Tango as a Metaphor for Life

Photo Credit: Michael Lux

Sometimes we have patterns that are so ingrained we accept them as “our way” or, even if we are not totally in agreement with the model we continue using it without question because we have beliefs that support this pattern.

At the recent Felt Sense Conference in New York City, sponsored by The International Focusing Institute, I had an opportunity to be with an amazing “coach” who helped me experience an old pattern differently and try something new over and over again in a very safe way.  This later translated into making a shift when faced with the original pattern.

The Dance of Physical Heartfelt Connection

On Friday, I attended Samarra Burnett’s class called Tango, The Dance of Interaction. She suggested that it be “done in socks, no shoes” and about 16 people showed up to the class. We were to learn to connect physically with each other using focusing and Argentine Social Tango Dancing as the vehicle.

Samarra explained that the main focus was to learn to connect to the movements of your partner using some effortless Tango movements. We were not preparing to perform the type of Tango that most people think of when they hear the word Tango.

To start, we took off our shoes and stood in a circle. Samarra asked us to pick a partner. I immediately felt triggered. One reason I gave up social dancing was that pressure of facing the dilemma of wanting/being wanted by another. Most people picked the person next to them, so that made it more comfortable. From that point on, Samarra organized the class in such a way that our future partner was predetermined. No more anxiety about whether or not I was wanting/being wanted by another. My body relaxed.

Samarra explained that our main task was to use a traditional tango embrace to sense into the movement of our partner for the distinct purpose of supporting each other as a focuser and listener would do when they are in partnership. The moves she showed us were smooth and gentle. The interaction was loving with a sincere intention to support each other.

How Repetition Helped

We practiced each movement with one partner and then moved on to another partner and learned a minor variation of that same movement. After each new experience, we had time to process what came for us. We did this over and over again for about three hours until we had danced with almost everyone in the room. We gained confidence not only in our ability to move in a certain way but also that we could gently lead or follow anyone that we connected with in order to tango. The last exercise was to dance with our eyes closed, not checking on who our partner was. My last partner just wanted to hold the embrace without moving. It was so different from holding space for someone to support our mutual movement. Now I had experience with holding a silent, non-moving interaction for the benefit of both of us.

When I left the room, I was joyful. I had a chance to dance socially without the burden that usually comes for me with partner dancing. I loved how each embrace with different people was unique but also provided this body sense of gentle support and a willingness to be open to each other. I credit this feeling to Samarra’s use of focusing principles and the group’s willingness to trust her leadership.

How an Old Pattern Opened to a New Experience

It wasn’t until Sunday, however, that I realized the value of the work we did. I attended the closing workshop at Lynn Preston’s loft. The main focus of this event was to be present to what had come and was still coming for us from our experience with the Felt Sense Conference.

I started the morning as I usually do, finding a seat and staying put—not wanting to interact with others at the gathering. I did this because it is what I often do when there is a possibility of interacting with a large group of people. We were asked to share briefly about what was present for us. I shared a bit about the Tango class. After I shared, a new understanding emerged.

I became aware of my need to sit still in this large group as a coping pattern. I became curious about this and just allowed my body to stay still as long as it wanted. At some point, there was an invitation to stand. I did stand, and then there was a moment when people were connecting to each other. I found myself standing alone, on the edge of these interactions.

A thought came to me. I could enter the fray rather than standing on the edge—something I usually do not do. I thought of how wonderful the physical connections that were made in the Tango class were and decided to walk up to someone I knew would welcome me. She did, and that opened up my ability to be among the group and interact with the people I had connected to during the conference and even some new people. We exchanged emails, took pictures, and, made plans to stay connected.

I credit the Tango class with helping that happen. Rather than sticking to my typical pattern, Samarra had offered lots of safe, gentle coaching to help us find a new way to be with people we were somewhat acquainted with and some who we didn’t already know. Three hours of practicing how to connect to another person opened me up to find other ways to communicate that felt natural and free of anxiety. Doing this first on a physical level without words or narrative gave me the courage to do this on a personal level without my usual social anxiety.

How Non-Verbal Heartfelt Conversation with Movement Can Translate into New Teaching Opportunities

This experience helped me understand that being part of a non-verbal heartfelt conversation based on mutual body movements allowed me to be able to be curious about other interactions in spite of my long-standing pattern of shying away from social interaction.  I needed new experiences to replace the dominance of what was there before.  These new experiences, rooted in my body, allowed me to successfully experiment with new social interactions.  How can we use repetitive movement that encourages focusers to connect to others support our trauma and create space to move forward?

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My New Reality Now

Untitled Collage by Michael Lux

“The whole structure of me has expanded and been transformed by the very trauma that was given to me and that trauma becomes a source of inspiration without which I would have never become me.”
Kevin McEvenue
Founder, Wholebody Focusing

Addie van der Kooy, Kevin McEvenue and I spent an afternoon in February discussing the many manifestations of the “Me Here” muscle as part of our Wholebody Focusing practice. We are sharing more of that conversation through these videos. They document what has been coming for us from our collaboration with our grounded selves and with each other. We listened to each other and found new places—tiny spaces that we did not know were there that emerged on this chilly day in February. We are very excited about sharing them with others who are interested in the continued development of Wholebody Focusing.

A Heartfelt Conversation of Practitioners

The two clips at the end of this post are the result of our desire to be with what we are learning as we move forward with our own healing and the healing of the clients and students with whom we work.

In the first video, we shared our observations which included an example of the quietly holding of space for our trauma while holding space for our sense of “Me Here.” This way to hold space is different from traditional focusing in which one might hold space for the trauma and for a part that is critical of the trauma or not wanting to recognize its existence. As we held space for what came, we were moved deeper into our understanding of the value of this work and its nuances. We brought the information that we shared into our bodies and responded with what came for each of us. At the same time, we connected what we already know about the Wholebody Focusing process to the new ideas that are emerging. We explained what is happening on a physical, emotional and spiritual level. This process is something that helped us find our “New Reality Now.” We used the process of Heartfelt Conversation to get us there.

In the second video, we began to discuss the implications of what we are uncovering, how it might change the way we are connecting to ourselves and, how we are teaching Wholebody Focusing.

How to Watch the Videos

We offer some suggestions on how to approach the content presented here.

You can refresh your memory of the original concepts of this discussion by reviewing: https://wholebodyfocusing.blog/2019/04/28/holding-space-for-me-here-and-our-trauma/.

You can watch Example and Explanation and the Implications video only.

Or, you can take novelist Julio Cortazar’s advice about reading when he was discussing his book Hopscotch. He encouraged readers to read his chapters in any order they choose and to come up with their own understanding of what is written. You can also watch the last four “Me Here” videos in any order and notice if something new emerges.

As always, we invite our readers to share their reactions, comments and concerns as part of this dialogue.

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The Worst Has Passed/Il peggio è passato

Photo Credit: Michael Lux – Sitting in a bar in Rome watching Italian soccer

What happens when we become disconnected from all or part of our families of origin, our languages, or our culture?  How does it live in our bodies? I’ve had much time to be with this.

All four of my grandparents were immigrants from Italy who left between 1909 and 1912. None of them ever returned to visit their families. They met their spouses in the USA and created new families that were unlike their own. While they each eventually married someone from their region of Italy, they were from different places. My grandmothers were from small towns, and my grandfathers were from large cities.

The Italian language, food, and culture were part of my parents’ upbringing. Both parents started school in the USA not speaking English. The schools they attended treated them as if they lacked intellectual ability rather than needing to learn English. This experience damaged them for life. Their response to this trauma was to forbid their children to speak Italian because they did not want us to suffer the way they did.

I’ve written about how a body sense that learning Italian is a heart desire for me, something that would significantly improve my life. I’ve been studying Italian and attending Changes sessions with Italian focusers via video conferencing. There was a session that helped me learn how vital regaining access to this ancestral language could be.

During my session with my Italian partner, I decided to hold space for my digestive system that has always been an unhappy part of me.  First came gentle inner-directed movements, then my hands rested on the areas of my abdomen that feel the most pain. There was also some burping and gurgling. As I held this space, a thought came for me “the worst has passed.” I do not understand what this was referring to, but my body was letting go of something, and I felt some relief.

As I was holding space for this part, I had an urge to say this phrase in Italian. I asked my partner to translate it for me so I could say it on my own. She said, “Il peggio è passato.” When I repeated those words, my body understood it differently. My body suddenly bent over toward the table in front of me, and I began to sob. It recognized and responded to this phrase more dramatically in Italian than saying the words in English.

I do not know what accounts for this difference. I want to hold space for what happened without judgment of what it meant so that more can come. Even though there is a “not knowing” why the Italian words were so much more powerful, I can hold space for the fact they were. This experience supports that felt sense that something special awaits me as I learn more Italian. I am also a bit bewildered how that particular phrase happened to show up in Italian when I never spoke any words of Italian until I was in my twenties. I remember thinking that this may be coming from an inherited trauma rather than something I actually experienced.

It also helps me understand that the experience of immigration can take generations to find a harmonious place. Immigration has become a contentious issue in our country right now. My heart goes out to all those who are experiencing the type of life energy stopping treatment that my relatives suffered.

 

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Paused to be Love

Photo Credit: Pixabay

I recently wrote about exploring that place in me that is Love. Here is an experience of that intention.

Change Your Mind

The first day of Spring gave me a lovely present. In New York City, the weather was mild and sunny. It was a beautiful day to walk around my neighborhood.

As I walked toward my favorite organic grocery store in the East Village, I became curious about an old school building, PS 122, that was converted in 1980 into a performance artist workshop operated by the artists. I used to live across the street from this building and went to many avant-garde performances there. It was in a constant state of disrepair and construction. A few years ago, the building got a 37 million dollar gentrification makeover and was taken over by a prestigious art institution in NYC. I never even considered going inside. I felt that it was part of the general destruction of a neighborhood that was once cheap enough for anyone to live and had supported a broad range of art and life.

As I walked by, I paused to be with this new incarnation of the building. There were inviting signs announcing some new performances, and I decided to go in. I spoke to the people at the front desk and found out there was a multimedia exhibition open to the public about the political nature of cells. I spent some time with this exhibit. My favorite part was seeing a video of the sun’s rays shining on the particles that are part of the air we breathe. It was called “This Is Your Living Room.”

I also got a chance to use the bathroom there. It was gender neutral with multiple stalls. This new architectural adaptation felt right to me and something that was needed to reduce gender bias.

While I am sad that I may never see the likes of Penny Arcade’s outspoken rants or Bina Sharif’s insightful plays in this building again, I got a chance to see that there is something here that does support art and life.

Try a Little Kindness

When I got to the newly-opened organic grocery, I noticed a Latino man in his forties putting vegetables on the shelf. He looked familiar to me. As I paused with that sense of familiarity, I found myself asking him if he had worked in one of the other grocery stores in the neighborhood. He had, and the store had closed. I hadn’t seen him in more than ten years, but I remembered his kindness from when he worked in the other store. I felt delighted that he was now working in this new, well-run store and wished him well in his new job. I needed to pause with the surprise that I felt because I recognized someone with whom I rarely interacted simply because his kindness was always so present.

Good Vibrations

As I walked back home, I realized I wanted to pick up a plant for my apartment. There is a fantastic store, EviFlorist, run by a family of Latin Americans who has in-depth knowledge and skill with plants. They also have a fabulous collection of gems and are able to help their customers select plants and crystals that will enrich their lives.

The moment you are near the store the vibrational energy increases. There are so many plants and gems that every breath you take raises your own energy levels. I selected a fresh hyacinth just beginning to bloom. I saw the crystals and thought I needed to bring this kind of energy into my life–more plants and more gems. I purchased a fist-sized Fluorite crystal selecting a particular one by holding them in my hands to see which one had the strongest vibration for me. I chose the one that lifted my hand up and down.

Big Yellow Taxi

As I happily left the store with my purchases, I realized that I couldn’t carry the groceries, the plant, and the crystal all the way home and I searched for a cab. I have a sure fire way to get a cab in NYC. Instead of using my cell phone, I sing a song to myself inviting a cab driver to find me. Within 30 seconds I was in a cab. The driver was a man who wore a Sikh turban. I noticed that he was stressed. I let him know that I was grateful to him for finding me with all these packages and that I was not concerned with the traffic. He relaxed. I saw he was a very young man challenged by the pressures of being a cab driver in NYC. By the time we got to my apartment, he had noticed me. He offered to help me with my bags, and we wished each other a good day.

When I was walking into my apartment building, I found a name for this experience—the Magical Mystery Tour. No drugs needed just Love.

Sister Hazel https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y944YxuE1OU

Glenn Campbell  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MvswocNN-g8

Beach Boys  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eab_beh07HU

Joni Mitchel https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94bdMSCdw20

Beatles https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l8WMGBuNaus

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Inviting Readers to Become Contributors

The mission of this blog is to encourage heartfelt conversation among the Wholebody Focusers from around the world.  We have been quite successful up until now but need more Contributor to keep the blog viable in the long term.

In the past year, contributions have come from eleven contributors.  We are looking to increase the number of voices that write posts on the blog to at least 20.  I will keep everyone informed as we are beginning to meet our goal.

If you have some Wholebody Focusing experience and would like to contribute something that you have experienced as part of your practice, how something shifted in you,  or how WBF is part of the fabric of your life, we would love to publish it. If you speak a language other than English and would like to participate in your own language, we can help you do that.

To Get Permission to Submit a Blog Post to this Site

If you would like to become a “contributor” to this blog, please send an email to wbf285@gmail.com and a reason why you are interested in becoming an author or contributor.  You will be contacted regarding your request.

Contributor

If your request to become a Contributor is approved, you will receive an invitation to become a Contributor.  You will get an email to that effect, and you will need to click on the link in the email and set up your contributor account.  A Contributor can create and edit only their own posts, but cannot publish them.

Please consider the possibility of helping maintain the viability of the blog and to give your own voice a chance to be heard.

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Are We Love?

Photo Credit: Pixabay

I finally found the part of me that wants to be loved and the part that does not believe it is safe to be loved. I also discovered how these two parts rule my planet. My practice is to find a way to hold both the need for love and the fear that it may be harmful with equal regard. There still is a “not knowing” what holding both might feel like in my body.

Maria Hakasalo gave me something to sense into in her post “Peace in Me” when she wrote, “There is a peace in me, and I can find it even in a painful moment.” If Maria can assume that peace can be found somewhere inside of her, could I expect that I will encounter pure love, unattached to human interaction/transaction, inside me? How would that help me be with my fear of love? If love does not rely on someone else’s character but on the essential nature of love, how could it be unsafe? But does it exist as Maria’s peace place existed? This is my current exploration.

When we depend on resources outside ourselves to determine our worth, we may fall short. Can I find pure love devoid of judgment or transaction inside me? How will this change who I am? How will it change how I relate to love and how I relate to others? What would it feel like to know with surety that I am love?

I search for that magical place inside me in which love is present, and love and I are one and the same.

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When an Old Wound Becomes Present to Itself

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Sometimes we know that we do something repetitively that prevents our forward movement. It happens seemingly without explanation. Then one day a connection shows up after revisiting a very familiar place.

The Pattern

I have a difficult time taking medication that I need to take care of myself.  I will take a remedy for a brief period and experience improvement and then suddenly start to have a body sense that instead of supporting life it is causing problems.  Then I stop taking the medication and the chronic problem returns.

The Old Wound

I grew up in a family in which multiple female relatives were victims of sexual abuse from another relative I’ll call P.  P died when I was 14 months old.  I grew up hating P because all I knew about him was how he hurt the women in my life.

In a healing session when I was 40 years old, the Reiki master asked me a question.  “Who do you love?”  It took some time and at the end of the session I blurted out from my gut, “I love P” and began to sob deeps sobs like I never felt before.  All I could think was it is impossible that I could love him. My body; however, was sure that I loved him more than I had ever loved anyone else.  I spent months being with the grief that I had never had a chance to express.

I asked my mother whether I ever had a relationship with P and she said he was quite old and knew he was about to die when I was a baby.  He and I became inseparable.  As soon as we were in the same room, I would be in his arms, and he held me for hours at a time.  That love feels benevolent and pure in my body.

The Dilemma

P was the serial child molester of the women in my life, AND I loved him deeply because I felt most loved by him.  The women he harmed were not capable of loving me and caring for me because of the damage he had caused them. The memory of his energy; however, emerged in my life as the best love I had ever received in spite of what I learned about him as I grew up.  It is challenging to hold both the nature of the love I felt for him and what I also know about him.

The Wholebody Focusing Session

Kevin and I had a session in which I revisited this experience holding both my hatred for P and my sense of pure love that lived in me. In a slow and embodied way, I experienced the dilemma through movement and breath without words.  There was no sensation of a shift nor was there any new insight during the session.

What Happened Later?

After the session, I realized that I needed to take some medication for acid reflux because this new way of being with this dilemma stirred up my digestive tract.  I reached for a relatively new remedy that I had been taking for a few weeks with great success and felt sure that relief was just a pill away.

Before I took the pill, I suddenly had a thought.  I had never checked the label to make sure that this remedy was free from any known allergens.  I took a look and realized that one of the ingredients was brown algae.  I have a severe seafood allergy, and sometimes sea products have a high level of iodine which can trigger a seafood allergy.  I suddenly felt great fear about taking another dose.

Something made me pause before I completely embodied the fear.  Why did I think about whether this remedy was a problem at this time even though I had weeks of taking it without a problem?

I sensed something new was opening up.  I realized that the conflict around the medication was the same dilemma as my connection to P—something that feels so life supporting could also be very hurtful.  How could I trust my deep body sense of being loved when P was its source?  Even though my body sense of the interaction with him was benevolence, my thoughts tell me that it can’t be trusted.

My relationship with medication and food has mirrored my relationship with the feeling of being loved.  When something makes me feel good, fear rises, and I find reasons to stop the interaction.  I am anxious about eating food in the same way.  Something that nourishes can also cause damage.

What is New?

There was a great relief in this discovery.  Of course I fear nourishment and love, my best and most reliable source of love was someone who was also capable of great betrayal.  I have moved from the “not knowing” to the knowing what causes this pattern of trust and stoppage. I can hold space for the part of me that experienced great love and also great disappointment and fear of that love.  My pattern of fearing the very things that may help me is the beacon that lit the path to this moment.  My Wholebody Focusing practice is the vehicle in which this journey became possible.

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Wholebody Focusing Trainer Corner

Trainer logo2mergeInspired by the work that Addie van de Kooy has been adding to the blog that precisely describes what happens when someone learns Wholebody focusing, we decided to develop a new category of communication. We want to provide those who are Wholebody Focusing Trainers with a place to share their expertise and have a Heartfelt Conversation on how to deepen our practice of working with our clients. Kevin McEvenue’s Intunements are an extraordinary resource that can support both personal practice as well as the work of WBF trainers. Kevin is genuinely interested; however, in being a part of the growth and expansion of how the teaching of Wholebody Focusing can support the forward moving life in all of us.

To that end, we have created this new area in the blog called The Wholebody Focusing Trainer Corner so that information about teaching Wholebody Focusing can be shared and discussed. One should consider the Intunements as part of this training material; however, it will continue to have a separate section on the blog because it serves individual practice as well.

We invite all those who teach Wholebody Focusing to share with us your best practices. If you would like support to prepare an article or video for this section, please contact Diana Scalera at wbf285@gmail.com.

Enjoy the fantastic work of those who are carrying forward what they have learned and continue to find new ways of supporting life in all of us.

Today we are going to highlight a trainer in China.  YongWei Xu shares how she experiences Wholebody Focusing and Heartfelt Conversation in her life and the lives of her focusing partners and clients. She also describes her work with Wholebody Focusers in a small village near Shanghai.

To watch this video in English please click on https://wholebodyfocusing.blog/2018/03/27/is-this-the-life-i-really-want/

 

 

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