Focusing: Felt Sense Meditation

By Will Hall

Focusing is a book and technique by Eugene Gendlin that began with a very provocative research study: therapy clients were studied to determine what about them would predict whether therapy would be successful or not. It turns out that people who, in tapes of their discussions with the therapist, could focus in on their felt emotional awareness had a much higher rate of reporting that therapy was helpful. The next question was, Could this be taught?

To do focusing, first you need to recognize that you have permission to disregard the focusing instructions. Gendlin writes:

Adopt a “split-level” approach to all instructions: On the one hand follow the instructions exactly, so that you can discover the experiences to which they point. On the other hand be sensitive to yourself and your own body. Assume that only sound expansive experiences are worth having.

Here are the basic instructions:
  1. Preparation: Get comfortable and relaxed. Pay attention to your breathing. Notice how your breath goes in and out of your body. Notice how your body is making contact with the chair and your feet with the floor. Close your eyes or keep them open, whichever allows you a clearer feeling of your body.
  2. Clearing a space: Then in a friendly, gentle way ask yourself, “How am I now?”, and name anything standing in the way of your feeling O.K. right now. As you name each thing, notice how the whole thing feels in your body. Imagine setting the whole thing with the feeling outside. How would it feel if you didn’t have that whole thing? Other than that is there anything else standing in the way of your feeling all O.K. right now?
  3. Choose one thing from these to Focus on. Set others aside.
  4. Getting the Felt Sense: Notice how that whole thing feels in your body now.
  5. Getting the Handle: Take time to be with your felt sense and notice the words or images that come to describe your feeling. It might be a quality-word, like tight, sticky, scary, stuck, heavy, jumpy or a phrase, or an image.
  6. Resonating: Check if you have any better words or images to describe the feel of it, words or images that ‘fit’ better.. Where in your body do you feel that? Take time to find just the right fit between body sensation and word/image.
  7. Asking: Gently ask what is it about this whole thing that leaves you feeling this way? How does this whole thing feel in your body now? (Return to Steps 4- 6)
    What’s the worst (best) of this whole thing for you? How does this whole thing feel in your body now? (Return to Steps 4 -6) What does this whole thing need right now? How does this whole thing feel in your body now? (Return to Steps 4 – 6)
  8. Resonating: Take time to notice any feeling that came with the words and any shift that took place in your body, any new openess or expansiveness or new insight.
If during this process you contact your felt sense and notice a body shift, then you are Focusing.
Buy the book here: Focusing

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