What’s Up Next?
Sunday, February 7, 2016 ~ Breath, Body, Illumine/Inquiry
Inquiry: What is your self-empathy/connection practice (of choice)?
I once attended a class, taught by Jesse Wiens – CNVC certified trainer and founder of ZENVC (which blends traditional Zen Buddhist teachings and Nonviolent Communication), in which he stated that one doesn’t have to enroll in yet another course nor study yet another book to deepen as a practitioner. Instead he proposed taking the mindfulness training that we’e accrued off the meditation cushion and out onto the sidewalk, as we engage with life. Then Jesse offered a suggestion that has always stayed with me. One way to take your NVC practice out of your head, he recommended, is to cultivate a sense of present moment awareness and gratitude. Simply by taking a breath and bringing our awareness to how our life is supported by the oxygen that we breathe (not to mention our interdependence with other life forms on this planet, such a trees), we become more present. To complement the breath, he also guided us towards sensing into ones body, notice how it intersects with the earth, and how this, too, is an omnipresent source of support for our life (when I saw the film “Gravity” – it brought the point home a bit more). This is a practice, taking a breath and sensing into the body while bringing an awareness to the constancy by which our ecosystem supports our life, that can be done in mere seconds. Additionally, bringing attention to our five senses during this process can similarly engender greater present moment awareness. In this way we can practice presence almost anytime, anywhere. That’s the short version of a potential self-connection practice that can be readily accessed in a way that may enhance our sense of well-being and equanimity. An alternative process, one that starts of much the same but then may be explored at a more leisurely capacity, is one that I’ve come to think of as ‘breath/body/illumine’ (shedding light on what’s within myself and others) which was inspired by John Kinyon and Ike Lasater’s ‘breath/body/need’. It begins much the same as has been noted above, but when you tune into your body, you also notice other cues, blending into the mix what Gene Gendlin has termed a ‘felt sense’ (in the modality of focusing). From this attunement to our interior state, we may draw some useful, even animating, insights. Below offers a taste of some of the ingredients that go into this more elongated self-connection process which we’ll explore in depth on the call.
Setting a Felt Sense Daily Intention: Tara Brach, “In some way, every day, I’m going to come into stillness.” (it doesn’t matter for how long, nor necessary to evaluate the quality of the effort)
These self-connection processes are the cornerstone to a foundation that can then embolden our ‘surfing’ heightened waves of emotion, within ourselves and others…
Embodied Situated Cognition /The Felt Sense
Gendlin’s notion of the felt sense emerged from his empirical research (in association with Rogers) into the frequent failures of psychotherapy and why it works when it does (Gendlin, 1981: 3). Those who were successful in therapy came to an inner knowing which Gendlin called the “felt sense”, “a special kind of internal bodily awareness … a body-sense of meaning” (Gendlin, 1981: 10) which the conscious mind is initially unable to articulate… (continues here)
“Felt sense” and “felt shift”
Gendlin gave the name “felt sense” to the unclear, pre-verbal sense of ‘something’—the inner knowledge or awareness that has not been consciously thought or verbalized—as that ‘something’ is experienced in the body. It is not the same as an emotion. This bodily felt ‘something’ may be an awareness of a situation or an old hurt, or of something that is ‘coming’—perhaps an idea or insight. Crucial to the concept, as defined by Gendlin, is that it isunclear and vague, and it is always more than any attempt to express it verbally. Gendlin also described it as “sensing an implicit complexity, a wholistic sense of what one is working on”.
According to Gendlin, the Focusing process makes a felt sense more tangible and easier to work with. To help the felt sense form and to accurately identify its meaning, the focuser tries out words that might express it. These words can be tested against the felt sense: The felt sense will not resonate with a word or phrase that does not adequately describe it.
Gendlin observed clients, writers, and people in ordinary life (“Focusers”) turning their attention to this not-yet-articulated knowing. As a felt sense formed, there would be long pauses together with sounds like “uh….” Once the person had accurately identified this felt sense in words, new words would come, and new insights into the situation. There would be a sense of felt movement—a “felt shift”—and the person would begin to be able to move beyond the “stuck” place, having fresh insights, and also sometimes indications of steps to take.
The inner act of focusing can be broken down into six main sub-acts or movements. As you gain more practice, you won’t need to think of these as six separate parts of the process. To think of them as separate movements makes the process seem more mechanical than it is – or will be, for you, later. I have subdivided the process in this way because I’ve learned from years of experimenting that this is one of the effective ways to teach focusing to people who have never tried it before.
Think of this as only the basics. As you progress and learn more about focusing you will add to these basic instructions, clarify them, approach them from other angles. Eventually – perhaps not the first time you go through it – you will have the experience of something shifting inside.
So here are the focusing instructions in brief form, manual style. If you want to try them out, do so easily, gently. If you find difficulty in one step or another, don’t push too hard, just move on to the next one. You can always come back.
Clearing a space
What I will ask you to do will be silent, just to yourself. Take a moment just to relax . . . All right – now, inside you, I would like you to pay attention inwardly, in your body, perhaps in your stomach or chest. Now see what comes therewhen you ask, “How is my life going? What is the main thing for me right now?” Sense within your body. Let the answers come slowly from this sensing. When some concern comes, DO NOT GO INSIDE IT. Stand back, say “Yes, that’s there. I can feel that, there.” Let there be a little space between you and that. Then ask what else you feel. Wait again, and sense. Usually there are several things.
From among what came, select one personal problem to focus on. DO NOT GO INSIDE IT. Stand back from it. Of course, there are many parts to that one thing you are thinking about – too many to think of each one alone. But you can feel all of these things together. Pay attention there where you usually feel things, and in there you can get a sense of what all of the problem feels like. Let yourself feel the unclear sense of all of that.
What is the quality of this unclear felt sense? Let a word, a phrase, or an image come up from the felt sense itself. It might be a quality-word, like tight, sticky, scary, stuck, heavy, jumpy or a phrase, or an image. Stay with the quality of the felt sense till something fits it just right.
Go back and forth between the felt sense and the word (phrase, or image). Check how they resonate with each other. See if there is a little bodily signal that lets you know there is a fit. To do it, you have to have the felt sense there again, as well as the word. Let the felt sense change, if it does, and also the word or picture, until they feel just right in capturing the quality of the felt sense.
Now ask: what is it, about this whole problem, that makes this quality (which you have just named or pictured)? Make sure the quality is sensed again, freshly, vividly (not just remembered from before). When it is here again, tap it, touch it, be with it, asking, “What makes the whole problem so ______?” Or you ask, “What is in this sense?”
If you get a quick answer without a shift in the felt sense, just let that kind of answer go by. Return your attention to your body and freshly find the felt sense again. Then ask it again.
Be with the felt sense till something comes along with a shift, a slight “give” or release.
Receive whatever comes with a shift in a friendly way. Stay with it a while, even if it is only a slight release. Whatever comes, this is only one shift; there will be others. You will probably continue after a little while, but stay here for a few moments.
IF DURING THESE INSTRUCTIONS SOMEWHERE YOU HAVE SPENT A LITTLE WHILE SENSING AND TOUCHING AN UNCLEAR HOLISTIC BODY SENSE OF THIS PROBLEM, THEN YOU HAVE FOCUSED. It doesn’t matter whether the body-shift came or not. It comes on its own. We don’t control that.
See also: Solo Focusing by Kay Hoffmann
There’s a YouTube, somewhere on this blog, in which the four components of NVC are paralleled to the opening of a door, interpersonally-speaking. Observation as the peep hole, let’s say. Feelings as the archway. Needs as the threshold. And requests as the door knob (towards interactive, even interspecies, compassion).