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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Holding Space for “Me Here” and our Trauma

Image by Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay

Is Wholebody Focusing an alive practice? How does it move into the future? Are there new ideas to explore? How will Wholebody Focusers find out about emerging ideas? These are some of the questions Kevin, and I asked ourselves when we created this blog.

As part of this exploration, we are continuing our collaboration with Addie van der Kooy and his ground-breaking work around the nature of grounded presence and its function in creating a broad definition of what healing ourselves feels like in our bodies. These new concepts of building “WBF Muscles” will help focusers better understand how to hold our trauma so that it has a higher, more nuanced ability to heal itself.

One afternoon in February, Addie van der Kooy, Kevin McEvenue and I filmed a conversation that goes deeper into our relationship between our state of grounded presence and the trauma that may live in us. We will be presenting parts of this conversation as it happened and eventually the full video of the discussion which lasted about 50 minutes. This new understanding emerges out of the work Addie has been doing with his clients as he teaches WBF in this new way.

Heartfelt Conversation – What is New to Explore?

The first video is the intunement that Kevin provided to help us hold space for what was wanting to be heard. There is no new information here; however, it is a beautiful example of how encouraging a state of grounded presence can enliven any interaction.

The second video is an overview of what Addie calls the “Me Here” muscle that supports us in holding space for trauma in grounded presence with no judgment or expectation of change and why this process is the foundation of what might come in the future. As Addie gets more experience working with this concept, more comes for him about how it supports his clients.

We hope you enjoyed this first installment of this exciting conversation which is part of the mission of the blog—to provide Wholebody Focusers with an opportunity to learn more and to add your voice to keeping WBF alive.

Please consider adding your comments and questions to the “Reply” area, and we will answer them as they come in. If you have something new you have learned please write a response and contact Diana Scalera to get it published at: wbf285@gmail.com.

Please consider joining Addie van der Kooy and Cecilia Clegg in “Practicing Presence” workshop on May 11, 2019 from 9:00 – 11:00 AM EDT sponsored by The International Focusing Institute.

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Don’t disappoint me / Älä tuota pettymystä

Photo Credit: Maria Hakasalo

When I heard the diagnosis of an autoimmune disorder, strong feelings arose in me. it seemed challenging to find a connection to myself with the symptoms caused by the illness. The depression, as I experienced it, was new to me.

Since I started to listen to my body more, my body has started to call me to move. It happens in me during focusing sessions with minor and sometimes major movements in my body, but also I suddenly feel a need to listen to music and move. I stand up, start listening, and then moving in any way my body takes me.

One morning after the diagnosis I felt how my body was longing for movement again. What would I listen to? The YouTube channel had sent me a recommendation overnight, and I decided to listen to it.

The first notes of the song fit perfectly with my sad feelings. I started to move, without noticing the words, until I heard: “Don’t disappoint me, don’t let me down”. The words hit my own situation strongly. My body had deceived me. I was moving and grieving.

Suddenly I felt just like something turned on me. It was no longer me whose request it was. The “sick part” in me asked me not to disappoint it, not to be let it down. Amazing! It has hopes for me. It wants me to hold  it gently, and listen to its needs. It does not want to be left alone, blocked or rejected.

This started a new kind of journey, one in which the disease and I are not separate, or apart. We have a relationship in which  both of us have our needs. I listen to it, and it listens to me.

What kind of movement does this piece of Ruth B. bring to you? What kind of thoughts does it awaken in you?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AwIF_BdOmIY


Kun minulla todettiin autoimmuunisairaus, jouduin myllerryksiin oman kehoni kanssa. Tunsin pettymystä, minua masensi, tuntui haastavalta löytää yhteys itseeni sellaisena kuin mitä sairauden aiheuttamien oireiden myötä olin. Masennus sellaisena, kuin se päälleni vyöryi, oli täysin uutta minulle.

Continue reading Don’t disappoint me / Älä tuota pettymystä

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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When Love Pays Attention to a Deep Wound

Photo credit: Pixabay
This audio tells us about an unusual solo focusing session—no listening partner—and its extraordinary aftereffect, described by an advanced Wholebody focuser who had decided to sit-with a serious medical condition for which surgery had been recommended.  

He knew he needed to pause.

He speaks succinctly.  No explanations!  No analysis!  When confronted with chronic pain, he simply sat-with what came, watched and consented to the thoughts, the feelings, the inner-directed movements that came directly from the Body—simply present to all-that-came without trying to change it.  Or to explain it.

After two hours of simply sitting-with, the pain was largely gone. And, for all the twenty years since, his chronic, medically-recognized symptom has not reappeared.

I wonder what you will notice when you listen to his story.

And I welcome you to share, here, your own unique transformative experiences that have resulted from your own inner-listening to stuck places.

I know I will open myself to this invitation as well.

Hearing from each other on this blog can be a powerful way for us—as a community—to explore our emerging edge together.

Elizabeth Morana
Adapted from a recording from Nada Lou

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On Being Reactive Versus Being Responsive

Painting: Kevin McEvenue

Dear Kevin,

When the body hears that it’s “directed to do something,” it is not being given a choice. It’s expected to do it. It might refuse, or it might comply. But it cannot come from a natural place because there’s no offer of a choice.

What you are showing us is that we can build in a choice. For ourselves! After you see the typical reaction we all have to being told to do something, and we don’t want to, and yet, we’re going to make ourselves do it. It’s a burden trying to comply, and fighting it as we do.

So you’re showing us that we can turn to our own inner self, and offer a choice—an invitation. Instead of forcing ourselves to cooperate, we can ask the body to choose how it would like to respond.

An option not always offered to children. Or to us, when we were children. Yay for giving the body the chance to do something on its own, creatively. Rather than just feeling forced to comply or rebel.

Yay for offering ourselves the freedom of choice! What would the world be like if we had this option built into us? Would we be a bunch of ‘hippies?’ Or would we be purely self-centered people?

Or would we be a group of kindhearted, peaceful, beings connected to one another in a gentle way?

Elizabeth Morana

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Intunement Beginning Place Part 2

Preamble for Intunement 2

In this audio recording, Kevin tells us more about how the practice of intunements have continued to evolve.  At the risk of missing rich nuance, I’ll say this:  first, he makes explicit that heartfelt conversation is not a one-way-street bringing value only to the ‘focuser.’

Kevin shares:  “….heartfelt connection has a quality of GOODNESS, of light, of wisdom, that—perhaps—is for BOTH OF US….it begins with you—but maybe the life in it also has something in this experience of Alive that’s for me.  That felt new!   And gradually—and only now—beginning to emerge as something that I can claim for myself, and spend time with, and allow that to open more fully in my life too….”  Much like trying to describe a beautiful sunset, it’s hard to give concise words to this, but I’ll say that Kevin seems to be describing that quality of Goodness that forms in a Heart Felt connection and inevitably brings something new for each of those present.

Then he turns to the aliveness that we feel in each part of ourselves—a body part, for example.  And then he goes further, Inviting us to give our attention to something alive to us in nature: “….what we bring to that is our human consciousness…whether a foot or a tree…..we ADD something to its awareness of itself that wasn’t there until we mutually met one another in that way….”
He may not have made his case yet for some of his readers—although he has succeeded, with me.  If so, just hold all of it, all of these ideas, and hold your own not-sure-about and your own even-a-bit-cautious, and see how that shakes out in the coming days and weeks.  Your own questions are seeds of the MORE that can and will grow in this exploration of what is happening when two or more are gathered in heartfelt connection.

Elizabeth Morana

Reference:  Mr Deer and Me and The Pine and I (Stories on the Blog as excellent examples of giving our Heart Felt attention to something alive in Nature, Kevin.)

Mr. Deer and Me

The PIne and I

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