Find the Magic of the Felt Sense

Wholebody Focusing expands the physicality of the Felt Sense to include more of our body’s physical sense of Me Here — all of me present to the situation.

Painting by Kevin McEvenue

A Heartfelt Conversation between
Addie van der Kooy and Kevin McEvenue

In the third part of this series between Addie and Kevin, we hear their thoughts about a Felt Sense starting from the early days of Gene Gendlin’s concept of a handle–a word that resonates with the Felt Sense.  When a Felt Sense emerges, shifts can happen because the word can create a resonance with the Felt Sense. Something can begin to change. Something may be freed up, and more comes alive in our bodies.

For Addie and Kevin, Wholebody Focusing expands the physicality of this experience to include more of our body’s physical sense of Me Here — all of me present to the situation. When all of me becomes present to itself, a deeper appreciation develops of our essence.

We invite you to view and comment on Addie and Kevin’s exploration of this essential aspect of Wholebody Focusing.

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Standing at the River

Text by Ana Simeon

Photo by Don Hoffmann

The Peace River valley, a place I love, is being stripped and excavated to build a hydroelectric dam. This is happening in the far north-east of British Columbia, a ferry ride and two days’ drive from my home on Vancouver Island. Ever since construction permits were confirmed by the new B.C. government in 2017 I’ve noticed how I shy away from even thinking about the Peace. I have to steel myself to read the news. Two of my friends up there have so far narrowly avoided being evicted to make way for a highway realignment, and another friend, an Indigenous woman, still has a potential lawsuit hanging over her because of her participation in a blockade near the would-be dam site. Whenever I speak to them it’s like a deep dive to a painful place, an underwater rock. My daily life bubbles and froths like rapids around this submerged rock; sunlight sparkles off the surface of the water and this is enough for each day. But every now and then I am compelled to dive down to the rock. I must remember and fully feel the love and grief.

Grieving the Peace

Last July the West Moberly First Nation invited all who feel connected to this place to attend a Feast for Grieving the Peace. They made it clear that the grieving wasn’t about the dam itself: that was still being resolutely fought against in court. Rather, the grief was about what was currently happening to the river in preparation for the flooding of the valley. The deliberate cutting of huge cottonwoods bearing great eagle nests all along the banks. The stripping and dumping of uniquely fertile topsoil that could have fed the whole region. The exclusion of First Nations people from places that had provided food, medicine and spiritual comfort since time out of mind. The razing of river islands where beavers built their lodges, and deer and elk sheltered to give birth. The expropriation and eviction of farm families.

About halfway between Hudson’s Hope and Fort St. John, the Peace makes a wide bend around Bear Flats. Before expropriation, Bear Flats was owned by my friends Ken and Arlene who leased the upper field to a market gardener, and grew hay and oats in the lower field. In years past, my husband Tom and I used to camp there. There is an old beaver lodge at the confluence where a small creek joins the river. It’s a special place for bears too, because the wide, shallow flats make it an easy swim across (for a bear). We loved sitting there of an evening to watch the sky and listen to the river. Often a beaver would come out to potter around the creek confluence. Just being there, one feels closely held at the great river’s heart; and at the same time stretched to the utmost distance, part of the whole sweep of the valley from west to east, as far as the eye can see.

Giving Back to the River

After the Feast, a number of us gathered at Bear Flats to participate in a ceremony called the Global Earth Exchange which is about giving gifts of beauty to a wounded place. When Tom and I arrived, Bess, the market gardener, was already there with her husband and their 3-year-old daughter. The little girl was being very solemn about picking just the right flowers to give to the river. I noticed the mother’s gaze as she followed the child’s movements. It was as if her face, her eyes, the lines of her hips and bosom all folded into a big body-smile for the little girl. Somebody brought a basketful of wooden toy boats left over from a boat race (a community fundraiser) for us to decorate and offer to the river. People fanned out to collect rocks and driftwood, and pick wildflowers and beautiful wild grasses with waving tassels.

We stood in a circle at the riverbank. I felt shy. I didn’t know any of the others, except Tom, and it didn’t feel like a cohesive group. I was supposed to say a few words to get us started but I doubted my ability to inspire and guide people to a place of depth and meaning, the way the Indigenous elder had done the year before. As if “I” or anyone could “make it happen”! But as more people joined the circle with beautiful and unusual bouquets and artwork, I let go. I had expected to feel grief and sadness but I didn’t. I felt joyful and happy to be in the presence of the river again. The sheer mass and power of the flowing water echoed through my whole body. I felt awe. No human force could stop this river’s forward movement – in 200 years’ time all three dams would be gone and the Peace would still flow on. A constriction in my chest eased and I felt comforted. When I looked around the circle, I saw joy and gratitude mirrored on many faces around me.

A couple of people wadded a few steps into the water, tentatively, as the bottom was slick clay and it would be easy to slip. The little girl released her boat, but it kept swirling around in the shallows instead of floating off with the current. An older guy challenged the little girl’s dad to jump in the water. Whooping and hollering, they both did, and swam out to release all the boats into the main current. We looked on as the flower-decked flotilla floated quietly downriver.

That Special Light

A thick bank of clouds had been building upstream from us. Sifted sunlight streamed down onto the water in a “cathedral window” effect. Lightning flashed and thunder rumbled, again and again. We were getting ready to disband when 20 more people showed up. We formed a bigger circle and were just doing the introductions when the skies opened: such a downpour! We ran to the cars, laughing.

Later that evening, sitting outside our cabin on a promontory on Ken and Arlene’s property, Tom and I gazed at the river aglow in the last rays of sunlight, the whole vast landscape subtly illuminated in that special light of a northern evening. Peace enveloped me, and I sat for a long time with gratitude to and for the river’s great presence and power.

29th of December, 2019

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The Dance of Life Expands (3)

….. I return to my body and my breath moving in and out, expanding and receding like the waves on the shore of the ocean.

Addie offers me a new invitation: “Be open to the possibility that the breath is breathed in through the skin wherever you can feel that…”

And I discover that wherever I go to in my body as the air meets my skin, there is the breath, there is life. I notice it particularly in my arms and legs, and I feel that I am breathing in the environment around me, taking in everything, including space and the silence.

And as I do this, a new awareness comes for me. How have I always done this–this breathing in the environment around me? Memories come of both my breathing in of places, like concrete shopping arcades, which feel so much lacking in aliveness, whereas in my garden, aliveness is all around me, and I soak it up.

I sit with all of this breathing in through my skin, and I notice a “blocked place” in me that had been with me earlier, and I realise that this is something that I took in from the environment through my embodied breathing. It has to do with my contact with a particular person.

As I sit with all of this, sensing into it, a previously felt sense comes which I dubbed “icy wellies” as it feels like my lower legs and feet are literally clad in “wellington boots made of ice” comes…but this time it feels subtly but importantly different.

And then came an extraordinary discovery for me.

As I revisit all this now and watch the video that I am sharing with you, a fresh awareness comes that this dance of breath, felt within me and without, sandwiching this felt sense of surviving in me that is akin to a tango.

I am a great fan of what we in the UK call “Strictly come dancing,” in the USA it is “Dancing with the Stars,” and the tango has variants and is very much about a relating and responding between the two dancers. This relational experience is just what I discovered in me: I may not be a great physical dancer, but I have found that I can dance the Surviving Tango!

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My Heart is Here

My heart is here: arm finding itself reconnecting to the body

In conversation with Diana, unedited excerpts

10 October 2019
Hi Diana

Just wanted to share what’s quite alive. I did a WBF session with A. after a late summer pause a few days ago. I thought it would be outside but my body just didn’t want to go when the time came and I respected that.

As we started up it was like a furnace firing up, spluttering before it got going. I got an extraordinary pain in my left arm in the bone/nerves as well as numbness and restricted movement. I was also resistant as this type of pain was a shock. I stuck in there and over the session the arm realized that it could connect to the body.

Memories came from my teenage years when I broke my collar bone on that left side. It was like the arm was reliving this on its own. And memories of my feelings in connection/part of/welcome in the human family (in family, amongst others, at school) as I struggled with this feeling ( I didn’t get it at home and somehow took it on that it wasn’t really available for me to belong or be welcome as me in LIFE).

What held me as well as my body was my longing for the energies of social interaction, the hustle and bustle of love & joy in daily life. This aliveness I’d felt when younger looking at other families, as if I was standing at their house windows looking in, alone, unloved on the street.

There seemed to be a knowing or resonance with the arm remembering its shock and these deeper and in fact simpler or more core emotional places of my teenage years. As the process continued I began to see from images of me at school that I did also belong to a living out of life, that I was part of a living web, maybe home didn’t work so well for me and created stoppages and imbalances but I was unarguably also held in a good web where I moved around.

The images also seemed to hint at how later when I left home why I might have come crashing down. It felt like the first time of touching into the sense of that collapse even while the main subject was the joy of everyday acceptance by my school & teachers & feeling a relief or love for my overall life while at school, even if there was this shock of an accident and the emotional shock or unresolved/blocked feelings at home.

I’m gobsmacked how the arm and body held and brought this. And I can’t help note that I just started to take some muscle relaxants after the doctor discovered an old injury in my neck. It feels connected, as if the arm jumped out into the space these may have created.

I wanted to share this with you, and I’m also conscious that it gives me a chance to put something in writing. I am trying to do this for the blog and finding that I don’t know how to connect afterward with my WBF experiences or indeed even share. Writing to you now I found I can connect the experience and the words, as if trusting or believing you can hear me, I can then speak.

Would love to arrange a time to connect again. I am taking the relaxants for a few more days 😊

10 October 2019
Hi barebody&soul,

I love that you are writing about what happened to you and how it connected you to some earlier trauma.  Writing is one of the ways that we can connect with our bodies. When I write a blog, it is from grounded presence and I let me fingers type out what my body wants to say without any editing.  This is the affirmation of the experience like what you just wrote.  Later I can go back and organize my experience in a way that would help others to understand the moment—like adding backstory for example.  If you would like help with that process let me know.

10 December 2019
Hi Diana

I would love to contribute to the blog and I remembered what I’d shared with you about the arm reconnecting with the body (10 Oct email above). I just arrived back from a trip to England and saw your email and found this correspondence now. When I read it I was taken aback – these are the same underlying relational senses I have in connection with “Me in England” I just described to my wife rippling through my being in connection with my trip and the deeper reorganization taking place inside!!

I’m happy to share it close to its current form but maybe it needs something more? As I can be perfectionist I realised I will take forever left to my own devices/probably not do it, for no good reason, so I welcome any suggestions. I could even write about this sharing with you and my trip to England now as part of the experiential web bringing me to share it to others via the blog. I like this idea of stories from the body shared in conversation and resonating later in stories and trips. It comes close to home. That home that is here and we wander from in search of. This moves me deeply. It is our shared story.

A title that just came was something like: Me, England. My heart is here: arm finding itself reconnecting to the body. These words seem to capture the ALL of that, which now feels like a this.

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Photo by Bankim Desai on Unsplash

Elizabeth Morana, Dec. 9, 2019

I often awaken in the middle of the night and find myself reflecting; many seemingly disparate thoughts and ideas come. And then a sentence comes, loud and clear, and I know from past experience, if I don’t write this down, it will disappear.

This morning, one such sentence came: We are being awakened into His Love. It didn’t bring any explanation with it. I wrote it and waited to see if there was more. There wasn’t. So, I lay back down and turned the light off.

Within a minute, more came, and with the words came an image—a butterfly in the process of opening the pod it had found itself in—it’s chrysalis. I could sense it was weak and somewhat confused—as though it were awakening from a long sleep.

I sat up again, turned on the light, and continued writing. I realized as I wrote, that it was very much about me. And about more than me.

Recently, I’ve been telling people: I‘m changed! After much Wholebody focusing and Heartfelt Conversation, after much prayer, after much meditation, I made it clear to all the Powers That Be: I’m willing to be changed, to let go of old dramas and the possibility of reliving them, to face the unknown of the Present Moment.—as best I can.

Here’s what came to me at 5am this morning when I turned the light back on:

When she emerged from the Chrysalis, she was not the kind of butterfly she’d expected to be.

In fact, it was all different than she’d imagined. She wasn’t sure what to make of this.

She’d expected to be fully functional— and she stood at this new threshold, hesitant. The ground felt different. The air. She was bewildered. 

She scanned the landscape. Butterflies of all shapes and sizes—and other beings—slowly appeared. 

How do you talk to these other creatures, she wondered.  What will come out when I begin to speak? 

Relax, something whispered. No hurry

She sank into the moment. The ground beneath her softened. A sigh welled up. Even the air cradled her. 

And she knew:  I am here. That is enough. Nothing needs to happen.

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The Dance of Life (2)

By Cathy Rowan

We start with Addie guiding me into that low-gear mode of being with my body within the environment. I open to the weather outdoors, the room I am in, the quietness of it, and Addie with me on the screen.

I open to this and then also to the contact of all this with my physical body. I am sitting on the chair, the warm air on my hands and face. Once again, I am turning my attention to the air as it enters my nostrils. Once again, I am opening to the dance of life that is me living now.

The Breath, Expansion and Recession

I welcome this expansive experience. The air is flowing through my nostrils, down my throat, and into my chest. It is spreading outwards through the whole of my body. Just being with all of this and noticing too now the feel of the breath as I exhale. The in-breath is one that grows and expands my body, I get subtly and yet perceptibly physically bigger….and then the moment comes when the breath starts to pull back. Not to retract…that does not fit. Retract implies a pulling back and stopping–an ending.

The experience is a receding, it has the quality of the wave as it pulls back on the beach, and yet already it has within its movement a getting ready to come forward again as the next wave. This is just how the exhaled breath is in me. Each receding, pulling back of the breath, has within it the kernels of the new breath that is to become the next wave of air to be drawn into me.

This whole breathing pattern within me is a circular cycle. It is three dimensional — a 3D circular cycle that makes a spiraling. The spiraling is variable – some spirals are more significant, some smaller, they are not copies of each other, they are all different. They are not uniform; some are jerky, uneven even, they are not manufactured “tins of baked beans” breaths that are predictable and repetitive. No – they are all unique and different. Each a different flow, a diverse and individual dance. Each just what I need right now, for this moment, in this place, at this time.

I am with the out-breath withdrawing, with its sense of receding and yet here too are its kernels of expansion so it can go forward again…. I notice how my fingers are slightly apart as I breathe in and then come together as I breathe out. Then the next breath in the fingers opens again – only to once again enter into a withdrawing. It is coming together to make more room for expansion. And so the spiraling dance of the breath unfolds its unique flow of “aliving.”
Aliving: this is this dance of expansion and withdrawal to take in and then release the breath. And as I sit with this, a spontaneous full-formed sentence comes “until we die we are always dancing, our breath is always dancing the breath of life…until we die.”

Breath, Life and Death

A body memory comes of me sitting with my father dying – his breathing becoming increasingly difficult. How the spiraling got more and more drawn out, each out-breath having a little less energy to give to the potential for a new in-breath. Finally, there was no more receding energy in his out-breath- it was the only retraction. I can recall now how this felt tangibly different. He had finished his dance of the breath of life. The life-energy could no longer keep going, and I saw it stop. In his final out-breath, there were no kernels of the forward movement that would create the next inhale. The out-breath was his last step in his dance of life.

This experience of how the breath faded away and then stopped had a profound impact on me then, particularly concerning “following the breath” practices. Almost a decade later, it continues to fascinate me now. I felt then I had witnessed the core of what gives life and what takes away life. And as I sit here and am with my breath now, I realize each breath is a gift of life. And that this dance is not just about life, but it will be one day be about death for me too. Life and death: this is what the breath is all about.

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Being with a Felt Sense

Our new installment of the conversation between Addie van der Kooy and Kevin McEvenue takes a raucous turn when they discuss their experiences of the many ways to be with the felt sense. In the no holds barred Heartfelt Conversation, these long-time collaborators share what works for them and what is difficult for them when experiencing a felt sense.

Grounded in the work of Gene Gendlin, we experience the liveliness and fun of their heartfelt conversation. Both partners are fully engaged and moving to the rhythm of their conversation.

Watching their journey may lift you into your felt sense of being with their felt sense. Let us know where this conversation takes you by sending a comment to the discussion.

Here is the transcript of the video for those who speak languages other than English. Drop it into Google Translate for a translation or use it to follow along.

This is a link to the transcript added here so that speakers of other languages can use Google Translate to obtain a transcript in their language. Being with a Felt Sense

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The Dance of Life

Not only is my body getting the nourishment and loving connection it so needed, what is also different is my body now can take it in, absorb it, digest it, grow from it. In retrospect, five years ago,

By Cathy Rowan

I grew up in a family full of unacknowledged trauma and grief, where the only way to “be” was to “not be” and to not feel.  As a family, our expertise lay in dissociation and disconnection: even as a small child, something in me felt this was all wrong for me. From my early childhood, my life has been about finding a very different way. This way needed to be unlike that of my parents. I wanted to live in this new way these allotted years of my time here on earth. 

Enter Focusing

This need brought me to Focusing a decade ago, and it has proved to be my salvation, my learning to feel and to start to connect with my bodily experience and feel safe in so doing.

To go deeper into connecting to and being in my body, I started my Wholebody Focusing training more than over five years ago. However, very quickly, what I connected to, in my body, as I went deeper, were layers and layers of frozen tears and pain. I had disowned and buried the grief of the many losses in my past. Some of that grief and loss were mine, and some were those of my parents and grandparents. My Focusing journey then took the path of showing me how to grieve and mourn, how to start to hold, and befriend heartbreak and loss. This journey surprised me by also taking me into a much deeper and more spiritual lifestyle.

Then late this summer, something in me knew it was time for me to return to my Wholebody Focusing training. And so a couple of weeks ago Addie van der Kooy and Diana Scalera suggested to me I might like to contribute to the blog about this experience, so here I go.

A Very Different Way

As I turn to my body now, fingers on the keys, what comes immediately as I invite my body to write to this post, is a lightness, an expansiveness, a subtle bubbliness even. It is emanating from the solar plexus area and expanding out throughout my body and into the space around me. There is an uplifting quality and yet also a downward grounding-ness to it – a body sense of getting bigger, there is more of me here now than before the first session I had with Addie almost two weeks ago. 

And there is a sense of celebration and excitement in me: the day I started school just before I was five years old, I knew I had not had what I needed to cope with life beyond the home. Now my body is getting it – 59 years later!! 

Not only is my body getting the nourishment and loving connection it so needed, what is also different is my body now can take it in, absorb it, digest it, grow from it. In retrospect, five years ago, I realize I had only just stopped dissociating as my default mode of being. When I started Wholebody Focusing training back then, it was inevitable I was going to quickly connect to the buried body memories held inside of me. These feelings became my default mode, a Nobel-prize winning ability in dissociation when life was challenging. And there had been a lot of challenges! 

Now a significant amount of energy has surfaced. This energy helps me make space for me to enjoy the experience of embodiment and fascination with the incredible mystery that is our alive breathing bodying. 

Observing my Living Process

I feel like I have acquired Richard Attenborough’s fascination for the micro-moments of observing the living process unfolding in me as I sit with my breath. I start with being just open to the minute nuances of the travel of the cool inhale air past my nostrils, stroking down my throat, landing down in the lungs. Next, a diffuse spreading out of the breath comes, a movement that goes into every cell of my body, atoms of aliveness filling me. Then, the mysterious knowing comes of how and when to exhale, to release, to let go, to make space for more to come — finally pausing before the next drawing in of the breath. It is like the most beautiful dance. For me, it is the Dance of Life. 

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