What do Focusers mean when they talk about the body?
I have returned inspired from a meeting of Focusing professionals in Europe. We met in Aegina, a beautiful island close to Athens, and collaborated in developing our lively European Focusing Association.
Our dear colleague and friend, distinguished writer Campbell Purton got us started on exploring what do we mean when we talk about the body. He is a philosopher, and helped us to think deeply about what Gene Gendlin was referring to when he talked about the body.
I say that when you Focus, you have access to your body wisdom. But what does that actually mean?
Purton says it has become difficult to talk about the body since Descartes and the 17th-century philosophers divided experience into two aspects; body and mind, and this creates a problem for us. This mechanistic view creates distortions in our understanding. It also creates a split between body and mind, as if the mind were not also the body.
People sometimes say ‘I’m not sure if this is coming from my head.’ I wonder if their head is then seen as not part of their body.
Indian philosophers, and others who study Aristotle, see the body as having four elements, rather that just two; physical, emotional-sentience, rational and animal nature. To my mind, this feels more inclusive, and closer to my actual experience.
So what does this mean for Focusing?
I always suggest that you pay attention to the physical body, as a way of starting a Focusing session. This helps with grounding and becoming present. And then I suggest that you notice what comes ‘there.’
Gendlin and Purton call it the ‘situational body’, or the ‘living body.’ It is the sum total of all the elements of your lived experience, within the situation that you are paying attention to. When you think about your situation, notice what comes. If you wait, without rushing to conclusions, the situation will reveal itself to you, from your attention to it. It might be helpful to call it ‘the whole thing.’ This can stop you going into one aspect at the expense of the others.
For instance, if you just stay with the story, or you go along the track of your feelings about it, you are missing the other elements.
I often remind people that there is more there than they can possibly put into words.
If you wait there, giving your attention the ‘whole thing’, as it is in your lived present experience, something more comes.
Gendlin calls it the ‘felt sense’. Something new comes, that was perhaps implied in the situation, but was not clearly there, and now it is clearly there. This is known as ‘carrying forward.’
The living body is always in living process, not separate from the living environment.
What comes is often surprising.
It arises freshly, like a spring of water, bubbling up. And it carries forward the whole situation; and the way that you experience the situation is carried forward in fresh and new ways.