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Extract from Meditation for Dummies.

Focusing: Western meditation for getting unstuck

Here’s a meditation technique called focusing developed by Eugene Gendlin, a psychology professor at the University of Chicago, to help folks like you and me figure out where we’re stuck and effect the necessary changes, both inner and outer. (Although this technique uses the same term, it differs from the focused attention described elsewhere in this book.) By focusing on your felt sense about a problem — the place in your body where you hold it and know it — you can discover valuable information about who you are and what you really want and need. (For more-detailed instructions, I recommend Gendlin’s book Focusing.)

1. Begin by taking a few moments to settle comfortably and relax.

2. Check in with that place inside where you feel things and ask, “How am I doing? What doesn’t feel quite right? What do I need to pay attention to right now?” You’re not looking for an intense emotion but something subtler and more elusive: a felt sense. (For example, a felt sense is the place inside that you consult when someone asks you, “What is your sense of that person or situation?” It’s not a feeling, exactly, and definitely not a thought, but more like a bodily knowing.)

3. Take whatever you get, set it aside, and ask the same questions again until you have a list of three or four things you might focus on right now.

4. Choose one, but don’t go inside it. Instead, allow some space around it. Set aside any thoughts and analyses you may have and just be with your felt sense of this one thing, in its entirety.

5. Ask yourself, “What is the crux of this problem?” Don’t jump to any conclusions or try to understand it. Just allow this crux to emerge in the silence. You may find that what you get is different from what your mind expected. You’ll know it in your body.

6. Sit with the crux of this felt sense for a minute or more and allow a word, image, or feeling to emerge from it. Don’t try to understand it. Just be aware of the crux with gentle curiosity, waiting for a deeper knowing to reveal itself.

7. Compare this word, image, or feeling with the felt sense in your body, asking “Is this right? Does this really fit?” If it is, you’ll notice a felt shift: a deep breath, sigh of relief, or slight relaxing inside. If not, ask the felt sense, “Then what does feel right?” and wait for an answer. Remember: You’re asking your body, not your mind, for information.

8. When you receive an answer that feels right, sit with it in silence for a few moments and allow your body to respond. The felt shift may continue to unfold, or you may experience a release of energy or some other noticeable reverberation in your body.

Here’s an example of focusing. Say that you’ve been obsessing about a conversation you had yesterday with a friend, playing it over and over again in your mind without resolution. So, you decide to set your thoughts aside and pay attention to your inner felt sense of the conversation. When you turn inward, you find that the felt sense is localized in your heart and the crux of it turns out to be something about your friend’s tone of voice.

As you sit with the felt sense, you realize that the crux of the problem is not her tone of voice exactly, but it’s something that was triggered in you. What is it? Well, it’s a feeling of jealousy . . . no, that’s not quite right; it’s a sense of not quite measuring up, of not being as good as she is — or even more accurately, of not doing what you really love, the way she does.

That’s it, you’re aware that you’re not doing what you really want to do with your life, and your friend’s words triggered that sense inside you. With this realization, you notice a felt shift or release inside, possibly accompanied by tears of recognition and sadness. You’’ve just completed a round of focusing, and you can use the same technique for any other problem or felt sense.

Guided Meditations

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