Photo Credit: Kakadu National Park, Victoria by Gabrielle Clark
The first time I tried Focusing something was not right. I was usually good at what I tried, and I could pick most things up easily. Not focusing—I froze, I could not do it. My body would shake, my jaw would shake, no words would come out.
It was so hard! How was it that some people were saying how wonderful it was. I hated it and wished I had never joined the class.
This situation led me on a mission to get it. I would try harder; surely I would get it…eventually. I went to lots of different teachers. I did lots of reading, and I even spoke to Gene on one of his phone courses.
An Encounter with Gene Gendlin
Even given a chance to speak with Gene Gendlin, the founder of Focusing, I couldn’t get the words out that I wanted. They would have been, “please help me, Gene, I can’t do focusing and I don’t know why, please help me.” Instead, I made a statement about the process model. I held my breath and blurted out…“Hi Gene, I am so excited that my body will know what it needs when it finds it.” There was silence for a few seconds “Oh…what do you mean?” he asked gently.
Oh my gosh, I froze. Did I even know what I meant? How will I answer him? What if I can’t remember what I said? I had rushed it out so quickly, and I didn’t know if it was still there to be found. I panicked. I can feel this now, how I hold my breath and rush the words out quickly, I don’t feel my body at all. I paused and begged my body to bring it back, sure enough, it was there. I tried again.
We spoke back and forth for a while. Gene was not just answering me. He was trying to understand me and to help me to go on from where I was. He seemed to genuinely care about what I said and even wanted to hear more, to understand me or maybe help me understand myself. He would say something that he thought I had meant and then say “is that right?” so I could check it. It moved me profoundly and brought tears to my eyes then and now- this was so new to me and so wanted.
It ended up by him saying “we need both the words and a body sense. If the body is not ready, then it’s not ready, and if the words are not ready, they are not ready. They will come when they are ready.”
How this Conversation Lives in Me Now
Kevin McEvenue says, “when the story is ready to tell itself it will” and “the secret to your unfolding lies in you not me, I just throw things out now and then for you to check them.” My body likes these statements.
I will never forget this moment, and I think one day, with practice, I will be able to slow down enough to feel both. I will be able to pause and hold both my body sense and my words together and speak slowly and surely from a place of grounded presence. My practice will be to feel me first, then speak from that deeper place. To let it come, to allow the story to tell itself from where it wants to. This new ability is a scary thought both unknown and unfamiliar, but I like it.
No one can teach me how to hold both my body sense and my words together, I have to find my own way, and I am grateful to Kevin and Gene for the way they both hold space for a person to do just that.
To find my own way feels so good.
Gene Gendlin is the founder of Focusing. To learn more about him, please click on http://www.focusing.org/bios/gendlin_bio.html