happens next? What does want attention when we open that space? Who shows up and why?

To begin, it is important to say that it doesn’t really matter who or what comes when we make that open invitation. It begins with acknowledging everything, whether we know what it is or not. I have learnt that everything inside appreciates acknowledgment! It does not have to be a “felt sense” as Focusers say. I often acknowledge all the thoughts that are buzzing around (even they have a quality you can describe), I might list in a general way the issues that are present or calling. I will say hello to whatever is there, being sure to include what we often call “resistance” or some part of me not wanting to do Focusing at all. It can take time to do this, which is fine. I often describe Focusing as a big inclusive space.
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What wants attention

What wants attention right now? I find this to be one of the most helpful and meaningful invitations I can use in Focusing?

Usually, in our everyday lives we like to feel we are in control of things. Indeed, it appears we are. We can acquire things instantly over our mobile devices, we can get information more or less whenever we want it. We can contact people in a moment, and even expect immediate response! For most of us in the modern developed world,  we have so much "control" and all of these have huge benefits... and yet somehow this adds to the big illusion that we can somehow control our experience.
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Welcoming the Tiger! - Working with Trauma in Focusing

Being alive means that we will at some point experience trauma - those events that are overwhelming or too much for us to be able to meet and assimilate. Inevitably when we turn our attention inside in Focusing (or other similar methods), what wants attention is what has not been met! and that includes what we could call trauma. Read more (PDF)
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