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Focusing Tip No. 100

What a (life) journey it is!

Weekend Level 3: Companionship

7 and 8 December. 10am – 5pm both days. £150.

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Focusing Tip No. 100

What a (life) journey it is!

As this is my 100th Focusing tip, I am taking time out to reflect on my journey with Focusing, which continues to unfold and inspire me in unexpected ways. I always feel I am just at the beginning of my discovery of what Focusing can offer, and today is no exception. New horizons are opening up, and new possibilities are unfolding.

Beginner’s Mind.

I often feel that I am experiencing ‘beginner’s mind’ in relation to Focusing. That after nearly 30 years of practising Focusing in partnerships and swap sessions, and nearly 20 years of teaching, there is so much more for me to know and to learn. I am just at the beginning.

A lifetime of learning

One current training I am doing with Lynn Preston is helping me to deepen my understanding and practice of Focusing-oriented therapy (FOT). There is so much to learn and practice about this, and I am a beginner, although I have been practising this specialist form of Focusing for several years. It is a lifetime of learning. Focusing oriented therapy follows the experiential track, looking for what is implicit, and helping that to come more fully into conscious awareness. It is interactive and relational, bringing the therapeutic relationship very much alive and engaged, tracking moment to moment steps of change.

Thinking at the Edge.

I am also deepening into the Focusing practice of Thinking at the Edge (TAE), and engaging in its many playful and creative possibilities. The course I ran in the summer was a great success, and I am doing another one in India in November.I don’t want to get bogged down with excessive thinking, and this is the perfect way to integrate creative thinking into my life.

And I need that!

I am writing a chapter in a forthcoming book, edited by Judy Moore and Nikolaos Kypriotakis, called ‘Senses of Focusing’. My specialist subject is Focusing and spirituality, and the more I delve into it, the more I find I want to say.If you want to add any thoughts or experiences, I would be happy to hear about it. Does Focusing have a spiritual dimension for you, and if so, what is it? Please email me your thoughts.

Visiting India

I am hoping to have space and time to write while taking a few days at a retreat centre in the hills in India. This is between teaching at the Just Being Centre at Pune. It’s my third year of going to India, and I love meeting the people on the Presence-oriented trainings at Just Being. I feel very blessed.

I really need an Adminstrator – and can offer you a job.

With everything that is happening in my life – teaching Focusing Skills Certificate courses at my home in Devon and online; and individual Focusing sessions; and two Professional training programmes running.
If you enjoy administration, and have a love of Focusing, I can offer you a job. Either as paid work, or an exchange of training in Focusing.
Please email me if you are interested.

Focusing Level 3 is coming up in December.

It is an advanced course, giving you advanced listening skills, and deepening your Focusing practice. Level 2 is a prerequisite. You can book for either of these courses though the ‘next dates’ page on my web site or click the links belowWeekend Level 3: Companionship
7 and 8 December. 10am – 5pm both days. £150.

Online Level 3: Companionship
Thursdays 12 noon – 3pm, starting on 5 December. £150.

Read more articles and focusing tips on my website
Warm wishes


Do you have any questions about Focusing?
Please send them to me, and I will answer in future Focusing tips.
Let me know if it’s OK to refer to you by name, or to simply say someone has asked about…

Focusing Tip No. 99.

Developing compassion and empathy with Focusing

A key aspect of Focusing partnership is to be able to show compassion and be empathic with your partner. The Focuser needs to feel safe with you, and they need to know that they will not be judged or criticised. But how do you actually do it, and can compassion and empathy be learned? I think it can. It is something that I have been developing over many years through my work as a Focusing practitioner; with clients and in my own practise with Focusing partners.

Empathy is the ability to feel alongside someone else’s feelings as if they were your own.

I now feel it is a lifelong learning. Can I listen so closely to someone, that they feel fully heard and met? Can I really listen to them, to try to understand how it is for them, and hold the space for them, without judging, analysing or criticising them?

From my own experience, I can say that practising Focusing develops this capacity for increased compassion and empathy.

This supports your own healing and development. It’s win-win. The more compassion you bring to yourself and your own issues; the more healing you get; then the greater capacity you have for helping others.

Empathy is not the same as taking on what someone else is feeling.

The difference is when you are able to be in Self-in-Presence. You can monitor or notice how much you are able to be Self-in-Presence. It’s variable, and people tend to come and go with it all the time.

When you are Self-in-Presence, you do not identify or ‘fall into’ the feelings that are being expressed or sensed into.

You are able to keep a warm, compassionate distance from the feelings, at the same time as making space for them and acknowledging them as being real and valid. My logic says if they are here, there must be some good reason for them being here, or they wouldn’t be here at all. You may not yet know the reason why they are here. And that’s OK. What they need most is to be heard, acknowledged and accepted just as they are.

I discovered recently that I had inadvertently ‘fallen into’ the feelings that my Focusing partner was expressing.

Later, I felt uncomfortable when I realised that I had not been able to be fully present, and had been internally judging what my partner was expressing. I had found it hard to be empathic.
So in a subsequent session, I acknowledged my own feelings, and gave them space to be.

During the Focusing session, I realised that I had taken on my partner’s feelings about her feelings.

She was struggling to accept them and something in her could not bear to have them there. I could then say hello to my own feelings, and recognise and accept what was mine, and let go of what was not mine, that I had taken on.
I was no longer struggling to get out from under the burden of the feelings. I felt easier and clearer.

And it is a wonderful feeling when you are able to be in tune with your Focusing partner, following her process, and both of you keeping company together with what is arising, moment to moment.
You can be empathic, without getting drawn in to the drama, and you can be surprised, alongside the Focuser, with what comes, seemingly out of the blue, to bring a small shift or some new sense of resolution.

Focusing Tip No. 98

Focusing and spirituality

Although I rarely make it explicit, for me Focusing is inherently a spiritual practice. As well as meditation, Focusing helps me to stay centred and grounded. It encourages compassion for myself and others. If I’m experiencing challenging times in spiritual life or daily life, I have the practice of Focusing to support me.

Focusing has direct links to many religious traditions, based on crossings and connections made by people who belong to these traditions.

David Rome is a Buddhist teacher who has written about Focusing in his book, ‘Your Body Knows the Answer’, and there is a community of Buddhist Focusers in Britain and across the world. Ed McMahon and Pete Campbell have written from the Christian perspective. And I know Focusers from many other religious perspectives; Jewish, Muslim, Quaker, Shamanic and Sufi.

I have had times of questioning whether Focusing fits with my spiritual practice.

I thought the personality is all illusion anyway, based on false beliefs and illusory thoughts, and why would I want to give attention to my dysfunctional functioning. I came to realise that Focusing embraces and includes everything; my personality and all beings, the planet and the cosmos. Diving deep into my personal experience is the same as expanding out into all that is, because they are not separate

People wonder if Focusing is a selfish activity; narcissistic naval-gazing.

They come to realise that only by healing ourselves can we heal our relationships. People who practice Focusing are more able to contribute to society, and be more truly themselves.

Here are some inspirational quotes from contemporary spiritual teachers who include the body felt sense in their teachings.

Eckhardt Tolle
Pointing to the value of waiting with the felt sense, and listening for the life-forward direction to emerge.
He says:
‘There is no structure here. And yet… A different kind of structure is growing organically out of the present moment and it knows where it’s going.’
Echhardt Tolle, ‘The Art of Presence’

Adhyashanti is a Zen teacher who also points towards finding the inner direction of your life energy.
He says:
‘You feel where events are moving, and you feel for the right thing to do. It’s like a river that knows which way to turn around a rock – to the left or to the right. It’s an intuitive and innate sense of knowing.

‘This kind of flow is always available to us, but most of us are too lost in the complexities of our thinking to feel that there’s a simple and natural flow to life. But underneath the turmoil of thought and emotion …, there is indeed a flow. There is a simple movement of life.’
Adhyashanti ‘The End of Your World.’ P. 156.

Adhyashanti also says,
‘All that is required is that you begin to notice that place within you that’s not struggling… It’s really a one-point plan: Notice that the peace, this end of struggling, is actually already present.’
Adhyashanti ‘Falling into Grace’ P. 77.

Focusing teaches you how to do this.

Focusing Tip No. 97.

When I find something difficult in my Focusing, I go to a soothing peaceful place.
Don’t stop there.

A Focuser says:

‘Sometimes when I find something difficult in my Focusing, I go to a soothing peaceful place with a calm peaceful lake and I feel much better.’

There is nothing wrong with doing this.
You are finding your resources and your sense of Presence, which is calm, peaceful and grounded. This enables you to give your friendly, non-judgemental attention to whatever is difficult.
As long as you don’t stop there.

‘Process-skipping’ is when you feel stuck in a difficulty, and then you find a way to become peaceful, light-filled and harmonious.

So what is wrong with that, you might ask. Isn’t that what we all want?
My concern is that the solution is too quick, not real, and doesn’t actually solve the problem.
Sooner or later, you will be back in the stuckness again. It hasn’t gone away.

For instance, in my Focusing session today, I was feeling stressed out.
After a while, I noticed another part of me felt fine, and was saying ‘no worries, it’s all OK’. The stressed part of me was not at all convinced by that, and continued to feel stressed. So I realised that there are two viewpoints here; one saying it’s all OK, and the other saying no, it isn’t. It would not have been useful to try and reassure the stressed part of me, or to imagine a peaceful lake. It would help to a certain extent, but the stressful part would most likely pop up again soon after the session.

Real lasting change
My experience of hundreds of hours of Focusing, both personally and being a companion to another person, shows me that if I try to make something good happen in the Focusing session, chances are that it won’t last. For real, lasting change to happen, I need to say with the stuck place just as it is, long enough for the spontaneous natural energy flow to emerge all on its own, without me making it happen.

Something fresh and new
What is more helpful in these kind of situations is to say to yourself that both are there. It’s good to acknowledge both, and to give each of them the time and the attention they deserve. Something fresh and new can arise when you are in touch with a hurting place and your strong, connected, resourced Presence at the same time.

Focusing Tip No. 96.

What is resistance and what can I do about it?

I often hear people saying they have a resistance to something. They try to struggle with it and get past it, so that they can do what they really want to do. Perhaps you have experienced something like this. You want to take an action but something in you seems to be resisting it, or preventing you from doing it.E

I had an example recently in my Focusing session.

I was feeling tired a lot of the time, and I know supplements can help. I burst out laughing in my session when I realised that I have several jars of expensive supplements in my cupboard, but I am not taking them. They sit there, gathering dust. The laughter came from recognising an incongruence in me. I wanted to be well, and pick up my energy, but I just didn’t get around to doing it

So I enquired into myself, asking what stops me, and what I found surprised me.

There was a distinct felt sense in my body, that I would call an experience of resistance; a kind of tightening up inside. The energy felt sticky and not flowing.

I have an assumption that there is no such thing as resistance.

That word simply means that something in me doesn’t want to do something, or does not want to experience something. I am just not aware of what it is yet. I can find this easily when I am not taking an action that I know I want to do. And here was a clear example.

If you find ‘resistance’ coming up in your session, what might be helpful?

I suggest that you pay attention to it, notice how it feels in the body. How do you know it is resistance, and how would you describe it? You might find it as a sense of turning away from, or a tightening up against something. Often, I have observed it as not even wanting to be listened to. In that case, finding the right distance is what it needed. That is not about how close I can be with it, but more about what would feel more comfortable to it.

When it begins to open up, it can often start to feel like a ‘stroppy teenager’. It has strong feelings and it wants you to know about the feelings, but it doesn’t want you to come too close. It’s almost like it has its back to you. It might be turning away. This can be one way that something in you is showing you that it doesn’t trust you yet. It doesn’t know that you will really listen, without judgement, and without trying to force it to be different. Perhaps it has experienced that many times in the past. It makes sense if you recognise that another part of you has a different point of view, and sees this part as being ‘resistant’, and getting in the way.

So it needs to be listened to carefully.

I suggest that you attend to it with interested curiosity, and that you let it know you hear it. Receive the quality of its energy, and stay with the experience of it in your body. Listen to what it has to say, and also give attention to the quality of the relationship you have with it. Notice if you can be with it without judgement, in a light and friendly way. It’s more easy to do that if you don’t have an agenda that you are subtly trying to force on it, so you may also need to give attention to other parts of you that have a different point of view.

And the pills in my cupboard?

Oh they are still there. I need to give this part of me some more listening.

Focusing Tip No. 95.

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.

Read more articles and focusing tips on my websiteWarm wishes


If you don’t yet know how to Focus, you can join one of my new courses starting in the autumn.
There are three options to choose from, to suit different lifestyles and needs, online and in person. All the courses start with Level 1 and you have the opportunity to continue onto the Focusing Skills Certificate course which is 5 Levels.


Do you have any questions about Focusing?
Please send them to me, and I will answer in future Focusing tips.
Let me know if it’s OK to refer to you by name, or to simply say someone has asked about…

Courses and Session with Fiona

2019 Courses with Fiona

I run courses to help you learn the basics, and further courses where you learn and practice advanced listening skills.
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Online Focusing Skills Certificate Course.

The Online Focusing Skills Certificate Course comprises of 5 Levels, or modules, and leads to a Certificate in Focusing skills which is the foundation for professional training.

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Weekend Focusing Skills Courses

Courses are held in Devon, UK. Each Level takes one weekend to learn. You can take the weekend workshops one at a time, joining the next series when it suits you, or you can take the course as a whole.

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Book a Focusing session.
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(Don’t forget to go slowly and pause frequently…)

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