Is Focusing like meditation?
Joey asks, In what way do Focusing and meditation differ? Is it possible to bring Focusing into one’s meditation practice?
A. Focusing is like, and also not like meditation. I will start with a couple of similarities. In both practices, you take your attention inside yourself, with deep inner attentiveness. This requires a quiet, protected space, ability to concentrate and pay attention; and a gentle relaxed alert awareness. Both practices are deeply beneficial; rejuvenating; bringing peace, renewal and calm.
And there are differences. I don’t know your exact meditation practice, but I assume it is some kind of awareness practice, involving inner attentiveness. When I meditate, I may bring my attention to my body and to my breath. Or I may observe where my attention is going. I may notice what I can hear; what thoughts and feelings come and go, as they arise and pass away again. Gradually I become aware of a deep inner stillness that underlies all the comings and goings of my thoughts, body sensations and feelings.
When I’m Focusing, and I become aware of those thoughts, feelings and body sensations, I don’t simply notice their arising and passing away again. I stop and turn my attention to them. When you are Focusing, I suggest that you ask inside, what is it about that, when that thought or feeling came. See if you can enquire into it further. Notice how your body responds, and see if you can describe it in words, phrases or images.
This is more than naming a thought, as in ‘remembering’, ‘planning’, and so on. This is asking into it in a curious, friendly way. You are looking for the global, overall quality feel of it. And then you stay with it, rather than returning your attention to the breath, or whatever practice you are doing in meditation.
In Focusing, you stay with something as you experience it in the body. It begins to open to reveal more. You see how a seemingly random thought or feeling is there for a reason; not random at all. You see how it is connected to your life, and what it brings you. What more thoughts, feelings, body sensations and ultimately what is the bodily felt sense of the whole thing. It is bigger, more diffuse. It may have many facets or aspects of meaning. Things that were stopped or blocked in you begin to soften, to unfold and to heal, change and transform. New insights come and you feel much better, because you are much better. Something has shifted.
Focusing can help meditation in several ways. It can help you to resolve life issues and stuck places so you have more available attention to practice with. It can give you a finely tuned body awareness that enhances meditation, because your spiritual practice resides in your body. Practising Focusing develops compassion, openness, groundedness and Presence, which can all help your meditation practice. And of course, the other way round; meditation practice can help you to Focus, because you need to develop Presence so that you can be with something in an open, friendly way. The two practices can work well together in your life, both enhancing the other.
When you ask can you bring Focusing in to your meditation, I suggest that you decide which practice you are going to do, when you sit down.