Befriending avoidance

I have to confess I have many areas of my inner and outer life I tend to avoid. A good example of this would be conflict - I just find it hard to enter any situation where there might be conflict or confrontation. I am not talking about war zones here - just two people disagreeing! Some part of me avoids it like the plague. And at the same time I also know that many of those situations have to be faced. I also observe here how easy it is to fall into self criticism here and thinking less of myself for acting on that avoidance. "You are giving in *again*" some part of me says. So how can I make some changes in this tricky spot? Read More...

The life we refuse

"The life we refuse is singing to us
From the other side"

These lines from a poem by Daverick Leggat speaks so clearly to this place we occupy when we pause and pay attention to our direct bodily experience. Here we stand at a door with courage and curiosity, and perhaps a little trepidation. Here we invite in what has been singing to us from the other side. Here, our exiled guests are waiting to be welcomed back. Read More...

Three embodied ways from Focusing that might help us face global crisis

Over the last few months and more so in the last few weeks - since the latest IPPC report on climate change was released, I have been reflecting and exploring the whole raft of responses and reactions, and feel ready to share a few learnings I hope might help. These are all rooted in the embodied practices of Focusing and Somatic Experiencing. Read More...

When we feel "inadequate"

I am sure we all know this kind of experience... we are talking or seeing someone who is more intelligent/knowledgable/outspoken about something... and we being to shrink and feel inadequate or not "enough" in some way. It may be in the realm of sports or politics, music or the arts. The subject doesn't matter. What feels bad is how it impacts us and the meanings that flow on from that. It used to happen to me all the time. Some leap happened from being ignorant (I mean that in a non judgemental way, just the simple fact of not knowing) to me feeling like a failure/idiot/stupid. It happened with politics, with current affairs, with sports. The feeling inside was so bad that I actively avoided those conversations, steering away from them or just changing subject or leaving entirely! Read More...

10 ways to use focusing in everday life

How do I use Focusing in my everyday life? or how shuffle play on your iPod/phone can tell you what you need to know!

At first, it may appear that Focusing is a "practice" like many others: Meditation, Yoga etc, but in essence it is a way of being, or an attitude that weaves itself into your life the more you "practice". It becomes a way of navigating our life on many levels, a compass we refer to and a touch stone for our deeper knowing.... Ok enough metaphors!
I wanted to share just a simple list in no particular order of how I use it in my everyday life, to give a flavour of how it can be woven in. Read More...

meeting the edge


Teachings from my 6 year old son.

(This is different from clear boundaries, to which he also find hard but differently). It is like his radar for hidden agenda is very sensitive. If I am pretending to listen whilst all the while furious underneath he knows it. He may not tell me he knows this in words, but his actions clearly show it. If he can sense my agenda of pushing him to move quicker in some way than he is able to, he reacts. If my frustration at my life creeps (or bursts!) into my "requests" and interactions with him... he reacts. He picks it up no matter how much I try and hide it.

Put simply, he always knows when I am truly with him and on his side.

It's humiliating. It shows how I pretend sometimes. It shows how many mixed feelings are inside of me... It shows me how much gets triggered by having a child in my life...! It leaves me with plenty of themes to explore.

And why is this important for Focusing? It shows me just how responsive and sensitive parts of us can be inside. They know! just like Albie. They can tell if I am listening. It's only when something in me really knows I am listening without agenda that it opens up and shows me more. I have seen this again and again.

It can be easy perhaps to describe some part of me or some sense inside, find a symbol or word that fits... but it can easily grind to a halt there if I am not checking, how am I with this? Is there some other hidden part of me judging it or wanting it to go away? Can what you are with tell you are listening? If it opens up and shows or tells you more then you can be confident that you are, but if it all feels a little cool and rational, then perhaps that part of us senses shame or judgment.

A simple "test" is to enquire inside. "Can this place in me be just as it is?"

In many ways our relationships inside are no different from outside. In our own life we all love it when we feel met, respected and heard, when we feel someone is there for us, curious and empathic. And we all know what it feels like when we sense someone else's agenda or judgment. We often sense it immediately, or we find ourselves slowly closing down as we sense the hostile or indifferent environment. Or we shut down when we find someone analysing or dismissing what we feel. It's no different inside of us. Our somethings always know.


the value of not knowing


on changing my name....

'You know, the only method that works is the braille method: we have to just feel our way along, from moment to moment, to what we need, to what’s appropriate for us... Trust yourself. You shouldn’t believe a word we say. You’re just abusing yourself if you give yourself away in that manner. If something that is said resonates with your heart, how do you think you know? I mean, if you appreciate – you hear someone speaking and you say ‘Wow, they’ve really got it!’ How do you know if they’ve got it? It’s because you are the truth. And when a truth is spoken, it resonates with that place inside of you that is truth. Trust that place. That is the Teacher. Don’t be ‘a Buddhist’, don’t be ‘a Hindu’, don’t be ‘a Christian’ – be a human being on their way to their immensity. Don’t ‘know.’ Only use what’s useful... The heart will find its balance. The heart will find its way.' Stephen Levine, 'An Exploration of Healing into Life and Death'

Well.... here we are. Nearly twenty years after being given the name Manjudeva within the now called Triratna Buddhist Order, I am now leaving that Order and returning to my birth name Peter. The above quote, which I love - expresses a lot of it.. Read More...

Big Kindness

I want to share something that has been happening for a few years in my Focusing practice... and it’s about what I am calling big kindness. It happens like this: I’m exploring some theme around a difficulty, for example - my habit of spending too much time on the internet and researching products... and in that exploration I meet various parts of myself with empathy and understanding... and then in that exploration, it’s like I sense a bigger picture Read More...

beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field


"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I'll meet you there. " Rumi

What happens when we listen deeply to another or ourselves?

We enter a space where we are curious, sensitive and open. We may have ideas about what will happen next, or judgements, we may not, but either way they are welcomed and included. They are not the one who listens but guests watching on perhaps, maybe worried, but certainly not the ones with ears!

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


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...

Facing uncertainty


In truth, we are always living in uncertain times. Yet, right now it seems more evident or closer to the surface, but that thread of uncertainty is woven into everything and who knows when it will unravel. I have always been struck by this phrase from a ancient Buddhist teacher Shantideva "in a moment life breaks its word". This was not supposed to happen! - some part of us cries, "not to me or them"... change always brings shock, fear and struggle.

So. when we face that cliff edge of the unknown, how can focusing help us there? Read More...

Going beyond labels... and why it matters


I don't feel it in my body... Am I Focusing?


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...

Carry the fear with you...


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...

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...

I love curiosity


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

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...

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.

In meditation (which I don't do that often, I have to admit), it is surprising how quickly, even automatically I become "the meditator". I call it this, as it feels like a persona or role that I spent many years developing - not in any conscious way, but more through habit. A key quality of this part of me is that it wants to create a better experience. By better I mean "calmer, easier, less anxious". There is of course nothing wrong with wanting to feel calmer and so on but it is how this part does it that makes things difficult. This part of me is not that interested in being curious or accepting - it just wants to feel better and make difficult uneasy things go away.... at any cost. It is like this part of me climbs into the driving seat of my being and takes control. It is more subtle than this image suggests but is still a takeover.

For too many years, I charged ahead, identified with the part of me that wants to control to avoid pain and ended up pushing huge parts of myself away in the attempt to feel good. I wished it had worked, but for much of the time I just ended up straining and wanting...

It seems to me that there is a real subtlety of having an aim in meditation or in Focusing. It has to be held lightly and in relation to what is happening right now. Let's not use our meditation or Focusing to override difficult experience or anything that calls for attention. How do we know when this is happening?

These days when i feel a little stuck, I drop these enquiries into my process.

Can I say to myself - everything is welcome?
Can I say to any part of me "you can be there just as you are"
If I am with a difficult aspect of myself, am i curious about it?
Do I feel empathy for this part of myself?

If there is a no to any of the above questions, then I have something else to turn towards! and we can be curious about that.

Put simply. let's be conscious of who is driving our process...


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...

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.

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...

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.

What do I find when I do that?

Well, I find what Ann Weiser Cornell and Barbara McGavin call “parts” or “partial selves”. Again these are not fixed things (like inner child or inner critic) but more like processes. They have continuity of course and we may feel them like they are constant in their nature, but my experience shows that they are not fixed like that and in fact they love to be related to with fresh curiosity and empathy. Just like you would not like someone to come up to you and start telling you what you are and why you are here, and calling you names, it is the same for those parts inside. They want authentic, real empathic company. I doubt any part of you would enjoy being called the inner critic or even the inner child. They are not really “bits” like that.

And these parts have a wanting for us in some way. If we are not conscious of these wantings, then they can “take over” and start to run our life. What I have seen is that these wantings come from a deep sense of something missing (usually from our childhood but not always). It is so easy to then live our life from this place of missing and wanting. This is at least one thing I think we mean when we say ego. For me an example would be how I can behave as a participant in group events. It often starts with a vague feeling I am not good enough, or like I don't belong…I might then start trying to impress someone or wanting some special attention from someone (usually the teacher or leader if it’s a teaching environment)… Deep down what I am wanting comes from an older experience of missing being accepted and loved as I was in childhood. This gets played out in approval seeking behaviours in the present. This is the kind of thing I would have called ego a few years back, yet if I do call it that my curiosity stops and nothing really changes. I suppose for a moment i might feel relief. Instead if I really sense what that part of me is feeling and then wanting right now, and meet it with empathy then things can change. I need both to be in empathic connection and in the present moment with how it is…from there the steps can come.

And I know this is a simplistic example. We are usually more entangled by different parts, perhaps swapping from one to the other in a moment, perhaps then criticised by other parts of us. It can get very complex.

So how else could we be?

Well, we could act from “self” or “self-in-presence”. This in some approaches is labeled “the adult” but I think it is more profound than that. We can act from a holistic sense of what feels right for me as a whole (not just parts of me) and the situation (remember, we live in a context and our body knows this). If we are not being driven by a part, then we can sense the bigger context and act with awareness of the other beings in it. The holistic sensing and knowing holds both awareness of us and all our parts and holds awareness of others and the bigger situation. And this can be done at the same time as really holding those parts of us that are scared or wounded or wanting love for example. They come along on the journey and are not pushed aside or belittled. Living from wholeness (my name for it) feels so different than living from a part of us. It feels more open, pliable, flexible, resourced and free… and a word I like… “undefended” How wonderful!. And again, it is not a static thing - it is a creative way of being… open to each unfolding situation we find ourselves in.

and it begins and ends with curiosity…


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.

So here are some simple tips for finding a small next step with a decision or change you want to make:

A. From a Focusing space, from what we can call “self-in-presence” invite a small manageable step that would help with your situation (be it a decision or some change you want to make)
B. Check inside - Do all parts agree? Is there anything that says “NO!” or even whispers “i am not sure” take time to listen to that place. Don’t override it.
C. Check also, is this step good for whole situation: For me this means how does this step impact on my family life. After all, we don’t live in isolation. We live in a context and our actions are part of that. This is actually part of the knowing of the felt sense. Hopefully the step you come up with already includes this implicit or explicitly. That is the wonderful thing about what the body knows.

D. When you make the small step, check again how it went. Keep in touch with yourself - does this still feel right or might it need adjusting somehow. Also keep an eye out for what we mistakenly label as “rebels” The parts of us that we may, unknowingly put aside to make a step. Put it this way, If we find ourselves rebelling, then we know we have forgotten something along the way. These parts hold something essential and life serving.

It reminds me, I have made so many attempts to get fit and started jogging and then three weeks later… no jogging! Decisions made from just one side of us always backfire. We all need to be involved.

And the steps can be very small indeed. I remember Gendlin talking about this in his book “Focusing” He gives an example of someone wanting to find a partner… which is a BIG and may scary step for people. He says why not start just by just driving to the place where you meet people (a singles bar in his example) and then don’t go in, just drive past, and see how that feels. Then just pop your head in the door and then leave, and see how that feels, and so on. Lovely

So often, we collapse under the bigness of the change we want to make and therefore don’t make any steps at all. But if we make a small step from the body and then sense for how that has gone, we can make a further step from there which has not yet been brought into life and that we can never really predict. I can guarantee this further step will be more in tune with all of you.

Online decisions course coming soon in 2015

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...

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)


Voting with my body


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?

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.

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.

So why is this important?

It points to a couple of key points.

Firstly the body we sense in Focusing is not just the physical body. It is the
body in the world. We can never really separate the body from the world it lives in. Though we may go about our lives thinking of ourselves as some kind of unit, controlling out there, the reality is something very different. It is really not that separate at all. Just reflect on what we need to take in from the world in order to live; air, heat, food, water, and reflect on how the lack of those can take our life away in a moment or effect it profoundly. It goes further than this. The body we sense in Focusing is the one that is connected to and feels the whole situation it is in (and was in) in a definite and perceivable way. It has a knowing about it. and about us in it. It has this always.

Secondly, that Focusing is not just about me or my issues (or you and yours) People often associate focusing with personal development and healing personal wounds and it has much to offer these realms, but it is way bigger than that. It is about sensing the situation we are in - and in particular it can show us how something does not fit, or is not right or it missing... and it can show us some next steps, a way forward, even if they are small steps.

I am not saying that you alone have the answers to all the difficult things out there, or that it is easy to even sense what would be a right thing to do in the the face of such huge problems. What I am saying is that I and you sense that something is wrong with the world and it needs our energy, passion and body to help it.

Reflections on the differences between Focusing and Meditation.


“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.

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?

This story from the life of milarepa - the 11th century Tibetan Buddhist teacher - says it better than I can.

"One day Milarepa was meditating in front of his cave when the demons of anger, greed, and fear arose before him. They were truly horrible beings with flames spurting out of their nostrils and pus flowing from their eyes.
Rather than push them away, Milarepa invited the demons into his cave for tea. One by one they entered the cave, and in the light of his clear regard, they dissolved.
Eventually, only one demon remained. The most terrifying of them all, it roared and howled, and rather than dissolving in Milarepa's presence, it grew larger and more foul. Regarding the demon with great humility, Milarepa stood and bowed, baring his neck and thrusting his head between the creature's fangs. As he breathed in the sulfurous stench of the demon’s breath, Milarepa whispered, “Teach me your pain.”

Isn't that amazing. He invites these demons in for tea. I imagine if I were in that situation I would be overwhelmed by fear and do anything to push them away...

And even more moving is his response to the final demon. He wants to know its pain, to listen to its story.

I wonder if he trusted his experience so deeply that the leap of faith that this required was not difficult for him. He knew that there was nothing really to be scared of, or in Focusing terms could say hello to his terror and carry it along with him. He knew that this demon was actually in pain and needed meeting and hearing.

More and more as I practice focusing I am able to meet my experience with curiosity rather than aversion., and this is so so welcome.

Yes. There are still places inside that parts of me are scared of and that's where I start. I am making friends with something in me that is scared of meeting fear...

In fact, it is not about meeting one’s demons but more about meeting the parts of us that are afraid of them. We may not have much to do with the demons for a long time even but if we slowly begin to come into relationship with the aspects of us that are scared of the demons - eventually we will come closer to the demon itself and maybe see that it is not a demon at all, but something in dire pain. And it is important to say that every step on this journey transforms the whole being, it's not just the big moment at the end. Every meeting of some part of us that wants to run away from our experience is a step towards... well, meeting our experience and needs to be appreciated.

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.

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.

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.

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)