Being aware of our internal signals is the core of Focusing. It’s also the key to handling our difficult emotions or just feeling better. Usually, to sense our felt wisdom inside requires a slower pace than we can find in our hectic lives. Using the Focusing steps and having a partner teaches us to slow down. But I have learned a useful, quick way to do it.
The simplest way is to use Mary Hendricks-Gendlin’s marvelous ‘Pause’. I pause, for about the length of one breath, to sense what is happening inside and how I feel. During this pause, my attention goes to my inmost place so I can sense my body’s understanding of a situation, which gives me greater wisdom than my thoughts alone.
When teaching Focusing to a group, I always start with the exercise of finding an inner Calm Place, which they can access in their imagination. And I use the Calm Place all the time in my life. Before teaching, before an encounter, or even before leaving my room in the morning, I check inside. I say “hello” to any feelings or ‘guests.’ Then I go to my Calm Place. Before responding to other people, I use the marvelous pause and take a deep breath. In Liberia, I was seen as a calm, dignified person. “Really?” I’d think, because that’s not how I see myself. But that’s how I came across.
Perhaps my main contribution in Liberia was helping the morale of the local staff. They didn’t have time to learn Focusing or to have a full session. So I’d stop by their office and offer a mini-session. “Close your eyes for a moment,” I’d say. “Follow your breath.” Or I’d say, “Imagine a place where you’d like to be. Now close your eyes and go there.” This is the way I helped the staff cope with the pressures of the Ebola crisis.