Last night, as part of my Focusing Trainer’s course I listened online to our guest lecturer Jim Strohl, of all the guests we have had so far I found him particularly inspiring. He finds a way to elegantly express focusing as a helping practical with spiritual attributes. He reminded me of Tibetan Buddhist aspirations to effortlessly surmount obstacles. This doesn’t mean be lazy, or choose easy things, but similar to saying ‘go with the flow’, to be guided by the universe so that your ego thinking mind does not become an unbending tyrant to its own desire, not give up on plans and have no direction, but work in a way which honours your intention and goals while making a path through which responds to the present moment and so is not impeded or exhausted.
He continued to affirm that,
‘Life emerging naturally heals, it doesn’t have stuck places, blocks or obstacles, problems that occur are when we interfere with it’.
It is often fear that gets in the way, we hold back our gifts because we fear they are not good enough or won’t be received, we worry that our resources will not be enough to get us to where we want to go, we imagine we are inadequate to make choices and build our resolve and so we procrastinate. When we stay up in the thinking mind we go in endless circles around our ideas and become weary and disillusioned before we begin. But focusing offers us a direct way to work with the fear. Rather than let it block us we sensitively let it into our experience. The fear represents an unheard part which we are continuously engaging with, by pushing away but never really knowing. We can only engage with the fear from a state of presence, pure awareness and so learning this state comes first.
You know you have experienced presence then you are not aware that time has passed, you ‘come to’ from a state of contentment, this could be in meditation, prayer, in nature, or an active pursuit – for me walking, swimming, gentle yoga practice, bathing in an onsen or waterfall, lounging in a steam room or having a massage might induce the state. That was presence, when you were not caught up in the thinking mind, telling stories, making judgments. And when you can inhabit this place more in your everyday life you can begin to recognise your fear, worries and apprehension without becoming them or fighting them off, just being with them and getting to know them better. And that’s what presence offers us.
The work of Echart Tolle may inspire and guide you hear, I find the states he describes remote from my experience and yet I love the beauty of them. He describes a stillness that can always be found in the ‘now’ which is the same as Jim’s and yet the way Jim describes it, it flows into life in a way more similar to how I experience it. Contentment is always available, this isn’t just a saying, but a habit, a practice and a choice (assuming our basic needs are met). When we come to know this state, and I imagine that the state might differ for each of us slightly we can return to it to rejuvenate and it makes us resilient and once we trust it we can begin to have ‘radical acceptance’ to simply be with whatever is, including the fear we were pushing away, unable to really be in relationship with. But the fear was following us all the time like a shadow and so the effort to avoid it cannot pay off, instead we let it flow into our experience and while we are able to stay in presence, to maintain a distance so we don’t become fear itself something very special happens. The fear we had becomes integrated with our hopes, desires, longings, dreams, and we move into another place.
But to remain in presence, this is a tricky part, to let something scary in without being afraid of being overwhelmed, that is why in focusing we have a partner with us, to help guide us, to keep the space safe. In this space we are not asked to go towards the fear, challenge it, conquer it, dispel it or become it. We trust that what the universe wants is equilibrium, unity and healing, I imagine how air flows from a place of less heat to a warm place until there is a balanced temperature. We don’t do anything to achieve tat in the room we are in and do not need to do anything to achieve that in the world within, we can simply be with apparently contrasting forces, listening to them and be moved to act, feel, speak as the moment takes us. All we have the ability to be there as a witness and that is all we need in this process.
The role of the guide is to empower the person witnessing these states not to be overwhelmed by one emotion but to keep it in flow, helping slow the process or alleviate blocks. To gently encourage the work as a midwife does until a new state has come into being and as the present moment is always changing if we stay with presence this is inevitable.
Also published on Medium.