Most people find it easier to learn Focusing through individual instruction than through simply reading about it. The actual process of Focusing, experienced from the inside, is fluid and open, allowing great room for individual differences and ways of working. Yet to introduce the concepts and flavor of the technique, some structure can be useful for those who have not found a certified trainer. Although these steps may provide a window into Focusing, it is important to remember that they are not the only six steps. Focusing has no rigid, fixed agenda for the inner world; many Focusing sessions bear little resemblance to the mechanical process that we define here. Still, every Focusing trainer is deeply familiar with the six steps listed below, and uses them as needed throughout a Focusing session. And many people have had success getting in touch with the heart of the process just by following these simple instructions.

Think of this as only the basics. As you progress and learn more about Focusing, you will add to these basic instructions, clarify them, approach them from other angles. Eventually—perhaps not the first time you go through it—you will have the experience of something shifting inside. If you want to try them out, do so easily, gently. If you find difficulty in one step or another, don’t push too hard, just move on to the next one. You can always come back.

Clearing a Space
Be silent, just to yourself. Take a moment just to relax. Now, pay attention inwardly, in your body, perhaps in your stomach or chest. See what comes there when you ask, “How is my life going? What is the main thing for me right now?” Sense within your body, and let the answers come slowly from this sensing. When some concern comes, do not go inside it. Stand back, say “Yes, that’s there. I can feel that, there.” Let there be a little space between you and that. Then ask what else you feel. Wait again, and sense. Usually there are several things to note even at this early point.

Felt Sense
Select one personal problem to focus on from the things that come up. Do not go inside it. Stand back from it. Of course, there are many parts to that one thing you are thinking about—too many to think of each one alone. But you can feel all of these things together. Pay attention there, where you usually feel things, and in there you can get a sense of what all of the problem feels like. Let yourself feel all of that, even though it will be an unclear sense.

Handle
What is the quality of this unclear felt sense? Let a word, a phrase, or an image come up from the felt sense itself. It might be a quality word like tight, sticky, scary, stuck, heavy, jumpy, or a phrase, or an image. Stay with the quality of the felt sense until something fits it just right.

Resonating
Go back and forth between the felt sense and the word (or phrase, or image). Check how they resonate with each other. See if there is a little bodily signal that lets you know there is a fit. To do it, you have to bring your attention back to the felt sense there as well as the word that arose. Allow the felt sense to change, if it does, along with the word or picture, until they feel just right in capturing the quality of the felt sense.

Asking
Ask yourself: what is it about this whole problem that makes this quality (which you have just named or pictured)? Make sure the quality is sensed again, freshly, vividly (not just remembered from before). When it is there again, tap it, touch it, be with it, asking, “What makes the whole problem so ___________?” Or ask, “What is in this sense?”

If you get a quick answer without a shift in the felt sense, just let that kind of answer go by. Return your attention to your body and find the felt sense again, freshly. Then ask it again. Stay with the felt sense until something comes together with a shift, a slight “give” or release.

Receiving
Receive in a friendly way whatever comes with the sense of a shift. Stay with it a while, even if it is only a slight release. Whatever comes, this is only one shift; there will be others. You will probably continue after a little while, but stay here for a few moments.

If during the course of following these instructions you have spent a little time sensing and touching an unclear holistic body sense of this problem, then you have focused. It doesn’t matter whether you have experienced a body shift, or an actual physical sense of some change, or not. It comes on its own. We don’t control that.

Adapted from “The Focusing Manual,” chapter 4 of Focusing by Eugene T. Gendlin, © 1982. Published with permission of the Focusing Institute.

Temple
Dharma to your inbox

Sign up for Tricycle’s newsletters