Interest Groups

There were interest groups on each day of the conference. These offered everyone:

  • the same group of people to meet with each morning
  • the opportunity to develop your interest in an aspect of Focusing
  • a chance to share ideas and exercises

Write ups from the interest groups will be added below

Children Focusing
René Veugelers & Harriët Teeuw

Content may be added later.
Focusing & radical democratic change
Greg Madison & Lynn Preston

Our group explored our own individual meanings and experiences of ‘activism’ as well as having a visit on Friday by four UK activists. We spent a lot of our time sensing and exploring together in the large group. We also came up with a list around the kind of activism that would emerge if it was Focusing-inspired, and the issues that arise when we look at existing forms of activism through our experience as Focusers. Out of our experience together came the idea for A World Day of Listening, which we are pursing through Facebook. It was a warm and courageous experience where our own group acted as an instance of the kind of activist group we would want to belong to.
Focusing & spirituality
Joan Klagsbrun & Charlotte Howorth

Content may be added later.
Interactive Focusing
Barbara Dickinson

12 people attended the Interest Group on Interactive Focusing (IF), plus 2 who could only stay part of the time. Two thirds of the group were new to IF, so the experienced members helped to introduce the form in the course of a 4-day discussion about what we wish could happen to increase the use of IF in the world. We used a model for organisational change called ‘Future Search’ as the basis for this discussion, and asked 4 questions: what is your history, especially relative to IF? what trends do you see that influence your desire to use of IF? what wishes do you have about IF? and what next step or steps might you take regarding IF? For each question, we had a session of IF and a sharing after. Here are our wishes regarding IF:

1. Keep the passion to spread IF

2. Establish an IF university

3. Have an IF Group ‘Near Me’ - Norfolk, UK

4. Teach IF in Dutch and English

5. Explore and experience more IF and online

6. Practice IF in our relationship

7. Keep IF grounded, simple, light, combining

8. IF is part of every focusing education

9. IF is part of schools to solve issues for Children

10. Find an IF coach

11. Share IF with my group

12. Have an IF website - what was there and more

13. Teach IF in English

14. Start locally - share IF with couple of friends

15. Incorporate IF in life every day

Thinking at the Edge (TAE)
Evelyn Pross, Beatrice Blake & Nada Lou

Nada talked about how TAE became the second philosophical practice. Being at the ‘edge’ is the experience of not knowing how to go forward and also not wanting to let go. Most people give up there. TAE is a practice that from the felt sense helps you find a fresh forward direction. She showed how TAE moves beyond usual words that short-circuit our thinking to words that open freshness in our thinking.

Evelyn went deeply into the TAE move of ‘crossing’ and showed how and why it can open so many possibilities. She reported on how she successfully brought TAE into a weekend workshop of 30 people new to Focusing.

The last two days were devoted to Beatrice leading participants into the first steps of their own TAE projects, through felt sensing, instancing, noticing what is paradoxical or contradictory, and crossing.
Focusing-Oriented Therapy
Akira Ikemi

18 (at most) of us sat and shared our experiences of FOT in an unstructured way. It was a friendly and intensive experience. Some clinical vignettes were shared in our discussion involving such issues as the difference between teaching Focusing and FOT; the responsibilities of the Focusing-oriented therapist, if any; whether Focusing-oriented therapy is an orientation or a method; Focusing as a profession; and much more. Sometimes, translations of English expressions were written out on the flip chart in Japanese using Chinese characters so that 5 Japanese and 2 Chinese participants could keep up with the discussion. Through our discussion, one characteristic of FOT that we could all share was the following sentence: "in FOT, the therapist always focuses, and the clients focuses sometimes.”

The Open Listening Circle
Rob Foxcroft

My interest group was an Open Listening Circle. It was a very happy experience: warm, peaceful, spacious and empathic. It felt like an oasis in the midst of the bustle. We spoke of sitting together round a campfire at night in the mountains. It was like that.
Community Wellness Focusing
Eighteen of us carefully practiced pauses for translation and discovered that completely including each other this way was more essential to the well-being of our group than any ideas we might exchange about Community Wellness.

Our morning circle became a laboratory of inclusion. It took sustained effort to remember and to remind each other to pause in the midst of fast-flowing expressions so that our words could be translated between English, Spanish and Chinese. This ensured everyone in the group could speak and be heard, and quickly created feelings of closeness, acceptance, caring, tenderness and belonging. It helped us experience love in the group.

We immediately felt like taking our experience of inclusiveness out into the world. First we spoke up in other sessions of the conference for translation pauses or help in understanding. Now we continue into the wider world with determination to work towards inclusiveness, wherever and however possible. This feels to us like a core aspect of community well being.

From our members:

I can be my true self in this group.

I would like to have the experience of hearing my words translated, so I can feel them back.

An instance of a truly Focusing group. Everyone has touched me.

When you are speaking in Chinese I can see your feelings before I understand words, heart to heart connection.

This group is a small example of what our conferences should be.

I experience a different feeling of time, taking words into my heart in a different pace.

When I met one of this group outside, we sat on the bench in silence, perceiving everything without words, hearing the birds and trees together.

A poem came:

So people ask me, “where are you?”

I am in my heart’s passion.

“Yes, but where are you?”

He laughs, “I am everywhere!”

When there is no translation needed, I feel something missing.

I came to the conference to get ideas, techniques, exercises. I am taking away something very different: presence, and a different quality of feeling-connection that is kept in the body.

Let us each take what we have learned here into our worlds and create well-being.
Focusing & Philosophy
Donata Schoeller, Neil Dunaetz & Rob Parker

Content may be added later.
'No-interest Interest Group'
Bebe Simon & Paula Nowick

We had two facilitators, three experienced people and three new ones and everyone was so happy with the group! All enjoyed the freedom of this type of open group. Topics included the craziness of different personalities, what brought them to make the choice of this group, and there was plenty of opportunity for each member to share something personal that could be heard by the group. Leaders Bebe Simon and Paula Nowick did this group some years ago, and were delighted to have the opportunity to offer it again. Members chose what topics were discussed. Some personal introductions included how the group was started. It was such a good group!

Focusing with the Whole Body
Astrid Schillings

Content may be added later.
Focusing & the global situation
Jutika Healy & Manjudeva

We discovered validation and companionship in our shared concerns about the current global issues that are many and large: political, socio-economic and environmental issues. We used our Focusing partnership sessions to bring forward what we need, individually and collectively, in order to respond well to these concerns. Our felt shifts helped us to resource ourselves, be hopeful, and feel empowered to contribute positively to our world.

Using Focusing in relating to animals
Teresa Dawson

There was a small group meeting on four mornings. We had no agenda for this topic. The first morning what came up first were memories, accompanied by strong feelings of shame, grief, anxiety and closeness. Memories of lost or dead cats and dogs, attached to encapsulated wounds. There were stories about very special experiences with pets and what they meant to that person. Deep and touching process work could happen.

Another morning we walked silently through the park, listening to birds, watching all kinds of insects, getting into a sensing dialogue with them. Afterwards we shared our experiential impressions.

One other morning we dipped into own experiences with ethical or non-ethical behaviour towards animals. Touching the fact that we share our living environment naturally with animals, and what this means to us. How the suffering about obvious and hidden maltreatment could be bearable or dealt with. Each of us was focusing on these aspects. And we shared our experiences.

Another morning, dreams were shared in which animals were present.

A surprising side-effect of this interest group was that many table-talks happened about animal stories, with relevant and corresponding feelings, love and fun with our own pets.

There definitely seems to be a need to share more of our experiences with animals in a Focusing way.
Focusing in nature
Karen Liebenguth

What a delight it was to offer this group! We explored together how natural settings can support, inform and deepen our Focusing experience, either walking on our own or with a Focusing partner, sitting on the grass or under a tree. We discovered that through connecting with nature using our senses with more awareness - what we really see around us, what we really hear, what we feel physically and emotionally, what smells are in the air, what the grass feels like under our feet - we could more easily sense inside for what was in our bodily experience, what wanted to be known, heard, and to come forward.

We discovered that the boundaries between the outer and inner, between us and nature, are fluid because we are part of nature as opposed to being apart from nature. So opening our senses to our natural environment helped us to expand our Focusing field, a safe container - bigger than ourselves – to hold and make space for whatever needed to be there, come forward and be held.

We explored Focusing while walking, and experimented with the Focuser having their eyes open and closed. Those who tried Focusing with their eyes closed reported back that it deepened their sense of trust not only in the other person but also in themselves which in turn allowed them to drop deeper into their experience, while being guided by their Focusing partner and held by the wider natural setting around them.

I think we really were surprised by how much being under the open sky and surrounded by green space enhanced our Focusing experiences.

Focusing & bodywork
Jack Blackburn & Larry Hurst

Overall responses from Jack: I recognised that the term ‘bodywork’ has a different connotation in northern Europe than in the US. I was expecting that the group would include some professional touch therapists with a background of touch training and certification. There were people who used touch in their work with Focusing, and there were quite a few people who had been exploring movement and Focusing. Because of the initial size of the group and the lack of time, our first day together was rather unwieldy. We had similar numbers on the second day and because of the size we decided to split the group in half. However, when we came back together in the larger group there was not time for much that could be said. Looking back I would say that our original description of the interest group precipitated the confusion about where and how we would apply Focusing. Also, there was a large interest in exploring the effects of touch, movement, voice work and other approaches in a Focusing situation. There were various leaders in the group, each of whom was ready to demonstrate his or her own approach. Unfortunately, the group description seemed to be a catch-all for many different agendas. I would suggest in future allowing more time for interest groups, and keeping the maximum group size to ten people.

Comment from Larry: I largely empathise with Jack’s observations and, in addition, to his clear predicament when caught unawares by a ‘takeover’ of the final session, regardless of its good intent. At a number of times during the earlier sessions, I had sensed a noticeable, if understandable, element of impatience by some members to impart one or other singular expertise upon the group, which led to a degree of confusion, competition and discontent. Recommendations? Less content is always more effective, in order to fit into the time available. And let’s be prompt! At our previous retreats we had days, not hours, to develop themes, positions, shifts. If there is another conference with a bodywork interest group, then the facilitators will need help between sessions to manage the developing process structure and incorporate needs as far as possible. Moreover, we all should remind ourselves of our relational responsibilities as Focusers and conduct ourselves accordingly: tough though it can seem at times when perched at the fuzzy edge of exploration.

For a fuller report, please email either one of us.
Focusing & Spirituality
Joan Klagsbrun & Charlotte Howorth

This group, which was also facilitated on the final day by Ifat Eckstein, had over 30 participants. We were lucky enough to meet in a circle in the beautiful chapel with its stained glass windows, which created sacred space for us.

We began by finding one moment among many which felt like a spiritual or sacred experience which we then shared in pairs. Then, in TAE fashion, we explored with our hearts and minds what the word spirituality meant to each of us, so we had a shared understanding of this experience of spirituality. We then spent time reflecting in pairs, and then the large group, on what are the doors that personally open us into spiritual experience, and what are our obstacles to get there. We also explored the question ‘what in this moment is spiritual?’, continually opening and deepening the experience of the question in pairs. Through words, through singing, and later through gestures and drawings, we expressed our experiences of the sacred.

On our third day, we explored our experience of ourselves as ‘interaction first’ with our group, with our conference, and with ‘the whole big everything’. On the final day, we spoke of the pure qualities we have in the universe that are also in ourselves, and collected them so that they could nourish us in the here and now. We ended with a song led by Catherine.
Stacks Image 13779