Holding Space for the Suffering of the Holocaust

Presentation by Ellen Korman Mains

As part of the commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Kevin McEvenue’s Wholebody Focusing Blog helped sponsor an online gathering, attended by people from at least 6 countries. Author, Holocaust activist, and Focusing Teacher Ellen Korman Mains led a discussion on ways to hold space for and participate in the healing that needs to happen around the devastation of the Holocaust.

This post has an abridged version of Ellen’s presentation to the participants that supported small group Heart Conversation on this topic. Ellen starts her comments with a discussion of time itself. How are the past, present, and future connected? Can we relate to trauma in the past? Do these past actions relate to what is happening now? And, most importantly, how can holding space for the past carry us forward?

Ellen talks about the history of witnessing the Holocaust—how it was avoided by many at first. It is challenging to hold such horrors in our consciousness. She describes the process of becoming a witness and why witnessing matters. What is the impact on the person who is a witness? Can it change the energy of those spirits who lived through this tragedy?

Ellen draws on her work and the work of other healers for inspiration. She describes the process of being a witness at Auschwitz as “shattering” initially; however, if one is able and willing to stay present to the energy of the experience, a peacefulness emerges and extends into a sense of spaciousness and well-being.

This video is about 18 minutes long but well worth the effort to watch. For me, it is a convincing explanation of how we can heal ourselves, the past, and the future through this type of energy work. This kind of holding of space for suffering can also be helpful in many other circumstances in which unattended suffering still has us in its grip.

Sit back and take your time being with Ellen and her wisdom.

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Trouble Resting

By Elizabeth Morana

I’m afraid of this day
and the demands therein
so I lie awake
electricity a low hum
under me
running through my cells
Two hours before
awakening time

I resist this moment
and keep resisting
Can I let myself Be Here?
In this unwanted moment?

No.
I am caught up with the fear
that I won’t be able to be-in
some future moment of
this coming day

I cannot be-here at all

Oh, how I long to
Be here now.

And having really
Yearned that
My body stretches
relaxes
And I lie down
If not to rest
At least
To be here.

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On Becoming a Grandmother / Kun minusta tuli mummu

How will I release my grip on her so that she can choose the clothes she desires as she grows up? And I’m not just talking about clothes now. When growing up, what kind of look, touch, and words will she need to face, feel, and hear to find herself?

Some months ago, I became a grandma to a baby and a puppy. I listen to these significant events in my body. I start to feel the liveliness in the bottom of my feet. Then something “awkward” appears in my stomach. How could anything so tricky be related to such beautiful things?

This felt sense is located horizontally, longitudinally in my stomach. It is spherical, maybe about three centimeters in diameter. It has soft edges. Something concentrated wrapped in a sausage casing.

As the delivery of the baby lasted almost two days, there was a moment when I began to think about all the possible ways it had gone wrong. At some point, I was already sure that both my daughter and her baby had died, and no one in the middle of that horror could tell us anything.

Fear of loss.

Is it related to how I lost myself? As a child, I decided that I wouldn’t cause any problems for my parents. I kept the pain and sorrow inside me — even the joy.

The newly-born, both human and canine, have vitality. They are waking up to the outside world and learning as they encounter new experiences. A sharp look that suddenly bursts into a sweet smile, a mouth that meets new sounds. Paws are running into your arms.

I remember a photo we took the day I first met my granddaughter. There was a picture published on social media showing just a little hand of our baby girl in my big, much stronger one. We who loved her saw that she was more than a hand, but we didn’t show it to everyone.

Dear belly, what do you ask for or need?

Loving ears, eyes, and arms that hear see and carry me just as I do with my grandchild. People, animals, for which I am more than a hand shown in a social media photo. Some love my plump stomach, and my lips that grapple with the right words and sometimes find them. And I wonder if I could become even more visible, beloved, and faithful to myself?

These contradictions do not end here, as I now can feel two Prince sausages (in Finland, some short sausages are called Prince sausages) in my belly. Like two attached Prince sausages. A meaty concatenation of sausages. Lots to eat. One is on the left side of my hip. The other is on the heart side and expands under the rib, growing toward my left flank. These are long-legged Prince sausages. Or are they Princesses?

A part of me is against the word Princess. In my childhood, those who wanted to look beautiful were called princesses. Not in an admiring way but like a coquette. It described an awkward person trying to draw attention to herself.

I welcome the Princess in myself. The child who changed her clothes many times a day according to her desires. How wonderful it felt when I did the same during the focusing week-long in Chile one year ago. Or when I change my grandchild’s diapers and think about what clothes to put on her. How will I release my grip on her so that she could choose the clothes she desires as she grows up? And I’m not just talking about clothes now.  When growing up, what kind of look, touch, and words will she need to face, feel, and hear to find herself?

How about me?

Is it time to unload my sausage casing and open up my ingredients for a viewing? Look, I was born from this mass.  Edible but not always digestible. And maybe only for  those who like this kind of sausage.

 

Kun minusta tuli mummu

Muutama kuukausi sitten minusta tuli sekä mummu että koiramummu. Kun kuulostelen näitä isoja tapahtumia kehossani, alan tuntea sekä elävyyden jalkapohjissani, että jotain ”hankalaa” vatsassani. Miten näin kauniisiin asioihin voisi sisältyä mitään hankalaa?

Se sijaitsee horisontaalisesti, pitkittäissuuntaisesti vatsassani. Se on pallomainen, halkaisijaltaan ehkä noin kolme senttimetriä. Sillä on pehmeähköt reunat. Kuin makkarankuoreen kääritty tiivistymä.

Kun vauvan synnyttäminen kesti ja kesti, aloin pohtia, mitä kaikkea kamalaa voisi tapahtua. Jossain vaiheessa olin jo varma, että sekä tyttäreni että hänen vauvansa olivat molemmat kuolleet, eikä kukaan siinä kauheudessa kyennyt ilmoittamaan siitä meille.

Menettämisen pelkoa.

Liittyykö se siihen, kuinka menetin itseni? Kuinka lapsena päätin, että en aiheuta vanhemmilleni mitään ongelmia. Pidin sisälläni kaiken kivun ja surun. Ilonkin.

Vauvoissa, niin ihmis- kuin koiravauvoissakin on elämänvoimaa. Heräämistä ulkopuoliseen maailmaan. Uuden oppimista. Tarkkaa katsetta, joka yhtäkkiä puhkeaa suloiseen hymyyn, suuhun, joka tapailee uusia äänteitä. Tassuja, jotka juoksevat syliin.

Muistan valokuvan, jonka otimme sinä päivänä, kun ensi kertaa kohtasin lapsenlapseni. Sen someen laitettavan kuvan, jossa näkyisi vain pienen tyttövauvan pieni käsi minun suuressa, paljon vahvemmassa kädessäni. Minä itse, me näimme, että se pieni oli muutakin kuin pelkkä käsi mutta emme näyttäneet sitä kaikille.

Rakas vatsani, mitä sinä pyydät tai tarvitset?

Rakastavia korvia, silmiä ja syliä, jotka kuulevat, näkevät ja kantavat minua samalla tavoin kuin minä lapsenlastani. Ihmisiä, eläimiä, joille olen enemmän kuin somessa näkyvä käsi. Jotka rakastavat pulleaa vatsaani, huulia, jotka hapuilevat oikeita sanoja ja välillä löytävät niitä. Ja mietin minä sitäkin, voisinko tulla vielä enemmän näkyväksi, rakkaaksi ja todeksi itsellenikin?

Ei tämä tähän loppunut, sillä tunnen, kuinka tiivistymiä on nyt kaksi. Kuin kaksi prinssinakkia toisissaan kiinni. Tuhti makkaraketju. Paljon syötävää. Toinen niistä on napani vasemmalla puolella. Sydämen puolella. Sivussa, ei keskellä. Se laajenee kylkikaaren alle, kasvaa kohti vasenta kylkeäni. Pitkäsäärinen prinssinakki. Tai prinsessa?

Jokin osa minusta vastustaa sanaa prinsessa, sillä prinsessaksi on minun maailmassani kutsuttu sitä, joka haluaa näyttää kauniilta. Hienohelmaista hempukkaa. Kevytkenkäistä, hieman hankalaa ja huomiota itselleen hakevaa.

Toivotan tervetulleeksi prinsessan itsessäni. Sen, joka vaihtoi vaatekertaa mielihalujensa mukaan. Miten ihanalta tuntuikaan, kun tein tammikuussa Chilen matkallani samoin. Tai kun saan lapsenlapselleni vaippaa vaihtaessani pohtia, millaiset vaatteet hänelle pukisin. Miten irrottaisin otteeni hänestä niin, että hän kasvaessaan saisi valita ne vaatteet, jotka ovat häntä itseään eniten? Enkä puhu nyt vain vaatteista. Puhun myös aatteista. Millaista katsetta ja kosketusta, millaisia sanoja hän tarvitsee löytääkseen sen?

Sitä samaa pohdin itsellenikin.

Olisiko aika purkaa makkarani kuoret ja avata raaka-aineeni nähtäväksi? Että näin, tästä massasta synnyin minä. Syötävän hyvää, ei aina helposti sulavaa. Niiden ruokalautaselle pureskeltavaksi, jotka tällaisesta makkarasta pitävät.

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We Are No Content

This post is the fourth and final video in the series of videos from Fall 2018 in which Addie van der Kooy and Kevin McEvenue discuss the impact of Gene Gendlin’s work on Wholebody Focusing. In this video, they deconstruct Gendlin’s idea that we are not our content nor our suffering.

Kevin reminds us that in order to find this space of “no content,” we need to be connected to something outside ourselves, whether it is our feet or anything or someone outside of ourselves. He also shares how finding this place of “emptiness” or no content has its own life.

Addie adds some essential questions.
How would your body like to be supported?
How does it feel to be alive?
What or who holds your awareness?

We invite you to enjoy a lively coda to this Heartfelt Conversation on the practice of WBF between long-time friends and collaborators.

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It Was a Very Good Year

By putting our work into the public eye, we spread love, love for ourselves, and love that holds all with equal regard. Everyone has this place to come to where who they are is always held with the highest regard.

As I thought about writing to the readers of the blog about this year’s accomplishments, Frank Sinatra’s song “It Was a Very Good Year” came to mind. While the lyrics are not about writing and managing a blog, it is about appreciation and gratitude.

In the video below, he talks about his appreciation for the work of the composers and lyricists. He also shares his deep commitment to and respect for what the author has written. These sentiments are what I feel about my role as the blog administrator.

So I start this celebration of what we have accomplished this year by thanking our contributors for their hard work and dedication to building our community. Their willingness to share their WBF experiences and their exceptional writing abilities make this work a great joy in my life. 

Who writes for the blog?

We have 21 contributors from 10 countries–Australia, Canada, Cyprus, Italy, Finland, Japan, Scotland, Sweden. The UK, and the USA. There are 14 women and seven men. Their professions include many Wholebody Focusing Trainers, writers, a Divine Love leader, a supporter of Indigenous rights, an Alexander teacher, a Buddhist teacher, a Physicist, and a computer expert. Some write often; others occasionally send in a post. A few contribute with photos and other skills, and others have not yet published a blog.

Who reads the blog?

We have 470 subscribers. Some subscribe to the blog directly, and others subscribe to social media. Social media is a crucial way to get out the message about Wholebody Focusing to the world. I encourage everyone who loves this blog to ensure its future by publishing the posts that you like on your social media.

We have readers in 60 countries on seven continents with the USA, Canada, Italy, the UK and China being the most active. Places like Singapore, South Africa, Chile, and Australia have a few dedicated readers. We also publish posts in languages other than English to encourage our international audience to feel that they are also part of our community. Wholebody Focusers live in many parts of the world thanks to the work of Kevin McEvenue, Karen Whalen, Addie van der Kooy, Bruna Blandino, Rosa Catoio, and many other trainers.

2018’s statistics for the blog were 7,468 views, 1,755 visitors, 265 likes, and 204 comments.

In 2019, the statistics are 10,743 views, 2,797 visitors, 322 likes, and 192 comments. We have a growing, diverse readership that reaches 15 more countries this year than last year.

How Has This Blog Helped Build a Wholebody Focusing Community?

In November 2017, Melinda Darer, co-director of Focusing Initiatives International, and I discussed that while the Wholebody Focusing community spanned the world, there was no way to feel connected to other Wholebody Focusers. We set out to change that.

Melinda and her organization decided to sponsor a Wholebody Focusing Retreat, which brought together 48 people in August 2018. There is now a second retreat in the planning stages. (See Being Like a River: Felt Community in Action ) Also, we established the Monthly Online Wholebody Focusing Gathering, a free online meeting open to everyone. 

I created this blog that is public and open to anyone interested in Wholebody Focusing. It is a place to share experiences and deepen our practice by reading about the experiences of others. Kevin shares with us what new body sense is coming for him. He also recruits contributors. It is also a resource to find out what is happening in the WBF world and how you can participate.

We also hear from individuals how WBF impacts their lives. New this year, there is the Wholebody Focusing Trainers Corner, which provides the deeper thinking that is happening from the experiences of practicing trainers from around the world. We also offer intunements that anyone can use to soothe and deepen their practice whenever they feel the need. 

In addition, by putting our work into the public eye, we spread love, love for ourselves, and love that holds all with equal regard. Everyone has this place come to where who they are is always held in the highest regard. That can only strengthen us in our practice and in our community.

How can this blog help you?

We have over 150 posts from our 21 contributors that are about the Wholebody journeys we have traveled. There is also beautifully written prose, poetry, music, and videos that touch our hearts. If you sign up as a “follower,” you get notices only when someone posts something new on the blog. This can serve as a reminder that blog is always here to help you find grounded presence and loving support for the wonder that you are. 

I hope you will enjoy listening to Frank Sinatra talk about his experience as a singer and, if you want, to sense into his appreciation of the status of men in the mid-1900’s. 

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Invitation to Commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Photo Credit: Ellen Korman Mains

A Contemplative Focusing-oriented Zoom Gathering
January 25, 2020, 12 Noon – 1:30 pm EST
with Ellen Korman Mains
author of the award-winning memoir

Buried Rivers: A Spiritual Journey into the Holocaust

To the chagrin of her parents—Polish Jews who survived the Holocaust—Ellen became a Buddhist at 19, nearly tearing her family apart. Decades later, on the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, an experience on a German train sent her on a series of life-changing journeys to Poland to explore the meaning of basic goodness after the Holocaust, and her own family history. January 27, 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and 15 years since that 2005 train ride.

As nationalism and other threats increase around the planet, how do we acknowledge and hold space for an event as monumental as the Holocaust? Is healing possible? As a daughter of Holocaust survivors, Ellen will offer some personal and historical context for this gathering, including her journey since January of 2005. This gathering will include a guided meditation to help us connect with grounded presence, to create an environment of safety, and to invite ancestral support. Breakout groups will allow us to freshly share our experience.

“We, the living, are the body of our ancestors, and in our bodies we carry all the tears they could not cry during their lifetimes. And when we allow their tears to be cried through us, something is being made whole between the generations . . .”

-The Tears of the Ancestors: Victims and Perpetrators in the Tribal Soul, by Daan van Kampenhout

“If we go underneath the overwhelming emotions and touch into physical sensations, something quite profound occurs in our organism—there is a sense of flow, of “coming home.”

-In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma & Restores Goodness by Peter Levine

Please join us!

Email EllenKormanMains@gmail.com to RSVP and receive the Zoom link.

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The Sun Flowed Out

Photo by Diana Scalera

The morning of New Year’s Day, I happened to wake up early before the sunrise, which is rarely the case for me. Out of pure curiosity I rolled up the curtains fully to see the sky and the far mountains across my town, and realized that the atmosphere out there was so clean and quiet, even including the neighborhood parking lot and streets. I noticed everything there was so still in the veil of darkness and felt as if everyone held their breath, waiting for the particular moment—-the sun’s appearance. So I, too, kept still and quiet, standing by the window and just watching how the sky and the landscape would be changing.

The darkness gradually faded, and bits of red began to tint the clouds here and there. It was a bird’s cry which disrupted the silence, and it was the first sign for the rise of the sun. Other birds also joined with their calls as if they could not help but cry out of joy. When the bright light of the sun flowed out of the mountain ridge and penetrated through the landscape and me, I experienced “joy” myself, with my eyes closed, filled with overwhelming white light from head to toe.

Through this small drama, I felt as if I experienced Nature’s direct and powerful language, her pure feelings of joy and happiness, which I wanted to share with you at the beginning of this New Year.

Hiromi

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Incontro il mio Corpo/I Meet my Body

There is great movement here … in my body…on the left

I am relieved, supported and happy…with this laboratory that helps me

That never stops,

That works even when I am not aware of it.

Painting by Cristina Griggio

Incontro il mio Corpo

Antefatto:

(Nasce dal racconto a Natale 2019 con Claudio…..Il sollievo del superamento, gratitudine per il rapporto cambiato).

Il mio corpo inizia ad oscillare…destra – sinistra

Incontro il grande attraversamento e la fatica che c’è stata………Densa…

Oscura….Brullicante….sul mio lato sinistro.. del corpo.

Lo ascolto …

E’ UN GRANDE LABORATORIO !!!

E’ un posto… con un grande laboratorio

Che è qui.

C’è un gran lavoro qui….nel mio corpo… a sinistra.

Sono sollevata, sostenuta e contenta….di questo laboratorio che mi aiuta..

Che non si ferma mai,

Lavora anche quando io non lo so..…

E’ un gran conforto tutto questo

Cristina Griggio

I Meet my Body

Background:

It comes from a Christmas  2019 story with Claudio…the relief of finding a new way becomes gratitude for our changed relationship.

Something that is on the right and is now on the left…..

Dark….confusing…. on the left side of my body

I listen to it….

IT IS A LARGE LABORATORY!!!

It is a place… with a large laboratory

Right here.

There is great movement here … in my body…on the left

I am relieved, supported and happy…with this laboratory that helps me

That never stops,

That works even when I am not aware of it.

All this is a great comfort.

Grazie

Cristina Griggio

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