A few years ago, I was experiencing chronic anxiety due to a stressful situation at work. My body was deeply affected. My blood pressure, heart rate and diabetes markers were all higher than normal. I relied on my focusing practice to help me. In a Wholebody focusing session, a wordless felt sense of anxiety transformed into a sensation of me experiencing my own birth. As I exited the birth canal, I felt free from the anxiety that I had been experiencing. A new understanding emerged about how my body experienced anxiety.
This past week I had my first class with Addie van der Kooy and Cecilia Clegg called “Practicing Presence.” I came away from that workshop with some homework—pause and find your grounded presence whenever you can even if you are just waiting for the kettle to boil. The experience of these pauses helped me learn so much about myself.
One task I needed to do was to put together my bookcases that I had dismantled when the painters came to freshen up my apartment. For months I’ve been promising myself I would make some sense out of the mess so I could actually find a book I might want.
I began sorting my books into piles. I paused to be with all the categories looking for meaning. The first thing I noticed was how many journals I had. Even though writers are supposed to be people who wrote in journals all their lives, I never thought of myself as a journal writer. I found 11 full journals. Who knew? They are mostly from extended trips abroad and times of strife. This was the first big pause. I stopped to sense into “Who was this person who wrote in journals and what did she write about?” There were texts of prose, letters to angels, dreams, schedules, poetry and many different types of art—painting, drawing, collage, and textile design.
I paused with each journal in my hands. I found the text below in a journal I had written when I was struggling with cancer and my relationship with my mother.
The Rage Temple has Gone out of Business
You have rage that’s too dangerous to express?
Open up an account with me.
Just tell me your problem
And I’ll deposit it in my body.
And when my body explodes with rage
We are sorry.
Now these Temple doors are closed for good.
How long will it take to empty the inventory?
I had these journals. I never read them. I didn’t remember writing them. I didn’t remember me. A pause changed that. The pause got me to open the journals and remember the me who wrote them.
The next pause helped me notice what books I have been reading. There were a large number of books about all sorts of energy healing, diet, health, wellness, etc. There’s a considerable number of books about Focusing and WBF. There are also books about Reiki, Flower Essence Therapy and Homeopathy. These are all practices that are now as normal to me as breathing. I paused with the books and I sensed how I loved learning about these modalities and how they have saved me and helped me move toward my highest and greatest good.
The next pause that came was around artistic endeavors. There are books on crochet, drawing, creating Flash cartoons, dance, poetry, and feminist literary criticism. As I was putting some odd books away, I paused again. Where should I put my bound copy of the Master’s thesis? It is study of two Spanish women writers who wrote about breaking free, or not, of their patriarchal limitations. They do this through writing self-begetting novels about women who read Fascist romance novels as children and are trying to create new structures for novels about women’s lives. It suddenly occurred to me that my thesis should go with the other books of feminist literary criticism. Some of these books were quoted in my work. Rather than being just an activity that I did to graduate, I could understand now that this work is a companion to the other books of feminist literary criticism that I had.
Each time I paused, I felt more like myself. I felt more appreciation for who I am, the struggles I’ve survived and the beauty I created along the way. This is an appreciation I had never felt before because I was always too busy trying to change myself to be something or someone “better.” Instead, I now know that this treasure trove of information about me is readily available and that whenever I pause and hold space with equal regard for what is there, something new about me will emerge.
Fusako Nakamura is a long-time Wholebody Focuser who experiences an essential connection between her spiritual practice of Zen Buddhism and Wholebody Focusing. On the evening of the filming of this video, a monk from the local Buddhist temple came to chant at her door just as we were about to start filming. We get to hear his chant as part of the video and feel the integration of Fusako’s spirituality and WBF practice in real time.
What she shares with us is how the importance in Zen Buddhism of honoring ancestors is enlivened by her Wholebody focusing practice. Please enjoy the aliveness in Fusako’s spiritual practice and how Heartfelt Conversation helps her to feel connected to others and allows her to feel less lonely.
For those who would like to use the Audio Guiding Suggestions/Intunements that Kevin has provided to the blog for their practice, here is an easy way to find them on the blog. Below you will find an index of the three albums of intunements that are available. The three albums have different themes:
- First Intunements is for anyone who wants to start or become more proficient at Wholebody Focusing;
- Coming Home is for anyone who has some basic understanding of Wholebody Focusing and wants to deepen their practice; and
- Exploring the Unexplored is for anyone who wants to extend their practice in ways that they may not have yet experienced.
These Audio Guiding Suggestions/Intunements are here for your free use and enjoyment. Our greatest wish is that they bring healing into the lives the people who listen to them.
Please find the Audio Guiding Suggestion/Intunement you are interested in below. This list will be on the home page for three days.
After a new blog appears on the home page, you will be able to:
- Use the “Search by Theme” menu and click on “Audio Guiding Suggestions/Intunements.” This index will be the first page that comes up. Just click on the links on this page and it will get you to the intunement for which you are searching.
- You can also access this list on the Home Page menu option “Audio Guiding Suggestions/Intunements Index.” Once again, click on the name of the intunement, it will take you to the page where you will find it.
Below is a list by album of all the intunements.
Painting by Kevin McEvenue
Intunement # 1 Finding Me
Intunement # 2 We Need a Physical Connection to Find Me
Intunement # 3 What Feels Alive in Me Right Now?
Intunement # 4 Gravity: Accepting Life Itself Unconditionally
Intunement #5 Tuning into a Direct Experience Awakens a Connection with the Embodied Self
Intunement # 6 To Feel Good about Myself is Desirable
Intunement # 7 The Experience of Something that has a Consciousness all its Own!
Intunement # 8 Finding a Safe Structure to Experience Life Fully Inside Me as Me!
Intunement # 9 Explore the Power of Listening Silently to the Alive, a Force, in side of all of us!
Intunement # 10 From a Solid Base of Me Here I ask, “What is going on in Me Right Now?”
Intunement # 11 Looking for the Life Support to Move Forward the Complexity of a Growing Me?
Intunement # 12 Meet that Inner Power in each of US: It Knows How to Put us Together Again!
Painting by Kevin McEvenue
Coming Home – Intunements to Deepen your Practice
Intunement # 13 Something in Me Hurts!
Intunement # 14 The Felt Sense of What Feels Alive and the More that Emerges from that Alive
Intunement # 15 Asking, What is There in Me? Just Noticing the Different Body Responses!
Intunement # 16 A Shared Body to Body Listening & Understanding Beyond Trying to Think
Intunement # 17 An Active Meditation to Welcome What Wants to Present Itself for your Attention
Intunement # 18 Me & Planet Earth That Sustains Me & More
Intunement # 19 Life just ‘Moves’. Just ‘IS’. That is what it is to say ‘I Am’!
Intunement # 20 An Active Meditation to Invite a Question: “What is Alive in Me Right Now?”
Intunement # 21 Holding Both with Equal Positive Regard!
Intunement # 22 An Inner-Directed Experience
Intunement # 23 Active Meditation with the Breathing Self as “Me Here!”
Intunement # 24 The Power to Pause and Wait For!
Photo Credit: Michael Lux – Mohonk Preserve
Exploring the Unexplored
Intunement # 25 Felt Sense Naming and Reflecting a Body Experience
Intunement # 26 Coming Home to Me Again
Intunement # 27 The Arm Raising Exercise
Intunement # 28 A New Way to be with Pain
Intunement # 29 The Basic Elements of Wholebody Focusing and the Not Knowing
Intunement # 30 Active Meditation to Inform Me about Me
Intunement # 31 Listen to the Warm
Intunement # 32 To Discern & Unpack What is There
Intunement # 33 What do I do When Something Feels Right?
Intunement # 34 Something Is Not Right!
Intunement # 35 Asking for Help!
Intunement # 36 Who Am I?
Intunement # 37 Asking: Who Are You?
I follow the MeToo movement closely because it addresses a reality that is central to my existence. Sexual abuse trauma dominates my emotional life. I was never sexually abused, however, my mother was. Her sexual abuse impacted her ability to be a mother to me. I recently became aware of the depth of this reality when I read a paragraph about what it is like to be in relationship with a narcissist.
A relationship with a narcissist is a desperate relationship where you
are always feeling vulnerable, worthless, hated, constantly explaining
yourself, silenced, punished, and traumatized. What is it that you are
actually doing wrong? Nothing!
This describes what it was like to be my mother’s daughter. Extreme abuse can engender a particular type of narcissism–one that is based on an absence of self. My mother, a victim of sexual abuse, needed to throw her own negative feelings about herself onto me in order to live with the unbearable wound of her experience. I experienced my relationship with my mother as always feeling a need to defend myself and the surety that there was no love or margin for error available to me.
The dominance of this felt sense in my life became clear to me one day while I was preparing for a medical test. I was extremely nervous about the procedure and, try as I might, I could not find grounded presence. Thoughts of random moments in the past in which I felt traumatized by interactions with others kept surfacing. There were so many from such a wide variety of different points in my life that I became completely overwhelmed. I paused with this sense of overwhelm. A new realization eventually emerged—it wasn’t about the fast shifting narratives floating through me.
I love to discover the naturalness of Wholebody Focusing in life itself, including in art and music. I found something new listening to Billie Holiday’s version of Good Morning Heartache.
Focusing is based on the work of Gene Gendlin. He worked with Carl Rodgers to research why some people thrive in psychotherapy and others did not. Their award-winning research found that whether or not psychotherapy helped a person with their emotional issues was not related to the type of therapy or the skill of the therapist. It had mostly to do with the client’s innate ability to be aware of their emotional challenges in a meta-cognitive way. Focusing and Wholebody Focusing are practices that help people learn how to become more aware of their inner emotional life in a way that naturally helps one heal.
Good Morning, Heartache is a wonderful example of how as someone becomes aware and accepting of what is there emotionally, healing begins. In this song, Ms. Holiday’s voice guides us through her experience of heartache. She starts with wanting the heartache to “get lost” and cycles through what comes for her by being with these feelings. She ends with lightheartedly offering her heartache to “sit down” next to her. This song demonstrates an important practice in Focusing in which one can hold both the heartache and the not wanting the heartache with equal regard as a part of the healing process.
Click “Continue Reading” to hear the song.
Christel Kraft is one of the original focusers who worked with Gene Gendlin when he first started teaching focusing. She has been a life long focuser and is now in her 80’s. During a recent Monthly Gathering of WBFers sponsored by Focusing Initiatives International, Christel shared with the group how focusing helps her connect to how her life is now.
My Wholebody Focusing practice is mostly silent. I move into grounded presence and give my body permission to move in the ways it needs. Automatic or spontaneous movements emerge. Words or images might surface but not necessarily. I eventually settled on this type of practice because it allows me to remain in grounded presence in a deeper and more sustained way. Without the need to search for words or images, I do not get triggered out of grounded presence as easily and I don’t have to worry about whether I am doing something “right” or if I’m addressing what is needed. My body takes care of that. Whatever emerges from my body is what it needs. I just need to give what emerges my awareness, equal regard and my consent.
Two dominant movements have consistently emerged. The first one is how every session starts. If I stand, my legs shake from the hips to the ankles. This movement first came to me during an automatic movement Qigong session many years ago. If I am sitting, my feet lift off the floor and shake in a different way. I have a vague sense of what is behind these movements. The leg movements seem to have a cleansing quality. It feels like a release of built up tension or static that might get in the way of what my body might need.
The second dominant movement usually emerges while my legs are still shaking. My arms shoot up over my head and stay there. My arms can be moving or still. This second movement emerged in a foundational session related to an image that has been with me for a long time—an image of a small bird with damaged wings that stubbornly preferred not to change in any way. This movement emerged during a health crisis. In a grounded state, I brought my awareness to how this crisis was affecting my body. My arms flew up at the same time a Kundalini-like sensation of a tornado arose from my feet and moved toward the top of my head. My understanding of this movement is that it was a moment in which this little bird tested its wings and found that they actually worked. This was a turning point in this health crisis. This movement emerges each time I am in grounded presence to remind me that anything is possible and to give me courage. Both of these dominant movements ebb and flow through my sessions in relation to whatever else emerges.