Tag Archive for: Focusing partnership

Steps 1-11 of Thinking at the Edge

What happens in a TAE class? Initially, you will come to Thinking at the Edge (TAE) with something that you would like to explore. It might be a creative project that you have set aside, an aspect of your work or life that you would like to deepen, or maybe an impulse to do something new in life, based on your lived experience. You could work on something that stresses you, or something that delights you. During the TAE process, your idea of what you are working on will inevitably evolve. But at first, it is good to come into the course with an idea of a “project”. For this reason, I schedule a free consultation with prospective students when they first contact me about TAE.

TAE Class One:

During the first class, we will spend time creating an inner environment in which you feel safe, protected, supported, and free to be yourself. You’ll use this creative inner space as a touchstone during all that happens in TAE.
We’ll also go over the guidelines for TAE partnerships.

After a centering process, you’ll allow a felt sense to form: Thinking at the Edge starts with going to the “edge” of what you already know and paying attention to your bodily felt sense about what you want to explore.

Find the crux: Even though it may be difficult to put into words, you’ll start to write  what you do know about it. Once you start writing, more will come.
After you have written freely, you’ll boil everything down to one sentence. In this “crux” sentence, you’ll underline the key word or phrase around which everything revolves. Finally, you’ll ask your felt sense to take you to a moment in your life when you experienced something related to your felt sense of the whole. 

Notice what seems illogical or paradoxical: There might be something about your idea that seems impossible, paradoxical, impractical, crazy, etc. This can be the most valuable part, so don’t ignore it. A paradox is a creative field in which your felt sense can find its own right way. 

Class One corresponds to Steps 1 and 2 of Gendlin’s process of Thinking at the Edge

TAE Class Two:

Find relevant examples in your own experience: You do have this “knowing” about what you want to explore, so there must have been times in your life when you experienced something that has to do with it. It could be an experience from childhood, adolescence, or from any time in your life. It could be something that has caused you to suffer or something that gives you great joy (or both!).  

You will explore moments of your own experience (“instances”) that somehow have to do with your felt sense, and “extract” the knowledge inherent in those experiences. 

Each instance forms a unique pattern. Each of the experiences that are relevant to your felt sense will have a slightly different meaning. The differences in each pattern give you vital information about what you know but have not been able to express. Each instance and its pattern form a facet of your felt sense, and are essential to what happens in TAE.

Class Two corresponds to Steps 6 and 7 of Gendlin’s process of Thinking at the Edge

TAE Class Three:

“Crossing” patterns and instances: You sense into one pattern (meaning) through the lens of another. This “crossing” of two felt senses has the effect of deepening the felt sense and showing you something you hadn’t noticed before. After crossing, you will be able to express your ideas in more detail, or in a new way.

Class Three corresponds to Step 8 of Gendlin’s process of Thinking at the Edge

TAE Class Four:

At this point you are invited to write freely about what you have discovered. You might come up with a new crux sentence. You can also draw or paint it if that is a more natural way of expressing for you (or dance it, or sing it, etc).

Class Four corresponds to Step 9 of Gendlin’s process of Thinking at the Edge

TAE Class Five:

Working with words:  This is an opportunity to make sure that the words and images you are using to express the crux of your project are saying what you really want to say. You don’t want them to be taken over by “public” meanings. Working with words is often the first part of the TAE process. But I have found that it is better to wait until you have explored the inner landscape of your lived experience. Familiarity with that inner landscape allows your words come from a broader and deeper felt sense. 

Class Five corresponds to Steps 3 and 4 of Gendlin’s process of Thinking at the Edge

TAE Class Six:

Here you’ll check whether you used any major public words in the last class. If so, try making fresh phrases to replace those words and ideas. Let what is new and specific in your felt sense express itself. 
As we approach the end of our classes, you’ll have a rich new vocabulary of words and images that come from Focusing with your project. From these, you will select all the words or phrases that are full of meaning for you now. You’ll group them so that they represent three different aspects of your felt sense. 

Class Six corresponds to Step 5 of Gendlin’s process of Thinking at the Edge, plus preparation for Step 10.

TAE Class Seven:

From your lists of words or phrases that are especially meaningful, come up with your “terms”, three words or phrases that represent three different aspects of your felt sense.  You will see what happens when you try to define each “term” with another.  As you do this, you’ll pay close attention to what you sense with each crossing. This brings further depth, making it possible to express your ideas with more clarity and precision, the goal of what happens in TAE.

Class Seven corresponds to Step 10 of Gendlin’s process of Thinking at the Edge

TAE Class Eight:

You’ll look for the inherent connections between your terms, giving you even more understanding and forward movement.

Class Eight corresponds to Step 11 of Gendlin’s process of Thinking at the Edge

Most people are not ready to commit to the final step of interlocking terms outlined in Gendlin’s Step 12 of the TAE process, so I do not require it. But if you are ready to go on to Steps 12, 13 and 14, you’ll be encouraged to do so. 

Your “talisman sentence”: At the end of the course, you will have a short sentence, image or gesture that encapsulates what you have discovered. In fact, the deep felt-sensing that happens in TAE will have already changed your way of being in the world. AND you’ll have your talisman sentence to give you strength as you meet the challenges of implementing your new ideas.

Focusing partnerships during and after the course:

My classes are designed to familiarize you with the TAE process so that you can use it on your own or with a partner. In between each TAE class, you will have Focusing partnerships with other class members. This is one of the most important parts of what happens in TAE. Many people decide that they want to continue these partnerships after the class, to further develop their ideas. 

Thinking at the Edge requires a very spacious kind of listening. Listening to each other in this way develops trust. The full development of a new idea, project, or way of life takes time. TAE partnerships provide a supportive atmosphere in which things that are completely new or not understood by society can grow and move forward. 

Contact me to find out when the next TAE courses are starting.

Creative thinking partnershipI recently had the pleasure of being interviewed about creative thinking partnership by Serge Prengel of ActivePause.com You can listen to the interview here.

The wordless, empty space is a bit disorienting at first.

Serge: We all are interested in thinking creatively, thinking outside the box, and yet, in the experience of it, when we have something difficult to resolve, we kind of tense up and that seems counterproductive. You’ve been thinking a lot about that kind of thing.

Beatrice: I have been thinking about it because I used to think I couldn’t think. We think that thinking is something that really smart people do, really creative people do, but not something we can do.
When I want to think about something what I notice at first is a space that feels empty. And probably for all of us that blank or empty, wordless space is a bit scary and disorienting because we want the words to be there. In school you are trained to be the one with your hand up, saying “Teacher, I’ve got the answer.” A place where there are no words is uncomfortable and strange.

Serge: Imagine the teacher and the little kid, and the teacher says “So, what is the answer?” and there is a perceived urgency and impatience, and the kid says “Uh, uh, I don’t know!” and that is really a very uncomfortable position.

We don’t conceive that we have a process, our own unique wiring, apart from what is being demanded of us on the outside

Beatrice: We don’t conceive that we have a process apart from what is being demanded from us on the outside.
It’s our own unique wiring. I remember Eugene Gendlin saying, if you don’t honor this and find out how to express it, your unique way of perceiving the world will die with you.

Often it seems that our unique gifts are our problems

A lot of people live without even knowing that they have a right to find out, “What is my way of perceiving the world? What insights come out of my unique wiring as a person?” We think those are our problems.

But I’ve learned from teaching Thinking at the Edge that the things that bother us, where we feel a little lost or like outsiders–if we actually pay attention to those very things, we will find our gifts there. A creative thinking partnership gives us a safe container in which to find those gifts. 

Serge: That is how we will find something that is original, that is us, rather than trying to buy it from the catalogue.

Beatrice: Yes, that’s thinking outside the box, but we don’t even have to let the box be defined by someone else. It’s thinking from who we are, our own experience, and then finding where that could be applied.

Serge: So if we want to really find something, find our original thinking, think outside of the box, there is going to be some degree of unease, discomfort, maybe even a little bit of pain in it.
By talking about it, we are validating that that’s the case–you can’t have access to it without going through that moment of disruption.

Welcoming the blank, wordless space

Beatrice: Yes. What is it that gets us through that blank space where we don’t know? We can easily slip into feeling “I don’t have the answer, I don’t know anything, I can’t do this.” That’s one way we could go.
But with Focusing, we learn another way to go. We can say “Oh, wow, here is this blank space without any words. I can welcome it, pay attention to it. I can ask someone to listen to me right there.” Because it’s hard to get into it all by yourself when you are just discovering this.

Serge: So it’s as if we have a map, and there are all these places with roads and forests and towns and then this area that is blank. We associate entering this area with signs that say “Danger! Wrong place! Difficult!” Instead we could say “Wow!”
It will be more difficult to navigate than if there were roads and signs, so that’s why it’s useful to have a person who helps us attend to this inner space.

Creative thinking partnership means listening in a special way

Beatrice: Explorers don’t go out into the mountains or the desert alone, they have their teams. Our listener is on our team.
It requires a very special kind of listening. This kind of listener doesn’t feel he has to intervene or come in with his own ideas or advice, or finish your sentence for you. Those are all aspects of the normal kind of conversation. This kind of listener welcomes the silence of the explorer.
“Oh, you’re in a place where you don’t have any words. Great! I’m right here with you. We’re exploring this together and I’m going to listen because I know that’s how you will move ahead.”
The listener doesn’t feel any responsibility for making this work, solving anything. The listener is there for the explorer.
Later they switch roles: the listener becomes the explorer and the explorer becomes the listener, so both have their turn.

Serge: One person could be exploring vast territories that are part of his or her inner landscape. Then the other person might be exploring a whole different landscape.

Beatrice: As the explorer becomes interested and receptive to his or her own inner space, things are going to start coming up. It’s only by doing this process that you can see how things start coming up out of this big nothing place.

The listener embodies the patience of planting a seed and letting it grow

Serge: Usually thinking is conceived as a solitary endeavor, where we are trying very hard to do something. We want to have answers and the blank moments are unpleasant, a failure. But if we didn’t have these blank moments, nothing new could happen. You can’t have a plant without the seed. We’re recognizing, Wow, what an uncomfortable and disturbing blank moment. That’s the seed.

Beatrice: You put the seed in the ground and nothing happens for weeks. You have to have faith. You can’t say “I planted my seeds yesterday and there is still no tree!”

Serge: For all we know, the seed might be dead and nothing IS going to happen. There is that aspect of the waiting as opposed to trying to dig harder. The listening, instead of trying to force anything or trying hard, is like watching the process, watching the ice melt, watching the tree grow. The listener exemplifies that and helps the explorer get it.

A creative thinking partnership session doesn’t take long

Beatrice: At first it sounds like it would take a lot of time that we don’t have. But if you are able to do this concentrated exploring with a good listener, 20 minutes is all it takes to get some breakthroughs.

Serge: When you start the process, it is very likely that neither you nor your partner will be very good at it or very comfortable with it. So it’s really learning by practice.

Beatrice: The whole attitude toward exploring these deserts and forests is one of interest, curiosity and openness to what we find there. Not a gotta-get-there, gotta-come-up-with-this kind of thing. Both on the part of the explorer and the listener there is an open spaciousness.
In our society we all have so much to do and if we slow down for a minute and pay attention to what is going on inside, the first thing we come to will say “You don’t have time to do this exploring, you’ve got to pay those bills.” We are in a rhythm of ‘what I gotta do.”
The first purpose of a listener is another human being who says “Hey, it’s OK for you to take 20 minutes out of your busy life to explore this something that you are interested in. Find out more.