I began my exploration of Focusing with the more traditional Focusing that had me relate mainly to sensation and felt senses within my torso, and then soon transitioned to Wholebody Focusing which encouraged an awareness of my whole body in sitting, standing or lying postures, and also encouraged movement of my body, according to its own sense of rightness and timing. The starting point for all of this was developing grounded presence – an awareness of the totality of one’s physical being, from the inside, and then holding that awareness in a gentle, compassionate, unconditionally-accepting way. This took a bit of time, as this way of being was foreign to me. From there, I began to “focus”.
The more I’ve done this work – Focusing, in general - the more I’ve found that it's about following sensation in the body and allowing these sensations (which relate to how the body is holding our life experiences) to be, and move, and shift – all in their own way. I've found that learning to allow this tracking of sensation within myself was difficult initially, but became easier over time. The first number of times I attempted it, I was really in my left brain, wanting information, or a big shift, or an “aha”, or something! My mind was also very busy analyzing it, comparing it to other things, wondering if I was doing it correctly etc. I had to learn to bring my awareness fully to my body, through grounded presence, and let my mind rest. And because Focusing is so inherently congruent with whom we really are, as I began to trust my listener and dropped any agenda for outcome, it began to happen: I could feel a whole lot more sensation in my body, I could feel things moving, and I very often had a knowing as to what these sensations were all about. It's interesting that my desire to control my sessions was a metaphor for my entire life, and that as I began to let go in sessions, this way of being slowly translated into a letting go and relaxing within the whole of my life.
It seems true to me that the body has its own intelligence, and that when we give our unconditionally-accepting presence and awareness to our stuck or painful places, and just allow them to be there exactly as they are, with no "thinking" or "trying to figure them out" or left-brain agenda for them or their "healing" - just sitting with them in a grounded, loving, gentle, spacious way, and giving witness and acceptance to them just as they are - that paradoxically, this is when shifts occur on their own, without our doing anything. The body seems to innately know the next, best, life-forward movement for the whole of us, and shifts accordingly when it's given the space to do so. It's as if just by bringing our consciousness to something (i.e. a wounded place), this part feels acknowledged and heard, and whatever was stuck there can relax and unwind. In explaining this to clients, I often liken these wounded places to a child who has just skinned her knee. She doesn’t need a bandage so much as she needs a caring, compassionate embrace and the attuned attention of parent or other that goes along with the bandage. Within the warm embrace, she can relax and let go of her tears and trauma as she’s listened to, heard and understood unconditionally. Her trauma can be processed in the moment, and she can move on; she can move forward in her life. This is one way we can give to ourselves in Wholebody Focusing.
Wholebody Focusing is useful in most any situation, since it accesses one’s unconscious knowledge and inner wisdom. If you could ask your inner self anything, what would you ask? What are you innately curious about? What parts of yourself might you like to meet or get to know better? As an example, Focusing can be used in decision-making; it offers a refreshing way to weigh in on one’s pros and cons lists that often reframes situations in interesting ways. It can be used in creative endeavors, to generate ideas or to move through stuck places. It can also be used in determining just what “that off feeling in one’s gut” is really all about; and in feeling out “the whole” of a situation and naming just what it is that’s going on when one can’t quite name it consciously. And in terms of the physical body, it can be a means to more efficient posture and movement, and can bring ease to the structure when the body is allowed to stretch and unwind as it wishes.
The more I've spent time in Wholebody Focusing, the more I've come home to myself and learned to love myself (the whole of me), because I've loved all my hurt places, one by one by one. As I've taken the time to sit in this unconditional way with so many wounded places within myself, not only have these places unwound, but this sitting has also changed my relationship with myself. As I've given all these places time, space and gentleness, I've learned to become that way with myself more consistently in my everyday life (it's just happening, I notice). And as I've learned to trust the Wholebody Focusing process and whatever comes up - to just allow it all, with acceptance - I've learned to become more that way with myself. It's been said that we can't give away what we don't have, so if we don't love ourselves unconditionally, we can't love others unconditionally. It feels to me that the path to loving myself unconditionally is through learning to love all the wounded individual parts of me that have been crying out for attention for so long through my thoughts, emotions and actions - and Focusing is a delightful tool with which to discover and come to know all these parts.
Studied Wholebody Focusing (WBF) with Karen Whalen from Nov. 2006 – April 2008 and from Jan. 2009 – Sept. 2010, while also incorporating elements of Polarity Therapy (energy work) into our practice.
I have had a personal WBF practice since I first began Focusing in July 2006. I have done extensive focusing on my own, have focused with partners throughout both training programs with Karen Whalen, and have had two long-term focusing partnerships from October 2010 to present.
I am a Registered Massage Therapist (RMT), and often encourage a focusing-type awareness of body during client sessions, within my scope of practice. I’ve found that the body cues I use to enhance my clients’ body awareness enables them to drop into a relaxed state much more quickly, and that when they use their awareness to meet my hands-on work on various muscles or tissues, these tissues seem to soften more quickly and thoroughly.
I’m feeling called to teach Focusing in the near future, through workshops and individual sessions. It’s a way of being that is very dear to my heart, and my clients show me over and over how desperately the population needs a resource like this - how desperately people are longing to come home to themselves, in the way that Focusing offers so beautifully and organically.