Tag Archive for: thinking at the edge Gendlin
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.”
Gendlin, E.T. (1997). Experiencing and the Creation of Meaning. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, p 162
What is life calling you to do?
This online course in Thinking at the Edge will help you appreciate, enjoy and revel in your unique way of being. Your deepening relationship with felt sensing will enable you to let go of old ways of thinking and step into the urgings of the soul.
You’ll have the time and space to delve into the ideas and information that come through your body, your lived experience. You’ll explore the ways you connect with the world, the universe, nature and other people. You will gravitate toward your gifts. As your flower unfolds, your idiosyncrasies might even start to make sense!
My kind of TAE could be called ‘Living from Who You Are’
TAE grounds you in your lived experience so that you can better express who you are and what comes through you. You will return to the felt sense of a chosen theme over and over again, leading you to a deeper understanding of your own intricacy. Your felt senses become even more trusted and useful guides.
You will experience Gendlin’s steps 1 to 10 in class and practice them with fellow students between classes. At the end of the course, there will be the opportunity to continue your process in collaboration with your new TAE companions.
Comments from recent participants
Judy Allen, UK:
“This well-organised and supported course provided a sense of security that had tangible and completely positive outcomes for me.
“We did not follow the TAE steps in order but went straight to our own experience. This was key to the positive outcome.
“Beatrice is a quiet presence, encouraging sharing by her responses. She knows when to gently intervene in the group learning and does so with consideration to the benefit of all.
“This class brought a whole new dimension to Focusing as well as TAE. I feel I really ‘got’ it. I am inspired to study the process as it stands and contemplate ways in which it could best be disseminated to a wider, possibly non-Focuser audience.”
Phil Bender, US:
“I entered TAE seeking clarity on what I thought was a specific intention. TAE made me more aware of the impetus of the felt sense behind (or inside) that desire. I could feel its inner energy–it had a trajectory.
“I came out of TAE not so much with a blueprint on how to move forward but with tools for being in relationship with a deeper stream in me. Developing the relationship with this felt sense, and honoring it with time and patience, has led to shifts in my life that are conspiring to bring forward what I wanted from TAE at the beginning.”
Helen Bryant, UK:
“TAE supports the opening of a chosen Felt Sense into learning that only you and your connection with Life can experience. It is a deeply personal enquiry but is grounded in the support of both Gendlin’s steps and a group of fellow students. Most importantly, you will be guided by Beatrice Blake; a wise, warm and very experienced fellow traveller.
“Your process might start with the Felt Sense of a glimpsed/half forgotten ‘knowing’ or a theme that calls you. TAE is a further stage of Focusing requiring a certain courage; you may feel disturbance as a new perspective/level of consciousness is born, but it is also deeply affirming of your connection to Life in all its manifestations.”
If this resonates with you, please sign up for a free consultation.
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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.
Thinking at the Edge (TAE) has helped me move from feeling powerless about climate change to a place of hope, with clear steps ahead that feel right for me.
My TAE process developed into how to position myself before any storm on the horizon, not just climate change. So I feel like I’m ready to go with coronavirus, straight into action, without the weeping and wailing. Action, in the instance of corona virus, means:
I am moved and grateful to Merilyn Mayhew of Sydney, Australia for this rich essay on her transformational process in my 7-week online class in Thinking at the Edge (TAE). Merilyn and I want to share her story of how TAE led her from helplessness to hope on climate change. This attitude has extended to her actions around COVID-19 as well: