Tag Archive for: TAE teacher

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.

Gendlin's A Process Model
The “kindness” fostered by Thinking at the Edge

I recently attended the Gendlin Center’s online symposium, Saying What We Mean. At the gathering, the Embodied Critical Thinking project (ECT) demonstrated how they create an environment in which meaning can be expressed and grow.

The group uses Thinking at the Edge (TAE) as one of their tools. Until now, I have thought of TAE as primarily an individual endeavor, to be protected from what Gendlin called “group process”.  However, more and more, I see the spacious listening of TAE engendering an atmosphere of group connection and creativity. TAE listeners are carefully trained to respect and protect each member’s ideas, so they have a different orientation than regular groups. Monika Lindner of the ECT, says that TAE fosters a unique “kindness.”

We ARE each other’s environment

I was fascinated by Monika’s presentation as part of the ECT panel, where she said “We ARE each other’s environment.” We need to understand this new group process.  For that reason, I am sharing Monika’s ideas here:

“The kindness of Thinking at the Edge in a group is soft and strong. It comes through noticing my own and others’ interests, wantings, curiosities and desires to develop further. This kindness patiently attends to each interest that is brought forward, in order to empower the voice of each group member. Listeners hold the uncertainty of on-going exploration, as well as the warmth that comes with each bit of clarity. We invite interests to appear and be born into relevance in every given moment.

“I start with and in myself, giving priority to my experiencing and that of each of my companions. I take into account each member’s situation, attending to their interests in a nurturing way. As a result, there is a connecting of each other’s ideas into a web of understanding more. Together, we create an atmosphere of sharing and receiving that allows ideas and projects to emerge.

Growing together as a forest while becoming more the tree I am

“In the kindness held by the entire group, I connect more deeply with my ideas. I feel empowered and invited to develop further. It’s like growing together as a forest while becoming more the tree I am.

“The kindness of Thinking at the Edge comes from these basic elements of Focusing:

  • pausing, sensing the body and its implying
  • sharing something that matters to you and having others listen
  • having the time and space to find words for what matters
  • others say carefully back what they heard. At the same time they are in touch with what wants to be said and formulated further
  • knowing that your listeners are resonating with what you say through their own living process
  • knowing that there is no judgment, offense, pressure or need to defend or explain in order to be understood. Words are even allowed to be poetic, unique and unusual.

Creating a changed pattern of collaboration with Thinking at the Edge

“Experiencing such an atmosphere creates a changed pattern of collaboration. But so often, in academia and education, teachers and students don’t have that atmosphere.  Logics other than ‘interaction first’ create and structure the environment. What counts in most academic environments is outcome, testing, and repeating predefined tasks and knowledge. “Education” usually ignores the body’s needs–it limits accepted body postures and, more importantly, it is unaware of how the bodily felt sense can contribute to free and critical thinking. Philosopher Eugene Gendlin’s concepts, such as en#2 and en#3, and behavior space, can open up a precise understanding, not only for how we create our own environment but how we ARE each other’s environment.

Being the environment that helps students open to the living place inside them

“What if I follow the thesis that we are each others environment? I imagine myself as being my students’ environment and not “the boss“ or the guide or the professional one.

“The kindness of Thinking at the Edge can become a professional attitude. According to Gendlin, thinking is “successively selecting symbols for present felt meaning”. This supports the unfolding of ones interest and its implying.  Such kindness leads to generative interaction: connecting by listening, saying back, pausing, holding uncertainty, protecting vulnerability, sensing into the yet-unformulated felt quality. As an educator I can chose to BE that environment through engaging students to notice their experiencing. I can help them open up to more understanding and development from this living place inside them.”

Please click on our names if you’d like to tell us about something here that resonates for you. Monika and Beatrice.

Bibliography
Gendlin, E.T. (1997). Experiencing and the Creation of Meaning. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, p 162

Thinking at the Edge

Thinking at the Edge is empowering

Thinking at the Edge (TAE) empowers us because it shows us how to think and speak from what we know from living.  Teaching TAE brings me joy and faith in the future of humanity. I love to see the smiles on my student’s faces as they discover their own ability to generate ideas from their experience.  

In this article, first I’ll lay out the problems with the common concept of what thinking is, then I’ll attempt to explain the new way of thinking that happens in Thinking at the Edge and give some examples. Next, I’ll show how Gendlin’s Philosophy of the Implicit takes us beyond the helplessness and despair of Postmodern philosophical theories that deny that we can say what we mean. After that, I’ll give an example of how Thinking at the Edge has empowered me. Finally, I’ll give you a short guide on how to practice TAE for yourself.

What is usually meant by “thinking”?

Somehow, we think (feel, are accustomed to the idea, believe) that only very smart people or “experts” can think (formulate valid ideas, propose realistic solutions, understand what is going on). I have often felt that I was incapable of thinking (coming up with new ideas, understanding the big picture, knowing what would work). 

In the above paragraph, I have offered many different meanings for the word “think”. Post-modern Deconstructionist philosophers like Derrida have convinced society that words can no longer have meaning. Of course we can still look words up in the dictionary and find the meanings that are currently agreed upon. But we need new understandings. New words and phrases allow us to say new things. For instance, the meaning of “to think” has all the above meanings and many more, but the agreed-upon meanings do not contemplate the empowerment to think and speak that happens in Thinking at the Edge. 

What do I want “thinking” to mean?

I’ll attempt to define “thinking” in terms of Thinking at the Edge. First, you notice something you know but cannot yet put into words. There is a subtle bodily felt sense of this. You can learn to notice and describe the felt sense instead of skipping over moments when you struggle for words. You’ll learn to welcome it with openness and receptivity. When you welcome the bodily felt sense of something that has no words, it responds to your interest. Words, phrases and images start to come. The felt sense will offer you examples of times when you have experienced the knowing you are trying to articulate.

At first, especially, it works best to have a listening partner who accompanies you in this space, writing down what you say.  It doesn’t take long: usually a 20- to 25-minute session is enough to make some steps in the process. Further sessions will enable you to speak about what was previously unclear. 

Examples of felt sensing

Here are some examples that are similar to the felt sensing you use in Thinking at the Edge. You might recognize them.

  • An artist senses what color is needed next in a painting.
  • An actor immerses himself in a character. That feeling guides his portrayal.
  • A mother senses something in her child’s demeanor that tells her the child is becoming ill.
  • A musician ‘hears” the notes and chords that will convey a certain feeling.
  • A coach senses that one of his players has a problem, even though nothing has been said. 
  • Authors “love their characters”. From that love and receptivity comes an unfolding of what each character will do or say in a situation, and that in turn influences the course of the novel.
  • A gardener senses that a plant needs something, but cannot put her finger on it at first.

Once we have a felt sense, it can dialog back and forth with our intellect. As that dialog happens we must make sure that the felt sense is not left out.

Deconstruction can now be seen as making way for something new

Post-modern ideas like Deconstructionism have lead to a kind of helplessness, stagnation and despair. They make it seem that true communication is not possible. But Eugene Gendlin’s Philosophy of the Implicit, and its practice, Focusing, open up new realms that value and validate human experience in the creation of meaning.

Instead of trying in vain to agree on the lowest common denominator and impose definitions on experience, human experiencing can enrich meaning and make words more relevant to our situations.  We can actually pay attention to our experience instead of wondering automatically “Is it just me?” Thinking at the Edge empowers us to open up relevant meaning instead of imposing outside, publicly agreed-upon definitions.  When there is space to explore the experiencing behind words, real thinking and communication start to happen. 

How Thinking at the Edge has empowered me

Teaching TAE has shown me that I can think from what I have lived. For example, if I am looking at the subject of “communication”, I can 

  • Notice and name my own experiences. 
  • Acknowledge gaps in my understanding and, instead of skipping over them, go into them, explore them. 
  • Recognize what blocks communication, separating us and diminishing us.
  • Concentrate on communication that connects, validates and encourages us.

It reminds me of the Quakers, who stood up for the right to experience God in their own ways, by waiting in silence for the Light. They had no patience for “steeple-houses” (churches) and priests, the accepted ways of connecting to God. 

It also reminds me of the recent revolution in music distribution. Now everyone can hear “their” music through Pandora, Spotify, etc. As a result, the record labels and radio stations no longer determine what we can listen to.

Thinking at the Edge empowers us to make our own thought connections, based on experience.

It’s time for us to learn about our own capacity for generating new ideas

“…I am very aware of the deep political significance of all this, People, especially intellectuals, believe that they cannot think! They are trained to say what fits into a preexisting public discourse. They remain numb about what could arise from themselves in response to the literature and the world. People live through a great deal which cannot be said in the common phrases. People are silenced! TAE can empower them to speak from what they are living through.”  —-Eugene Gendlin, Introduction to Thinking at the Edge

Right now, people are living through unprecedented situations. It becomes clear that economists and politicians, spiritual leaders, even scientists, don’t know the answers. This is an opening for new ideas, new ways of doing things. This moment is offering transformation. We need to empower ourselves to think and communicate from a generative place in order to meet the opportunities that might not come again.

Empower yourself with Thinking at the Edge 

Do you skip over moments where words are difficult to find?
Do you try to complete someone’s sentence when they struggle to express themselves?
Try welcoming those moments
. Here’s how:

  • First of all, take time to slow down right there and breathe.
  • Don’t strain your brain.
  • In that moment of pausing and relaxing, notice if there is a place in your body where the thing you are trying to express “lives”.
  • Next, describe how it feels in your body. It could be a pressure or tightness, a vague cottony feeling, a slight discomfort, a subtle feeling of excitement, an image, or many other subtle sensations.
  • Patiently go there and be with that place with interest and receptivity
  • You might feel it start to unfold into the words you were seeking. 

Find out more about my online classes in TAE.