A Zoom Gathering for Women Focusers
November 15, 2020, 10:00 – 12:00 MT
You are warmly invited to a Focusing gathering just for women. This will be a single event for now − an experiment really – to see what happens when we take time to focus together as women and allow space for whatever wants to emerge during this time of things falling apart and new paradigms wanting to emerge.
10:00 – 10:45 Intro, Attunement & Check-in
10:45 – 11:30 Focusing Partnerships
11:30 – 12:00 Sharing as a Group
Recently I reflected on the fact that many of the traumas I’ve experienced have had to do with being a woman. I also noticed a cloud of silence around them. When I focused on these events, I realized there was generally a larger situation or narrative around the event and someone or something I felt I should protect − whether a child, a parent or a partner – over valuing my own needs or expecting them to be looked after. Speaking about my own harm always seemed less important than taking care of others.
So the theme that came to me as a possible starting point was “Things We Don’t Talk About.” A phrase that may might feel more fitting to you is “Fulfilling the Needs of Others.” These are just ideas to spark something we share as women or something you would like to explore in a focusing way with other women.
If you’d like to participate on Nov. 15 (or have questions) just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will confirm as soon as the gathering is a “go.”
Photo Credit: Jack Arts campaign for the V&A, Tim Walker: Wonderful Things
“How does your body want to be supported?” Addie asked me at the start of this training session. As I felt into my body what came was “the space around me: my space”. I looked around the room. I became aware that my space, as in the room in which I was sitting, activated two very different feelings in me.
The first one was of a snuggly-cashmere comfort. A settling into the safe ground of being in my room, like being wrapped in a soft blanket. My breath just flowing gently. A deep sense of spaciousness filled my body and an invitational quality of “just allowing” came.
Then a jangled jarring feeling took hold. Another part of me butted in – it just saw a room full of heaps. A room needing tidying NOW. Seeing the heaps brought a twisting in my gut that was stopping my breath. With this came highly judgemental thoughts: “it should be xxx”, “What will people think?” Queasy seasickness of unease colonized my gut.
Holding Both Brings an Unexpected Body Memory
Holding both experiences was only possible through a yo-yoing between the two parts. A new awareness came: the heaps reminded me of my mother. Her house was full of heaps.
I was with a place of historic and “as-yet unresolved/unhealed” pain to do with my relationship with my (now dead) mother. Tightening came in my body as if it was trying to “hold me together”. This was accompanied by the queasy ungroundedness as my body was hijacked by these old experiences; being on the receiving end of my mother’s toxic contempt.
My breathing stopped; the impact of contempt was as a body blow. A being doubled-over by a thump in the solar plexus coming out of the blue. The air literally being knocked out of me. The life source in me being stopped. “I am stopped” was the core experience here. My left hand moved spontaneously to the solar plexus area and just tenderly held it. A tactile “I am here with you”.
The sense of nausea intensified and with it a memory of something I had read by Sarah Peyton*. She invites those of us who struggle with nausea to celebrate it. To recognise it as a return of my body’s ability to feel safe enough to acknowledge a sense of violation! Nausea is a signature aspect of the body feeling of disgust. (Along with a wanting to pull away from and escape what is toxic to us.)
Can I Really “Celebrate” Disgust?
Naming the nausea as disgust brought an awareness of a tightness. A pulling back within all of me, a contraction against the environment. Then came a restlessness that had become increasingly familiar to me over recent months. A sense of urgency in my body that something needs “doing”.
I allowed myself to open to the “something needs doing” energy; and my arm spontaneously moved forward in a deliberate sweep down. A demarcation of space in front of me. With it came words: “a boundary needs to be set”.
An “aha” came. Of course, my body felt this way: this is a historic felt memory from my past. I now have the safety and resources to feel this memory. The function of healthy disgust is to offer us protection from what is toxic to us. Poisonous not only in a food-gustatory sense but also in a relational ingesting way. Implicit in the experiencing of disgust is the needing to do something – to withdraw and to remove oneself from the toxicity!
I continued to sit with the nausea, the tightness, and the restlessness, supported by Addie. I noticed, at an emotional level, there is a seemingly never-ending internal negative judging commentary going on. An awareness arises that “I breed within me a vicious perfectionism”. I then recognised that, at a body level, I experienced this experience as one of feeling very physically unwell.
As I described this to Addie my right hand moved in a sort of horizontal circling motion. He invited me to connect to my hand and it’s moving. Addie reflected my body experience, reminding me of my other hand that was still holding the solar plexus. He then asked whether there is a part of my body not caught up in all of this. And maybe it might be able to offer support to me here in holding all this?
Transformation through Wholebody Connection
This changed me: like sudden seeing a light ahead, having been lost in a dark cave, I became aware of the possibility of support around me and in me. I saw again the heaps in my room. But they looked completely different. They were my heaps. The separate heap items reminded me of the love, kindness, and fun I now have in my life.
Something in me opened my arms to “embrace” all of my room. Addie summarised: “This all gives you a sense of you, and space that is larger than disgust and contempt” Embodying this larger spaciousness, I discovered, dilutes the disgust body experience. A “morphing” came – an expanding into a much larger holding space within me. This was warm, relaxed, it’s had a wide-angle lens quality to it. I felt at ease and joyous even. A sense of allowing came, an opening to new possibilities.
Addie invited me to sense into this newly discovered body experiencing of allowing, of open spaciousness. What came was the opposite of vicious perfectionism. Looking around my room again my eyes alighted on a postcard. I had it bought at the V&A museum’s “Wonderful Things exhibition. It was a photographic display by Tim Walker.
The postcard is of young men in amazing dresses dancing in a field of delphiniums. It is whacky, vibrant, and full of fun aliveness. My whole body filled with lightness. A sensation of the little bubbles in a glass of prosecco went sparkling through me.
Joy permeated all of me bringing a sense of infinite spaciousness within and without. My face could not stop smiling as I opened to all this. A word came: “delight”! Delight – the opposite of disgust I realised. I just revelled in being infused with delight, joy, and love.
Addie asked how the disgust was sitting in me now. Has it shrunk? Immediately I knew from my embodied feeling that the disgust-feeling had not shrunk per se. Rather it was I that had grown. There was more of me to hold the disgust. To dilute it.
I had expanded, become larger. Then I noticed that the restlessness had gone. It had found what it needed for me: love, joy, and delight. Vibrant dancing with delphiniums aliveness!
*Sarah Peyton is an author, neuroscience educator and certified trainer of Nonviolent Communication
I found a wise smile hiding in the moment. I keep these two photos near me so that I can always remember that the illusions others create do not define me.
There are many narratives about First Communion dresses (See Raining Stones). They are often about the parents’ struggle. On some level, these dresses are like prom dresses or even wedding dresses. They trigger parents’ need to establish a sense of prestige in their community and fantasy about who their daughters are. These garments’ high stakes often overshadow any connection to their daughters or even to the ritual events.
How a Dress Can Hold so Much Meaning
My aunt took a photo of two seven-year-old girls who made their First Communion at the same time. One girl is me; the other is my cousin. Her mother was my mother’s sister, who was an excellent seamstress. She worked for a famous New York fashion house as a sample maker. The model Twiggy wore some of my aunt’s samples in fashion shows.
My mother took me to a high-end department store and bought my First Communion dress. I wanted a veil with a full crown. My mother refused because she said only queens get to wear crowns. I was heartbroken. I had envisioned what I wanted.
My aunt purchased beautiful, expensive fabric and created her daughter’s dress. Afterward, she took my cousin to a photographer’s studio to take pictures of her daughter and the dress.
That afternoon my aunt showed up unannounced at our home with my cousin wearing her communion dress so she could take a picture of us together. My mother was not happy because I was playing in the yard with my friends, and she didn’t want me to change into my dress and get it dirty.
I didn’t want to take the picture because I thought my cousin’s dress was so much prettier than mine, and she had the full crown and veil that I had wanted. Also, my aunt often used me to show my cousin why she was “the best.” The dress experience was full of shame for me.
A New Perspective
Forty years later, my aunt gave me this photo. I was amazed because my body immediately recognized the shame I felt at having an inferior dress. However, when I looked closely at the picture, I saw how the dresses were almost identical.
The experience of being treated as inferior to my cousin was my designated role in our extended family. It was part of my mother and aunt’s issues with each other.
Letting Go of What Is Not Ours
The picture added new information to the experience. There was no inferior dress nor inferior girl, just a need to support an elaborate illusion that somehow addressed the suffering my mother and aunt experienced. I played with the photo in Photoshop and removed everything that was not me from a felt sense. Somehow, I found a knowing smile in that moment. It helps me remember that the illusions others create do not define me.
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 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.
I had set a really tight schedule for writing the focusing book. I woke up to reality in January. While attending a focusing course in Chile I received a request from the publisher to provide them with the title of the book and the back cover by the end of the month. Help! I did not have a name ready and I was far from home. I thought that I would not think about writing a book at all during this trip.
On the same day we explored the tremendous ability of focusing to open us up to what cannot be measured on a logical scale and where to reach what is even more than logical. First, we created a few sentences to define the word direction. I wrote: “The direction is the path that must pass from A to B so you can achieve something.”
After that, we brought our attention to the body and how the word direction “sits in our body”. For me it started with a feeling of space in the chest and, as a result, my body bent backward in the chair, casually. Rest. My hands followed really slowly. When I tried to move them faster, I feltl how wrong it was and I had to return my hands to where I had started to rush. By hurrying forward my hands were out of sync with my body’s timing and location.
“The direction is something that moves at its own pace, in its own way, and you can’t rush it or make it happen faster,” my body said.
Next, we did a pair exercises where we compared the wisdom given by our bodies in the direction of a real situation in our lives. I compared it to the schedule I had set for the focusing book. In my right hand was the direction, in the left was the timetable. They were not close together, but stayed far apart. I felt energy in both hands, but in the right hand there was considerably more energy than the left. When my partner called me to look more closely at my left hand, I noticed the holes in it.
I called these far away places to meet each other. I asked for a “book schedule” to show up where the direction is. I moved my left hand toward my right hand. This movement opened up like a curtain to what I had never seen before. I saw deeply, who I really am and how it contradicted with what I thought I should be. It also showed me what made me want to hurry. While I cried for something I am not, I was deeply grateful for what I am.
After talking to the publisher, I woke up to feelings of shame. The shame arose mainly from the fact that I had not at all considered the correct timetable.
The shame revealed a deep-seated pattern in myself: I appreciated speed over everything. Something in me wants me to be fast. What is this all about ? Now I am learning to be slower in what I had wanted to do quickly.
Olin asettanut fokusointikirjan kirjoittamiselle todella tiukan aikataulun. Todellisuuteen heräsin tammikuussa. Ollessani fokusointikurssilla Chilessä sain kustantajalta pyynnön, että ilmoittaisin kirjan nimen ja takakannen tekstin kuun loppuun mennessä. Apua! Ei minulla ole nimeä valmiina ja olen kaukana kotoa, lähtenyt sillä ajatuksella, että en mieti kirjan kirjoittamista lainkaan reissun aikana.
Saman päivän aikana tutustuimme fokusoinnin valtavaan kykyyn avata meille yhteys siihen, mitä ei voida mitata loogisuuden asteikolla, vaan missä tavoitetaan se, mikä on enemmän kuin loogista. Muodostimme ensin kukin muutaman lauseen sanakirjamaisen määritelmän sanalle suunta. Minä kirjoitin: ”Suunta on tie, jonka tulee kulkea paikasta A paikkaan B, jotta voit saavuttaa jotain.”
I look out of the huge windows that open to the sea in the retreat center at Punta de Tralca, Chile. It is the morning. The sea is quiet. The sky is looming pale and it is hard to see where the sea ends, where the sky begins. Yesterday red warning flags waved on the beach. Wild, foam-headed waves wandered loudly to the beach. The water was cloudy brown from the sand.
On the fourth morning of the Focusing Weeklong, during the bio-energetic movement group class, I move according to the sounds of nature in me. I become nature itself. It is not easy, because I am used to the fact that all the sound, which arises from me, should be wise, reasonable or right. I am now the wind, I am swinging in the breeze. I am a seagull skipping on the beach.
Then we settle in a circle. Everyone who wants can step into the middle, move and make the sounds their body wants to express. I step into the middle without making any sound. I look everyone in their eyes swinging my body from side to side. At some point, I feel timid. Is it acceptable to be silent, if we were asked to make sounds?
Is it acceptable to be silent if using our voice is what was asked? This question lives in me until the end. Only at the very end, a new thought sneaks into my mind: silence is a voice.
During the Weeklong I sometimes get tired of speaking English. I don’t understand Spanish at all, or just a word now and then. In the cafeteria, I start to think about speaking Finnish without waiting for anyone to understand me. In this way, nobody would be confused nor would they find it distracting or worry about the meaning, because that wouldn’t be my point. It would just be…my voice. With this thought in my mind, I try to listen to Spanish with the idea of listening to the “voice of another,” another person with a voice and language different from mine.