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...


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?

Reflections on the differences between Focusing and Meditation.