The Pause for Presence Project

Recently Cecelia Clegg and I were both sitting silently in Presence together during an on-line WBF session, and it felt so rich and right to do so during a time in which it is so easy to contract in fear, anxiety and frustration.

To pause and give ourselves time to open up to the “Life felt within and without” feels Cecilianow more meaningful than ever, and it gave us the idea to invite others to join us in a Pause for Presence gathering. We take time together to come into grounded Presence. Then we rest silently in the depth and aliveness of our Being. This process helps us to enter a dimension unaffected by all that is going on within and around us.

About a month ago, we had our first Pause for Presence gathering. After a brief lead-in (for those who needed it), we sat (or stood or moved) in silent Presence, which at times would flow into some sharing between us.

We knew that it would be richly nourishing for everyone but what was surprising also to notice was how quickly the broader field of the group Presence became palpable in our virtual meeting room. There was an added richness that allowed many of us to experience a much deeper sense of Presence than would have been possible if we had been on our own. At the end of our time together, it also felt like there was a tangible calm, still eye amid today’s turbulence.

There is a definite heartfelt “Yes” in us to continue with these Pauses for Presence get-togethers as they are nourishing in so many ways. We have planned our next meeting on Friday 12th June. And if you sense a “yes” inside you to join in, then you are warmly welcome!

The details:

To give you a little taster of our first gathering, here is a brief 7-minute audio-clip of one of the lead-ins by Addie.

So if you are Paws up for Presence, we’d love to see you on the 12th!

UK WBF trainers Addie van der Kooy and Cecelia Clegg.

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Our World

Photo Credit: Laura Dickinson Howarth Park, Santa Rosa

Hello. This topic was offered and received in me from words Diana offered in a recent email. If I heard her rightly the “our world” referred to a kind of inner contract that lives as us in cooperation with the world and all that is. Of course this ‘all that is’ is so much, so many, so huge, so inclusive, infinite, and eternal. The This includes every human who also is alive in this kind of inner contract with the world even though mostly we don’t notice this or if we do, we have parts that minimize it or inflate it or otherwise deform into becoming critical of ourselves or others. Did Diana mean all this?

I want to check back with her about what does come when I write it this way. And where does all this come from, whether we confirm something with Diana or just say this now as it comes in me. I want to go back to where I think Diana’s words prompted this in me somehow. Of course there is also what I don’t know and won’t ever know perhaps but there is this that I can say. “Our world” seemed to me to invoke the recognition of both our individual perspectives as Diana also wrote of her wish to hear many of these points of view from us (those who come to the blog). And then the words “our world” really awakened a big response in me. What can we (all of us in the whole world) and we (those of us in a Wholebody Heartfelt way) say here about our world that will also do the beautiful thing that Diana (and I) hope for. Our world. Our Heartfelt shared, awake, healthy, and also unspoiled by grime of soot, carelessness, misapprehension, or confusion World. Our precious and beautiful and joyful and aligned with Love and interactional support world, Our World. And if I go further I find that it is also our world that is a holding for experience that presents perhaps as temporary but may also be felt as problem. Our World is also a Holding.

I have worded myself just now into a place of some inner strength, a sturdiness and centrality of vision that feels enlivening and well, just Good in me. It comes to me that this is perhaps simply an example of the first ‘step’ we all learned in Wholebody Focusing. Is this Grounded Presence as we have said and explored together. More of me is here. And as is a common experience of this, now also more of you is welcome. In fact as I re-read this I wonder about, and welcome and sense the power of Our Collective Fields of Presence.

I’ve heard other teachers speak of how each of us is a World as well. Might we say that Heartfelt Connection is a connection of worlds. Bodily and materially as the Heart is a powerful physical organ yes, but also a great presence and energetic field and engine of reception and signaling as well.  Can we sense the heart’s signal? And when we do, what then? As I sit here right now I sense the edges of what I know and imagine and wish for and feel and sense —about how it is for you just now. You who are reading, resonating, responding, checking within, being with anything, everything that might come there. Hello. 

Based on past experiences I imagine that I will continue to experience parts that will come into conflict. Part of me had been hanging back about writing this blog post for no ‘reason’ I could find. 

Something about the invitation to speak of “Our World” from how that comes in me was transformative in some way. Thank you Diana. And thank you to You readers. Nothing has to happen. And I am welcoming that something does. 

Rereading this just now I notice that there is a way to read this that says, What is That About? About what? And surprisingly there is not only, or not just, the usual ‘frightened-when-called-on-in-school response.’ I notice that there is also, ‘Oh what a Good question and we (yes it was a we) might stay there and receive it.’

And I want just now to invite that questioning to receive whatever it needs to find more of itself. The body is a kind of knowing that can hold such questions. And while I too in my head and thoughts don’t quite know what That means, I also do in my whole self find that I do know this something from a larger perspective bodily and actually perhaps that that something larger was and is trying to find a way to say This, about Our World.

Ah, and only now to I understand what I (This) was trying to say!

Laura Dickinson

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The Impermanence of our Narratives

Photo: Diana Scalera, Windscape, Cape May, NJ 1987

One of the characteristics of our Stay at Home experiences is that they heighten the feeling of impermanence. What is scientific information one day—don’t wear masks—becomes what will save us the next day–wear a mask! One day COVID-19 is a respiratory disease then the next day, blood clots and kidney failure are a more significant danger. 

We also create expectations of what will happen next that are not reliable. When attempting to buy food, I found that the store where we had been buying food no longer included our zip code in their delivery zone. NYC has been quiet, and the air so clean. Our window sills stayed clean of the usual amount of soot, and we were able to see beautiful blue skies. But, today, all that changed. I could hear the roar of cars and motorcycles on the nearby highway, Police helicopters were flying overhead, and seaplanes were landing on the East River. These annoyances were absent for the last eight weeks. It was a calmness not felt in this neighborhood for many decades. And now, the noise and soot have returned in almost full force. 

What is Impermanence?

In Buddhism and other healing traditions, embracing the impermanence of life is what relieves us from suffering. The doctrine asserts that all existence, without exception, is transient and unreliable. By learning to accept that all life is in constant flux, we might not be surprised by change. We learn that, while impermanence might bring grief and sorrow, it can leave space for renewal and love. It also helps us value what we have at the moment because whatever that is, is also impermanent. We are living in a time that is helping us connect to impermanence on a moment to moment basis. We can use this experience to become aware of and strengthen our ability to appreciate the present, process our losses, and anticipate that good might come from impermanence.


When I was studying to be a teacher, I learned about the Brazelton Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale that measures, among other things, neonates’ consolability. This assessment is used immediately after birth. A team measures various aspects of the baby’s state of being. In the case of consolability, someone disturbs a sleeping baby and then observes how quickly the baby consoles herself. The faster the newborn returns to a calm state, the more emotionally stable she is assumed to be. I think about that test when I consider living with impermanence. It starts with the concept that our bodies have an instinct to return to a calm state. Wholebody Focusing connects us to the part of us present at birth—the ability to console ourselves.

When Narratives go up in Smoke

On a personal level, I’ve been holding space for a health issue. I had created a complicated narrative that explained everything. Then, one day when I held space for the energy of the narrative, it dissolved into a puff of smoke. What my body let me know was that my story was not only a small part of what was happening but also the narrative was limiting me from being open to a larger truth. My search for the magic bullet that would resolve my health issue in one neat package became useless. This revelation put me on a path to encounter a fuller picture. New insights have emerged. What is happening to me is an amalgam of long-held nameless somethings that are wanting  my attention. Energetically, a larger area of my body is involved than I had connected to before and it includes the space surrounding my body. 

As part of my healing, I am taking a constitutional homeopathic remedy to help deep-seated traumas to emerge. I’ve adapted my chanting process, to begin with sensing the energy of my concerns before I start chanting. I can feel that energy in my hands as I ground myself. 

I have small singing bowls on my desk and ring them whenever I need to connect to “me” again by pausing. It ensures that I do not work non-stop.  The sound of the bowls have a long duration, and I make sure I do not begin something new until the vibrations  have returned to a calm state like that of a newborn.

When new energy or a narrative emerges, I let my hands feel the energy.  Sometimes movements come.  As the vibrations diminish, I remind myself that nothing is permanent, and my body has the capacity to console itself and reconnect to joy.

Challenges Big and Small

After I started writing this post, I got word that my dear friend Martin Blumenkranz, who lived 1,200 miles from me, had passed away. Even though we had not worked together for almost 20 years, we spoke to each other every week for hours. He was my assistant principal at a new, innovative school in Manhattan called High School for Environmental Studies. He hired a team of teachers passionate about improving the environment and gave us space to be our best selves. Since his death, social media has been alive with stories from people around the world who loved him. His leadership and undying belief in the goodness and creativity of humanity touched us all and helped us become the people we are.

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The Felt Sense of Being Held

I had not imagined that it would be so long before I wrote a post again on my Whole Body Focusing training with Addie van der Kooy, but as John Lennon’s lyrics say, “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” Whatever I had imagined 2020 would look like for me, it was not how it has turned out: right at the start of my new year severe dental problems dominated my life and then came Corona Virus life with lock-down.

Finally, the nausea, pain, and the dental infection that dominated my experience of self for a couple of months, had abated enough for me to return to training with Addie.

In my first session of the year, as I was grounding and connecting into my whole body, I was made very aware of two features dominating my inner experience. The first, quite strident in its tone, was the still-there-but-lessened nausea-pain/poisoned feeling and swelling in my right lower jaw due to residual infection/post-extraction problems. The second was a global gut-originating sense of self-doubt, and a deep sense of something vital being missing.

When Body Movements Support My Presence

My right hand spontaneously went to my infected right lower jaw and just gently held this place that had been and still was the epicenter of my lack of wellness. And as I just sat with my hand nursing my jaw, I noticed a “new dimension” was manifesting in me that was part of my embodied grounding experience.

This new dimension was an energy, a sort of subtle buzz or hum that was almost electrical in quality: Jane Seymour’s quote, “the hum of the Universe,” felt spot on. And the hum brought with it great warmth, and as I continued to hold my jaw, I realised that this hum was spiritual and that this was the most alive place in my body.

Then, as my hand continued to cradle my jaw, agonisingly sharp pains came into my fingers as if being drawn out of the infected jaw, into my hand. It was such huge pain, and so much distress came too. A connection came. This pain had to do with my relationship with my mother that always required me to absorb her pain. It usually felt like being poisoned. And here it was this poison from so many years was now here, manifesting in my jaw, ready to start being felt, held, and related to by me.

Suddenly my hand pulled away from my jaw. It could not bear the pain any longer. The pain was so toxic that my breath had almost stopped as a way not to feel it. An image I had had, many years ago in therapy, of my mother through her spoken words subtly imbuing them with poison. And as her words “hit” me, it was as if she was firing poisoned ice bullets into my body and my heart. As I connected with this therapy memory, a considerable shudder and jerk took over my body—trauma memories.

When We Connect to Something New

Addie asked me: how is your relationship with all this? How is it in your body? I felt very torn – there was a part that wanted absolutely nothing to do with any of this, just to run away and escape. A photo on the wall above my desktop computer drew my heart. It was of my two daughters hugging each other both with huge loving smiles on their faces. Looking at this photo, I could feel my heart open and able to take in their love. And I recognised that it is love that my still infected/”poisoned” jaw needs to heal – antibiotics alone will not treat this within me.

Again Addie invited me to check in with my body: and my body spontaneously knew what to do. My right hand returned to cradling my jaw, my left hand resting on my heart, and my eyes looked at the photo of my daughters. And as I sat like this, I could feel the hum, the affirming of loving.

Once again, the pain got too much, and my right hand pulled away from my jaw. So I took my hand and shook it to let go of, to release the pain, to be rid of the poison.

Addie continued to encourage me to move backward and forward in this cradling and then releasing process: to stay with the process and just let it move through in its own way and timing. He encouraged me, saying, “You can do this, you have the resources,” and I realised, as he said this, that it was the poison that caused me to feel self-doubt.

And so we both sat with this process: gradually, there was more space for the breath, and my right hand found it easier to sit cradling my jaw. Memories of my past experiences Shinzen Young’s meditation practices of just being forensically fascinated by pain came: yes, I do have the resources I realised.

Then Addie asked: what does this place need? What does it need? And immediately, both my arms went into a big self-hug. “The hug of love?” Addie suggested. I just sat with this, knowing that this was what my body was so missing. My mother never held me. She could not bear touch. Neither of my parents had any loving physical contact with me or my sister.

As I continued to hug myself, Addie shared how, as a boy, when his father put his arm around him (which wasn’t often), Addie felt real physical confidence within himself. This information created a significant “aha!” moment for me: I repeated back what Addie had just said. “When your father held you, you felt confident in just being you.”

I finally understood what the feeling of something vital in me was missing. I never had this experience of just being ok to be me through being held as a child from my parents. No wonder I had always struggled with self-doubt and self-disbelief. I had never known how just being physically held might have made all the difference to me and my self-belief/trust.

Then an adult memory came: it was of my daughter Sarah, a few years ago at the funeral of one of my parents, just suddenly taking my hand and the power of the moment. At the time, I had felt it. I knew she loved me just as I was, that she loved all of me at that moment. She did not need to say anything at all. It was one of the most powerful moments of my life: in it, she accepted me and my grief. No-one had ever done that for me before. That was all I had needed.

How My Healing Impacts My Understanding of the Global Crisis

As I write this now, a few weeks on, tears come as I reconnect with Sarah holding my hand. The realisation of just why I have found it so hard to be with people dying without their loved ones beside them.

The pain in me of not being held and touched as a child is still deep within me: I would not wish it on anyone. So my heart grieves that these people dying now cannot have that final physical contact with those they love – hard for the person dying and for those they leave behind. I hope they, like me, have memories of being held and touched that can be of comfort to them in their loss.

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The Lock Down and The Flowers

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Photos by Deni Tessarolo within 200 meters of her home

On May 18, 2020, the Veneto Region of Italy will open to a new phase of their response to the COVID-19 virus. Here is Deni Tessarolo’s energetic experience of the Lock down.

The Energy of the Lock Down

All of a sudden, you find yourself having to stay inside a space defined by law. We were IMG_0010_1even restricted to two blocks outside our home to walk our dogs or get exercise.

We began to live a way we never lived before with people locked in the house, wrapped in an ambivalent silence, a silence that heals your mind and, at the same time, opens a path for worries.

People became glued to the TV, clinging to the experts’ opinions to quell their anxieties. According to the government, if you wanted to go out, you must have a valid reason—food or drugs. You can only go to nearby businesses. Written self-certification is required. There were many new rules imposed on us and new things we had to learn.

We were discovering how difficult it was to keep a social distance—forcing oneself to stay far from others. We were hiding our faces under the protective masks, rendering facial expressions useless. There was no need for makeup, and we could relax our facial muscles with a neutral stance.

When waiting in the long lines outside the supermarkets, we learn to behave like a phobic person. All of a sudden, you have to move thinking that all the people you met have the corona virus infection.

A Collective Hallucination


It is like being the protagonist of a collective hallucination. Everyone became small and furtive as if we wanted to avoid being seen by the corona virus, present everywhere, invisible like an omnipotent, cruel God.

The official motto was: ‘Stay at Home.’  Staying outside becomes threatening while staying at home becomes salvation. Despite all this, not all had been negative. Many positive things arose with the new situation.

We discovered how it was to be free from many commitments. Now, virtual relationships, so underestimated and considered a fallback in comparison to physical contact, acquired vital importance. Emotional exchanges, affections, aperitifs, meetings with friends, outbursts, and hugs became virtually experienced.

How Flowers Helped Me

IMG_0013_1 copiaWe stayed at home, stayed within 200 meters of our home, with a lot of time on our hands. This time helped me to discover the expansive effects on my body that contemplating the beauty of flowers initiated and how the act of looking at them filled me with wonder by opening a space of time where I could rest.

This open space encouraged my love of taking pictures and capturing the best moment of the flowers to document their eternal beauty. I looked at every photo taken day after day for a long time. These are flowers that have always been present, but I never noticed them. It was my daily therapy that helped me to cling to the beauty of nature so as not to sink, or enclose myself in the darkness of black waters.

I had never considered that something so beautiful and fragile could become a lifesaver. By looking at a flower and I was letting in the visual effect–the feeling of wonder. This act turned into new life-giving energy.

I feel lucky to have allowed the flowers into my consciousness at that moment that was full of restrictions. The flowers had always existed. Now, they were appreciated and thoroughly enjoyed, bringing fragments of light that, together with the others, illuminated the house.

Fiori e Lock Down (Italiano)

In un giorno qualsiasi, all’improvviso, ti trovi a non poter uscire, a dover rimanere dentro uno spazio delimitato per legge. Lo spazio di movimento permesso non può superare i 200 metri da casa.

In questo modo inizia il lockdown, un periodo di tempo mai vissuto prima. La gente chiusa in casa, avvolta da un silenzio ambivalente, che oscillava da curativo per la mente a silenzio che favoriva preoccupazioni. C’erano persone incollate alla tv, aggrappate ai pareri degli esperti per sedare ansie e preoccupazioni.

Nel frattempo il governo decide che se vuoi uscire devi avere un valido motivo: comprare del cibo, comprare farmaci o altre necessità mediche e solo nelle vicinanze di casa con l’autocertificazione scritta che specifica la necessità.

Poi scopri quanto è difficile mantenere la distanza sociale. Scopri anche che la mascherina ti concede l’assoluta libertà espressiva del viso e il trucco che mimetizzava i segni del tempo non serve più.

Allucinazione Collettiva

IMG_0015_1Scopri le lunghe file fuori dai supermercati e devi imparare a comportati come le persone fobiche. Tutto ad un tratto devi muoverti pensando che il contagio del coronavirus può essere in tutte le persone che si incontrano, è come essere protagonisti di una allucinazione collettiva.

Tutti si fanno piccoli, furtivi, come volessero evitare di essere visti dal coronavirus, presente ovunque, invisibile e onnipotente come Dio. Stare fuori diventa minaccioso, mentre lo stare a casa diventa la salvezza. Il motto ufficiale è: ‘Stare a casa!’

Lo stare a casa ci allena alla rinuncia, insegna come è essere liberi dagli innumerevoli impegni, ci fa scoprire la vitale importanza delle relazioni virtuali, tanto sottovalutate e considerate un ripiego rispetto al contatto fisico. Tante cose vengono trasferite nelle connessioni online come gli scambi emotivi, affetti, aperitivi, incontri tra amici, sfoghi, abbracci, intrattenimenti ecc..

Come i Fiori Mi Hanno Aiutato

Stare a casa! … Stare nei 200 metri attorno a casa, con molto tempo a disposizione, con la primavera alle porte, mi fa accorgere dell’effetto quasi estatico nel corpo nel contemplare la bellezza insita dei fiori.

Mi diverto, giorno dopo giorno, a IMG_0004guardarli fiorire e con mia sorpresa scopro che l’atto del guardare sfumature, forme e colori mi riempiva di meraviglia, a volte toglieva il fiato, apriva uno spazio, sia fisico che temporale, dove si poteva sostare, staccare la spina.

Ecco che scattare foto soddisfa il bisogno avido di trattenere la meraviglia del fiore e il piacere nell’osservarlo. Volevo catturare l’apice della bellezza, renderla eterna.

Ho guardato a lungo ogni foto fatta giorno dopo giorno, molteplici fiori che si rinnovano ogni anno e mai notati prima, era la mia terapia quotidiana, era come aggrapparsi alla bellezza della natura per non sprofondare, per non chiudersi nel buio, per non perdersi nelle acque nere.

Non avevo mai considerato che qualcosa di così bello e fragile potesse diventare un salvagente. Guardare un fiore e lasciare che l’effetto visivo riempia qualcosa di non so cosa, ma qualcosa in cui il sentimento di meraviglia si trasforma in una energia nuova vivificante.

Mi sento fortunata per aver permesso, in quel momento pieno di restrizioni, di essere aiutata dalla natura floreale riscoperta e pienamente goduta, e come se frammenti di luce abbiano contribuito ad illuminare casa.

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Fear is a Potent Energy

In this latest conversation between Addie van der Kooy and Kevin McEvenue, they explore fear and it’s potential. Given the current state of the world and all the unknowns, how do we find a way to transform fear into a potent ally that can support us through difficult times.

Enjoy this conversation between Addie and Keven and learn how to explore the potential of your own fear.

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Wear a Mask. Save Lives!

Sometimes it is not about what your body needs now. Sometimes it is about what humanity needs now. While we get conflicting messages about how to save ourselves and others, what has emerged in the last few days is that wearing a mask when you leave your living space saves lives. The countries that require their “stay at home” citizens to also wear masks when they need to leave their living spaces have the lowest new infection rates.

If everyone starts wearing masks immediately, in a few weeks, the death rates should go down.  This mandate is not only about epicenters like New York, Italy, or Spain. It is also about places where irresponsible government leaders reject “stay home” orders and do not provide masks like they have begun to do in Italy. Wearing a mask and staying home are two things you can do to protect yourself and your fellow humans. According to New York City Guidelines, everyone should wear a face covering, cloth is fine, whenever going outside where other people may be present….while shopping for instance or commuting.  And homemade masks, a scarf or a bandana will do fine, just wash it once daily and use it again.

Take some time to sense into what wearing a mask triggers for you and hold space for those feelings. Then wear the mask!  Here’s a video from the Czech Republic about wearing a mask. Stay well, and help keep your community well too!  Share a picture of yourself showing that you are a “masker” at #Masks4all Encourage others to do the same.


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The Illusions of Others 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 a fantasy about who their daughters are. The high stakes of these garments often overshadow any connection to their daughters or even to the ritual events.

How a Dress Can Hold so Much Meaning

A photo was taken 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 local 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 photography 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 the photo. I was amazed because my body immediately recognized the shame I felt at having an inferior dress. When I looked closely at the picture, however, I saw how the dresses were almost entirely 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 a suffering my mother and aunt experienced.  From a felt sense, I played with the photo in Photoshop and removed everything that was not me. Somehow, I found a wise smile hiding in the moment.  It helps me remember that the illusions others create do not define me.

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