FOCUSING does something MORE than MINDFULNESS
Focusing, although it has some similarities to mindfulness, offers a ‘MORE than MINFULNESS’ way of being that has been shown to be empowering.
I don’t understand why it is not better known. My mission (and I have definitely chosen to take it!) is to do my bit to bring Focusing to the world and in particular to young people.
“Focusing is a process in which you make contact with yourself with a special kind of internal bodily awareness in which your body lets you know what the crux of the issue is and the next right step to resolve it” (Eugene Gendlin 1978 Focusing pg 11).
Eugene Gendlin, who is regarded as the father of Focusing, made this statement in 1978. These days many neuroscientists are talking about how the brain can change itself. For example, Dr Norman Doidge http://www.normandoidge.com/?page_id=125 says: “the brain is always embodied, and our subjective experience always has a bodily component, just as all the so-called bodily experiences have a mental component”. This is exactly what Gendlin has been talking about since the 1960’s.
As stated earlier Focusing does something ‘MORE than MINDFULNESS’.
Mindfulness is “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally’. Jon Kabat-Zinn http://www.mindfulnesscds.com and http://www.mindfullivingprograms.com/whatMBSR.php By “in a particular Way” Kabat-Zinn means with kindness and curiosity.
The idea in mindfulness is to just notice our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and let them come and go. We are paying attention to our anchor, for example the breath, and we observe ourselves and notice and note. (Noting is saying for eg; ‘thinking’ when we realize we are thinking) And every time we realize we have wandered away from our anchor we gently shepherd our way back to our anchor. Research has shown this gets us out of our thought stream, settles the threat response in our brain and allows us to think more clearly and be more in the moment.
Focusing starts in a similar way to mindfulness in that we are paying attention to something with kindness and curiosity and on purpose. Much of the time with Focusing we are also focusing on something that is bothering us. But we are not just noticing it and coming back to our breath or mantra. In Focusing, we are taking the time to describe it and get to know it and sit beside with care and even have a conversation with it.
So what does Focusing do that Mindfulness does not do?
- In Focusing you get a sense (what is called a ‘felt sense’) of the whole situation. A ‘felt sense’ is the bodily felt quality that comes when you look inside (often experienced as a physical sensation in your torso area). You pause, look and sense to see what comes when you focus on the whole of a situation. You are trying to extract or separate out this ‘felt sense’ of this whole situation. For example what bodily ‘felt sense’ do you notice when you are about to give an important lecture to a large group of people or the bodily sense you get when someone has been very aggressive or threatening to you? What is the ‘felt sense’ you get when you are with someone you love watching the sun rise (or even on your own) or the bodily quality or feel you get when you watch and listen to a baby laugh or sleep peacefully?
These are all ‘felt senses’ and we all have them. What we don’t do, because we are not taught, is to pause and have a look inside. If we pause (most people) can sense more fully and describe what they find. The describing part of focusing is important (and this is not done in Mindfulness). It appears to me that it is the describing that allows “more” to come and more to be known and so more meaning to be made. And with that comes an easing and often a knowing of some forward step. Gendlin calls this our ‘implicit knowing’. Even though it is not quite the same, you may recognize this ‘implicit knowing’ in yourself when you say “I had a gut feeling”. Mostly in these situations you are having a ‘felt sense’ and if you stay with it and describe it you can access your ‘intuitive wisdom’.
- Focusing then allows you to “sit beside” the things you become aware of. You can get the sense you have of whatever situation it is, that is worrying you. The “bodily felt” sensation you notice can be separated out and described. Then you have an “I” and the “something” which are separate.
I have found it helpful to hold the concept that we all have an “I”. This “I” is the big part of you and it can be there to look after the other parts of you, for example your sadness. Also, your sadness is always only just a part of you. It is never all of you even when it feels overwhelming.
Try this quick test. Say: “I am completely sad, all of me is sad” a couple of times and now say; “I am sensing something in me that is sad” and notice the difference. When you call on the idea of a big ‘you’ or a big ‘I’, the whole way you are with yourself is transformed in positive, healing ways. Once you have a “something” and a separate and larger “big you”, you can be next to it. This means you are not completely in it and overwhelmed by it and you are also not turning away from it and denying it is there. You are turning towards it and sitting beside this “felt sense”.
That dynamic has a very powerful effect. By just allowing and acknowledging it and “letting it be”, in a mindful way (gentle, curious, non-judging) you can take a couple of extra steps. You can describe what you find and you check if that description fits. What Focusing has shown is that this seems to allow your body to open up. You can turn towards this “felt sense” with care and curiosity and ask it some questions. The amazing thing is your body answers and often you unfold more than you think you know just by thinking only. This can bring a little easing (a ‘felt shift’). The problem is not necessarily fixed but you feel a bit lighter and experience an easing around the issues you are dealing with.
- Focusing is also different to Mindfulness in that you do it with a partner and that person is a “kind witness” and companion to your focusing process. Usually one person Focuses and the other listens and then you swap. You might only do this once a week and it takes about 20 minutes each. This makes it reciprocal and also connects you with another caring human being. Bonnie Badenoch tells us we need co-regulation. We are inter-dependent. We need one another and that there is a beauty in co-regulation. I agree http://www.nurturingtheheart.com
What helps us to be happy or content in life is when we have quality relationships with others and ourselves and then we feel connected and that we belong. Focusing helps you do both these things.
In the end, Focusing allows you to come into relationship with the things you find inside that might be troubling you and you also do it with someone else in a reciprocal partnership. Their job is to listen and help you hold the space while you unfold your “implicit knowing”. Later on in the book I will explain more about Focusing or you can just skip to that part now if you like.
Focusing is an important part of the MORE than MINDFULNESS (MtM) program. It brings new and simple ways for students and teachers to use for resilience and wellbeing. And it works extremely well in a classroom and school setting.
If you are interested I learning more contact me on 0438 412 667 or firstname.lastname@example.org