“Space” a Compilation: Meditative Listening / Inner Relationship Focusing
/ The Background Feeling / Focusing on the Workbench
by Katarina Halm
Let’s look at the essence of “Space” in Focusing, along with a study of “Clearing a Space”. Below are notes, references and “springboards” for your study and practice. I look forward to your reflections and thoughts as we develop “Space” in our Focusing. You could go to the bottom of this page and type into the comments field.
http://www.meditativelistening.com/ is Rob Foxcroft’s new website which those of us in Vancouver BC refer to again and again as we develop our Focusing. http://www.robfoxcroft.com/ is Rob’s first website where the home page has 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.
You can read about these “four pillars” at the very end of this post. * * *
Clearing a Space is discussed on pages 83 – 85 in The Focusing Student’s and Companion’s Manual by Ann Weiser Cornell and Barbara McGavin. http://www.focusingresources.com/materials/manuals.html
Pivotal paragraphs are included at the end of this post. * *
Marine de Fréminville depicts a movement “From Clearing a Space to Background Feeling”. Her article in the 2008 Tribute Issue of the Folio is available at http://www.focusing.org/folio/Vol21No12008/02_TheImplicitTRIB.pdf
Also in the 2008 Tribute Issue of the Folio, David Orth writes about “Clearing a Space on the Workbench”. David describes how Clearing a Space becomes for him one of the treasured tools on his workbench, “tools can cause effects, but they are equally windows through which to see.” At the end of this post is an excerpt, and his article is available at www.focusing.org/folio/Vol21No12008/14_ClearingASpaceTRIB.pdf
As I reflect on these references, the words of Rob Foxcroft bring it all together for me: “The way is one of hope, love and commitment”.
* In the 2008 Tribute Issue of the Folio, David Orth writes about “Clearing a Space on the Workbench”. David describes how Clearing a Space becomes for him one of the treasured tools on his workbench, “tools can cause effects, but they are equally windows through which to see.” David Orth writes:
By the early 1990’s, I had become aware that Focusing had gained a place in the shop alongside the tools and was about as pervasive as the sawdust and metal filings. Focusing had evolved into a necessary component of design and craftwork. In fact, Focusing took on unique properties when used in the very physical context of making things. The primary clue for me was a recurring, muddled sense that craftsmanship and Focusing shared both a deep logical structure and a special attitude toward their respective subjects. In this common space inside myself that they seemed to occupy, each played out in its own way — one as emotional healing, the other as … well, these strange hybrid objects we call furniture and sculpture. I call them hybrid to capture a sometimes overlooked quality of made objects — that they are not just material/functional structures, but that they are full of meaning and embedded intent of one sort or another. Design is not so much style, as it is a way of thinking and feeling in space. Tools are not inanimate objects, but are extensions of my body. Tools can cause effects, but they are equally windows through which to see.
Gendlin’s book A Process Model (1997) illuminated for me more systematically the meaning of this implicit knowledge and gave me a practical understanding and strategy for understanding that the world was already a world of meaning — words and sensations were distinct, but truly woven together and interdependent. He understood that there were stops, places in life that didn’t work — that needed unraveling, that needed change. Transformation took place within this world of starts and stops, not in spite of it. Focusing and Gendlin’s Process Model were among the perspectives that helped to establish an authentic and benevolent connection between body and thought, between matter and meaning, between thinking and feeling. It became clearer to me that manual work need not be a mere necessity of life, but it could be a way of seeing the world and working within its flow and its resistance. It could be a way of Being-in-the-World, not just a method for making and fixing things.
* * Clearing a Space is discussed on pages 83 – 85 in The Focusing Student’s and Companion’s by Ann Weiser Cornell and Barbara McGavin. (These pages are part of the reading for Level 3 Focusing, Supporting the Inner Relationship, in the section on “Going Deeper” p 82-98.) Ann and Barbara write:
Gendlin writes that Clearing a Space can feel like setting down packages you’ve been carrying so your body can feel what it’s like to have no packages. Some people find the thought of being without their ‘packages’ a bit scary – “Who am I without my problems?” Our answer to that is: without your problems, you are Presence. And you already have a sense of what that’s like – alive, flowing, warm, grounded…
Here are more excerpts (including the one above):
CLEARING A SPACE
If you ever begin Focusing and you feel there’s just too much, this is a good time to do Clearing a Space. When more than one some-thing is wanting your attention, Clearing a Space is a good way to come into Presence to find and strengthen in yourself that capacity to keep company with anything. Then from that state of Presence you can notice what’s wanting your attention today.
When you bring your awareness inside, there might be a lot of different body feelings, or emotions, or even a lot of thoughts, a kind of mental confusion or overwhelm. Clearing a Space is a way of acknowledging each of those aspects of your experience without yet being with any one of them.
• The first thing you might acknowledge is the whole thing – just how much there seems to be right now and what that’s like.
• As you become aware of each something, simply say, “Yes, that’s there.” You might take a moment or two with each one todescribe it a little, noticing where it is, what it’s like, so you could come back to it later if it wants you to. Sense when It’s ready to let you move on. It might need something more before it’s willing to let you go; for example, It might need to have its quality (e.g. intensity or importance) acknowledged, or It might need to be assured that you will come back to it after you acknowledge the others. The more sensitively you do this, the better your relationship will be with it later, and the more easily your Focusing will flow.
• Then wait. Notice what comes into your awareness next.
• When nothing more comes, you might sense if there is a ‘back- ground feeling,’ something that is always there or there most of the time. Take time to acknowledge it as well. Take a little time
to sense for its quality. Perhaps there is a word that would capture that.
• Take some time to notice how it feels to have acknowledged all
these different ‘somethings’ that have come here now.
Gendlin writes that Clearing a Space can feel like setting down packages you’ve been carrying so your body can feel what it’s like to have no packages.
Some people find the thought of being without their ‘packages’ a bit scary – “Who am I without my problems?” Our answer to that is: without your problems, you are Presence. And you already have a sense of what that’s like – alive, flowing, warm, grounded.
CLEARING A SPACE WHEN YOU ARE NOT AWARE OF A LOT
It can be a very special experience to deliberately Clear a Space, even when there is not a lot going on that you are aware of. Once you have Cleared a Space, it can be a wonderful experience to dwell in that experience for a while. It is the sense of who you are with- out your problems – the experience of being Presence.
One thing you can sense for is anything that is between you and feeling perfectly wonderful. This is like putting up a different back- ground against which feelings that aren’t like that stand out. Often these are ‘wallpaper’ feelings, the feelings we have become unaware of because they are there all the time. These can then be sensed and acknowledged as well.
This kind of Clearing a Space is particularly useful before meditation, or perhaps at the end of the day before you go to sleep.
Ann and Barbara also offer their ALTERNATIVES (or contraindications) for Clearing a Space:
ALTERNATIVE: ABOUT SETTING THINGS DOWN
We have found that trying to put the body sense to one side can be problematic, but finding a place for the issue can be helpful – even just jotting the issue down on a bit of paper.
Clearing a Space is something you can do before working on a project, or going into a meeting or a session with a client – any time when you want to be clear and undistracted.
If you try to do Clearing a Space when something is barely there, it might vanish and not return. It’s kind of like it’s saying, “I’ve only just got here and you’re telling me to go away?! OK, I will then.”
So, Clearing a Space is not always a good idea. Consult your inner sense of rightness as to whether it feels right for this session.
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.