Connect to Kevin’s Intunements

Photo by: Diana Scalera

One of the reason’s for the blog was to create a space for the Wholebody Focusing Community to continue to develop and grow.  Kevin McEvenue has provided our us with  more than 30 audio guided suggestions or intunements to help all of us each day of our lives.  It is important to remind readers of these amazing resources in this difficult time we are experiencing.

The intunements are organized into three “albums.”

  1. First Intunements is for anyone who wants to start or become more proficient at Wholebody Focusing;
  2. Coming Home is for anyone who has some basic understanding of Wholebody Focusing and wants to deepen their practice; and
  3. Exploring the Unexplored is for anyone who wants to extend their practice in ways that they may not have yet experienced.

You can find them by clicking on “Find your Favorite Intunement!

Enjoy and be held by Kevin’s voice and wisdom.  Let us know which ones are most helpful and why.

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The Common Good, WBF and COVID-19

We are living through an experience like none other in our lifetime. We face a massive pandemic that will have some impact on every human on this planet. How are we holding that in our bodies? 

Different Experiences

When I speak to friends about how it is impacting them, there is a wide range of responses. My Italian friends are living through the worst moments of the pandemic for their country. They are frustrated by the restrictions and also aware that they are safer than people in other countries. They have national health care, a government that is acting decisively, and are expected to Stay Home until April 13. 

Italy is following the same measures that the Chinese had taken. These measures reduced the power of the virus in a matter of 5 weeks. My Italian friends mention a sense of national pride that their country is putting human life first, all human life, despite those who might want to leave out some people. I suspect the Chinese are proud of the efficiency of their government to act quickly, even in light of the high death toll. China is also supplying the medical equipment that Italy desperately needs to boost its treatment capacity. That includes 10,000 pulmonary ventilators, 2 million face masks, and 20,000 protective suits. 

Matteo Renzi, a former prime minister, said that the Stay Home decree was necessary to save all of Europe. Both China and Italy have acted in the common good–for their countries and the world population.  

When Common Good is not a Consideration

I live in NYC. The first measure that the city announced was that it found a place for 51,000 cadavers somewhere on a small island around NYC. Before the City hospitals will test someone, the patient must meet the need to be hospitalized.  Without knowing if we are infected, each person is left to make their own decisions about how to respond to the virus with a few guiding suggestions of wash your hands, do not touch your face and stay away of crowds if you can.  Every person who has not been tested is a potential carrier of the virus.  As of March 10, only a quarter of one percent of the USA population has been tested.

Fox News, a main media outlet, actively supports the idea the COVID-19 is “hoax” whose intention is yet another attempt to impeach the president. President Trump did not want to transfer the Princess Cruise vacationers to land because he “didn’t want his numbers to go up.” There is also a federal censorship decree that demands that government agencies have their “message” approved by Vice President Pence before making it public. Each state is left to come up with plans without resources. California, for example, has a population of 40 million and has only received 400 tests for COVID-19. That is one test per 40,000 people. In the newspapers, there are more articles about the impact on the stock market than the human impact of the virus.

My friends and I debate what to do. My husband is in his 70’s and has COPD plus a compromised immune system. We are both in social isolation not only to protect ourselves but also to protect others because we do not know if some of the the physical problems we face have anything to do with COVID-19. Other friends are washing their hands and not touching their faces. Some are somewhat limiting their contact with others. One friend plans to go on vacation to another country. None of us know or have a mechanism to find out whether or not we have the virus. Our conversation is about our own risk. Sometimes someone mentions their concern about being a carrier of the virus.  

When a Society Ignores the Common Good

It has become evident that the lack of common good in the US government’s reaction to COVID-19 leaves us to decide how we can protect ourselves and others. That will not save us from this pandemic.   When governments do not act in the common good, citizens often lack awareness of their responsibility to think beyond their personal situation. The decision to act in a way that supports the common good becomes a personal one and not necessarily endorsed even by one’s peers. When I explained to a friend that we had decided to isolate socially, he asked, “Did you get your doctor’s permission?”  

Holding Space for All That

Yesterday morning as I was practicing my Buddhists chants, a thought came to me. I needed to find a deeper connection with the chants. I decided to pause after each one to connect to the energy that it brought to me. When I paused, I found my hands moving, tears coming, and energy enlivening my body. I allowed space for this energy until it had wholly moved through me. A safe place emerged in which I felt was present and supported by the energy of the chants. I paused to give my body a chance to enjoy the connection to the power of the chant. I had an opportunity for a deeper relationship with my present self. I found the “self without content” that Addie van der Kooy talks about in his videos.  

That chance to be with what is living in me now in a safe way helps me have more space for me after the chanting. It also gives me a chance for a good cry, which doesn’t come easily for me. It gives me space to feel alive. I also have space for “I am alive right now,” and what that means to me.

“Give space for your inner authority to come, let it be your home.”
barebody&soul

As I interact with my friends over how we deal with COVID-19, the threat to our health, the health of our loved ones, and the future of our existence post-pandemic, I remember how l loved reading about Galileo and how he survived the multiple bouts of plague in Italy during his lifetime. It was a time of study, connecting with friends, other scientists, and loved ones via letters across Europe and parts of Asia as he remained his curious and amazing self by continuing his studies of how the universe unfolds.   

This weekend our yearly St. Patrick’s Day gathering at our home will be via online conferencing so we won’t miss out on being with each other.  

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Mia Nonna Etrusca/My Etruscan Grandmother

When I was about six years old, I was in the basement of our house with my grandmother — my mother’s mother. She had a kitchen there for cooking in the summertime before people had air conditioners. It was a big space, and I was dancing by myself behind her while she cooked.

I saw her stop and turn around to say something. I wanted to hear what she might say because we mostly never spoke to each other. She mainly spoke Italian, and I spoke English. She asked me a simple question. “Will you remember me? I recall being overwhelmed by sadness by that question. I thought, “How could she have any doubt that I would remember her?” To me, she was the center of all that happened in my life. I told her there was no way I could ever forget her. She turned around and continued to cook. I wonder if my companionship while she was cooking made her feel loved and maybe a bit worried that that love might vanish with time.

While my grandmother died in 1978, she is still at the center of my life. Every meal I cook, she is there. I sense my grandmother in each of my creative acts. The walls of my healing room are alive with her art. Her old furniture and sewing machine fill my apartment. My other grandparents had already died or died soon after I was born. She was the one who connected me to the ancient world that was part of her essence.

My Grandmother’s Roots

My grandmother was from a small town called Corchiano, Viterbo, Lazio in Italy. When I went there in 1984, it was a tiny town on a precipice in the middle of hazelnut orchards and sunflower fields. She had told me stories about a castle, Etruscan burial grounds, and secret passageways that she and her friends used to play in to dare each other’s courage.

Etruscans dominated this land from 900 BCE to the height of the Roman Empire. When I visited this Corchiano, I found that my grandmother’s wildly fantastic stories were all true. It helped me understand that these ancient peoples were still very much alive to the people who lived in Corchiano, which was founded thousands of years ago.

How We Reflect our Heritage

As I continue to recapture my Italian language, I become more curious about my heritage and culture. I began working on my family tree. I found that names repeat over centuries. So do professions. My father, his father, and all my paternal grandfathers were either carpenters or cabinet makers going back five generations. My brothers also work with wood as a pastime. My nephew, who always eschewed construction work, recently announced he would begin working in construction.

On my mother’s side, the men were barbers. I have a talent for cutting hair. The women on both sides of my family worked with textiles. I’ve made many of the essential clothes I’ve worn during my life and have a love of exotic textiles.

Connecting to Ancestors

I’ve always had an appreciation of my connections to my ancestors. I grew up in a household where the adults spoke out loud to those who had passed to share news, ask for their help or complain that they had been left adrift. When I began to go to a Buddhist temple, and I learned about the rituals to console one’s ancestors, it was as if a missing piece had shown up for me.

I began practicing this ritual mostly about ancestors whom I might have known and some for whom I only knew by reputation. A particular situation arose for me that was related to the actions of some of those ancestors. I decided to ask for their consolation as part of my chanting practice.  An outcome of these prayers that I had hoped for was that my mother’s suffering might subside.

After a few weeks, my mother called me and said that she fired the home health aides that I had helped provide. She wanted them out of her house. My mother is 90 years old and mostly deaf and blind. She also lives in a large multi-level home with lots of stairs. I took in the news and wondered if there was anything to this consolation of ancestors. Now, who would take care of my mother’s daily needs? I also had some space for this being the outcome for which I was asking.

A few days later, I spoke to my mother, and she said: “I am so happy to have my home back.” I have never heard her say she was happy. Even though I fear for her safety being alone, she is sure that she is much better off.

What We Ask for Might Be Different from What Shows up

I am holding space for how, when we ask for a situation to move forward, that forward movement might not look like what we expect. Any changes can also include new things arriving into our lives that we may not even have known would be essential to us.

A few days later, my friend Jim sent me an email about an Etruscan webinar and I immediately registered.

First, I found that so many of the paintings from Eturia were of people with dark curly hair. I had never seen cave paintings with curly-haired people before. Then, I discovered my Etruscan grandmother. The photo of the statue reminded me of a picture of me. I pulled out my likeness and put the images next to each other and felt this fantastic resonance. When I was 26 years old, I needed a photo for my international driver’s license before my first trip to Corchiano, Italy. I sat with these likenesses and checked into my body. I had a sense that I have found my home—a place where others looked like me. It makes me very happy even though these images are from two thousand years ago.

Later, I recounted this story to my acupuncturist. She explained that connecting to one’s ancestors strengthens one’s kidney energy. Establishing a link to a place of origin enhances one’s earth energy—both areas of weakness in my body.

The Help We Receive Is from Timeless Sources

My work in reaching out to my ancestors is unveiling so many new ways to be with who I am and how connected I am to the expanse of time, space, place, and energy.  My Wholebody Focusing training supports me in trusting what my body feels and enhances my spiritual connection to this ritual that connects me to my ancestors.

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Do You Love Yourself?

I went to a shaman many years ago for a Reiki treatment. He started the session by asking me, “Do you love yourself?” I was dumbfounded because I could not answer him. The question froze me in some way. He then changed the subject to “Who do you love?” and again, I froze, but this time my body helped me out. I felt a heavy weight in my arms as if I were holding a body of someone. I sensed into this weight, and again, I could not come up with who that might be.

We started the Reiki session without an answer. As the shaman was finishing the session by energetically clearing my body, I began to sob. It was clear who I loved. At that moment, my body revealed what I had never known. The person I loved was my grandfather, who died when I was 14 months old. I knew at that moment, with certainty, that the love I felt for him was profound.

When I asked my mother about why I might feel this way, she said that my grandfather knew he was dying when I was born. Whenever we visited him, he held me in his arms, and we were inseparable. After I heard this, I spent the next few months holding space for his loss and my appreciation that he held me in a way that made me feel deeply loved. This certainty that I was loved has sustained me throughout my life even though I did not know it was there.

Markers of Love

I recently met someone who works with a process called Neural Linguistic Programming (NLP). NLP uses a concept of the Five Languages of Love to help people become aware of love in their lives and to be able to better provide love to those around them.

When I looked up information about this process, it seems to have some scientific detractors; however, there are numerous books and workshops run by NLP practitioners who may also use hypnotism as part of their work. According to NLP, the following markers are evidence of love: Gift Giving; Quality Time; Physical Touch; Words of Affirmation; and Acts of Service.

Without getting into the pros and cons of this practice, I decided to use these measures to do an inventory of myself of these central questions “Do I love myself? What makes me feel loved? I established my grounded presence to write about my investigation into my body’s sense of love.

Do I love myself?

I give myself many gifts. As a child, I didn’t ask for things because I knew the answer would be “NO” even if those were things my brothers received. So now, I allow myself to want anything, and I provide myself with what I need and want. It gives me great pleasure, for example, when I go food shopping and buy myself a treat that I can eat on the way home. It was a big unsatisfied want as a child. I also buy myself the essential things that I need—like a hearing aid. I give myself gifts freely without making excuses that someone or something is more worthy. I often get a body sense that something is needed. Sometimes my hand reaches out for an unsuspecting item; other times, it’s a sense of urgency I feel somewhere in my body.

I spend quality time with myself. To me, this is time in presence. My WBF practice and Reiki practice are the main ways I do this. I also have many self-care rituals that support my body. Sometimes that self-love involves being with my incredible focusing partners who help me find me.

Physical touch is a magical way to help oneself feel loved. Ulla-Stina Johansson, a psychologist, and WBF blog author explained to me that the part of our brains that can react to touch is unable to discern the difference between someone else touching us and our own touch. I have daily rituals that include holding parts of my body that rose out of my WBF practice. Currently, my hands massage the area at the base of my neck on the front of my body. Then my hands move to the left and rest on my shoulder. I don’t know what the significance of this movement is, and I am happy that my hands have that wisdom.

Words of Affirmation might not be my strong point. It does not occur to me to stop to affirm anything in particular and, maybe I’m not so sure what affirmations might be needed. It is something I do not feel in my body. Neither, however, do I spend a lot of time criticizing myself.

I have chosen a life that includes acts of service. As a teacher and school leader, I saw my role as someone who created an atmosphere in which children and adults had space to do their best work. Some school leaders supported me in this way, and I felt a strong responsibility to do that for others. As a retired person, I still feel a need to be part of something that supports forward movement in myself and others. I have found that giving others the support that I needed at different times in my life helps me spend quality time with the part that was left needing.

What makes me feel loved?

Clearly, in my pre-verbal days, loving physical touch stayed with me so firmly that 40 years later, my body remembered being loved by someone for whom I had no conscious memory. I still enjoy physical contact with the people whom I choose; however, I do not limit myself to waiting until there is someone else who will touch me in a caring way. My hands are always willing to hold me when I am lovingly present to them.

I depend on others for words of affirmation. It wasn’t until I was an adult that this became a part of my life. As a young woman, a new female friend named Barbara would notice what I did well and encouraged me to see it too. It felt so amazing. I felt this in my body as if a kind mother was holding me on her lap.

Then I met my future husband, and for the first time, I felt what it was like to have male encouragement. That felt wonderful and a bit dangerous. It was scary because I perceived men as not being interested in supporting women in this way. Our 36 years together has helped me learn that his support will never be dangerous and will always be loving.

The support of these two essential people set me on a path to get an education that was not available to me before. That led to teachers and mentors, both men and women, who gave me opportunities to be my best self. In my current life, I most enjoy being with those who value themselves and have room to value others.

Gifts are enjoyable to receive. The greatest pleasure I experience from receiving gifts is that they are gentle reminders of someone’s love. When I see a gift, an image of the person finding this gift for me emerges. The present becomes a recognition of their presence to who I am.

Quality time with others is especially important to me. I grew up in a large, extended family with 16 aunts and uncles and 19 cousins and one grandmother. The times I felt like I belonged anywhere was when this group gathered and shared food, music, dancing, and laughter. What was not present in my nuclear family was made up for in spades being a part of this larger group. 

My husband and I have an extended family of friends who come together to eat good food, celebrate whatever needs a celebration, talk about the world situation, share our dedication to improving the lot of everyone.

I also value being alone with my husband. Sitting by the East River or by the water fountain outside our apartment complex always gives us a chance to pause and experience an energetic connection to each other.

I also love being with a dear friend like Robin, even if it is to go on an errand together—having time to be in the present moment with someone for whom I have a secure connection is quite extraordinary.

Once again, acts of service are paradoxical. The more I do them, the more I feel joy. For example, helping Pat Omidian in her work with refugee support personnel in Uganda allowed me to get a better understanding of what it means to be a refugee. It was an honor to be part of this experience. I felt I might have a small role in relieving suffering in this part of the world. 

As Valentine’s Day approaches and we get to eat all sorts of delicious sweets, checking in on our ability to love ourselves and feel the love of others might be an excellent way to celebrate. I do not think the experience of love is limited to these five characteristics, but each one of these qualities can be a starting point to affirm how love is an essential part of one’s life.

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It Was a Very Good Year

As I thought about writing to the readers of the blog about this year’s accomplishments, Frank Sinatra’s song “It Was a Very Good Year” came to mind. While the lyrics are not about writing and managing a blog, it is about appreciation and gratitude.

In the video below, he talks about his appreciation for the work of the composers and lyricists. He also shares his deep commitment to and respect for what the author has written. These sentiments are what I feel about my role as the blog administrator.

So I start this celebration of what we have accomplished this year by thanking our contributors for their hard work and dedication to building our community. Their willingness to share their WBF experiences and their exceptional writing abilities make this work a great joy in my life. 

Who writes for the blog?

We have 21 contributors from 10 countries–Australia, Canada, Cyprus, Italy, Finland, Japan, Scotland, Sweden. The UK, and the USA. There are 14 women and seven men. Their professions include many Wholebody Focusing Trainers, writers, a Divine Love leader, a supporter of Indigenous rights, an Alexander teacher, a Buddhist teacher, a Physicist, and a computer expert. Some write often; others occasionally send in a post. A few contribute with photos and other skills, and others have not yet published a blog.

Who reads the blog?

We have 470 subscribers. Some subscribe to the blog directly, and others subscribe to social media. Social media is a crucial way to get out the message about Wholebody Focusing to the world. I encourage everyone who loves this blog to ensure its future by publishing the posts that you like on your social media.

We have readers in 60 countries on seven continents with the USA, Canada, Italy, the UK and China being the most active. Places like Singapore, South Africa, Chile, and Australia have a few dedicated readers. We also publish posts in languages other than English to encourage our international audience to feel that they are also part of our community. Wholebody Focusers live in many parts of the world thanks to the work of Kevin McEvenue, Karen Whalen, Addie van der Kooy, Bruna Blandino, Rosa Catoio, and many other trainers.

2018’s statistics for the blog were 7,468 views, 1,755 visitors, 265 likes, and 204 comments.

In 2019, the statistics are 10,743 views, 2,797 visitors, 322 likes, and 192 comments. We have a growing, diverse readership that reaches 15 more countries this year than last year.

How Has This Blog Helped Build a Wholebody Focusing Community?

In November 2017, Melinda Darer, co-director of Focusing Initiatives International, and I discussed that while the Wholebody Focusing community spanned the world, there was no way to feel connected to other Wholebody Focusers. We set out to change that.

Melinda and her organization decided to sponsor a Wholebody Focusing Retreat, which brought together 48 people in August 2018. There is now a second retreat in the planning stages. (See Being Like a River: Felt Community in Action ) Also, we established the Monthly Online Wholebody Focusing Gathering, a free online meeting open to everyone. 

I created this blog that is public and open to anyone interested in Wholebody Focusing. It is a place to share experiences and deepen our practice by reading about the experiences of others. Kevin shares with us what new body sense is coming for him. He also recruits contributors. It is also a resource to find out what is happening in the WBF world and how you can participate.

We also hear from individuals how WBF impacts their lives. New this year, there is the Wholebody Focusing Trainers Corner, which provides the deeper thinking that is happening from the experiences of practicing trainers from around the world. We also offer intunements that anyone can use to soothe and deepen their practice whenever they feel the need. 

In addition, by putting our work into the public eye, we spread love, love for ourselves, and love that holds all with equal regard. Everyone has this place come to where who they are is always held in the highest regard. That can only strengthen us in our practice and in our community.

How can this blog help you?

We have over 150 posts from our 21 contributors that are about the Wholebody journeys we have traveled. There is also beautifully written prose, poetry, music, and videos that touch our hearts. If you sign up as a “follower,” you get notices only when someone posts something new on the blog. This can serve as a reminder that blog is always here to help you find grounded presence and loving support for the wonder that you are. 

I hope you will enjoy listening to Frank Sinatra talk about his experience as a singer and, if you want, to sense into his appreciation of the status of men in the mid-1900’s. 

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How to Start Wholebody Focusing with a Partner

Photo Credit: Diana Scalera

When I attended the Scambi 2019 in Albano Terme, Italy this past summer, I presented my workshop Focusing Around the Dinner Table using mostly Wholebody Focusing as the vehicle to access this theme in our bodies. Since then, some focusers have been asking for help to learn Wholebody Focusing. I have begun working with some of the Italian focusers and have come up with a way for them to get started on their path to incorporating Wholebody Focusing into their Focusing practice. Below is a description of the steps of a session with Cristina Griggio via Skype. It can be a starting point for focusers who would like to add some Wholebody sensibility to their practice. 

  1. Both partners need to be willing let go of the need to have an agenda for their session and actively hold space to what your body prioritizes. Each partner can take a turn being the person who is focusing, and the other person is mostly silently holding energetic space for their partner while noticeing how what happens to your partner impacts your body.  
  2. Establish your energetic connection with your partner. If you are in person, make sure you have a sense of each other’s energy. If you are working via the internet, find your way to connect in this situation.  
  3. The Focuser asks her body a simple question “Where does my body need attention now?” Let your body choose what it needs. Let go of any narrative and your thoughts about what is necessary in this moment. Your body might have a different point of view.
  4. Wait and hold space for whatever comes. 
    1. Acknowledge the body’s sense of what is there without adding a narrative. Stay with the bodily sensation.
    2. Let what is there know that it can be just the way it is and has all the time it needs to be present to itself.
    3. Give your body permission to move, especially your hands, which may be able to support parts that are struggling.  
  5. Stay with whatever comes. Ask for help from other parts of your body, from the earth below you, the sky above, the air you breathe, or the chair in which you sit. 
  6. Let your body indicate when it has found a resting place (or ask your body to find a resting place).
  7. When the Focuser has come to a resting place, the partner can share how that experience with her partner impacted her body. The Focuser can also share more if they choose with their partner about their experience.  
  8. After the session, both Focuser and Listener should pay attention to whatever comes that relates to what happened in the session. According to Addie van der Kooy, each opportunity we take to spend time with our bodies in grounded presence causes changes (from minor to monumental). Our lived experiences after our sessions let us know what has changed.  

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Noticing When Something New is Here

Photo Credit: Selfie of Cristina, Diana and Deni

Wholebody Focusing can be very subtle. For me, especially during a session, sometimes only a movement comes, or pain in a part of my body without words or a “felt sense.” Sometimes I spend a long time with these movements or sensations. It begs the question, “how do we know that Wholebody focusing works at all?” It is in noticing that something new is showing up in one’s life or that something is showing up more than it did before.

We’ve been writing about “holding both with equal regard.” By holding space for all our parts, we recognize that our process is supporting healthy changes in how we live our lives. Because we have new options for dealing with our challenges doesn’t mean; however, that these parts of us that struggle no longer have life in them.

What Was There Before

I grew up with a narcissistic mother who would become angry if I asked for help. I learned never to ask for help and that the outcome of any situation depended on me not showing any need or reaction. Also, I attended a Catholic school that prioritized fear-mongering and punishment over the existence of a loving God. I developed a severe form of anxiety disorder that included both a chronic state of fear, along with spikes of disabling panic attacks.

Psychotherapy, drugs, acupuncture, and homeopathy helped me manage my learned responses to stressful situations. Reiki and Wholebody Focusing have enabled me to live in a new way.

Learning to Open to New Ways of Being

Reiki teaches that we can ask for help from the Universal Life Force, which is available to all sentient beings. It is without judgment and the need to meet some threshold of certain kinds of behavior. One needs only to ask for help to receive it. I primarily use what is called “situational” Reiki in which one asks for support with a particular situation.

I started using this when I began cancer treatments because I needed to meet with doctors. My natural inclination was to believe that the meetings would be harmful or that there would be no help, support, or kindness available to me. To find a new way to be, I would establish my connection to the Universal Life Force. I asked that my highest and greatest good be served along with the highest and greatest good of those who were supporting me. I found time after time that the outcome was so much better than what I would have automatically created. The high levels of fear were still there, but now there was also the belief that Reiki was available to me to support my next step.

I’ve come to rely on situation Reiki throughout my day, not just when I felt my life was in danger. What I am noticing is that before I form all sorts of disaster scenarios, it occurs to me to connect to the Reiki energy to ask for help. I don’t need to be in mortal danger to use this process. I can use it to help me get through a typical day with everyday challenges. It is a far cry from my chronic state of panic that was punctuated by panic attacks. What comes for me now is how automatic and sure I feel about asking for help. No more angry mother to cause me to worry. There is no more punishing God who only helps if you are good enough.

Notice When You Feel the Shift

My trip to Italy helped me clarify my relationship with situational Reiki. I went there to improve my Italian and to attend and present at a focusing conference. I took two weeks of Italian lessons. I also hired a tutor to help me create the transcript that I would read during the workshop I would present. I also had someone who offered to translate whenever necessary.

It was about a half-hour before the participants were set to show up. A mosquito flew toward me, and in an automatic reaction to my fear of mosquitos, my hand hit the iPad screen and deleted the transcript of the workshop. I had an old version that I did quick edits to, but it was not the same. In the face of the outcome of the next few hours being entirely out of my control, I asked Reiki to support the participants’ highest and greatest good as well as my own. As I did this, I could feel powerful energy surrounding me.

Somehow I had the language I needed and was able to understand the participants well enough to meet their needs. The participants were appreciative and enthusiastic, and I felt supported by the Reiki energy, the group, and my colleagues who had gotten me there in the first place. I noticed how new this was for me to feel so much support.

A few days later, I was staying with a family who had two dogs. It was evening, and a strong thunderstorm was floating in. I noticed the dogs were quite upset. I called one to my side and asked Reiki energy to support him in being with the storm. He calmed down and stayed at my side even when I went out on the balcony to watch the storm. The second dog, who had gone into hiding came close to me, and I offered Reiki to this dog. She also calmed down and stayed near. My friend told me usually the dogs run wildly around the house during thunderstorms.

As I have more experiences with the idea that by opening to my own highest and greatest good, the support that I need is there without fail. Even when I ask for help, and the outcome is not what I expect, I can ponder what about this outcome is in my highest and greatest good?

What Is Needed to Experience the New Parts of Us that Emerge

It is in noticing not only that there is space to have new beliefs like there is help available to everyone just the way we are. It is also essential to recognize that those parts of us that don’t think this way may still need support and love. When I was in session with Kevin, and I spoke about my newfound faith in something outside of myself, I noticed how my abdomen was having a spasm. Both are there. I can believe that support and loving-kindness are always available to me, even though my gut goes into spasm when I openly acknowledge the existence of this support.

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Holding Space for a Heart’s Desire

Sampler by: Grandma Luigia, Italy 1897

I am in a steady relationship lately with my heart’s desire. A body sense of how speaking Italian was a heart’s desire came to me in a Wholebody focusing session with my partner. It let me know that learning Italian would be something that would change my life for the better. This awareness happened soon after I filmed Bruna Blandino and Rosa Catoio, two Italian Wholebody Focusers, (Being Ourselves) for the blog.

Living a Heart’s Desire

What I also began to understand that day was that learning Italian was not something that I had to “do.” It was something that lives in me. This experience started me on a journey to give this body sense all the time and space it needed. (My Heart’s Desire).

I began attending focusing workshops for Italian focusers through The International Focusing Institute and partnering with some of the participants. These experiences led me to decide to go to Italy to study in a language immersion program and attend a focusing conference there.

I am experiencing what it is like to come in contact more deeply with my maternal language. A few days ago, as I was reading some straightforward, known Italian phrases, I found my mouth would not cooperate. I had an excessive amount of trouble pronouncing the words. I paused and asked my body to show me what was needed. My hands went to either side of my face and held those muscles gently. Then I began to reread the phrases slowly. There was still difficulty pronouncing the words but less so this time.  What was showing up was the flip side of a heart’s desire.

What Happens When a Language is Lost?

For 26 years, I taught or administered language programs to train Spanish-speaking students in NYC to fully develop their relationship with their mother tongue. NYC schools had a policy of supporting the home languages only until the student became fluent enough in English. The lack of continued instruction in the mother language left many students with interrupted literacy in both English and Spanish and low confidence in their Spanish-speaking ability. In high school, students were mandated to learn another language. I was part of a team of teachers and administrators who designed and piloted high school programs to bring these students to full academic literacy in their home language.

In this process, I learned how much trauma having one’s maternal language suppressed caused and how it often relegated these students to the category of “at-risk student.” When students studied their home language for at least three years at the high school level, however, they often became the top students in their schools.

Holding Both with Equal Regard

The felt sense in the muscles of my mouth reminded me of the trauma my students experienced. I embodied the experience of the loss of my mother tongue by becoming a language educator and advocating for immigrant students’ linguistic rights. For me, Italian was spoken in my home as a child by the adults around me. My parents, however, feared that if I learned Italian, I would suffer the same prejudice and academic challenges that they had faced in school as children. Because of my family’s experience, I worked at my profession with great passion. I became a national leader of this movement to support language rights for immigrants in schools. (You can view some of my work at Scalera on Vimeo.)

Now that I am retired, my body is telling me it is time to do this for me. I already speak Spanish. Italian seeps out of my mouth when I am in an Italian speaking atmosphere—like the filming session with Bruna and Rosa or on the streets of Rome. It has not been a conscious experience. I did not have a measurable fluency in Italian, just a few magical moments when I found myself speaking Italian. It was not something I could consciously conjure up at will.

When I experienced difficulty pronouncing simple Italian words, I realized it was a felt sense. I also became aware that following a heart’s desire is not just a joyous forward movement. It may include holding space for what prevented me from naturally speaking my family’s language. Something might show up as a heart’s desire because it has not  fully manifested in one’s life.

There is a lot of not knowing around how speaking Italian will benefit me, however, in subsequent focusing sessions, some valuable bodily experiences emerged. A burning sensation in my left hand helped me feel how the loneliness of exclusion from family discussions affected me. The adults around me had a secret language which they prohibited me from learning. It enhanced the feeling that I was not entirely a member of my family. As I wrote this sentence, a full-body sense came over me—a combination of nausea, fear, and breathlessness. I stood and allowed these sensations time to process. They eventually diminished. I expect more felt senses will emerge as I continue to hold space for learning more Italian and now, for not learning Italian.

When I embarked on this journey of my heart’s desire, I didn’t expect to meet its doppelgänger. It is, however, not surprising that both are there—the heart’s desire to speak Italian and the prohibition to speak it. My body has been screaming with all sorts of symptoms lately—nausea, breathlessness, aching joints, burning hands, and the inability to control the actions of my mouth.

How to Move Forward

The more time I give my body to experience itself in grounded presence, the more this bodily sense will emerge. I stand and let my body move in its own way.  I call in spiritual help from my ancestors. I ask this part that is suffering from speaking Italian to become aware of itself. My hands respond to my request for my body to comfort the suffering part. My right hand gently holds my left hand while I lie down. It is very soothing for my whole body. This position softens the bodily discord I experience.

I have become aware of this background “felt sense.” My ability to learn a language by listening to my caretakers, a natural part of one’s earliest human experience, was stopped cold. Both parts of me, to speak or not to speak Italian need my attention, compassion, and regard.

In two weeks, I will be in Italy for 18 days in a situation that will require me to speak Italian most of the time.  I am and will be holding space with equal regard for both my suffering self and my heart’s desire. This is what I was promised—that my life would change for the better as I live this experience.
https://code.responsivevoice.org/responsivevoice.js?key=QZ6OEIVG

N.B. The phrases mother language, mother tongue, and home language are used interchangeably.  They refer to the language spoken by the parents or guardians of a young child.

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