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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The “Holding Both with Equal Regard” Challenge

Photo Credit: Pixabay

How do we live day to day with so much evidence that our society does not support basic human needs? It is like being children and having families that do not meet our needs. I propose that our readers practice “holding both with equal regard” when we are encouraged or disturbed by what is happening politically. Take time to be with the body sense of your experience and share the results in the comments section of this blog.

Election night 2016, my friends and I went to a performance of Coriolanus, a Shakespeare play about governmental corruption and abuse of power. At the end of the play, everyone in the audience turned on their cell phones at the same time and collectively groaned. The news said, much to everyone’s surprise in NYC, that Donald Trump had won the election for president.

From that night on, most Americans have had their concept of being an American undercut in some way. We all do not share the same ideas. For examples, some of us have been horrified by the growth of white nationalism, while others are firmly against the radical changes that some groups propose.

One thing that has happened, as a result, is that more people are taking an interest in politics and discussing it, arguing it, and feeling it in our bodies.

How Can Wholebody Focusing Help?

I propose we do a mini-research on how “holding both with equal regard” can help us to move forward in this challenging environment. This activity is not limited to people who live in the USA.  There are many reasons people in other countries are experiencing the same instability.  I recommend the following:

  1. Notice when you see, read, or hear something that is accompanied by a body reaction.
  2. Connect to your grounded presence.
  3. Pause to be with that reaction by holding both with equal regard. If it is something we like, give your body time to process it. If it is disturbing, also welcome it and allow your body to process this new information.
  4. Let your body show you when it is complete. You might notice that the strength of the reaction has lessened or you have moved on to another idea.
  5. Over time, notice if there is anything different in how you are experiencing the ups and downs of the current political situation.
  6. Send comments to the blog about what you are noticing.

We look forward to hearing from you.

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Taking Focusing With You on a Bus

Photo Credit: Dakar, Senegal bus station Michael Lux

I am supporting Pat Omidian as we work with  refugee workers and administrators in Uganda to use focusing methods in a psychosocial support (PSS) course to improve community wellness with the groups with whom they work.  We are teaching this course online. 

Reflecting your Partner’s Felt Sense

One session was about reflecting on what we are experiencing in a particular moment in a focusing way. It was also about learning to be a good listener and how to reflect what your partner is saying in a focusing manner.

Denis Lyagoba, one of the participants, and I were in a breakout room together to practice reflecting on each other’s experiences.

Denis started by choosing a recent experience of being on a bus with colleagues to get to a location together. At some point, a problem occurred that prevented the bus from going forward. Denis reported that he felt frustrated that the group might not be able to get to the place they needed to go. I reflected what he said, “A part of you was frustrated that you might not get to where you needed to go.”

Denis repeated this and let it sink into his body. More came. He told me that he was frustrated with the others on the bus who were yelling instructions at the driver. I repeated back to Denis, “A part of you was frustrated that the others were yelling instructions at the driver. He reported how he decided to be quiet, go inside and let the scenario play out without his participation. Then more came. He knew that the driver was very competent. He was frequently the driver for the group and had shown great steadiness in his work. Denis held onto his belief that the driver alone had the greatest possibility of solving the problem. I repeated back to Denis, “A part of you knew that the driver would be able to solve the problem using his knowledge and skills.” Denis reported that they were able to get to their specified location. He talked about how his way of coping with the stress of the stoppage of the bus and the chaos of his collegues was to go inside and hold space for his knowledge that the driver was skillful.

How What Comes for One Partner May Impact the Other

I asked Denis if I could share my own stressful bus experience. He agreed. I live in New York City, and occasionally, we get monster snow storms. I was an NYC school administrator and, one day during a major blizzard, the City administration decided that all staff and students should make their way to school even though the blizzard was already in full force.

I let Denis know that I was angry that the City made this decision. It was dangerous for children and adults to try to get to their schools in these conditions. When I first started to teach many years ago, one of my students was killed by a truck during another blizzard in which the schools were left open. This memory was the basis of the anger that lived in my body. Denis reflected that a part of me was angry that the schools were left open during a storm.

Then I explained to Denis that I was scared for my well-being and the well-being of the children and staff members who were impacted by this decision. I needed to take a very long bus ride and was scared to get on the bus. Denis reflected that “part of me was scared to get on the bus.”

I explained that because of my fear, I sat as close to the driver as I could to watch his every move. The driver’s body language informed me that he took his responsibility for the safety of the passengers very seriously, and he was doing everything he could to keep us safe. That knowledge opened up my heart, and what came for me was a sense of admiration for his dedication to his job. That helped me relax and let go of my fear. Denis reflected that my trust in the driver helped the parts that were angry and afraid, just as it did in his experience.

How Does Focusing Help Us Everyday

Focusing is mysterious like this. Denis and I got placed into the same breakout room randomly. We had a parallel experience that reinforced our ability to sense into each other’s dilemma and also connected us to how focusing supports us in everyday life. As we listened to each other’s experience and reflected what we heard, we were able to stay aware of each other and to support ourselves by holding space for all the different emotions we had in response to our situation.

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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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Boundary Wall / Rajamuuri

Photo Credit: Pixabay

I attend a meeting where I suddenly find myself vigorously, downright angry, opposing an initiative to determine  “who will be accepted to our group, and who won’t”.

I Do Not Want Everybody In!

After the meeting, I am with my own anger. Ashamed. What is this about? Why do I feel such strong anger in a matter that is essentially just a matter of conversation?

I start to feel a strong lump in my stomach. The lump is not just a lump. It has boundaries. The walls that guard. Disqualify.

There is a small me inside the lump, who is aware of the boundary because not all should be allowed inside. The lump is not just me, but it is us. “They” belong outside. Those others. Those who are dubious. Different. Those who don’t belong to us.

The lump pushes the diaphragm so that it is difficult for me to breathe. There is right, and there is wrong. Just those two. I don’t precisely know the rules for right and wrong, nevertheless, a part of me feels I should know who belongs to us, and who doesn’t.

There is somebody outside of me, who is part of us and who knows…and is now testing me if I know it too, because I MUST know.

But I don’t.

Continue reading Boundary Wall / Rajamuuri

Peace in Me / Rauha minussa

Photo Credit: Cerro Santa Lucia in Santiago, Chile by Maria Hakasalo

I sit in a subway in Santiago, Chile. My husband sits at the other end of the full car. I am worried. The next day we go in different directions. He will leave by himself for a backpacking trip to Paraguay, to Iguazu Falls in Brazil and later to Argentina, while I will spend a week in Punta de Tralca, Chile. I will be safe–his experience is an unknown. Who knows, it may even be a bit dangerous. Something in me is absolutely scared.

A man gets on the subway car with another man. They are  standing near the door. The man holds on to an adjacent bar. Noticing him, I suddenly start to feel my feet firmly against the floor of the car. Peace begins to rise up all over my body. I look at the man when he speaks to his companion.  Just an ordinary man about sixty years old carrying a briefcase in his hand. He’s taller than other men in the car.

I look at people around me curiously: could I find someone else with the same peace in their face and in their whole appearance? Not a soul.

After a while, the man leaves the subway. Deep peace in me does not disappear.

This experience reminds me of focusing, when I am with issues, thoughts or feelings that can arise, there is resistance, fear, and hardening in me. When I pay attention to the support of the floor, the chair, the environment, the listener, I start to feel my grounded presence and me here that is completely safe and peaceful.

Later, I realize that the peace of that man resonated with the peace that was just hidden somewhere in me at that moment. There is a peace in me, and I can find it even in a painful moment.

I can feel the same when listening to Kevin’s attunement at:

Looking for the Life Support to Move Forward the Complexity of a Growing Me?


Istun metrovaunussa Santiagossa, Chilessä. Puolisoni istuu toisessa päässä täyttä vaunua. Olen huolissani. Seuraavana päivänä me menemme eri suuntiin. Hän lähtee yksin reppureissailemaan Paraguayhin, ja Iguassun putouksille sekä Brasilian että Argentiinan puolelle samaan aikaan, kun minä vietän viikon Punta de Tralcassa, Chilessä. Minä olen turvassa, hän tuntemattomassa, kuka tietää, jopa vaarallisessa paikassa. Joku minussa on todella peloissaan.

Metrovaunuun nousee mies toisen miehen kanssa. He jäävät seisomaan oven suulle. Mies ottaa tukea viereisestä tangosta. Kun näen hänet, alan yhtäkkiä tuntea jalkapohjani tukevasti vaunun lattiaa vasten. Rauha alkaa nousta ylöspäin koko kehooni. Katson miestä, kun hän puhuu toiselle. Aivan tavallinen mies, noin kuudenkymmenen ikäinen salkku kädessään. Pidempi kuin moni mies ympärillään.

Katson ihmisiä ympärilläni uteliaana: löytyisikö joku toinenkin, jonka kasvoista ja koko olemuksesta huokuisi sama rauha kuin miehestä vierelläni. Ei ketään.

Jonkun ajan päästä mies poistuu metrosta. Minussa asuva syvä rauha ei häviä.

Tämä kokemus muistuttaa fokusointia. Sitä, kuinka olen asioiden, ajatusten tai tunteiden kansssa, jotka voivat herättää minussa vastustusta, pelkoa, jähmettymistä. Kun vien huomion lattian, tuolin, ympäristön ja kuuntelijani antamaan tukeen, alan tuntea, kuinka jalkani juurtuvat maahan ja löydän sen osan minusta, joka on täysin turvassa, jolla on täysi rauha vain olla.

Myöhemmin oivallan, että miehen rauha resonoi minussa itsessäni sillä hetkellä piiloutuneena olleen rauhan kanssa. Minussakin on se rauha, ja voin löytää sen kipeälläkin hetkellä.

Kevinin harjoitus vie minut tähän samaan tunnelmaan. Löydät sen täältä

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Something against you – or me? / Jotain sinua vastaan – vai minua?

Photo credit: Maria Hakasalo

As I was working on my focusing book, I was listening to music–something random from You Tube. Next thing that I noticed was how I was criticizing the singer’s vocal technique. I had just written about some painful school memories when a sense of isolation emerged.  I also noticed how I was compensating for those feelings by thinking I was being better than others.

Suddenly I understood the connection between feeling isolated and compensating by finding fault in others. Instead of facing the something in me that didn’t feel accepted, I criticized the You Tube singer. I  compensated for my own pain by pretending to be skillful, successful and perfect.  This is what I did as a child who felt isolated.

As I sat next to the small child in me who was feeling the pain I said to her: “You can be as you are, small, painful, sometimes competent, sometimes incompetent. You do not need to be perfect or look like it..”

I sighed deeply and noticed that something in me released.

Do you want to get in touch with the part in you that is not feeling alright? You can listen to one of Kevin’s intunements at https://wholebodyfocusing.blog/2018/10/19/something-is-not-right/

When listening I could feel a firm lump in my stomach which softened after I listened to the following intunement. It helped me to be tenderly present with the felt sense in my stomach: https://wholebodyfocusing.blog/2018/07/19/an-active-meditation-to-welcome-what-wants-to-present-itself-for-your-attention/

***

Kun kirjoitan fokusointikirjaa, kuuntelen välillä musiikkia, tällä kerralla jotain satunnaista Youtubesta. Kirjoittamisen lomassa havaitsin arvostelevani laulajan laulutapaa. Olin juuri kirjoittanut kipeistä koulumuistoista, erillisyyden tunteestani ja kuinka pyrin kompensoimaan sitä näyttämällä paremmalta kuin muut.

Continue reading Something against you – or me? / Jotain sinua vastaan – vai minua?

Melting Point / Sulamispiste

Photo Credit: Maria Hakasalo

MELTING POINT

A judging mind
who crush and shrink, burden and destroy
You come out from the nooks of my mind
seizing me with full of shame
Could I shake you off so that no one notices
how dark and ugly you are?

Welcome, judging mind
Welcome home
Welcome to my arms, welcome to be seen
Welcome to the warmth of my embrace
to the shine of the sun

there you soften
forget your job
begin to melt and love

Continue reading Melting Point / Sulamispiste