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Focusing partnership and truth

“Currently philosophers recognize that formulations [articulations, expressions, statements] don’t stand alone, but this fact has them stuck. Much worse — the current understanding is that there is no truth at all, no values either, because people still think that if the attempts at a single truth contradict each other, then there isn’t any truth at all. 

“Knowing Focusing, of course you don’t think that there is no truth just because there is a variety of stated truths. Rather, you know, perhaps without having thought about it, that truth consists in one or more RELATIONSHIPS between what is stated and…..[what we call] “experiencing”, but it would be better to say “experiencing, situation, the body, our interactional living, “…” Still better, just call it dot dot dot.” 

                             — Eugene Gendlin,  A Philosophical Car for Focusers, 1999 Model

The felt sense leads us to a new “place”, where our understanding of the original issue is no longer what it “was”.

When we know Focusing, we go inside and follow the unclear  “something”, the dot-dot-dot. This is the bodily felt sense of a situation or issue or feeling that we want to explore. As we follow the felt sense with our inner listening, it changes and develops, leading us to a new “place”. In this new place, our understanding of the original issue or situation or feeling is no longer what it “was”.

The vital presence of the Listener

The Listener provides protected time and space for the Focuser to accompany the felt sense as it develops and unfolds into meaning. The revealed meaning makes sense directly to the Focuser. It feels true. 

The Listener wordlessly receives what the Focuser says. If the Focuser requests it, the Listener repeats back what the Focuser expresses as s/he experiences each new development. The Listener’s vital presence helps the Focuser to stay inside and follow what is happening.

To foster this world-changing process toward truth, Listeners put aside all opinions, ideas, suggestions — all attempts to be “helpful”. The Listener is in receptive mode, receiving the meaning that is being revealed to the Focuser.

What is needed along the road to truth

In Focusing partnership, the Listener doesn’t have to understand the details, the “story”, or the context behind the Focuser’s expressions. The Listener relaxes into knowing that the felt sense is leading the Focuser along the road to truth. Both partners honor what the felt sense does as it develops and reveals meaning. This knowing and honoring grows by experiencing the Focusing process for oneself.

Gendlin's A Process Model

A Process Model can show us how to describe Focusing in a new way.

All Focusers have the same problem: how to communicate what Focusing is. We can say “Focusing accesses the wisdom of the body.” Or “Focusing is a way of getting to know how you really feel.” If you have done Focusing, I’m sure you have thought about this and tried to put it into words, as I have over the years. 

I’ve recently come to a new way of communicating what Focusing is. It’s based on A Process Model, which was Eugene Gendlin‘s way of explaining how there could be a world in which Focusing could exist, a world in which felt meaning could exist, a world in which human beings, with our strange and intricate felt senses, could exist. For Gendlin, the basic terms with which Western culture views reality make human beings seem impossible. 

Since we humans are here, we can be certain that we are not impossible. A conceptual model of “reality” that makes us seem impossible has to have something wrong with it.”   — Eugene Gendlin, A Process Model, p. 16

A Process Model vs. the Unit Model

Gendlin called the basis for today’s science and culture “The Unit Model”. In the Unit Model, things are observed and described as if a spectator is “here” and the thing described is “over there”. This allows us to analyze the units that make up what we see around us—the atoms and molecules that combine to form the chemicals, hormones and neurobiological impulses, et cetera, that animate the body and the world. Gene always stressed that this way of looking at the world is very necessary. It has allowed us to produce the technological and scientific achievements of the last 400 years. So we want to keep it, AND we need a different  model to describe living processes. 

Interaction first

The Unit Model is excellent for analyzing things, taking them apart and putting them together. But this does not work with what is alive. Gendlin holds that human beings ARE interaction. Interaction is not one person over here, with set characteristics, interacting with another person over there with set characteristics. No. He says each interaction determines who and how we are, because life is interaction.

Understanding life through different “environments” 

To help us see the world in this new way, Gendlin asks us to consider the idea of different environments from which to look at the world. Because the notion of different environments is a new philosophical concept, he refers to them as “en”. The purpose is to keep this new concept from being confused with currently understood uses of the word “environment”.

In A Process Model, En #1 is the spectator’s view

Society’s current way of looking at life is from the standpoint of a spectator. I’m over here, looking at what is going on over there. Gendlin calls this Environment 1, or En #1. Spectators notice things that they can identify from their world. For instance, biologists will define a monkey’s environment in their own terms. Gendlin gives an example on page one of A Process Model.

“It is En #1 when scientists or hunters define the environment of an animal. They define the en factors…..The spectator’s bodies interact with [what they call] “the animal’s environment” — their own environment attributed to another living body.”    —Eugene Gendlin, A Process Model, p. 1

Let’s pause and take that in. Doesn’t it seem that most of the troubles in the world today come when we take the spectator’s stance? Racism, sexism, bullying, lack of civil discourse, not to mention climate change, none of these acknowledge life as interaction. They result when we attribute what we are familiar with to another living body and expect that body to see, feel and experience life the way we do.

In A Process Model, En #2 is the interactive life process

Gendlin goes on to present an alternative to the familiar spectator’s stance. He calls it Environment 2, or En #2, where interaction IS the process of living.

“Body and environment are one event, one process. For example, it is air-coming-into-lungs-and-blood-cells. We can view this event as air (coming in), or as (a coming into) lungs and body cells. Either way it is one event viewed as en or as body. Here we are not calling it “environment”  because it is all around, but because it participates within the life process…Air coming in and lungs expanding cannot be separate. The point is, we need not split between the lungs and air.”  Eugene Gendlin, A Process Model, p. 1

En #2 makes itself an environment in which life goes on further — En #3 

Then Gendlin comes to Environment 3, or En #3. “The body is an environment in which body process goes on further.” The spider’s web is En #3. En #3 is where the spider finds what she needs to carry out her life process. And here, in En #3, is where Gendlin introduces the idea that we humans are the environment for each other.

“…the main “environment” of any animal is its species members, other animals like it.…..We must not take  the physical environment as our basic model of environment although that too will often already be en#3…..En #3 is the cement you walk on, the mole’s hole, the beehive, the anthill, and our bodies and theirs. The life process (En #2) makes itself an environment in which it then goes on further. We can call it the “home-made” environment for the “domesticated environment”…en #3.” –Eugene Gendlin, A Process Model, p. 4

Providing the environment where living process can develop and grow

So here is my new way of saying what Focusing is: 

Focusing means getting in touch with the felt sense of a situation and symbolizing it in words, gestures, sounds, images, colors, etc. The bodily felt sense of a situation is the body showing us where life is stuck and how it can move forward. Or it’s showing us something that wants to happen. When a felt sense is symbolized, it is “carried forward.” It incorporates more life.

Focusing involves Listening, not as a spectator, but as part of an interactive process. In that interaction, the Listener provides the spacious, non-directive atmosphere. The Listener provides the atmosphere in which the Focuser can Listen to all the voices inside, so that their life processes can develop and grow.

Focusing as En #3

Let’s notice when we fall into En #1, the spectator’s stance. It is so easy to forget that we are interaction first. If we see ourselves judging, or thinking that we know in advance what someone else will say, let’s pause and breathe and remember that we are each other’s environment. We can do that too with ourselves! We can step back and slow down and ask, how can I be an environment for myself in which my aliveness can develop and grow? 

And what do I need to be able to support my aliveness during my daily activities? What do I need to ask for from others in order to feel more alive?

Thinking together at the edge

A wonderful example of this are the members of the Embodied Critical Thinking Program, who are developing the practice of thinking together, through Thinking at the Edge and in the process, inventing new ideas about education. Monika Lindner, a member of that group, described their work together like this:

“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.

“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.”  –Monika Lindner

 

Thinking at the Edge

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’

Eugene Gendlin developed Thinking at the Edge in collaboration with his partner, Mary Hendricks Gendlin. Gendlin challenged the world to bring human experiencing into thinking and theory construction. Thinking at the Edge is a truly revolutionary practice! It holds promise for healing the huge rift between science and spirituality, inner and outer, thinking and feeling, etc. Gendlin talks about it in this 5-minute video

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.

Dates and times:

Dates: Thursdays, November 4, 11 and 18, December 2, 9 and 16 (skipping Thursday, November 25)
Times: 5 p.m. Eastern, except for the class on November 4, which will start at 6 p.m.)
(Friday mornings at 9 a.m. in Sydney)

Find your time zone here: http://www.thetimezoneconverter.com

To join, please submit the contact form below.

Investment:

US$295 per person for six 2-hour sessions
Classes are limited to 6 people, so it’s best to sign up early!
Payment can be by check or PayPal. Payment details will be given at enrollment.

The implicit carried forward

Facilitator:

Beatrice Blake, Certifying Coordinator with The International Focusing Institute. For more information or to sign up, contact me for a free consultation.

Photo credit: https://www.carriebakerphd.com/photography
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.

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: