A Little Wind from My Fingertips
by Katarina Halm
Published In The Focusing Connection,Vol. XXVI, No. 6, November 2009
For people who experience any kind of physical pain, even those with so much pain that their movements, thoughts, and everyday life seem to revolve around their pain, Focusing offers a way to live with pain and return to some favorite activities. In this article I tell my own story and also offer three exercises for finding a new relationship to living with pain.
I learned about Focusing in1981 when I read Eugene T. Gendlin’s book Focusing. During the next three years I studied Gendlin’s other writings as part of a practicum with the psychiatrist R. D. Laing in London, England. While in London my back was broken and my life took a dramatic turn. During the following years I used Focusing more and more as a way to live with the physical and emotional pain resulting from that injury. By 2004 I was training with Ann Weiser Cornell, and in 2006 I started teaching Focusing.
Focusing shows me practical ways to build a new life as a teacher, even within the limits of daily pain. Focusing brings me a growing measure of hope and comfort each day. The pain that I live with varies in intensity, but it is constant. However, I enjoy a good level of activity by practicing Focusing and by also resting ten minutes each hour and two hours twice a day.
Fingertips send a gentle wind to the door, and it closes softly.
In this example from my own Focusing, you will see how images that arise in Focusing bring me a sense of safety and help me to stay within my limits. As you read, you might place your hand on your heart … or your collarbone … and imagine how it would be for you to feel this session as your own.
During this session I sense into the cold, sharp tears that pain is bringing to me. Those tears turn into tiny flower buds bursting into even smaller clusters of buds. The flower bud clusters become a lovely buffer and container for the intensity of the tears and pain. Then I become aware of how my fingertips can send a little wind towards a door, and the door will gently close, giving me a sense of safety and comfort. The wind is streaming from my fingertips and my whole body is in the movement.
Focuser: Staying on my side of the door and not rushing out after what is on the other side … feels like a kind of stillness, a quiet stillness.
Companion: You’re sensing a quiet stillness, the stillness of staying on your side of the door, not rushing out to the other side.
Focuser: The door is … the door itself is almost invisible, and there is a kind of … pressure in me everywhere in a soft way … it is a gentle moment, more gentle than the tears that are sharp and shivery and cold.
Companion: You are sensing how the closing of the door is very soft, and more gentle than the sharp shivery tears.
Focuser: The moment of closing the door is so complete and so soft and real, it’s so warm and a kind of a … kind of a whole body, whole body gently pressing the door.
All of me senses right down to the ground beneath me, as that door closes … as if my fingertips were sending a little bit of wind to the door at a distance and the door closes softly on its own!
Companion: You are aware of a wind … your fingertips are sending a wind to the door and it closes softly.
Focuser: Yes, I’m receiving that fully in me … that gesture that promises me that I have a place to rest, it promises me that this is my own Place.
The gestures and images from this Focusing session come back to me again and again. When I most need a bit of comfort, I rest my eyes on a real door and I experience that same sense of safety, a little ease and gentleness. Sometimes when tears are wanting to come, and something in me says that I shouldn’t take the time to cry, I look towards a cluster of flower buds or to my tiny Focusing vase. This gesture of looking towards buds or vase (imaginary or real) reminds me to sense my body and let any tears and feelings and thoughts bring me back to life in this very moment.
In this Focusing moment I take time to sense the weight of my body … and my breathing. Then I am naturally drawn to honoring what is wanting to happen right here and now. My feelings and thoughts grow in ways to support whatever needs doing: perhaps a practical task or some more rest.
I experience a whole body knowing of how to ever so softly close a door, have my own space, just be, and let the world wait for awhile, even two minutes. Letting wind flow from my fingertips at a distance … I am carried forward by the gesture … comforted by the gesture … amazed at the gesture, and curious about how it continues to unfold in each day. The gesture, the door, the wind, my fingertips, and the flower buds in the session are my symbols of wholeness. Each of these symbols point to the living whole that is my life as I live it today. Tomorrow other symbols may come.
Exercise 1- Finding Your Own Symbols of Wholeness and Create A Safe Place within Each Day
Please take some time to sense again into your feelings about the Focusing session. Can you recall a time, even a moment, when you experienced a similar feeling of ease, of comfort in your very own movement? … sense where in your body this comes for you . . .you might place a gentle hand there … and sense what comes for you now … maybe a gesture, a thought, a feeling or a symbol, something like the door or flower buds, your own symbols of wholeness.
I invite you to write a few notes about your response. How do you gather your symbols of wholeness to create a safe place for yourself within each day?
The Joy of Being Out and About
Now I will share with you my joy of being out and about for a half hour! There is a feeling of ease, a moment of ease along the time line of a life with pain. When I have rested with the pain and let my spine settle, I can go out in my neighborhood. I enjoy meeting people at the post office and people on the street, some scowling, some returning my smile. With a “radical acceptance of everything” (Ann Weiser Cornell’s apt phrase) I walk with Focusing presence … being with all that is there. Walking lightly I feel the air floating all around me as I move out into the world. The trees are steady and dear. This is a moment to treasure in a Focusing way, letting it be there as fully as it wants to be!
Exercise 2 – Inviting You to Focus on Your Own Joy of Being Out and About
Imagine that you are out and about in your neighborhood on a pleasant day, feeling an ease of movement and the soft caressing air, even for just a few moments… take some time to truly experience that ease within yourself, that gentle moment of being… how does it feel in your arms, your face, your legs, , , your hips, your whole body?
Notice what comes to you. You might like to write a few notes about your joy of being out and about.
Being with the Present Moment
Writing this article, I sit here with my fingers tapping on the keyboard, lighter and lighter, a bit of wind there (just like in my Focusing session). The wind in me flows all around, eases my eyes and the other hurting parts. Something in me lets me know that to sit in this chair is not easy … A pause, and a sigh, a moment of Focusing, sensing my feet on the ground, letting my eyes soften, then typing some more.
Focusing is a big part of living my life with pain as it reminds me to work at a project in small amounts, stopping to rest when the pain calls me to rest. When I acknowledge the pain and sense how IT is feeling, I also sense something in me that feels I am being chased by the pain … it needs me to slow down and rest. I also sense more: something in me that finds it so hard to work at a cherished project in small bits! I’m sensing something in me that wants to finish this right now! Sensing more into that, it tells me that it is afraid I won’t ever finish anything on time if I keep stopping to rest. I let it know I hear that it wants me to finish on time.
Accepting what is there … Being with it … Letting it know that it can be the way it is for as long as it needs to be … that is the Focusing way. Also, I’m sensing something in me that is saying it is not easy living with constant pain and just letting it be… Yet a sense of freedom can come during those moments of rest, when I am just being with pain in my body. As I rest, I sense subtle ways of letting the pain itself take me to feelings of more and more acceptance.
When I am with another person, sometimes I race to be as capable as that person, and the pain becomes much worse. Afterwards I must lie quietly for hours, just being there with the pain until I can move about and slowly find my way again. Not so easy at first. Yet the presence of Focusing glimmers in those struggling moments. Trust, hope, and a gentle wind.
Exercise 3 – Accepting All That is and Finding Your Gentle Movement
Please take a moment to settle into your body even more than you already are. You might notice a warm flowing energy along the soles of your feet… slowly begin to make very small movements, movements so small that someone in the room might not even know that you are moving at all … soft movements from within yourself, even from within the pain if there is pain… Then rest a few moments. After awhile let your small movement come again, this time let it come gently from the air all around you as if you were a branch blowing in the wind … sense the warmth along the soles of your feet … you might lift your breastbone, ever so slightly … feel the weight of your eyelashes as you slowly open and close your eyes … invite your body to let you know what small movement it would like to make.
Sense that movement even as you rest awhile. Become aware of how your whole body feels now. Maybe thank your body for what it has brought to you, and write a few notes.
A Gentle Conclusion
Living with pain has become an adventure: each day, each hour I explore what is possible and learn to befriend whatever limitations arise. I cherish the smallest movements and wish to share with you the benefits of these small movements.
Whether you have pain or not, perhaps you will enjoy your own version of the three exercises in this article. Please watch for a second article which will be more about Focusing and movement. Life is movement, movement is life. With Focusing and small movements you can find your very own life patterns, patterns that carry your whole self forward, patterns which are your own life direction and joy.
Katarina Halm teaches Focusing by teleconference. From time to time she also teaches Focusing, Feldenkrais ®, Bones for Life ®, Sounder Sleep System ®, and Yamuna Body Rolling ® at various studios in British Columbia, Canada.
Katarina can be reached at [email protected],Ca