Church Window – St Petersburg, Florence
Photo by Leonard Grossman (Focusing friend of Bebe Simon)
—–

Current Series

Meditative Listening, the teachings of Rob Foxcroft
~ (5 Classes) Sundays, October 8, 15, 22, 29, November 5, 2017 ~
(1) The narrative principle
(2) The meditative principle
(3) The integrative principle
(4) The three ways
(5) The place of the humanities

REGISTRATION

Two Aspects: a philosophical and a psychological aspect

Two Aspects: a philosophical and a psychological aspect

Rob Foxcroft writes:

“Experiencing and the Creation of Meaning has two aspects: a philosophical aspect and a psychological aspect. The two are kept carefully separate. But they feed each other. The philosophical questions the psychological, continuously undercutting its habits and assumptions. The psychological applies the philosophical, taking it out into the world to see what difference it makes.

Looking at the relation between our experiencing and our symbols psychologically, Gene Gendlin opens up a new range of methods for inner process, many of which were later integrated into Focusing and Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy. These methods have to do with being aware of process. More precisely, they are concerned with being aware of experiencing, of felt meaning: the “associated parallel side” which invariably accompanies cognition. And these methods make use of the many different ways (not just one), in which felt meaning comes into relationship with cognition.”

From: “An Earlier and (Perhaps) More Searching Focusing” – Rob Foxcroft’s November 5, 2002 article on Gene Gendlin’s book Experiencing and the Creation of Meaning (1962)

The role of felt meaning

The role of felt meaning 

Rob Foxcroft writes:

“It all starts with a question: “How does felt meaning function in cognition?” And a statement: “Meaning is experienced” (p44).

The question already implies two relationships:

(1) between what-is-felt and what-it-is-about; and

(2) between what-is-felt and words-actions-images.

Let’s call what-is-felt “this”; what-it-is about “of”; and words- actions-images “such”. Now we can make a simple diagram:”

From: “An Earlier and (Perhaps) More Searching Focusing” – Rob Foxcroft’s November 5, 2002 article on Gene Gendlin’s book Experiencing and the Creation of Meaning (1962)

Class 2b – The listening circle

From Rob Foxcroft’s second website – Meditative Listening

It is easy to invite a few friends to form a listening circle.

You tell them that this will be a space for empathy and self-empathy. You agree where to meet and for how long. You will share expenses.

Then the day comes. You meet. And nobody can tell you how to do this. The time belongs to you all equally, to use in your own way.

The Listening Round.

In a listening round the time is divided equally.

One person speaks. The person next on the left or right offers meditative listening responses, exactly as in a listening partnership.

Each listener becomes the next to speak.

The Open Listening Circle.

The open listening circle is more subtle.

When you begin to speak in the open listening circle you may ask anybody present to offer listening responses. You can ask for the listening you need.

Or you can leave it open to anybody present to offer a meditative listening response – whoever feels moved to respond.

The cycle of meditative listening is the same in an open listening circle as in a listening partnership: feeling and conveying, following and receiving – and so back to feeling.

After a while you fall silent, feeling that enough has been said for now. And the circle is silent with you.

Everything depends upon these windows of silence. Silence is what makes this listening meditative.

In silence something heard can be received.
In silence something new can come.
In silence, somebody else prepares to speak.

The listening circle is many things. It is where we learn to be with our own feelings and the feelings of others. It is a place of love and tenderness, of friendship and community.

Class 2c – The listening partnership

From Rob Foxcroft’s second website – Meditative Listening

It is easy to ask a friend to be your listening partner.

When you meet, you divide the time equally. For half the time you are the listener. Then your companion listens to you.

When it is your turn to be listened to, the time is for you. You use it however you like. You say whatever you want. You may say a lot or very little or nothing at all. For some things are private. You will not say them now, perhaps not ever.

The listener is always discreet and treats the things you say as confidential.

The listener is careful not to run ahead of you and makes no attempt to penetrate your reserve.

The listener is always on your side and accepts you just as you are.

There is a natural cycle of meditative listening: feeling and conveying, following and receiving – and so back to feeling.

At first you may be silent, closing your eyes, slowly becoming aware of what you are feeling.

You say things as they come to you, conveying small clusters of meaning in words or images, sounds or gestures.

The listener takes in each cluster, sensitive to the wordless feeling behind it.

The listener says the cluster back to you, plainly and accurately, perhaps in your own words. This invites you to turn back to your wordless feeling, to ask inwardly: “Do I feel heard?”

When you feel heard a silence falls.
In that silence more may come.
Often it is something deeper: you can feel it
just now forming at the edge of being.

Sometimes what comes is the next piece of the story.
Sometimes it is a feeling for the whole story.
Sometimes it is like grace, like a breath from another world.

Empathy is like a riverbed, shaped and re-shaped by the stream of listening, and in which it flows.

Listening is as old as the campfire, as old as the well.

Experiencing is ubiquitous

Experiencing is ubiquitous 

From: “An Earlier and (Perhaps) More Searching Focusing” – Rob Foxcroft’s November 5, 2002 article on Gene Gendlin’s book Experiencing and the Creation of Meaning (1962)

Rob Foxcroft writes:

I’m going to risk saying that it is impossible to experience life without felt meaning. Felt meaning is always with us, however tenuously.

At the Science Centre in Glasgow there is a device which lifts a rubber arm like a windscreen wiper out of a trough full of soap, so that it draws up a vast flat soap bubble like an incredibly thin curtain. We often speak of the felt sense as if it is either there or not there. Experiencing and the Creation of Meaning is saying something a little different, however: wherever there is meaning, there are:

(1) context (“of”),

(2) symbols (“such”), and

(3) felt meaning (“this”).

“Felt” meaning is ubiquitous, even when it is as thin as the soap bubble curtain.

Diagram 2 (Diagram 1 expanded): NB I plan to paste in the diagram!

Diagram 2 NB I plan to paste in the diagram!

A note about the word “felt”:

Notice that very often when Gene Gendlin (and this article) uses the word “felt” it doesn’t mean that you can always feel the “felt” as distinct bodily sensation. I’m sorry about this, but it doesn’t! It means that there is always “the having of a meaning”. You may or may not in practice be able to get a distinct bodily felt sense. Many meanings, says my friend Carol, are not so much “felt” as “under-felt” (like a carpet has an underfelt!). A person is not a computer. A computer does not “have” meanings, since there is no person there to have them. So another way to say this is: there is always a person there, who “has” the meaning (felt or under-felt).

But still there always is that having-of-a-meaning.

Question: Why is this important?

Answer: Because it means that a kind of sub- or proto-Focusing is absolutely ubiquitous in our lives. It wipes out any possibility of treating Focusing as

(a) just another tool or technique, useful sometimes, like other tools; or as

(b) an empirically observed intermittent behaviour pattern (“stopping and sensing”), such that later studies might cast doubt on earlier observations or their significance.

Gene Gendlin shows that our being-in-the-world centrally and crucially is felt meaning. Focusing, as a social form, simply enables us to enter in far more deeply to our inevitable existential situation.

The fundamental axiom: “Meaning is experienced,” is to be taken in the strongest possible sense.

Class 3b – Listening in everyday life

From Rob Foxcroft’s second website – Meditative Listening

The practice of empathy can’t stay forever in private. We have to bring empathy and self-empathy into all our situations – to be aware of feelings, not only at special times, but throughout the day.

Very often I pause for a few moments, opening a little window through which I sense my feelings. And maybe something will bubble up which turns out to be just the thing I need.

I offer little bits of listening to others, for very often empathy is welcome.

And I notice that these actions are contagious. What one does, others soon catch on to.

We listen to ourselves in solitude, we listen to our friends, and we listen in everyday life.

We listen for the sake of others and for our own sakes. In the end, there is no difference.

Listening is born in silence, in awareness and acceptance. In coming to accept myself as I am, I come to accept others as they are.

The way of empathy is a way of silence and love.

Meditative Communion

MEDITATIVE COMMUNION

From Rob Foxcroft’s second website – Meditative Listening

Rob Foxcroft writes:

I sit quietly with my feelings.

Day after day, I clear a little time to be alone, and I notice what I am feeling.

Nobody can tell me how to do this. I do it in my own time, in my own way. It is wholly individual.

What will happen, when I leave the silence free to work, I cannot say.

Little by little a sense of peace may come, a sense of stillness.

Once in a while there may be something more – a breath of healing, a moment of insight, a way forward.

It is like coming home.

Spiritual Accompaniment

SPIRITUAL ACCOMPANIMENT

From Rob Foxcroft’s second website – Meditative Listening

Rob Foxcroft writes:

Today we are surrounded by voices. Each voice has something to say about the emptiness, unease and uncertainty that fester in our hearts. Each voice urges upon us some road to happiness. Each voice calls us to some path, some answer.

The answers are not in any of this. They are not outside us. The answers lie within.

Yet it is hard to find them alone. Perhaps it can’t be done. And for this reason it may be helpful to find somebody who can offer you spiritual accompaniment.

What do I mean by the word “spiritual”? People use this word in many ways. I mean something like this.

When I join a group or community, taking my lead from its traditions and values, I call this the religious turn.

When I go to a doctor or psychologist, looking for a correct evaluation and for medical or pseudo-medical treatment, I call this the diagnostic turn.

When I look outwards, seeking to act in society or to build a better world, I call this the political turn.

There is value in all these.

But sooner or later it is borne in upon me that I am part of the problem. I begin to look into my heart. I call this the inward turn.

Now I ask hard questions, “Who am I? What am I like? What in myself am I hiding from?” I try to be truthful with myself about my own feelings. Whatever shares that inward truthfulness, I call “spiritual”.

What is spiritual accompaniment?

In spiritual accompaniment, somebody who is familiar with the landscape of feeling keeps somebody else company, whose feelings are clouded, narrowed or lost, who yearns for deeper understanding, struggles with a moral uncertainty, or trembles on the threshold of an unknown path.

Spiritual accompaniment is about listening with empathy and compassion, while somebody turns inwards to wait upon the wisdom of the heart.

Spiritual accompaniment invites us to shed our stories, and to feel directly what life is like.

Spiritual accompaniment frees us from the grip of false standards, and invites us to value the truly precious things in life.

Spiritual accompaniment is about accepting things as they are, and being at peace with change.

Spiritual accompaniment is profoundly relational. We are in this together. We walk side by side. And that is what is so helpful, that we share the inward turn.

REGISTRATION
"Empathy is the essence of our humanity"

 “Empathy is the essence of our humanity”

From Rob Foxcroft’s second website – Meditative Listening

Everybody needs empathy.

Everybody needs to receive empathy from others.
Everybody needs self-empathy.
Everybody needs to offer empathy to others.

Without empathy, we are nothing.

Our practice, then, must be quite simple – as simple as possible. All we have to do is sit down quietly and listen to our feelings. There is no practice more certain, more elevated or more human than this.

Little by little, as surface agitations die down, we touch our true feelings. Once we are aware of these deeper feelings, we are able to discern the feelings of others.

When you sit with your own feelings, I call it meditative communion. When you discern the feelings of others, I call it meditative listening.

Meditative listening may happen in many settings: in a listening partnership or a listening circle, at work or in everyday life.

Four Pillars of Focusing

Four Pillars of Focusing

1. Relational depth  2. Experiential search  3. The transition to the new space  4. The open space. 

http://www.robfoxcroft.com/ is Rob Foxcroft‘s first website. On the first page you will see his lovely description of “four pillars” of Focusing: 1.Relational depth  2. Experiential search  3. The transition to the new space  4. The open space. 

* * * * Rob Foxcroft writes:

I see Focusing as having four pillars:

1. Relational depth

As relational beings, we need to be able to tell when we are in touch with one another, and how to evoke a sense of encounter, when contact is thin or not yet present.

2. Experiential search

You are the expert on your life, both on what to say and on how to move forwards. It is your life. My role is keep you company whilst you are feeling your way forward, to follow attentively the fine workings of your emotional intelligence.

3. The transition to the new space

Suppose you’re exploring some problem or situation in your life. After a while you come to a halt. You’ve said all the part you know, and find yourself stuck or puzzling. Something new needs to come, and you don’t yet know what this will be. As you begin to dwell at that point of uncertainty, you let some mild new sense come to you of the-problem-as-a-whole. What is this whole thing like? What does it feel like, as a whole?

4. The open space

Finally: when you are with another person, you can lean into a flow of listening, wrinkle by wrinkle, trusting the other to find a way forward. Listening is a beautiful open space. In that open space, something may come to you. Why not say it? You can say anything at all which seems likely to be helpful, or just because you feel like it. And then you listen carefully once more, to see how they are taking what you said.

These four pillars are the foundations of my work. They are simple, clear and poignant. 

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Rob Foxcroft: I see Focusing as having four pillars

1. Relational depth

As relational beings, we need to be able to tell when we are in touch with one another, and how to evoke a sense of encounter, when contact is thin or not yet present.

2. Experiential search

You are the expert on your life, both on what to say and on how to move forwards. It is your life. My role is keep you company whilst you are feeling your way forward, to follow attentively the fine workings of your emotional intelligence.

3. The transition to the new space

Suppose you’re exploring some problem or situation in your life. After a while you come to a halt. You’ve said all the part you know, and find yourself stuck or puzzling. Something new needs to come, and you don’t yet know what this will be. As you begin to dwell at that point of uncertainty, you let some mild new sense come to you of the-problem-as-a-whole. What is this whole thing like? What does it feel like, as a whole?

4. The open space

Finally: when you are with another person, you can lean into a flow of listening, wrinkle by wrinkle, trusting the other to find a way forward. Listening is a beautiful open space. In that open space, something may come to you. Why not say it? You can say anything at all which seems likely to be helpful, or just because you feel like it. And then you listen carefully once more, to see how they are taking what you said.

These four pillars are the foundations of my work. They are simple, clear and poignant. 

Rob’s Websites, Articles, Projects

Rob Foxcroft‘s first website www.robfoxcroft.com `Four Pillars of Focusing

http://www.robfoxcroft.com/ is Rob Foxcroft‘s first website. On the first page you will see his lovely description of “four pillars” of Focusing: 1.Relational depth  2. Experiential search  3. The transition to the new space  4. The open space

Rob Foxcroft’s second website www.meditativelistening.com ` Meditative Listening `Notes About Rob Foxcroft

Rob Foxcroft’s second website – Meditative Listening

Rob Foxcroft Centre for Meditative Listening 

* * * * Rob Foxcroft writes:

I teach empathy and self-empathy.
I offer spiritual accompaniment and lead retreats.
I am a musician, a poet and a contemplative.

I live in Glasgow (Scotland) with my wife and family.
I play the piano – mostly Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert.
I love to be in wild nature, to walk on the hills or sit by the sea.
As a child I loved canoeing, and used to build drystone walls.


2012
Diploma in Spiritual Accompaniment (The Norwich Centre)

2011-2012
Studying spiritual accompaniment with Brian Thorne, Caroline Kitcatt, Stephen de Brett and Chris Bulpitt

2010
Founded the Centre for Meditative Listening

2001-2005
Created Focusing and the Power of Philosophy – five advanced weeklong seminars, with Kye Nelson, Campbell Purton, Barbara McGavin and Rob Parker

2000 – 2004
Reading philosophy under the guidance of Campbell Purton

1994-present
BFTA Focusing Mentor

1994
Co-founded the British Focusing Teachers’ Association

1992
Certifying Co-ordinator (The Focusing Institute)

1989 – 1990
One year course in regression and integration with Anouk Grave and Mike Eales, leading to the Praxis Postgraduate Certificate in Regression and Integration

1989
Focusing Trainer (The Focusing Institute)

1988-1992
Studying Focusing at the Focusing Institute in Chicago, with Ann Weiser Cornell and others, and in individual sessions with Gene Gendlin, Mary McGuire and Bebe Simon

1988-1991
Studying the Person-Centred Approach with Senga Blackie

1980-1989
Developing Creative Piano Playing, an approach to music-making through free composition and improvisation at the piano

1974-present
Slowly evolving the meditative listening approach from many sources, partly through wide-ranging artistic, historical, psychological and spiritual explorations, but mainly through the experiences of ordinary life and whilst sitting beside a piano

1974-present
Teaching the piano

1974
BA (Music), Emmanuel College, Cambridge

1974
Final year dissertation on the application of the idiodynamic principle to the understanding of works of music.

1972
Made a commitment to bring the Person-Centred Approach into all aspects of my life, work and relationships

1972
Read Virginia Axline’s book, Dibs in Search of Self

1971-1974
Studying musical composition with Philip Radcliffe

1969-present
Ongoing experiential studies in comparative religion, including the Christian, Islamic, Taoist, Buddhist and Confucian traditions

1967-present
Informal readings in philosophy: at first Susan Stebbing (my mother’s teacher); later Plato, Boethius, Spinoza, Hume, Frege, Moore, John Austin, Isaiah Berlin, Peter Strawson, Thomas Nagel, William James, John Dewey, Gene Gendlin, Martin Buber, Emmanuel Levinas, Hilary Putnam and others

1966-1981
Studying the piano with David Smith, Russell Lomas, Guy Jonson, Maisie Aldridge and Sulamita Aronovsky

1961-1975
Studying the cello with Bill Wildman and Paul Ward

1961-1971
Studying singing with Neil Chaffey and Susan Gorton

1961
Began to compose music

Rob Foxcroft
The Centre for Meditative Listening
Email: meditativelistening@gmail.com
UK phone: 0141 943 1449
International: +44 141 943 1449

"Empathy is the essence of our humanity" MEDITATIVE LISTENING

Empathy is the essence of our humanity”

MEDITATIVE LISTENING

Everybody needs empathy.

Everybody needs to receive empathy from others.
Everybody needs self-empathy.
Everybody needs to offer empathy to others.

Without empathy, we are nothing.

Our practice, then, must be quite simple – as simple as possible. All we have to do is sit down quietly and listen to our feelings. There is no practice more certain, more elevated or more human than this.

Little by little, as surface agitations die down, we touch our true feelings. Once we are aware of these deeper feelings, we are able to discern the feelings of others.

When you sit with your own feelings, I call it meditative communion. When you discern the feelings of others, I call it meditative listening.

Meditative listening may happen in many settings: in a listening partnership or a listening circle, at work or in everyday life.

THE LISTENING PARTNERSHIP

It is easy to ask a friend to be your listening partner.

When you meet, you divide the time equally. For half the time you are the listener. Then your companion listens to you.

When it is your turn to be listened to, the time is for you. You use it however you like. You say whatever you want. You may say a lot or very little or nothing at all. For some things are private. You will not say them now, perhaps not ever.

The listener is always discreet and treats the things you say as confidential.

The listener is careful not to run ahead of you and makes no attempt to penetrate your reserve.

The listener is always on your side and accepts you just as you are.

There is a natural cycle of meditative listening: feeling and conveying, following and receiving – and so back to feeling.

At first you may be silent, closing your eyes, slowly becoming aware of what you are feeling.

You say things as they come to you, conveying small clusters of meaning in words or images, sounds or gestures.

The listener takes in each cluster, sensitive to the wordless feeling behind it.

The listener says the cluster back to you, plainly and accurately, perhaps in your own words. This invites you to turn back to your wordless feeling, to ask inwardly: “Do I feel heard?”

When you feel heard a silence falls.
In that silence more may come.
Often it is something deeper: you can feel it
just now forming at the edge of being.

Sometimes what comes is the next piece of the story.
Sometimes it is a feeling for the whole story.
Sometimes it is like grace, like a breath from another world.

Empathy is like a riverbed, shaped and re-shaped by the stream of listening, and in which it flows.

Listening is as old as the campfire, as old as the well.

THE LISTENING PARTNERSHIP

THE LISTENING PARTNERSHIP

It is easy to ask a friend to be your listening partner.

When you meet, you divide the time equally. For half the time you are the listener. Then your companion listens to you.

When it is your turn to be listened to, the time is for you. You use it however you like. You say whatever you want. You may say a lot or very little or nothing at all. For some things are private. You will not say them now, perhaps not ever.

The listener is always discreet and treats the things you say as confidential.

The listener is careful not to run ahead of you and makes no attempt to penetrate your reserve.

The listener is always on your side and accepts you just as you are.

There is a natural cycle of meditative listening: feeling and conveying, following and receiving – and so back to feeling.

At first you may be silent, closing your eyes, slowly becoming aware of what you are feeling.

You say things as they come to you, conveying small clusters of meaning in words or images, sounds or gestures.

The listener takes in each cluster, sensitive to the wordless feeling behind it.

The listener says the cluster back to you, plainly and accurately, perhaps in your own words. This invites you to turn back to your wordless feeling, to ask inwardly: “Do I feel heard?”

When you feel heard a silence falls.
In that silence more may come.
Often it is something deeper: you can feel it
just now forming at the edge of being.

Sometimes what comes is the next piece of the story.
Sometimes it is a feeling for the whole story.
Sometimes it is like grace, like a breath from another world.

Empathy is like a riverbed, shaped and re-shaped by the stream of listening, and in which it flows.

Listening is as old as the campfire, as old as the well.

THE LISTENING CIRCLE

THE LISTENING CIRCLE

It is easy to invite a few friends to form a listening circle.

You tell them that this will be a space for empathy and self-empathy. You agree where to meet and for how long. You will share expenses.

Then the day comes. You meet. And nobody can tell you how to do this. The time belongs to you all equally, to use in your own way.

The Listening Round.

In a listening round the time is divided equally.

One person speaks. The person next on the left or right offers meditative listening responses, exactly as in a listening partnership.

Each listener becomes the next to speak.

The Open Listening Circle.

The open listening circle is more subtle.

When you begin to speak in the open listening circle you may ask anybody present to offer listening responses. You can ask for the listening you need.

Or you can leave it open to anybody present to offer a meditative listening response – whoever feels moved to respond.

The cycle of meditative listening is the same in an open listening circle as in a listening partnership: feeling and conveying, following and receiving – and so back to feeling.

After a while you fall silent, feeling that enough has been said for now. And the circle is silent with you.

Everything depends upon these windows of silence. Silence is what makes this listening meditative.

In silence something heard can be received.
In silence something new can come.
In silence, somebody else prepares to speak.

The listening circle is many things. It is where we learn to be with our own feelings and the feelings of others. It is a place of love and tenderness, of friendship and community.

LISTENING IN EVERYDAY LIFE

LISTENING IN EVERYDAY LIFE

The practice of empathy can’t stay forever in private. We have to bring empathy and self-empathy into all our situations – to be aware of feelings, not only at special times, but throughout the day.

Very often I pause for a few moments, opening a little window through which I sense my feelings. And maybe something will bubble up which turns out to be just the thing I need.

I offer little bits of listening to others, for very often empathy is welcome.

And I notice that these actions are contagious. What one does, others soon catch on to.

We listen to ourselves in solitude, we listen to our friends, and we listen in everyday life.

We listen for the sake of others and for our own sakes. In the end, there is no difference.

Listening is born in silence, in awareness and acceptance. In coming to accept myself as I am, I come to accept others as they are.

The way of empathy is a way of silence and love.

MEDITATIVE COMMUNION

MEDITATIVE COMMUNION

I sit quietly with my feelings.

Day after day, I clear a little time to be alone, and I notice what I am feeling.

Nobody can tell me how to do this. I do it in my own time, in my own way. It is wholly individual.

What will happen, when I leave the silence free to work, I cannot say.

Little by little a sense of peace may come, a sense of stillness.

Once in a while there may be something more – a breath of healing, a moment of insight, a way forward.

It is like coming home.

SPIRITUAL ACCOMPANIMENT

SPIRITUAL ACCOMPANIMENT

Today we are surrounded by voices. Each voice has something to say about the emptiness, unease and uncertainty that fester in our hearts. Each voice urges upon us some road to happiness. Each voice calls us to some path, some answer.

The answers are not in any of this. They are not outside us. The answers lie within.

Yet it is hard to find them alone. Perhaps it can’t be done. And for this reason it may be helpful to find somebody who can offer you spiritual accompaniment.

What do I mean by the word “spiritual”? People use this word in many ways. I mean something like this.

When I join a group or community, taking my lead from its traditions and values, I call this the religious turn.

When I go to a doctor or psychologist, looking for a correct evaluation and for medical or pseudo-medical treatment, I call this the diagnostic turn.

When I look outwards, seeking to act in society or to build a better world, I call this the political turn.

There is value in all these.

But sooner or later it is borne in upon me that I am part of the problem. I begin to look into my heart. I call this the inward turn.

Now I ask hard questions, “Who am I? What am I like? What in myself am I hiding from?” I try to be truthful with myself about my own feelings. Whatever shares that inward truthfulness, I call “spiritual”.

What is spiritual accompaniment?

In spiritual accompaniment, somebody who is familiar with the landscape of feeling keeps somebody else company, whose feelings are clouded, narrowed or lost, who yearns for deeper understanding, struggles with a moral uncertainty, or trembles on the threshold of an unknown path.

Spiritual accompaniment is about listening with empathy and compassion, while somebody turns inwards to wait upon the wisdom of the heart.

Spiritual accompaniment invites us to shed our stories, and to feel directly what life is like.

Spiritual accompaniment frees us from the grip of false standards, and invites us to value the truly precious things in life.

Spiritual accompaniment is about accepting things as they are, and being at peace with change.

Spiritual accompaniment is profoundly relational. We are in this together. We walk side by side. And that is what is so helpful, that we share the inward turn.

"An Earlier and (Perhaps) More Searching Focusing" (Foxcroft 2002)

“An Earlier and (Perhaps) More Searching Focusing” – Rob Foxcroft’s November 5, 2002 article on Gene Gendlin’s book Experiencing and the Creation of Meaning (1962)

An Earlier and (Perhaps) More Searching Focusing
by Rob Foxcroft
written November 5, 2002

“A group of Focusers met recently for a week on the lovely Scottish isle of Cumbrae, to explore Gene Gendlin’s book Experiencing and the Creation of Meaning (1962), as part of the ongoing project, Focusing and the Power of Philosophy. Many people have asked for a simple account of our findings, so here, with some trepidation, I shall try to say just a few words in my own way without falling headlong into caricature. The book itself is hard to understand. I won’t risk claiming that this is what it says. Only that this is some of what I found there.”

Gendlin Reading

Preface To The Paper Edition, 1997 Experiencing and the Creation of Meaning

Preface To The Paper Edition, 1997
Experiencing and the Creation of Meaning
Eugene T. Gendlin, Ph.D.

Click for PDF
Text below is from The Focusing Institute

Philosophy has currently moved almost to the edge where this philosophy begins.  The project on which it embarks is still not widely recognized, but with the current “postmodern” debates, most philosophy and most disciplines are on the brink of it.

The project is to enter into how concepts (logical forms, distinctions, rules, algorithms, computers, categories, patterns …..) relate to experiencing (situations, events, therapy, metaphoric language, practice, human intricacy …..).  Or, we can phrase it: how experiencing (…..) functions in our cognitive and social activities.

Of course one cannot stand outside this relation in order to conduct such an examination. The relations to be examined will obtain in the very process of examining.  Experiencing will play some of its roles in the process of speaking about — and with — them.  This philosophy is therefore constantly reflexive.  It can say what it says only as what it talks about also functions in the very saying.  And since it tells how the experiential side always exceeds the concepts, this also happens in the concepts right here.  The “functional relationships” and “characteristics” set forth in this book are themselves specific ways in which their own formulation can be exceeded.  The curiosity about how this might be possible is an appetite I would like to rouse in my reader.

Once we can employ the roles of experiencing (…..) to think with and about these very roles, we can think with them about anything else as well.  The project requires and makes possible a thinking that employs more than conceptual logic, rules, or distinctions. We become able to think with the intricacy of situations (experience, practice,….)

But don’t we always employ this already?  Logical inferences are never pure.  There is always a situation, an implicit experiential context that is more …..than any formed form. What can we add to this?  Nothing less than a whole new power of human thinking.  If we enter into how this more ….. functions, we become able to employ it deliberately, and find that many ways of thought open from it, which otherwise did not exist.

But experiencing and concepts (or symbols) are surely not two separated things that have to become “related.”  Each is always already implicit in the other.  There is no “unsymbolized experiencing” anymore than there is “pure logic”.  Even without explicit words or concepts, experiencing is “symbolized” at least by the interactions and situations in which experiencing happens.  But if there is always only both, how can we attribute a role to experiencing rather than to the inseparable symbolization?  If every moment is both, it has seemed impossible to know what is done by the one rather than the other.  But there is a way to discern their different roles — in the transitions from one statement or action to another.

The move from one step of thought or speech to the next may come by a conceptual inference.  Or there may simply be an interruption, a change to something else.  One might report events, telling what happened next.  We are also culturally habituated to act in certain situations by saying certain common phrases which lead smoothly to other common phrases.

But the next step may also arise through an experiential connection.   How we experience the situation may lead us to a next step which makes sense, but could not follow in any of the other ways.  This often happens without special notice, but sometimes we pause to refer directly to experiencing.  Direct reference is itself a change, and then leads to a further move. There are different kinds of experiential moves.  Each exceeds the form that existed at the previous step.

Obviously there is no final formulation of the ways in which moves from experiencing can exceed a formulation.  We could distinguish more kinds of further moves, or use other respects to distinguish kinds.  Our new “basis” is not any one list, but the wider experiential-interactional functioning.  Throughout the book I show how we might formulate differently.  We can juxtapose other models and approaches with different results, yet we still stand in the ongoing experiencing.

The conceptual variety would be mere relativism, if there were nothing else.  But when we enter and employ experiencing, even a few distinctions among kinds of moves will open exciting avenues, a whole new arena.  When distinctions and concepts are “relative to” experiencing, it turns out that they need not be ultimate.

Since our project is unavoidable, even a poor first attempt can help, and I think this is a good one.  This cannot long remain only one, so the reader can be ready to improve on what is done here.

The kind of transition I call “direct reference” is itself a kind of symbolizing. It lifts out (creates, finds, synthesizes, differentiates …..) a “this,” which was not a this before.  When we seem to find what “was” there, we have actually moved further.  We do not need a false equation.  No equation is possible between implicit and explicit.  What matters is the way in which the next step follows from (continues, carries forward, makes sense from …..)what preceded it.

One result is to enable us to enter the implicit context of scientific logic.  We must not merely denigrate logic.  It has developed enormous sophistication in our time.  It has brought the wonderful technology that enables many more people to live, and live better than before.  But now it is computerizing our decisions and redesigning the animals with careless genetic engineering “for the market.”  It threatens to redesign our bodies as well.  As we become able to think in the implicit experiential context of science, we can develop ways to bring more than the market to bear on scientific and social policies.

On the other side there has been a great development also in human experiencing, with therapeutic and interpersonal processes.  Where people used to be silent, now they have a developed vocabulary with which to explore and express their experiential and relational intricacies.  The old community in which people related mostly in roles has broken down, and new kinds of community are only just beginning to develop, in which we can relate from our intricacy , from coming freshly into language (for example, “focusing partnerships,” “Changes groups,” and many kinds of support groups).  How to think with all this is an exciting and still very open question.

Both developments require examining the relation between experiencing and concepts.  That is the project which this book opens.

Today most philosophers find only discouragement in the recognition that all statements and logical inferences are conditioned by someone’s situation, by the biases of culture and social class, usually summed up as “history and language.”   Wittgenstein, Dilthey, and Heidegger have powerfully shown that our subjective experiences are not just inner reactions; they are our interactions in life and situations.  They are immediate interactional meanings.  This brings a vast change.  It eliminates the old model of the five senses and interpretation.

Wittgenstein has convincingly shown that the sense we make with language is not controlled by concepts, logical forms, distinctions, rules, or generalizations.   But if universal and “objective” concepts are not possible, it can seem as if there is nothing for philosophy to do.

There is no pure logic, no neutral conceptual inference alone, but the import of this has been misunderstood.  It is true that conclusions do not follow just from clean rational progressions, objectively and neutrally by logic alone .  Not only are there all sorts of “biases,” but nothing can be fitted into logic without first being cut into the little unit factors which can fit into logical slots.  And, if one slightly changes even one such unit, the logical inferences are utterly undone.  The use of logic is always enmeshed in the wider context from which units must first be made.  Adding one more little bit from there can lead the cleanest logic into contradictions.  So it is not mysterious why logic and conceptual inference can always be disorganized and ruptured.  Logical arguments now seem useless in philosophy.  It has been understood that everything depends on what one fills into the logic, and this cannot be decided by logic.

This recognition leads many philosophers into an error: Because logical conceptual inference is never pure, these philosophers deny and ignore the evident power of what is (wrongly called) “pure” logical inference, but we can come to understand what sort of a process “pure” logical inference really is, and why it has its great power.  We can enter and examine the implicit experiential functions involved in pursuing the logical implications as if alone.   At other times, perhaps moments later, we also need to explicate the implicit context, rather than holding it as-if apart.  Very different implicit experiential roles make that possible as well.  Logic and experiencing are both involved both times, but in quite different ways.

How can one dismiss logic, just when it is changing everything around us?

But in the current debates, only one group seems to appreciate the powers of logic, while the other is alone in knowing the limits.  These two groups hardly speak to each other.  We can hope to develop a society-wide understanding of the power of logical deduction, as well as ways in which we can employ the wider process of human sense-making. They have distinguishable powers.   We need to become able to think how they function in each other.

Rather than being mired in one hopeless mix of broken concepts and biasing experiences, we can open a new arena: We can enter and speak with (and thereby about) some of the roles played by ongoing experiencing.

From where does this philosophy stem?  It moves on from Dilthey, Husserl, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty (and indirectly Heidegger(1)), also McKeon, Peirce and Dewey, as well as Plato, Aristotle, Leibnitz, Kant and Hegel.  My recognition of certain difficulties is very European, but my emphasis on situations, practice, action, feedback, transitions and progressions is very North American.

A New Philosophy can begin with the recognition that we can assume neither that the world (…..) is ordered as a logical or conceptual system, nor that it is arbitrary as if “anything goes.” There was always a conflicting variety of “ultimate” definitions of truth and goodness.  The great error today is to assume that something is lost by this recognition.  Instead, we discover that we can think with the greater precision and intricacy that is characteristic of situation, experience, practice, action …...  This is more orderly and precise than the pretended, overarching definitions.

Rather than a second-choice or compromise, it becomes our preference to speak and think with the way words can exceed their conceptual structure even while employing that structure.  In use they always elicit effects that are more precise and demanding than could follow just from the structure.

There are ways to employ this experienced “excess” deliberately in a stronger and more critical thinking.  We can read and think a “…..” after every assertion.  We need not lose the conceptual implications if we also think with the …...  In this way we always have more than logic in play, not less.

We are introducing a great change in the relation between concepts and experience (situations …..).  We are changing the notions of perception, interpretation, and mediation. We deny not only the ultimate validity of any set of general, cultural, historical, conceptual, or linguistic assumptions.  We also deny the postmodern assumption that all order, meaning, and rationality in situations is totally derivative from historical determinants.  It is true that we are never without them, but life and situations always make much more intricate sense than could follow just from the historical determinants.  They do not function like logical premises, as if all further happenings will be subsumed under them.  They are not “the” conditions that make experience possible.  History and culture only elaborate an animal body that lives interactionally directly in situations, and continues to perform vital and noticeable functions in speech and thought.

Applying any concept elicits an experiential feedback.  We can let our next step of thought come from this experiential feedback, rather than only from the concept.  We can think with both conceptual and experiential steps, a “zig-zag” which employs both powers.  It can make new sense, and lead us to modify our concepts, rather than being confined in them, or ending in mere contradictions.   Experiential thinking moves beyond postmodern “rupture” and contradiction.

The Introduction and Chapter 1 lead to the project: of examining the roles which experiential meaning plays in cognition.  This is only a modest statement of the problem as is proper before embarking.  A number of strands both in philosophy and in the social sciences lead to this problem and project.

Chapter 2 show that experiential meaning plays vital roles in cognition.

Chapter 3 presents some “functional relationships” between experiencing and cognition, especially “metaphor,” “comprehension” (when one speaks from what is now called a “felt sense.”), “relevance,” and “circumlocution.”

The “theory” of metaphor (really the relationship of the logical and experiential functions in metaphor) is currently still working its way through the climate of thought and research.  The metaphoric creation ….. of new likenesses, the so-called “emergent qualities” has been recognized, but it is not yet understood that every word has a newly precise emergent meaning in its situation(2).

Is it creation?  Might it not be a synthesizing, a differentiating, a making, or a finding?  We know that no one of these conflicting cognitive systems has priority over the others, and they do not have priority over the way the metaphoric process functions — to give an immediate result which we only later explain by interpolating similarities and differences.  (See my “Crossing and Dipping” and “What Happens When Wittgenstein Asks AWhat Happens When …?”)

Chapter 4A presents the reversal of the usual philosophical order.   Rather than giving some cognitive system priority and reading it into experience, our philosophy recognizes the priority of making experiential sense (as in metaphors or in speaking from a felt sense).  Once that has occurred, we can explain it by interpolating cognitive units in retrospect, (but this is a further experiential process which brings new further implications).

The reversal makes a new and more radical empiricism possible.  The current rejection of empiricism in favor of the view that we “construct” nature stems from the recognition that different hypotheses bring different findings.  This creates the illusion that empirical findings depend just on the hypotheses (and on the biases, political pressures, and choices among questions and approaches).  The desire for a single map or system must be given up (why would we want nature to be so poor?), but not truth.  Our scientific assertions change all the time, but what this book calls “metaphor” and “comprehension” leads to a kind of truth that does not require statements to remain the same.

Empirical findings do not depend just on the choice of the hypotheses.   Experiencing (event, nature, practice, situation …..) does respond differently to different hypotheses, procedures, and ways of unitizing, but always with more intricacy than could have been derived from what we had in our approach to it.   Contrary to the current view, nature is not arbitrary or invented.  It is more orderly than a cognitive system.  It is a “responsive order” which gives various, but always more exact results than could have been constructed or deduced. It leads to an empiricism that is not naive.

Chapter 4B lays out ten “Characteristics” which have been called “a logic of experiencing” (of some of its roles in cognition).  The characteristics show how differently experiencing and logic function together, compared to logic “alone.”  Here are some examples:

Experiencing is “non-numerical” and “multischematic” but never just anything you please.  On the contrary, it is a more precise order not limited to one set of patterns and units.

When we think with experiencing as well as logic, a sub-sub-detail can come to redetermine the widest categories.  A theory may lead to an experiential detail, but from the detail much can follow which cannot follow from the theory.

Between two things many new experiences can be created.  Therefore any concept or relationship can be applied (found, created …..) between any two things.   (But even wild playful metaphors have to make sense where they occur.)

Unlike the usual model of limited degrees of freedom, the more requirements one imposes, the more new possibilities are opened.  When any two meaningscross experientially, the result is not their lowest common denominator but new experiences which could not have followed logically from either.  In retrospect we commonly but wrongly say that they “were” implicit, but the relation which does obtain can be characterized and employed.

Chapter 5 moves in line with these characteristics.  It shows that one can go on from any point not only from what is being said, but also from the process of saying it.  The chapter is self-instancing. It moves many times from the process-side of what it says.

The chapter also shows the IOFI principle, (“instance of itself”).  Any human meaning is always “such” a meaning, but not in one category or under one universal.  Rather, from any (so-called) “particular” supposedly subsumed under a category we can generate countless new universals.  These are ways in which any “this” experiencing is an instance of such experiencing.  Each universal (each respect in which we say it is “such”) can be taken as an experiential “particular” from which new universals can be generated.  Thinking is much more powerful when it can move along IOFI lines.

Chapter 6 shows how one can take all texts and propositions experientially even if they were not so intended, and how one can think on from any text or proposition both experientially and logically.

Chapter 7 shifts the usual representational puzzle in the social sciences to a new approach in terms of different manners of process.   It is shown how the content of experience is generated by the process of experiencing.  The kind of content one will find depends upon what manner of process is happening.

The process variables for research proposed here have led to the Experiencing Scale and a continuing sequence of research studies(3), as well as the “focusing” procedure used in many fields to teach the process of referring directly to one’s (at first unclear) bodily sense of any concern, project, or juncture of a discussion(4).  The kind of thinking that was developed in this book has had applications in various fields including physics(5), and in the teaching of writing(6).  There have been many developments.

A professor of architecture in Austria says: “The style today is called ‘individual,’ because each architect takes little bits from old buildings and puts them together in a new arrangement.  But I teach the students to use focusing.   With focusing I take a building I love, for instance my grandmother’s old house in the mountains, and I let the felt sense of it come to me.  {This is the felt meaning, the bodily ‘comprehension,’ the …...} From the felt sense I design a whole new modern building which uses nothing that looks like my grandmother’s house.”

Neither in life nor in philosophy are we limited to rearranging the existing, already-formed things and concepts.  We can engage the experiential meanings.  We can deliberately employ and expand the vital roles which they perform(7).

Philosophy can reopen the old assumptions and conceptual models if we think with our more intricate experiencing as well as with logic.  We can think everything more truly if we think it philosophically, that is with attention to how we think it, and with the critical understanding that no concept, rule, or distinction ever equals experiencing, — but may carry it forward. Our more intricate experiencing is not thereby replaced.  It is always still there and open to being carried forward in new ways, but never arbitrarily, always only in quite special and precise ways.

————————————

NOTES:

(1) For my relation to Heidegger, see my “Phenomenology as non-logical steps” In E. F. Kaelin & C.O. Schrag (Eds.), Analecta Husserliana, Vol. XXVI. American phenomenology. Origins and developments, (pp. 404-410). Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1989 and

my “Analysis,” In Heidegger, M. What Is a Thing? (Chicago: Regnery. 1968).

Also “Befindlichkeit”: Review of Existential Psychology and Psychiatry, 16 (1-3), 43-71, 1978/79 and

“Dwelling,” In Silverman H., Mickunas A., Kissel T., and Lingis A. (eds.), The Horizons of Continental Philosophy: (Dordrecht, Kluwer. 1988), pp. 149-150.back

(2) See my Reply to Mark Johnson In Levin, D.M., ed., Language Beyond Postmodernism: Saying, Thinking, and Experiencing In Gendlin’s Philosophy. Northwestern U. Press, 1997.

See also Schneider, H.J. Die Leibbezogenheit des Sprechens: Zu den Ansätzen von Mark Johnson and Eugene T. Gendlin, Synthesis Philosophica, Zagreb, 1995.back

(3) “What Comes After Traditional Psychotherapy Research?” American Psychologist, 41 2, 1986, 131-136. See also: Focusing Folio Research Issue, 16, 1-2, 1997.back

(4) Focusing (Second edition) New York: Bantam Books, 1981. (Translations: Danish, Dutch, French, German:, Hungarian, Japanese, Chinese, Spanish:, Swedish.) and Focusing Partnerships. New York: Focusing Publications, Focusing Institute, 1996.

See also:
Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy
, N.Y.:Guilford, 1996. especially chapter 21 on values and experiential differentiation, and

“A Philosophical critique of the concept of narcissism,” In: Levin, D. (Ed.), Pathologies of The Modern Self, 251-304. N.Y. University Press, 1987. In German, see Körperbezogenes Philosophieren.140 pps.Focusing Bibliothek DAF 5,Würzburg: 1994.back

(5) See Gendlin, E. T. and Lemke, J., “A Critique of Relativity and Localization,” Mathematical Modeling, vol. 4, 1983, pp. 61-72.back

(6) See Elbow, P. and Belanoff, P. A Community of Writers, New York: Random House, 1989, and

Perl, S., A Writer’s Way of Knowing: Guidelines for Composing. In Writing and the Domain Beyond the Cognitive. Brand, A. and Graves, R. (eds.), Portsmouth: Boynton-Cook Press, 1994.back

(7) Process Ethics and the Political Question. In A-T. Tymieniecka (Ed.), Analecta Husserliana. Vol. XX, Reidel. 1986, (reprinted In Focusing Folio, 5 (2), 68-87. 1986).

Thinking Beyond Patterns: Body, Language and Situations. In B. den Ouden & M. Moen (Eds.), The presence of feeling in thought, (pp. 25-151). New York: Peter Lang, 1992.

“The Primacy of the Body, not the Primacy of Perception.” Man and World, 25 (3-4), 1992.

ADDED NOT SENT TO NW:

“What are the grounds of explication statements? A problem in lignuistic analysis and phenomenology.” The Monist, Vol 49, No. 1, 1965. Reprinted with French translation in: The Human Context, Vol V, No. 3, 1973. Reprinted in Analytic Philosophy and Phenomenology. Durfee, H.A. (Ed.). The Hague, Martinus Nijhoff, 1976.

“Meaning prior to the separation of the five senses.” In: Stamenov, M. (Ed.), Current Issues In Linguistic Theory: Current Advances In Semantic Theory. Benjamin Publishing Co.: Amsterdam / Philadelphia. 1992.

Die Umfassende Rolle des Körpergefühls im Denken und Sprechen. Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie, 41, 4, 693-706. 1993.

Crossing and Dipping: Some Terms for Approaching the Interface Between Natural Understanding and Logical Formation. Minds and Machines, V., 4. 1995 (Spanish translation In Alemany, C., ed., La Aportación de Eugene T. Gendlin. Madrid: Brouwer 1999).

A Process Model, In eight parts, 422 pps. Focusing Publications and www.focusing.org, 1996.

“How Philosophy cannot Appeal to Experience, and How It Can.” In Levin, D.M., ed., Language Beyond Postmodernism: Saying, Thinking, and Experiencing In Gendlin’s Philosophy. (Fourteen Commentaries and my replies.) Northwestern University, Evanston, 1997.

“What Happens When Wittgenstein Asks, “What Happens When…?” 1997 In press.

Depestele, F. A Primary Bibliography of Eugene Gendlin. Tijdschrift voor Psychotherapie, #1, 1996. back

Copyright 1997 Eugene T. Gendlin. All rights reserved.

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