My friend died last week….

by Cathy Rowan

Jose died last week. He died due to the Coronavirus. He lived over 4,500miles away from me and yet he was one of my very closest friends.

Inside me is a great big hole of missing him. A sense of both my personal and the world in general being a poorer place with his departing. I know he will have died in peace and his health had become increasingly poor over the last couple of years.

My body now feels him in the wind, sees him in the clouds scudding by, and dancing amongst the stars – probably swinging on the moon because he is now free. He is no longer locked in a prison: he spent in total just 6 months short of 30 years in prison in Texas. And for this I feel a visceral joy for him that he is no longer suffering.

But my heart is so angry with the prison system that did not even give the inmates bars of soap to wash their hands. Alongside this is this huge sadness: what is within me and most striking is just plain old “missing him” being here on the planet with me albeit thousands of miles away.

Yesterday I just sat with myself, just being with all of this and there was also a sense of more wanting to come. Suddenly an unexpectedly profound awareness came: that Donald Trump, for all his wealth, power and “freedom”, was so impoverished compared to Jose. Jose had an inner peace and freedom despite him being locked in a prison for life without parole.

Contact with Jose had a richness, an extraordinary arms-flinging-wide open in joy  feel: he had a deep abiding faith in Love that he called God. He had embodied and lived his life whilst I knew him from this deep faith that flowed through him. He had what I believe all our hearts long for – including President Trump. What came Jose was the one who was and is free, Trump is locked into a unseen cage of his past pain.

Jose wrote to many people over the 30 years including me for 15 of them. I started writing in 2005 – my life then being subsumed in micromanaging my severe chronic pain and vertigo that came from a car accident in 1999. I knew I was writing to a man on Death Row in Texas who was nearing the end of his appeal process and that the expectation by all there was he would be executed.

I wrote because I was lonely and because I missed from my work not getting to know people from very different backgrounds to my own. I even in my arrogance wrote because maybe I saw him as the one needing help. I was all wrong: it was Jose who helped me. Jose who had already in 2002 been just a few hours short of being executed was at peace with death. \jose who recognised what love truly is through his many pen friends and his amazing attorneys Dick and Mandy. And through this he found an acceptance of death and in so doing he embraced life and living.

And so it was Jose who taught me how one might actually more fully live with what cannot be changed. He taught me how one might accept with a glad heart whatever comes as, whatever this is, it is meant to be for now. Our choice is to see the gift within what comes and open to it.

He taught me that prison (and chronic pain) is a mind-set and that within us we can be free whatever our external life situations. He believed if we open our heart to the life-process we are in God will be with us and show us the way. He was a natural Focuser without ever knowing anything at all about Focusing. He knew about Presence, he radiated Presence. I found that in every letter I received from him it was just written from his felt sense supported by a place of Presence. He was so fully human, so alive, and at times got into such messes – death row definitely being the pinnacle of his “messes” list!

Jose gave me the unconditional love my parents could never give. And in July 2008 I realised I had to meet him to thank him, for what he had given me in terms of teaching me how to live positively with my pain, before he was executed. So I carefully booked my flights around treatment I was then having and in accordance with Texan prison visit requirements. And it was all set for me to go in late January 2009: then in October Jose got an execution date of mid-January.

What unfolded next is a long story, too long for a blog post: but suffice to say I so needed to meet this man I lobbied the “great and the powerful” with letters asking for his execution date to be deferred until after my visit.  Then by what Jose termed one of God’s miracles, just a couple of days before his execution date my request was granted. His date was deferred for 90 days in order that I could make my visit. My husband and I went and met him. Afterwards we also met his attorneys, Dick and Mandy, people of immense compassion and dedication.

Out of this meeting, a change in the Federal law and a huge online lobby, of which I was a part, Jose’s sentence, again just days before the execution date in April, was finally quashed. A sentencing retrial was ordered. This was almost unheard of in Texas. I had not realised in my lobbying that no-one else had thought I stood a snowball in hell chance of success. A friend said to me the other day about this – sometimes naivety is an asset!

Finally in 2013 he got a sentence of life without parole. I  had visited him twice prior to the final re-sentencing decision and then was able to visit Jose in 2014 in his new prison. At this meeting there were no bars between us and we actually got to have a hug.

And today my heart needs me, the whole of my body needs me to share with you about this extraordinary human being who has so profoundly changed my life, just as inadvertently I changed and “saved” his. Jose, following his sentencing commutation, spent his life sharing this experience of his life having been saved through love.

My heart feels I owe it to him to do the same now he is no longer here to share his story.

When his letters came I never used to open them immediately: the love emanating out of the writing on the paper was sometimes too intense for me. Often when I read them I skim-read – again too much love for my defended broken heart. And now he is gone: no more letters. Just tears, so many tears, and so much love. I have kept all his letters and when I am ready I will read them again and let them soak in even deeper. Right now my heart is not ready yet for their intensity.

Last Sunday I attended a Zoom meeting in memory of Jose with a whole group of people who also corresponded with him. People were there from around the world: eastern Australia to the Pacific Coast of the USA, from Europe. Not all his friends could make it but what was clear in this wonderful, but so painful-for-me, meeting was how Jose, transformed by love. How through letter-writing and letter receiving in a solitary confinement cage on Death Row, this love was literally spread around the globe.

Jose was not an intellectual, his IQ was 70:  yet he lived what Gene Gendlin taught and wrote about, what the mystics including Rumi writes about. I know he had a dreadful childhood and so I suspect did Donald Trump. However Trump’s was one of white privilege and money whereas Jose’s was from a poverty-stricken Hispanic family. Neither man got the love they needed: and yet somehow Jose found a way to an all-encompassing sense of love within and the richness and peace that comes with it.

Maybe Jose found Love despite his circumstances or perhaps it was because of them? I feel Jose has much to teach us all about how our chase after money and power can so damage us  and get in the way of what is truly important, what life is really all about.

I am finishing this post with a slightly paraphrased form of how Jose started all his letters to me and to all the people he wrote to:

Dear Reader, hello my precious friend, how are you and your loved ones doing? May this post find you all only in GODS hands as it leaves me. Thanks to our LORD  and SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST!

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How to Start Wholebody Focusing with a Partner

Photo Credit: Diana Scalera

When I attended the Scambi 2019 in Albano Terme, Italy this past summer, I presented my workshop Focusing Around the Dinner Table using mostly Wholebody Focusing as the vehicle to access this theme in our bodies. Since then, some focusers have been asking for help to learn Wholebody Focusing. I have begun working with some of the Italian focusers and have come up with a way for them to get started on their path to incorporating Wholebody Focusing into their Focusing practice. Below is a description of the steps of a session with Cristina Griggio via Skype. It can be a starting point for focusers who would like to add some Wholebody sensibility to their practice. 

  1. Both partners need to be willing let go of the need to have an agenda for their session and actively hold space to what your body prioritizes. Each partner can take a turn being the person who is focusing, and the other person is mostly silently holding energetic space for their partner while noticeing how what happens to your partner impacts your body.  
  2. Establish your energetic connection with your partner. If you are in person, make sure you have a sense of each other’s energy. If you are working via the internet, find your way to connect in this situation.  
  3. The Focuser asks her body a simple question “Where does my body need attention now?” Let your body choose what it needs. Let go of any narrative and your thoughts about what is necessary in this moment. Your body might have a different point of view.
  4. Wait and hold space for whatever comes. 
    1. Acknowledge the body’s sense of what is there without adding a narrative. Stay with the bodily sensation.
    2. Let what is there know that it can be just the way it is and has all the time it needs to be present to itself.
    3. Give your body permission to move, especially your hands, which may be able to support parts that are struggling.  
  5. Stay with whatever comes. Ask for help from other parts of your body, from the earth below you, the sky above, the air you breathe, or the chair in which you sit. 
  6. Let your body indicate when it has found a resting place (or ask your body to find a resting place).
  7. When the Focuser has come to a resting place, the partner can share how that experience with her partner impacted her body. The Focuser can also share more if they choose with their partner about their experience.  
  8. After the session, both Focuser and Listener should pay attention to whatever comes that relates to what happened in the session. According to Addie van der Kooy, each opportunity we take to spend time with our bodies in grounded presence causes changes (from minor to monumental). Our lived experiences after our sessions let us know what has changed.  

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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 “Me Here” Series of Training Conversations

Trainer logo2mergeIn August of 2018, Addie van der Kooy, Kevin McEvenue and I met to discuss what is new in Wholebody Focusing.  Addie and Kevin collaborated on FOCUSING WITH THE WHOLE BODY: A CD-integrated Focusing Learning Program that was published in October 2006.  We wanted to bring together the two people responsible for this extraordinary learning program and to look toward the future of Wholebody Focusing.

That day we filmed until what needed to be said was complete.  The result was the six videos listed below.  The first four are already on the blog.  You may have seen them already.  The last two complete the series and set the stage for what comes next.

My experience as the producer/editor of these videos is that new ground is broken in these intimate dialogues and they may need several views to fully take in what is being shared.  This blog is proud to have the opportunity to make these conversations possible and to be the mechanism to share them with those who would benefit.

These six videos are each part of a flow of exploration so you may want play them in the order they are listed. Once you become familiar with them, you may want to pick and choose which one suits you most on any given day.

Please comment and share how these conversations have impacted you.  This is an exciting way to keep WBF as a vibrant life experience.

The Inner Core Muscle of “Me Here” This Interview discusses training someone to find grounded presence.

The Inner Core Muscle of “Holding Both”   This interview discusses training someone to “hold both with equal positive regard.”

Let Your Experience Be This interview discusses how to be with whatever comes even if it is not what you expected.

Me Here and My Thoughts This interview discusses how to be with racing thoughts that may or may not be true or helpful.

What Is Needed to Start the WBF Process?

Why is establishing an inner structure so important to learning Wholebody Focusing?

 

The End Note: Why Talk About Muscles?

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When You Help Me Go Further, It Feels so Good

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

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The Inner Core Muscle of “Holding Both”

Welcome to the third video blog of a heartfelt conversation between Kevin McEvenue and WBF trainer Addie  van der Kooy.  In this part of the conversation both share their excitement and experience of the practice of “Holding Both” – an inner dynamic that naturally comes alive when you not only make space for a body sense of your suffering, but also include the bodily felt connected-ness and aliveness of “Me Here.”  This  inner core muscle of Holding Both opens up new possibilities of deep healing and even transformation.  Enjoy,

Addie van der Kooy (email: avdkooy@outlook.com)

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A Gift that Keeps Giving & How I Mustn’t Feel the Joy of all that Until I Pause!

Photo Credit: Pixaby

Here is where I want to begin, reflecting on what Diana shared below in her blog that will not let go of me until I say something. This was a very powerful connection that demanded my attention. I am appreciating how the power of Diana’s heartfelt piece on the Blog that so deeply touched me. There is so much there as I stop and make room for what wants to come in me now. Maybe see what comes for you here too. Kevin

Pauses Big and Small

“Each time I paused, I felt more like myself.  I felt more appreciation for who I am, the struggles I’ve survived and the beauty I created along the way.   This is an appreciation I had never felt before because I was always too busy trying to change myself to be something or someone “better.”  Instead, I now know that this treasure trove of information about me is readily available and that whenever I pause and hold space with equal regard for what is there, something new about me will emerge.”

       Diana Scalera November 19, 2018

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Wisdom from an Unlikely Place

How lucky am I
to be able to turn
to see these gnarled trees
through this train window
stopped
waiting
for some unseen obstruction
ahead

Sunlight illuminates
my friends, the trees
their trunks, their limbs.
Orange-khaki-colored brush
crouches in front of them
Unashamed of their winter attire
Take me as I am
they signal in their own
private language
I have no need for adornments.
I am here.
That is enough.

Elizabeth Morana

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