The TAE process
Initially, you will come to Thinking at the Edge 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”.
During the first class, we will spend time creating an inner environment in which you feel safe, protected, and free to be yourself. You’ll also sense into an experience that gives you a sense of fulfillment. You can use this safe, creative inner environment and fulfilling experience as touchstones during the process.
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: Allow your felt sense to show you what is the most essential part of it, and write freely: You will start writing what you do know about it, even though you can’t say all of it yet.
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. It could be something that is not readily understood in society, something that could create meaningful change.
Class One corresponds to Steps 1 and 2 of Gendlin’s process of Thinking at the Edge
Find relevant examples in your own experience: You to 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. In Thinking at the Edge, this is called “finding patterns in instances”.
Here, the word “pattern” does not refer to things that happen over and over. It refers to the unique pattern of meaning in each experience. 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 cannot yet express.
Class Two corresponds to Step 6 and 7 of Gendlin’s process of Thinking at the Edge
“Crossing” patterns and instances: You sense into one pattern 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.
At this point you are invited to write freely about what you have discovered.
Class Three corresponds to Steps 8 and 9 of Gendlin’s process of Thinking at the Edge
Working with words: Again you’ll attempt to express your felt sense in words, drawings, etc., making sure that your words and images express what you really want to say, without being 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 are able to walk around in the inner landscape of your lived experience. Familiarity with that inner landscape allows your words come from a broader and deeper felt sense.
Class Four corresponds to Steps 3, 4 and 5 of Gendlin’s process of Thinking at the Edge
Select the words or phrases that are especially meaningful: As we approach the end of the class, you’ll have a rich new vocabulary of words and images that come from Focusing with your project. From these, you will select your “terms”: words or phrases that are full of meaning for you.
Class Five corresponds to Step 10 of Gendlin’s process of Thinking at the Edge
You will “cross” these terms by seeing what happens when you try to define each of your most meaningful words or phrases 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.
Class Six goes further into Step 10 of Gendlin’s process of Thinking at the Edge
You’ll look for the inherent connections between your terms giving you even more understanding and forward movement.
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 of the TAE process 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.
Class Seven corresponds to Step 11 of Gendlin’s process of Thinking at the Edge. Most people are not ready to commit to the final 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.
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 where a lot of the most valuable progress comes. 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 an encouraging atmosphere in which things that are completely new or not understood by society can grow and move forward.