In-Person Gathering Dublin Sept 23 - Reflection
It acted also as an urging, to me, to explore with Mary Jennings as facilitator, her on line - 'Reading Freshly: an opportunity to read Gendlin's seminal book Focusing, with others', which starts on zoom through Focusing.org on 3rd October 2023. Margaret's and Tom's demonstration was followed by the attendees focusing in groups of three using the same excerpts from Gendlin's book. The day being sunny and warm this was done in the garden.
"Your physically felt body is, in fact, part of a gigantic system of here, and other places, now, and other times, you and other people - in fact, the whole universe. This sense of being bodily alive in a vast system is the body as it is felt from inside".
Review of the Advanced and Certicification Weeklong - June 2023
Many of us come to Focusing because we are suffering. And often suffering in ways that are not easily resolved, and therefore not easy to live with. I know this was the case for me, and so when I found Focusing, I appreciated it deeply.
I also then greatly appreciated meeting other Focusers who know something of this experience. Focusing is not mainstream. You have to search to find it, or it has to find you, and so we who Focus have a shared experience.
It’s no coincidence, then, that spending a week with other Focusers at the Weeklong this June felt easy. I found myself laughing a lot, and had many stimulating conversations with people from all over the world - Australia, Morocco, Switzerland, the Netherlands and even Galway.
But I didn’t just go to meet people. The day before the Weeklong, I had a challenging meeting which triggered deep and difficult feelings for me; feelings of shame and inadequacy that made me feel small and foolish.
My first reaction was to try to deny this pathetic self. I’ve so much to be proud of! I’ve done x and y and z. But such self-talk rarely works for me. And more importantly, I knew from my Focusing work, that simply trying to ‘fix’ the feelings wouldn’t lead me anywhere new. The Weeklong held that potential for me.
How? Through group work, workshops and opportunities for short partnering twice or thrice daily. In each Weeklong, you are part of a daily home group, where a facilitator holds the space for sharing on any issue that is present for you. So you can work intensively on something present.
My home group was facilitated by Beatrice Blake who shared more of her instancing work from her Thinking at the Edge workshop. I found her steps easy to follow and surprisingly effective when I later partnered with a friend.
One person in our group was honest enough to express dissatisfaction with how we were working and his courage helped me find my own. I had thought I was being myself in the group, but I saw I was just being a polite version of myself, simply ‘putting up with’ when I could in fact express more. I found that, in this way, the home group helped me to take the risk of being myself, and not feeling shame for it. I began to play with this a little, and found the group’s supportive feedback very helpful.
In the little free time that we had, a home group member held space whilst I used the body work from Ceci Burgos’ workshop, which led to more release. And, with a former Certification classmate, our Focusing relationship deepened greatly, leading to richer partnering with one another since.
So delighted to have met many people I had heard about and seen on Zoom - Catherine Torpey, Ceci Burgos, Beatrice Blake, Marta Fabregat, and more. I really enjoyed Mary’s and Julian’s workshops.
A few weeks after the Weeklong, I met the person at the centre of my shame. I noticed my body felt very different from before. Not heavy and collapsed, but bright and full and flowing, happy to be me. I’m grateful again to Focusing and to Focusers for all the wonderful carrying forward that occurs when we sit and listen.
Group Photo at the end of the ceremony (not everyone is in it but most of us were!)
Mary Jennings presenting her workshop on the Monday evening
Tom Larkin hosting his Plenary on Focusing and Nature
Some fun in the evening
On the last evening we all shared a meal in a local restaurant
Three Assertions About the Body - Summary
A personal review by John Keane
This article is a summary of a detailed reflection available on the IFN website.
Many Focusers encounter a difficulty in sharing the “idea” and “experience” of Focusing with friends, family, and colleagues. It is my hope that this review will help in this respect.
I offer the following as a reflection on the complexity of Gene Gendlin’s exploration of how we can have bodies that explain how Focusing is possible.
• Many people will translate what we say into concepts they are familiar with and comfortable in using. So, if we say that Focusing is about the body and feelings, then they may translate that in a different way than we intend. Gendlin illustrates that he is talking about the body in a very different way than it has traditionally been understood, and that feelings are different to what many people understand because when we talk about feelings in this context, what we are pointing towards are the doorways to a more intricate and complex form of living that may emerge from the felt sense.
• The body that Gene is describing is the body as it is sensed from the inside. He offers us examples of how we can build the complexity of that body in a manner that goes beyond the traditional understanding of the body as a physical structure that is mainly a transportation system for the mind.
• This body “knows”, but it does so in a different way than the mind “knows”. As complex human beings living in a complex world, we need the precision of both kinds of “knowing”.
• The body that Gene explores in relation to how Focusing is possible, is an interaction with its environment. This interaction is evident in all of the phases of the human body that he describes i.e., the plant body, the animal body, and the human body. When we begin with interaction then we sense the world in a different way – we sense a world that includes us and our experiencing.
• The culture we live in spends so much time developing our capacity for conceptual thought but has forgotten its capacity for bodily knowing and carrying forward. This is not something we add onto human living – it is already there, and Focusing offers us the means to access and develop this capacity.
• Sensing into the questions is more productive than finding answers in our living. The questions can imply a deeper living – a way forward that the answers can never offer. There is a wonderful paradox implicit in the Focusing process, where it is the stoppages and questions that can offer us the possibility of living more creatively. For me there is a freedom and a hope in that possibility…
We can all become poets and live in a way that is full of creativity. When I teach Focusing to children – I tell them that I will offer them something that most adults don’t know – this peaks their attention. The younger children know Focusing in the marrow of their bones, but the sad thing is that we educate them out of it. So perhaps we can all become children again in this way…
Green Breath – Sensed Ecology Retreat in Spain May 2023
I have called this programme of Focusing in Nature: Green Breath. Focusing, resonance and nature. Green Breath – Sensed Ecology Programme consists of 4 retreats and personal initiations during 4 of the main Earth seasonal festivities.
The initiation and accompaniment in the process of *Sensed ecology* began in February 2023 during the time of Inbolc and continues until November 2023, during the time of Samhain where the process is completed.
*Green breath* is not a set of healing formulas or techniques learned and repeated over time. Each retreat is a unique experience for each person in relation to the plant, with the time of the earth season, all in connection with resonance for the land and the people.
Due to our close symbiotic relationship, we share common ground with the plants around us. Our lifegiving connection to green beings is inherent in our humanity.
The natural medicine of plants and the emerging communication with green beings is a powerful, soft and kind antidote for the condition of disconnection, isolation and loneliness to which we are subjected without wanting it and too often without being aware of it. Plants are initiators in learning to accompany us, and ecologically accompany life - to be in connection, in privacy, from a new place, present and in contact with the ecosystem which we are part of moment by moment.
In May we connected with Hawthorn in Sierra Espadan, South East Spain. Being with plants and in general with nature in the context of Focusing brings a subtle, gentle and delicate attunement in a person experience. It requires to slow down to the resonance of nature and find within us the space to welcome its vibrating communication and its longing for connection.
Our next retreat is in August and this time we will be welcoming Oak, a common native and ancient tree of Ireland and Spain. Part of the retreat is walking in pilgrimage and fasting with the medicine of the trees for 36 hours. This gives a real opportunity to connect with the plants without distractions and interference.
Hawthorn medicine is connected to the Heart, is the great compassionate ally in the plant world. Supporting us to regulate our heart rate and our whole nervous system and heal our circulatory system. It supports union, communication and authenticity in our path for connection with others and life just as it is.
Green Breath is a call to remember who we are as people, Focusing takes us by the hand and whispers... Remember....and the trees are there, just at the right moment of readiness to share their vibration of medicine with our receiving inner home or, inner musical chamber. Resonance does the rest.
We just have to enjoy the beauty of what is and what is possible.
By Marta Fabregat
New IFN Focusing Workshops
Introducing our brand new IFN Focusing workshops! As part of your Irish Focusing membership you now get to avail of the opportunity to register and attend our latest in a series of online Zoom workshops! This is a new initiative untaken by the Irish Focusing Network Committee to support our members and also support the network. There is a small fee of €10 that is divided between the host and the network. Our workshops plan to be on Tuesday evenings between 7.30 and 9pm but this may vary depending on the availablity of the hosts and other events which may conflict with the schedule. You will need to be a member to register for these workshops.
We began with a very successful workshop on Moving Forward with the Enneagram with Therese Ryan last month. We already have 2 very exciting workshops planned for Autumn and Winter. With Rene Veugelers and Harriet Teeuw giving an 'Introduction to Children's Focusing Workshop' in October and Denise Durocher and Reenie Beunting giving a workshop in December on 'Creative Spirit Focusing'. We are very excited for both of these and more details will follow shortly.
In the meantime, please read this review of our latest workshop from Marian Neary Burke, who we are very grateful to for taking the time to write this.
Enneagram - Moving Forward with the Enneagram Workshop
After her informative presentation at our in-person meeting, Therese agreed to do a follow up on Zoom. For €10 (some of which went back to the Network) we had a wonderful hour and a half of Focusing with the Enneagram. We worked on the wings and the arrows. The wings are the numbers either side of the number we recognise as our personality type and the arrows are the numbers to which we move for growth.
Therese herself agreed it is hard to decide how much information to impart in a work shop (as she likes to share as much as she can). Some would have liked more time to Focus, so Therese agreed the next time she would have less content and more time for Focusing.
Despite the time limit, it was an excellent workshop, very clearly explained. Therese cleverly selected words, to describe the personality of each number. (For example, responsible, trustworthy, energetic, empathetic etc) Having Focused with the words, we chose one that resonated with us (From our wing and arrow number). This was a very simple, useful way to show us what we need to do for our growth work. I love the Enneagram as every time I attend a workshop, I learn more about myself and my relationship with others.
Marian Neary Burke
Dreams Taster Workshop Review - Making Connections
We as the Irish Focusing Network were so delighted to see this workshop come together. A big part of our philosophy is helping people connect together and this workshop was a perfect example of how people who have a common interest can come together and create something valuable to them while also creating a wider space for people to enter and explore together. We are also delighted to see that they will be offering a workshop in person this September (See below) and a number of online Zoom session workshops. Little shoots everywhere, as they say mighty oaks grow from little acorns. We wish them an expansive and vast space to explore.
On several occasions during IFN meetings Tom Larkin had asked if anyone would be interested in getting together to look at ‘working with dreams’.
So, a few months ago, Tom, Marian Burke, and myself got together and focused with some of our dreams. We loved it!
Marian has a big interest in dreams, and has tried out several ways of working with dreams.
Lately she had worked with Jeremy Taylor’s method. Tom has recently followed a dream course with Leslie Ellis. My own experience, apart from studying some of the dream theories through psychology, has been with dream focusing workshops, which I found very helpful.
We liked our dream sessions so much that we decided to organise a Dream Taster Workshop for everyone that was interested, and possibly a longer workshop at a later stage.
In the taster Marian Burke gave an overview of the historical background and Tom Larkin talked about Eugene Gendlin’s approach and his 16 questions.
We suggested to work with a few of these questions, and after a short demo, everyone had the chance to get into the break-out rooms to focus on a dream they had brought.
Following on from this we are working towards organising a weekend ‘in person’ workshop, as well as a number of zoom session workshops, so that whomever cannot make the ‘in person’ workshop, can come to a zoom series. So for those of you interested, you might like to start writing down your dreams.
The best way to remember a dream is to have a notebook ready beside your bed, so that you can write down your dream when you awake. Lying still in the position you wake up in, helps to recall as many details as possible. Then write these down. You don’t have remember all of the dream to be able to work with it.
Start practicing and watch this space for more information on the next Dream Workshop!
Marian Neary Burke
Expressing our interest in dreams (through the newsletter) brought Tom, Rennie and myself together, which resulted in the workshop.
Here is feedback from some of the participants.
“I had a little difficulty grasping all the information. I had a fragment of a dream, and when we went to Focus, I was a bit anxious about remembering all the instructions. However, I put all that aside and was amazed and surprised in my session. I had a profound experience by simply giving it attention. I had forgotten how dreams represent where we are in our lives. I thoroughly enjoyed it and look forward to doing more”
Another. “A dream is alive and wants to be carried forward by our interaction” (Gendlin). This set the tone for the evening. I enjoyed the history of dreams and the presentation of “Dreamwork Movements,” with the guided questions. I had a profound experience in relation to one character in my dream, revealing more from a past life experience. I have downloaded Dr Lesley Ellis free book, from the resources shared at the workshop. The experience has continued to connect me more consciously, with my dreams in a deeper way.”
One more. “It was great to reconnect with my dreams. The research and background were very interesting. I am writing out my dreams now and staying with the felt sense.”
I would encourage anyone with a topic, to get together and offer a workshop.
Any Dream Will Do … A 2-Day workshop on Focusing with Dreams
Facilitated by: Rennie Buenting, Marian Burke & Tom Larkin
Where: The Dominican Retreat Centre, Tallaght, Dublin 24.
There is plenty of parking space available there and the centre is easily reached by public transport from central Dublin. Website: www.retreats.dominicans.ie
When: Saturday 23rd & Sunday 24th September 2023. Time: 10:00 am - 4:00 pm each day
Cost: €120:00 (includes lunches on both days, teas, coffees etc.)
Accommodation/B&B is available in the centre at €60 per night
Note: If are interested in this topic and you can’t make this workshop, we intend to offer a five-evening online version in early 2024.
Closing date for bookings: Friday 15th September (unless the places are filled before then)
For enquiries, deposits, booking etc contact:
Ards Friary May 2023 Reflection
The setting was Ards Friary in Donegal, Ireland. The natural beauty of this place established the environment where 15 strangers gathered to explore the process of BioSpiritual Focusing over 6 days.
The weather was beautiful and invited us to rest in the splendours of nature – surrounded by 200 acres of woodlands and set directly on the beach.
As we explored the foundations of the process, it became apparent that each participant was different in their experiences and understandings of Focusing and BioSpirituality. It was encouraging to see how each person began to take responsibility for their own process – living from where they were now, rather than where they wished they were.
As our bodies began to sense the safety of the group – we were gifted by the individual stories that each person courageously shared. It is miraculous to witness how our willingness to share our vulnerabilities creates the space for grace and transformation. As Fr Ed often said, “That which we protect from our own knowing, we also protect from God’s grace.”
The energy of the group shifted palpably on the 3rd day when we experienced a new exercise created by Louise and Joe Colletti called “Your Affection Timeline”. The impact on the group was that of recalling experientially the gifts of love and gentleness on their journey, and many commented that it was also an exercise in gratefulness. The direct impact of this exercise was how it facilitated the holding of “the affection teacher within” in a more fluid and natural manner.
As a facilitator, it is so exciting to witness the shift in energy that emerges organically when the community of those gathered comes to the fore and they begin to carry and support one another. The individuals become a community of love and healing. It is also interesting to see the physical transformation in the participants as they come home to themselves, to one another, and to the beauty of nature.
An aspect of this experience that also played a crucial part was the community and staff of Ards Friary. The Franciscan Capuchin community in Ards welcomed us into their home. Their hospitality and kindness, and the way that the group were treated by all the staff added to our sense of being at home. And of course it is important to mention how well we were fed – I was glad that there were so many beautiful walking trails to work off some of the wonderful food.
I am forever grateful for this life enhancing experience, and I carry each of the participants gently in my body, thankful for how they have gifted my living in their own unique ways. I needed to sit with an inner sense of loneliness as we went our own ways, but that has shifted into a sense of how privileged I am to share this gentle and life enhancing process.
by John Keane
Worlds of Focusing - Childrens Focusing
Each Newsletter will explore an aspect of the Focusing World you may not be familiar with. In this edition we will explore the world of Children’s Focusing.
In my experience, children already have a vibrant sense of Focusing. Our education system and our culture etc often distance them from this vibrancy.
What a gift it would be if we could maintain this capacity in our children. Enabling them to enhance a sense of value and meaning within their own bodies, rather than having all valuing external to their own living.
The International Focusing Institute have understood the value and need for this enterprise and have a section of their website dedicated to the area of Children’s Focusing https://focusing.org/children-focusing/children-and-focusing
As you will discover from the above link. This community is active and passionate about the importance of sharing Focusing with the next generation.
I have had the privilege to attend the 2014 International Children’s Focusing Conference held here in Ireland. As well as presenting at the 2022 online conference and hosting a Children’s Focusing roundtable discussion in 2023.
I have had the opportunity to share Focusing with children in schools, as well as with my own daughter. I can honestly say that I have always learned more than I have ever offered in these gifting experiences.
If you are interested in this area of Focusing – a good place to begin would be with Marta Stapert and Erik Verliefde “Focusing with Children: The art of communicating with children at school and at home.”
Marta was a wonderful lady with a passion for sharing her wisdom with children and those who care for them, and is deeply missed by the Focusing community.
Mary Jennings had an early influence on the development of Children’s Focusing in Ireland. We are delighted to share some of her memories of this here.
One evening in 2009, in All Hallow’s College, René Veugelers from The Netherlands, was in Dublin, giving a workshop on Children Focusing. It was a one-off event, part of a fundraising drive for a Focusing project in Gaza. René, in his inimitable way, offered ways to really listening to children, their hopes, their fears, their inner sense of rightness, in a natural and gentle way. And it was fun!
Later that evening, news of yet one more report on child sexual abuse in Ireland was published. A sense of deep anger arose in me, hearing yet again of how we treated our children in Ireland. Then, an epiphany: what if we had a way of really listening to children, giving them skills to trust their own instincts, what might happen? We had just been shown a way just this very evening! Instead of anger, I felt energised! What if there was a way to bring Children Focusing to Ireland to change the situation? René readily agreed to come and offer training. With a generous grant from the Irish Focusing Teachers’ Association (forerunner to IFN), over the next 18 months, 20 people were trained in the practice of Children Focusing. Among them were parents, grandparents, teachers and people working in children’s services.
Many of them are current members of IFN, who have used their training in Children Focusing in many different ways: listening to their own children and grandchildren in every day life; devising programmes in schools using Focusing, working with foster parents and children in care to improve services and relationships. Some have gone on to take further training in the practice and can train others to use Focusing with children in so many ways.
It was a start. A small bag of seeds. It would be great to think that, with regards to children that ‘all is changed, changed utterly’, but there is more to be done; let’s keep going.
Review of Mindful Decisions, Wise Actions
Review of “Senses of Focusing, Volume 1”
Review of “Senses of Focusing, Volume 1”
edited by Nikolaos Kypriotakis and Judy Moore and published in 2021 by Eurasia Publications, Athens, Greece (565 pages).
Weighing in at over 1.2 kgs, this is one brick of a book! The contents are weighty too. There are 26 articles by Focusing writers from across the globe, exploring a very wide range of Focusing topics. The editors have very helpfully, loosely categorised these into seven sections. Equally helpful and most interesting are the snippets of Gendlin’s own spoken words that act as introductions to each of the seven sections. These have been extracted from the videos that Nada Lou made from Gendlin’s talks at various events between 1998 and 2007. [The videos from which these were transcribed and extracted are all available on Youtube see: https://nadalou.com/gendlins-spoken-volume-1/ ]
This is not a book to be read like a novel. It is more like a buffet where you can sample the contents through an abstract and then zero in on the one that most resonates with you at the time. This was my approach and it has taken me well over a year to read (and in some cases reread, then read again) all of the articles in this first volume. Many of the authors are therapists, some are philosophers and others neither. Three of them have given workshops or/and course in Ireland (Ann Weiser Cornell, Joan Klagsbrun & René Veugelers). Among the many topics written about are the practice of Focusing in different forms and cultures, the felt sense, the direct referent, the body in Focusing and some applications of Focusing in different settings and situations. As such this book is a treasure chest overflowing with gems and jewels. Every single article has something interesting, challenging, insightful, fascinating or/and impactful to impart, ponder and savour.
No, I don’t have a favourite! However, I will take just a few of the articles and say a bit about them. The introductory article by Judy Moore, “What is Focusing and where did it come from?” provides some fascinating background information on the origins of Focusing from the perspective of Gendlin himself and others who wrote about their experiences in the University of Chicago in the 1950s and 1960s, including Carl Rogers. Judy concentrates on the period from when Gendlin joined Roger’s group in 1952 until the late seventies by which stage Gendlin had formulated the ‘six movements of Focusing’. One thing I found particularly interesting was how Focusing came to be unshackled from its psychotherapeutic moorings. It would appear that during a major project begun in 1957, Gendlin and his colleagues started training non-professional volunteers, ‘ordinary’ people to help patients Focus “on the felt edge of experiencing”. This insight then informed the operation of the Changes groups of the 1970s in Chicago and other cities and indeed has gone on to make Focusing accessible to the many thousands who have brought it into their lives.
There are some intriguing article titles e.g. Focusing with Elephants in which Alan Tidmarsh points to the ‘elephant in the room’; the big issues that dominate the news headlines (Racism, Brexit, climate change, fake news etc) and those that never make it into the limelight, both of which are never really resolved and yet influence and impact on our personal and social realities in myriad ways. He says that “owning up to elephants is the challenge of our time”. He takes something Gendlin said in a 1966 article as particularly inspiring, “…even though we may have given up in our own lives we must turn back from having turned back…” In this regard he proposes three “superior” practices: Pausing, Noticing and Owning up. While we may all be familiar with the first two of these, he is asking us to take a wider, more wholistic perspective, “giving the elephant in the room the space it needs to be more connectable”. The third practice, owning up, is a call to authenticity – “the discovery of a personal truth that can then be carried forward”.
Another title that I was drawn to was Focusing is not a ‘thing’ in which Sarah Luczaj appeals for Focusing not to be ‘commodified’, formally packaged in programmes and organisations – she asserts that “Focusing can’t, through professionalism or in any other way, really become a thing, assume a fixed identity. It can, however, be treated and used by individuals as if it were”. As an aspect of this she highlights some people’s preoccupation with whether or not what they are experiencing is a ‘felt sense’. She, like others in their articles (Gendlin included), point to Focusing as a natural process in which most people engage to some degree or another. She acknowledges the tension between recognising Focusing as a natural process and the practice of training people how to use it. Taking her inspiration from Buddhist and Daoist practices which facilitate awareness of ‘the natural state’ she suggests that focusing can contribute to this through the first movement of Focusing, clearing a space, more specifically, a practice that “keeps us in the state of clearing a space” and which provides the welcoming conditions for a felt sense to arise.
And this is only the first volume! To even list the other articles’ titles would take up too much space, however, one can find out more about this wonderful, informative book and the contributors by going to a website developed around both books at https://sensesoffocusing.com/ There are also video presentations by, and interviews with, some of the contributors.
Becoming a Member of the International Focusing Institute
Becoming a Member of the International Focusing Institute
The International Focusing Institute (TIFI) is an international, cross-cultural organization dedicated to supporting individuals and groups world-wide who are teaching, developing and practicing Focusing and its underlying philosophy.
What the Institute does:
TIFI is committed to advancing the work of Focusing’s founder, Eugene Gendlin, and those who have built on his legacy.
TIFI promotes Focusing and encourages its application in a wide variety of settings.
TIFI is a hub for information and education about Focusing and Gendlin’s philosophy, as well as a catalyst for research on Focusing.
TIFI provides many opportunities for connection, dialogue and interaction among Focusers around the globe.
A personal note
When I became a member of the International Focusing Institute (TIFI) it was partly to support it’s work in promoting Focusing, but mostly because it was a requirement for certification as a Focusing Trainer. And then the pandemic happened….
Like everyone else, I was at home, restrictions were severe – remember when we could only travel 2 kilometres from home? For a while it was actually fun to explore what was within that limit. And I enjoyed finding creative ways around what was (or was not) available in the shops. But the limitations were trying too.
Then two things happened…
Mary Jennings suggested that we invite Focusers to gather online, and you all know how that story unfolded.
And I discovered TIFI “highlights” and “roundtables”! Suddenly, membership of TIFI was about a whole lot more than fulfilling a requirement for certification!
During that first year of the pandemic, I took part in the first online “weeklong” – an opportunity that I could not have availed of in person. I learned more about Gendlin’s philosophy, I developed a new interest in strands of Focusing that were new to me, and I met Focusers from all over the world! Now, I can’t imagine not having that connection to the world of Focusing. Membership of TIFI has opened doors, offered opportunities and created connections I could not have imagined in pre-covid days.
If you would like to support the Institute, here’s some information from the website:
Who Can Join?
Both Focusing Professionals and others who want to support Focusing are warmly welcome to join our vibrant global community. “Professional” membership categories are for those who are training or certified by TIFI to share Focusing with others as teachers, trainers, or therapists. Others may join in the “Affiliate” categories of Friend, Supporter, or Associate.
Benefits of TIFI Membership
TIFI members enjoy a wide array of benefits and opportunities, including:
- Discounts on TIFI-sponsored workshops.
- Free member-only events and online gatherings with Focusers around the world.
- Increased visibility with your profile in TIFI’s online Directory and “Find a Focusing Professional” search engine. (Professional members only).
- Publicize your Focusing workshops or Changes groups on TIFI’s website. (Professional members only)
- Free and low cost Focusing-related educational opportunities.
- Connect with other Focusers through TIFI’s email discussion lists and our website's new member-to-member search.
- Find a Focusing partner through TIFI’s Partnership Network (for qualified members only).
A full listing of the many benefits of TIFI membership is available at www.focusing.org/membership
Cost for membership can be found at https://focusing.org/membership/schedule-prices-membership-certification-and-pfp-award-effect-january-1-2022
Above all, your membership of the Institute is a way of promoting Focusing through education, research and community building.
by Margaret Quinn
Orts by Denise Durocher
From the orts,
Throughout the years of working with fabric, embroidery floss, scraps, and pieces, I learned that the snippets of threads, bits and bobs, are called “orts”.
Reminds me of how I am sometimes before a Focusing session.
Fibre art piece made from fabric, batting, orts of all sorts, including a soft centre of wool roving, and shiny pieces of mica.
Thanks to all the Focusers who have helped me make sense out of my mind’s orts. Denise Durocher
Being Playful at the Children’s Focusing Conference 2023
The Children’s Focusing Conference was held in early February and it was a conference that I was very much looking forward to. Getting to spend 3 days with like minded people who want to nurture their own inner child, and in turn support children in whatever way they can, was a very exciting prospect. And it didn’t disappoint. There were attendees from all over the world, spanning across 26 different countries and time zones, making the world a very small and connected space. It also highlighted the very different worlds and environments our physical bodies live in. These are the environments that children are born into and hope to survive and thrive in.
Connecting through Zoom and hearing from the presenters and participants, how they interact with children in different situations either through teaching in a regular classroom or supporting children in foster care, through therapy/counseling or just wanting to be there for their child or grandchildren, expands the heart and creates a huge network of support across the global Focusing community. There was a real sense of sharing and holding for each other over these three days.
The theme for this conference was Moments of Wonder and the first presentation hosted by Luzia Stefan (my room neighbour at the weeklong in Dublin!) began by offering us this:
“All grown ups were once children…but only a few of them remember it”
“By knowing Focusing we have the opportunity to remember and to value the child inside us and inside others”.
This set us up nicely for the coming 3 days! A nice reminder to let our inner child out and run amuck! Personally, my inner child was very happy to take part in all the exercises over the weekend, she’s loves to draw and colour and to allow the meaning of each moment to emerge. A moment of wonder!
One of my favourite exercises was to create our elevators, that were going to transports us to our inner stories in our body, with the lovely Lucy Bowers. It wasn’t what I expected it to look like and it reminded me of the book from my childhood Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, as my elevator became a bubble that traveled around having “Adventures in Fairy Land”. Lucy wasn’t feeling very well that day and was assisted by her good friend Susan Watson. And as I write this article for the Newsletter I see an email that breaks my heart a little, as I learn that Lucy has passed away peacefully. I first met Lucy in September 2022 as I assisted with Zoom for her workshop, that she gave so generously in support of TIFI, she had such an infectious personality you couldn’t not immediately love her! I am really glad she made it to the Children’s Focusing Conference that day and we got to be held in her warm and enthusiastic presence one more time. Although I had only met her a few months previous, I find tears flowing softly as I read that email. Rest in peace Lucy, I’m sure you and Gene will have a lot of fun observing us from above.
I’m sure Lucy was really happy to be there in February and was enthused by the ever growing interest in Children's Focusing. It’s so encouraging to see, through the presenters examples how Focusing can help no matter the environment and situation that the child may find themselves in. Rene gave a wonderful presentation around the inner critic that left us wanting more! Throughout the weekend we had lots of opportunities to see how Focusing has helped children, from Dance/movement to Pausing to sensing how it feels from the child’s point of view, how things are heard or received or even held.
Monika Linder gave a lovely presentation called ‘We are each other’s Environment: Imagining a Culture of Moments of Wonder’ She brought us through exercises where we allow our bodies to share with us what we felt and then check if something more comes when we hear what others have shared. The Institute has made this video available to all through their YouTube Channel and it is definitely worth a watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W30pzpXvxdY.
One of the, if not thee, highlight of the conference was the wonderful presentation from 18-year-old Anna Boukydis. Anne grew up with and very visibly embodies Focusing. Anna’s presentation was incredibly mature and beyond her years. Entitled Kids Now–a–Days, she encouraged us to connect with the inner child within us all, helping us to remember what it was like to be a child or a teenager again, and she described some of the issues that she felt her generation is experiencing and how she deals with it all in a Focusing way.
One clear similarity, that came across during the conference was the recognition of how Focusing can support a child’s inner world so they are better resourced to handle anything the outer world may have in store for them. Having supportive adults who can listen in an accepting and open way can be an essential bridge for them to really find their way in this world, while also being open to, and, creating Moments of Wonder!
You can still sign up and view all the videos from the weekend: https://focusing.org/event/recordings-past-event-moments-wonder-online-children-focusing-conference
Remembering Lucy <3
Here is a short video of the lovely Lucy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W30pzpXvxdY
Sensed Ecology - Recovering the green breath as nature beings
Sensed Ecology - Recovering the green breath as nature beings
by Marta Fabregat
I was fortunate to give my first presentation on Sensed Ecology at this year’s Felt Sense Conference.
Sensed Ecology is a term that is in emerging evolution and continues to be evolving in its philosophical findings, which I found fun to start sharing something that I am deeply passionate about and that I live and research in my everyday life through Focusing and TAE.
Whether we are aware of it or not, since childhood we have been conditioned to distance ourselves from the most organic reciprocity with the elements of nature and the relationships of support, exchange, and progression that exist in contact with the ecosystem to which we belong. Sensed Ecology is a term that I am using to describe how there is an innate belonging to nature as human beings and how Focusing is guiding our next steps towards recovering the green breath that we truly are. It is remarkable to notice how Focusing and Gene Gendlin’s deep vision was and still is an ongoing initiation into a conscious relationship with self, others, and the environment that will inspire new steps for forward growth.
From Gene Gendlin's work on Five Philosophical Talking Points (Gene Gendlin’s article Five philosophical talking points to communicate with colleagues that do not know yet Focusing) I found that these 5 points were supportive of my theory in Sensed Ecology and how we can recover the ability to function more as part of the green world we are by reconnecting and aligning our sensing capacity to that of nature.
1. Experiential Intricacy
Ecology opens us to perceive the relationship of organisms to one another and their physical surroundings, including us there. How they interact and how they are finding their next step in the relationship. Pausing - slowing down - noticing - feeling the the aliveness of the whole with us there.
2. New linguistic expressions are possible
A Felt sense implies language, not necessarily our known language but one that is still not in words. It might not even mean that it will be in words as we know them.
3. Interaction is first
As we start noticing and sensing from our experience in the present moment, life happens as being part and with the whole, forward steps start coming from an Ordinary Mind and a greater sense of being alive.
4. Experiencing is intrinsically a valuing
As we interact with our environment and life**, we cross.** Focusing invites us to listen with big ears, big eyes, great contact, and with a subtle sensitivity in our sense of smell and taste...maybe more is there that is leaning towards listening and crossing.
This requires radical humility and compassionate belonging as a new language emerges from the crossing point.
5. Thinking can be at the point of emergence of new forms
Sensing our innate ecology, our ordinariness in living moment by moment in contact with the present moment, it offers a greater landscape to carry forward as part of a greater order of things. From what we say, from what we know and have acquired from our learning experiences in our societies, cultures, and all that is from the implicit intricacy of being alive, new emergent communication, and the co-creative process becomes available for the whole. Interbeing.
This is a call to remember and to become nature, to find out our ceremony, and to legitimate our felt sensing from within our experience. From that place that is guiding us. Reclaiming back our innate relationship with the green world from our bodies in contact with all that is.
STUCK and PAINFUL by Denise Durocher
STUCK and PAINFUL by Denise Durocher
Sometimes, when I do my check-in, something feels stuck in my throat.
I’ve always thought that this is a sign that a particular something, at this particular moment needs to be expressed. The “something stuck” needs a voice.
It also feels like there are a bunch of porcupine quills sticking in my throat and they hurt so much, that whatever needs to be expressed, gets discouraged and withdraws in silence…again.
With Focusing, I can tell that scared something that I hear it, that I know it is there, and that with the help of a listening partner, I can slowly remove the quills one by one.
It may take more that one session, it may still hurt, but I trust that the quills will come out and that the voice will be free.
Denise Durocher, Ottawa
Textile art piece:
Hand and machine-stitched fabric, porcupine quills, and embroidery floss.
Elizabeth English - Journeys to the Deep
Elizabeth English - Journeys to the Deep
“A long curiosity/struggle with meditation drew me to Elizabeth's Journeys to the Deep and her thoughtful prose and poetry both soothed and encouraged me - yes, I am on the right track; yes, it's OK this is such a personal endeavour; yes, all is well. I immediately ordered copies for a handful of friends, all of whom have shared their own gratitude and enjoyment.” My review on Amazon
I met Elizabeth at the International focusing conference in Cambridge in 2016 and was drawn to her bright infectious energy, yet an energy that was grounded and deep and somehow very wise. I discovered she “holds a ground-breaking post as [Cambridge] University’s first Mindfulness Practitioner” and was intrigued. I followed her online and was delighted to find Journeys to the Deep, the first in a trilogy.
The hundred or so pages are personal, inviting, a mix of poetry and prose, and something I return to, each time finding something new. A nuance, a deeper meaning, something fresh, a blessed aha-got-it, oh, it’s this…. And of course, constantly seeing the influence of Gendlin’s focusing, philosophy and wisdom.
As I offered in my Amazon review above, I felt profoundly reassured that my mindfulness practice was exactly that - mine. However it was, it was OK. It didn’t need to be done a certain way, or bounded by all the other parameters I’ve been taught or read about over the years. Her sweet poetry offered another way in - to wherever it is we go in mindfulness meditation - that was gentle and comforting yet thought-provoking in a bodily way. Less like intellectualising and thinking about what came forth, and more like the body being able to sense in to her words, the spaces between, images, metaphors. A truly delightful experience.
In conclusion, I’ve just read Journeys to the Deep again, cover to cover without much of a break. Well that’s not strictly true, I found myself pausing, looking out of the train window and ….guess what….meditating! Far better to take it one or two pages at a time though, that’s my usual engagement. It’s a book which lends itself to however you want to read it - start at the beginning, or in the middle, at the end, or somewhere randomly in-between. It’s like taking a lovely little break from whatever is going on, pausing as we focusers do, to sense how we are, how things are.
I have permission to share one of my favourites:
Don’t wish for your mind
to be different from how it is;
Water does not boil faster
for glaring at it.
Things take their own time,
and you, too, are subject to
the laws of change.
You can only dip your toes
into the occasional puddles of calm
that collect in the dips and hollows
of your undulating thoughts.
Although a tiny droplet of peace
is all you find, still treasure it;
it is yours, and all you have -
Clare Myatt, LL.B., M.A.
Available UK and internationally online
Clare’s book Love & Imperfection: A Therapist’s Story available now
https://claremyatt.co.uk/book/ and from AMAZON
A Fresh Look at Clearing a Space
A Fresh Look at Clearing a Space
At a recent TIFI Felt Sense Conference, Carla Kreft, gave a presentation entitled, Clearing a Space as a Path towards Dissolving Identity & Perceiving the Spirit.
It was based on her close reading of the topic in Gendlin’s seminal book Focusing. “Couched in this simple exercise, it is possible to develop three different abilities”, she says:
- To experience our problems as an observer of them
- To experience great joy, love and a real sense that everything is really ok in our lives
- To be able to leave behind not only our problems but our entire identities and to ‘perceive the spirit’
The first ability is one that we are probably most familiar with, reminding us that not only this is a good way to start a Focusing session, but it is also worth doing in its own right as a way simply to give ourselves some breathing space.
Carla acknowledged that there might well be some resistance to trying the second use of CAS that Gendlin suggests. She went on to say however that this sense of experiencing joy and that ‘all is ok’ is our natural state.
The third ability, based on disidentifying from what Gendlin calls our Background Feeling, or what in contemplative and psychological practices is often referred to as ‘disidentification’, is one where she says, “if we manage to leave behind our identities then we can potentially enter a state that will permit us to come to what people call the higher self or the spirit”. Gendlin refers to it as encountering a ‘vast space’.
Carla’s presentation is freely available on TIFI’s website. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PY3R2OUUrd8&t=3601s
It’s well worth watching, considering and doing the 3 exercises that she lays out in a clear and engaging way. Thanks to Marta Fabregat who did the Spanish translation on the day.
The European Focusing Association (EFA)
The European Focusing Association (EFA) is a European network for Focusers, Focusing professionals and Focusing practitioners, who wish to develop Focusing and the Experiential Approach through collaboration, openness and mutual support.
It is open to all who share the mutual ground of Focusing. The Association has recently launched its new website where you can explore it’s vision and aims. You will find it at https://efa-focusing.eu/
There is also a Facebook group which may be of interest. The ‘European Focusing Forum’ group is an open space for European Focusers to meet others, share ideas and experience, collaborate, get inspiration and ask questions. The group is for Focusing-related topics. Reflections, sharing, articles and quotes that promote and support self-reflection and awareness will be welcome. The group is private, which means that only members can see who’s in the group and what they post.
There is an open invitation to join the group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/efaforum and encourage other European Focusers to join too!
If you’re in the mood for a trip to Italy later in the year, check out the details of the 2023 Gathering in Bassano del Grappa, 25th – 29th October. You’ll find all the information in the February Newsletter here: https://efa-focusing.eu/2023-gathering
And if you would like to stay in touch with EFA, you can subscribe to the Newsletter, by clicking here https://efa-focusing.eu/news/newsletter/
Focusing and Dream Work
Focusing and Dream Work
Eugene Gendlin wrote a book in 1986 – Let Your Body Interpret Your Dreams in which he said, “Love and enjoy the dream whether you interpret it or not” and which included sixteen questions was a way to find the meaning in dreams for oneself. He followed that up with two articles updating the ‘dream book’. Andrea Koch wrote Dreams and the Person-Centred Approach in 2012. There was also a Folio special on Dreams in 1992. Outside of these and a few articles in Focusing newsletters there has not been a lot of overt attention paid to dreams in the Focusing community, especially given Gendlin said that dreams are an excellent means of learning Focusing because they bring with them a fully-formed felt sense … until now that is. Leslie Ellis, a Focusing Trainer and Coordinator from Canada studied dreams, researched the dreams of trauma survivors and wrote the book, A Clinician's Guide to Dream Therapy* which blends Focusing with many other approaches to dreams.
Ellis packs a lot into this book’s 147 pages. Drawing on the insights of neuroscience and current research, including her own, she examines dreams from many angles to provide a clear and concise map for anyone, not just clinicians, to interpret or work with their dreams. In the book she answers the questions as to why one should engage in dreamwork and how best to bring dreamwork into a practice and into life. She makes the point that dream interpretation is no longer the prerogative of a clinician but is now firmly the responsibility of the dreamer possibly with help or/and support of a listener/clinician. Having surveyed all the approaches and theories she outlines a universal approach to working with dreams.
Specifically, she asserts that,
“there is a distinct trend toward experiential methods as the main way of working with dreams. The most popular experiential techniques include telling the dream as if it is happening in the present, dreaming the dream onward, and inviting the dreamer to enter into the subjective experience of a dream character or element … there was almost total consensus that the dreamworker refrain from interpretation of the dream. Instead there was an emphasis on collaborative exploration with the dreamer, and a focus on exploring the emotional landscape of the dream.“
While there is only a short section specifically on the Focusing approach to dreamwork, Gendlin’s approach is frequently referred to throughout the book. She highlights Gendlin’s unique additions/contributions to the panoply of dreamwork approaches and techniques: finding the ‘help’ in a dream and ‘bias control’. The former is a suggestion to look for the ‘life-forward’ energy or life force that is present in every dream and she points to the various forms that such help might take as well as where to find it. The latter is an exhortation to be open to the possibilities in a dream rather than interpreting them based on what we already know. This means exploring and possibly embodying all aspects of a dream including those that may be unpleasant or frightening and not jumping to conclusions about them.
She has an especially helpful chapter on bad dreams in general and nightmares in particular, including those affected by PTSD. She shows how confronting or being able to be with the most frightening aspects of dreams has a de-escalating effect on the dreamer and that among other methods, finding the inherent life forward energy can help greatly to alleviate uncomfortable symptoms brought about by these dreams. She gives many examples of dreams and their explorations here and throughout the rest of the book which illustrate clearly the benefits of making the space and time to remember and work with dreams in an open, curious and compassionate way.
My experience of bringing this type of Focusing-oriented approach to my own dreams has been a very interesting and enlightening one. I found the suggestions in the book enormously helpful, including one where she suggests that this process works really well when people tell and explore their dreams in pairs as in a Focusing partnership or in small groups.
*A Clinician's Guide to Dream Therapy: Implementing Simple and Effective Dreamwork (2020) by Leslie Ellis is published by Routledge.
Leslie has a very interesting and helpful website with articles, videos and podcast on various aspects of dreamwork: https://drleslieellis.com/
A Perspective on the Felt Sense Conference, January 2023
A Perspective on the Felt Sense Conference, January 2023
One of the commitments I made when becoming a Focusing Trainer was to continue to learn about Focusing. There are many ways to do that – Focusing partnerships, reading, watching videos, going to Focusing events like workshops, roundtables, highlights, conferences etc. The covid lockdown opened up a world to us – events that were often prohibitively costly in airfare and accommodation are now accessible at a reasonable cost. There are quite a few ways from which to choose.
Every year or two there are several Focusing conferences which one can attend: the Weeklong for Newly Certified and Advanced Focusers; the Gendlin Symposium (on philosophy); the Focusing-Oriented Therapy Conference and the Children and Focusing Conference. In addition, there is the bi-annual International Conference – a general in-person event held at different locations around the world, where Focusers from all over the world convene to share ideas, insights experiences. In this piece I’m going to be looking at the Felt Sense Conference 2023.
Unlike the events listed above the Felt Sense Conference is a very accessible, inclusive online event, open to all, regardless of Focusing experience or background. It is an annual event which began in 2018 to honour the work of Gene Gendlin by exploring the many facets of felt sensing. This conference provides a space where presenters can share the far-reaching effects of Gendlin’s insights and teaching on their own lives and their work. The emphasis, over the course of the conference, is on the benefits and power of bridging or “crossing” areas of life and thought with Focusing. This year’s conference, 2023, was the fourth and the second to be online. This virtual event brought together, 15 presenters from four continents over three days to present on the theme “The Felt Sense and the Murky Edge – Sprituality”. Previous themes were Bridging Philosophy and Practice (2018), Creativity (2019) and Racial Justice (2022).
The three days were filled with opportunities for participants to listen, participate and learn; to connect across the lands and oceans of the planet; to be inspired and enlightened; and overall, to enhance their understanding and experience of Focusing. Space does not permit me to give detailed summaries of each of the 15 presentations. So, of necessity, here are just a few snapshots and hopefully a flavour of what was on offer.
Along with Elaine Goggin who ably supported the presenters, two other members of the Irish Focusing Network presented at the conference; John Keane and Marta Fabregat. John gave his presentation on “BioSpirituality and the Murky Edge - An Exploration of the Role of the Felt Sense in Spirituality”. In his presentation, John drew on such insightful thinkers as Christy Moore, Martin Buber, Karl Rahner and Richard Rohr and the two founders of BioSpiritual Focusing, Ed McMahon and Peter Campbell, through song, videos and quotes. He also drew on his own life experiences to eloquently outline the five phases of a “Foundation for a Global Spirituality” with the Felt Sense at its heart. He offered spaces throughout with prompts to take in what he had been speaking about.
Marta bilingually presented on “Sensed Ecology, the green breath within: How spiritual nature connection can affect change in our everyday focusing practice”. She began by inviting us to attune to our ‘inner habitat’ and our experience of a ‘sensed ecology’ – an experiential relationship with the environment. She, then, invited people to remember their early experiences of nature, to pick one and to invite a felt sense of that moment. With more space for reflection, she invited people to explore what prevented them from engaging with their environment. She pointed to some of principles from Gendlin’s philosophy that support the concept and reality of a sensed ecology.
In another nature-oriented presentation Peter Gill from England presented on "Nature as a doorway to spirit". Over the two hours, weaving poetry, quotes, images and music with experiential exercises, Peter took us on a journey through time and place to unfold our essential relationship with the more-than-human-world. Drawing on insights and inspiration from Gendlin and Robin Wall Kimmerer, he outlined some very doable practices to engage in nature-connection in places close to where we live.
Carla Kreft focused in on the practice of the first movement of Focusing, as developed by Gendlin with her presentation: “Clearing a Space as a path towards Dissolving Identity and Perceiving the Spirit” in which she offered CAS as “a road map to enter transcendental states”. First she clearly outlined some different prompts and approaches to CAS before going on guide some exercises which helped to explore the formulation of the words and questions that bring one to a cleared space and a place of disidentification. At the moment, Carla’s full presentation is freely available and may be viewed on youtube; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PY3R2OUUrd8&ab_channel=TheInternationalFocusingInstitute
Other topics and crossings included; Prayer, Zen, Spiritual Companionship, Embodiment and Symbolising. In some ways such intensive experiences of over 30 hours plus through the medium of a screen is perhaps too rich or too much to take in one go. The good news is that one has access to the recordings of these presentations for up to four months afterwards – so there is plenty of time to attend each one and to savour those that were particularly interesting or satisfying. Indeed, one can still purchase access to them – they’re available until the end of April (see below*). For me, it was (and still is) a very rewarding experience - to paraphrase an Elbow song, “one workshop like this a year will see me right”.