Focusing Session

Relax and Focus Inside

This focusing session was inspired by Eugene T. Gendlin, PhD, Focusing, 2d ed., New York: Bantam Books, 1981, ©1978–1981 Eugene T. Gendlin, Ph.D.

What is Focusing?

What is Focusing? Focusing is a method for getting in touch with our body wisdom, our deep-down feelings, our intuitions, our sixth sense. It is a unique way of receiving holistic answers from the totality of our being. The method has been drafted in the 1970s by Eugene T. Gendlin, Ph.D., from the University of Chicago, USA.

Focusing gets close to Eastern meditation methods, however better suits the Western mindset than most meditation methods. In the beginning, the simplicity of this method was not quite understood and focusing was reserved to the therapeutic setting or used for coping with anxiety or drug abuse.

Only later people found how similar focusing is meditation. With this insight, focusing became a widely accepted and practiced method in self-experience groups and an activity for company seminars or staff excursions, not to mention its adaptation for boy scouts meetings or special classes in gifted children workshops and alike. This are the six steps:

  • 1/6 Claim a Space
  • 2/6 Feel & Sense
  • 3/6 Put Handle
  • 4/6 Get Feedback
  • 5/6 Ask Question
  • 6/6 Receive Answer

1/6 Claim a Space

This first step is just getting ready. Most of us have lost touch with the source of power inside and need to get tuned, step by step, to sense again the monitions coming from that source. You can remain in the position you are or you can sit quietly on a chair, if you prefer. Turn off all sources of distraction, radio, television, and your phone and sit a moment in silence. If silence is very unusual to you or if it creates anxiety (this can happen if you are really out of your continuum and shows that you badly need to begin working on your inner selves), you may put some soft music such as slow classical tunes (preferably baroque music) or Jazz ballads.

Now you clear a space and claim a space. What does that mean?

Without your own inner space, you are utterly dependent on your outside world and events. Moving from the periphery of your being to your center, you need to claim an inner space first. Claim your space by quietly affirming that an inner space containing all the wisdom of the universe exists right now within you! Clearing this space is the next step.

This space can never be spoiled and is pure. Clearing the space is a metaphor for your directing your awareness inside. This means that you are passively watchful to all what is going on inside of you, at least for the time of this exercise. How to do this? You may find it hard in the beginning. Thoughts come and go, or, if you are of a visual type, inner images keep changing.

Accept your inner cinema, accept the contradictory thoughts, accept the emotions that come up, including anger, hate, feelings of anger, and even of revenge, destructive thought, sexual arousal, the urge to possess another person, depression, the painful remembrance of humiliation.

Accept all of that quietly and totally. Give up any judgment, any moral stigma, any evaluation if any of this is good or bad!

Because all of this is both you and not you. It is you as far as you accept it to be part of you. It is not you as far as you possess enough detachment to decide that it is not part of you. All this is truly under your control, believe it or not! You are the master of this inner world and you are free to rule it. You are neither good nor bad. You are I AM, your own space, your own universe, your own powerful entity, spark of light and divine cell.

2/6 Feel & Sense

This second step was originally named Felt Sense by Eugene Gendlin. This step is usually the most difficult to master because of the detachment you need to reach regarding your problem. If you go too deep into it you are overwhelmed and lack the necessary distance to proceed further in focusing. If you are too much detached from it, you will not be able to sense it. It is really an art to not go inside of your problem but get the whole feeling of it.

Now you focus on the point in your body where you usually feel things. This is for most of us the belly, for others the solar plexus. Now let yourself feel the quite vague sense of all of your problem, all that communicates it to you. How to do this?

If you are the rational type of person, you may find this rather unusual. If you are highly intuitive, you may know already what I am talking about. Please find the ideal posture for this part of the exercise. For me it’s sitting with a straight spine yet relaxed. If your back is curved and your position sluggish, I found, it’s much harder. But if you are tense in your belly, it’s not working well either. Your diaphragm should be relaxed but your spine muscles firm so that your posture is upright, a bit like in yoga or in meditation.

Now just sit still for a moment and focus inside on that point where you feel there is the whole of the problem. This may feel awkward, anxious or irritated, or insecure. Note that I am not talking about a medical problem or health problem but something in your life that needs a decision, an act or commitment, a let-go or firm grasp. That can be a relationship, a financial situation, an acquisition, a difficult family decision, a partnership or something you have done and regret, and so on, in one word, any problem that really moves you.

Focusing is to imply your body wisdom in your decisions so as to get about a more holistic decision making in which your inner or hidden wisdom is equally involved.

Now get the felt sense, identify the completeness of this feeling that your body or an inner part of you communicates now to your conscious mind. And just stay with this and don’t do anything about it.

In this part of the focusing process you just had to get this felt sense and that’s it. Take a moment of rest before continuing, but not more than about five minutes.

3/6 Put a Handle

Putting a handle simply means that you try to identify the quality of this unclear feeling that your body has communicated to you. Furthermore, you try to put this quality in words or one word, or a word cluster, a composition of words like this strange-scary-all-around-problem-that-feels-hot-belly or this stuck-heavy-jumpy-thing-inside. You can also describe it with an image. How to do this?

Now you should keep changing this description several times until you feel you have hit the point and got a description that quite fits the situation or inner feeling. Sometimes we get it immediately and it feels right, sometimes we have to change it until some kind of inner wisdom tells us ‘Okay, that quite fits it, let’s keep that for the moment!’

Please bear in mind that nothing in life is rigid and that all keeps changing. What you feel now as a handle of your problem may tomorrow feel different already. Accept this fact and your life will be more beautiful and more energetic because change is the driving force of life.

4/6 Get Feedback

This step of the focusing process was originally called Resonating by Gendlin. I do not use this term since for most people it sounds strange or unusual although this expression is actually very nice and descriptive. How to do this?

This step is just to make sure that the handle you have put really fits. So you silently ask your body to give you feedback about that and practically you do this by letting that vague total feeling and the handle you have put resonate with each other. Then you passively watch what fits and what odds. So you keep changing the words, the word composition or the image until you find what just feels right in capturing the quality of what you sense inside.

You may write down the different words or draw the different images on a paper that you have previously put on the table for that purpose or you may just do it without any further help. Both methods work for different kinds of people. Try to identify the one that works best for you! Be flexible and try different ways of doing. Play with it and have fun that way. You can’t destroy anything by doing wrong. It may only take a little longer to get the felt sense or the feedback.

5/6 Ask Question

The next step in the focusing process is quite decisive. You have to take an initiative. Until now you were rather passive in the process, rather watching or observing, rather still with focusing inside.

Now you are called upon to take an action. This action consists in asking your body a specific question. Before you ask, make sure you are really connected to this vague and complete feeling, not just remembering it, that you are really with it. Then ask. The question sounds as follows, and please repeat it in exactly this way:

— What is it that makes the whole problem feel so …. [here you put your quality or handle] and what is in this sense?

The right answer is not the one that you get quickly without feeling a shift in the feeling you sense. It is the one that is accompanied by a real shift in the feeling. Something in the feeling or the way you experience this feeling will shift, will change, will really transform. If that happens you know you have found the key, that your question was the right one.

How to do this?

If nothing happens or your intellect just gives you ideas and you ask questions without having this feeling of a shift in your body sensation, then please be patient and quietly ask again, and again. Not more than about five times.

Respect your body! If it does not feel like cooperating today, it will tomorrow or later. Your body has its own unique intelligence and it knows why it behaves this or that way. There is always a deep logic in its behavior, a logic you may not understand at once, but which is real.

So if after about five times you feel your question has not provoked any shift in your total felt sense, give up for this time and click through to the next step.

If you feel your question was right since it was accompanied by a shift or change in your bodily sensation of the problem, you can proceed to receiving an answer.

6/6 Receive Answer

The last step in the focusing process is called Receiving. You will get an answer from your body if your body feels like answering and if you are ready to receive. This is not always the case. It usually happens if the previous step was successful, if you have felt a shift while asking.

Receiving is often felt like a reward we get from the body and it may be a mind-opening experience. However, it cannot be forced upon. Your body does not like to be forced and it tends to block if you try to force it.

The answer will come on its own and insofar we do not have control.

How to do this? The art of focusing is to be serious and committed while going through the steps yet not tense and not greedy, but open to anything that might happen. Do not expect an answer or reward coming, and the chance is so much higher that it comes! This means that with all involvement needed, you have to keep a portion of detachment in the process.

You may object that this really doesn’t sound easy and I reply to you that I did not promise you it was easy. But I tell you also that it will be much easier after a few attempts. If focusing inside was something very unusual in your previous life, it will of course be harder for you than for somebody who has always lived in accordance with their body and was used to carefully listen to its feedback.

So please keep trying and also keep in mind that if your body does not want to give you an answer today, it is likely to give you the answer tomorrow, provided you are really serious to get an answer. And you will be rewarded if you continue on a regular basis, for sure!