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Memories Spinning Off – Focusing and a Fear of Flying

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The young man told me he had a fear of flying – so much so, that he was working on it with another therapist.  He was curious to see what focusing would bring in helping him with this phobia. Lets take a look at what happened in Jospeh;’s  session ( not his real name)  which I describe here with his permission.

 

By way of introduction I asked Joseph what happens for him when he flies and he described the panic and anxiety that he often had before and during flying.  After our introductory grounding I invited him to get in contact with his memories in a physical way and we invited his body to show him something .  Right at the beginning of the session a lot of anxious feelings came up for him and he noticed there was a pressure in his chest.  It seemed that lying on the ground was a good position, lots of contact between him and the ground.  I invited him to really feel the ground.  Then I suggested that just for a moment, he get back into contact with the anxiety and then immediately to come back to bring his awareness to the ground. Already there was more calmness as he did this.

 

Then he announced that he needed to sit up – ‘you know, like in an airplane’.  I found us some suitable chairs – sitting opposite each other on upright chairs, not exactly like airplane seats but it seems to have been close enough.  I kept inviting him to reconnect with the anxious part and to keep bringing his awareness back to his feet and to the support from the chair.  Before long Joseph was on a memory carousel of challenging  flights – from years ago – in  Surinam, in Nicaragua, in Indonesia as well  as closer to home.  All I was doing was sitting opposite him and inviting him to feel the stable ground beneath his feet and the support from the chair.  And I kept inviting him to make space for whatever was there, over and over again.

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A little while later Joseph informed me that the bad flight memory carousel was still going round, but spinning off –further and further away.  Suddenly Joseph reported that there is more space in him,  the memories still there – but  ‘over there’ and in him now – more space.  Something had shifted in him and my role was simply to remind him to bring awareness to the solid ground underneath him – and over here on my side I was extremely aware of my feet and the contact I had with the ground I noticed that my feet were warm and definitely connected to the ground..

Later on Joseph told me that he will be flying again very soon and that he could  see himself at the airport about to fly – The self he sees he sees is telling him ‘It’s going to be fine, I can handle this now’.

With focusing when you start a session you never really know what is going to show up, or even whether your body will want to go where you are intending it to go – sometimes other things that are more pressing need to be dealt with first .  Sitting over here as Joseph’s listener and guide I am struck again by the simplicity of this process, and its beauty.

In this situation where Joseph’s sense of  panic at the start of the session was almost completely overwhelming him, having a  listener was essential in his process. This is definitely not a topic to try at home!   Nonetheless the simple practice of finding the contact between you  feet and the ground  can help brings more presence, calm  and more aliveness , wherever you are and whatever is going on in the moment.

No More Running Away

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I was presenting at a conference the other week, giving a workshop on grounded presence. Over here . It was a new idea for most of the participants in the room, some of the people really got into it – and got a lot out of it.  Almost inevitably though, there was a reluctant participant.

At the end of our session  she told me that she did give it a short try but quickly decided that it wasn’t for her. ‘With this technique  I may as well go for a run,  I was hoping for something that will help me when I am talking for example with my boss, this obviously won’t help me there’.

Unfortunately  I didn’t get the  chance to give her my full answer at the time  – so I am posting it here.  Actually I am a great fan of running – at least I used to be. My Dad got us all into running when I was a kid and I had often found it was a great way to let off steam when I got frustrated with people – especially for example, a difficult boss.   Years ago pounding the pavements was the best tool I had and I will be forever grateful for the Happy Mondays Running Club in Norwich for getting me running again. Running brings you back into contact with your breathing, your body, with the environment, with yourself, and with the people you are with – if you are running in company. It’s all good stuff.

However running does have its limitations – when you are in the middle of a conversation and you don’t like the way its going – it’s usually quite difficult to drop it all,  and come back to it after your run and your shower…..  when you might still get triggered all over again.

Grounded presence is much more immediate  – you simply stay present with what is happening, and  start noticing – sounds simple doesn’t it !

‘Oh, I am trying to have a conversation with this person,  but I find they don’t give me much time to answer.  They seem to be a bit aggressive.  Hmmm …. I am noticing that my feet are on the floor and the chair is supporting me, the air is warm.   Let’s see what happens if I ask them to slow down a little and give me a bit of space to find what I  want to say…..

Just taking a moment to notice the obvious might seem  a strange thing to do .  Like it’s so obvious why would you bother?  On the other hand, its so immediate and can be done so quickly, why wouldn’t you bother?

In the past, in those difficult situations,  I would get more and more frustrated and wound up, and then be hard on myself at the end of it for how reactive I had been. Worse, I might feel like I had completely abandoned myself and let the other person say whatever they wanted.  I  could end up  feeling that they had walked all over me.    These days, thankfully,  it’s a different story…..  I still get frustrated sometimes of course – but I notice the signals early,  I come back to myself, I find my feet on the floor, find the chair supporting me. I suddenly feel I am somehow bigger and I can watch compassionately the part of me that is caught up in this struggle.  This gives me the wherewithal to say  ‘Erm …..I can see that is your perspective on things – but I have a different perspective that is equally valid and different to yours, and this is how I see it …. ‘   Usually the other person can hear my views and we can together find a way forward that works for us both.  It’s definitely better than storming out the door and looking for my running shoes as I did in the past!   Why don’t you give it a try!

Shaken but not stirred

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There I was at the end of my holiday in beautiful sunny Brittany,  perfect weather, sandy beaches, turquoise clear water just perfect for paddling, and amazingly beautiful scenery.  I had one hour left before catching my train home, and I was just contemplating how to spend this time. My head was buried in google maps, but I was still ambling towards the station, and I wasn’t looking where I was going. So it’s not really a surprise that I stumbled – could have happened to anyone.  I was a carrying  a not-so-heavy back-pack, but it was just heavy enough to topple me – and there I was on the ground – I heard my own cry ‘ Sh…t’  as if from a distance and I was hurting.

Next thing I knew some burly guy was trying to get me to stand up!  No, actually I want to get myself together first, and then stand up in my own  time, thanks.  Suddenly there were 3 of them trying to make me stand up…..  Non!  I said in my best French. I was not liking this so-called ‘help’!

A moment later there is another guy who showed up, he told us all that he was a fireman and those other guys disappeared as rapidly as they had arrived.  The fireman went on to ask me all those formlaic questions, to get me talking, to check I was Ok, that I knew my own name and where I was from, and to check I  was am not concussed. I participated in this exercise  willingly, understanding this process.  He did a great job, and kept telling me that we shoudl get the firemen to check me out.  He told me it’s not normal to fall over for no reason !  Well maybe it IS normal to trip up when you aren’t looking where you are going –  could have happened to anyone!  I asked him if there is a bench nearby that I can sit on, as I was still a bit wobbly at that point.  The nice friendly fireman helped me over to the bench that was conveniently placed over there, I felt shaken but not stirred.

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Sitting there on the bench, I check myself over,there was a scrape on my knee, and another on my hand, and yes probably a nice big bruise on my cheek bone.  I checked in with the whole of my body –I could still feel my toes and the whole of my  feet inside my boots, – it felt really  good.  I could  feel the metal  texture of the seat beneath my sit bones.  Ah, yes, there was something inside me screaming at me, in pain. I guess that must be normal too, given that I had just taken a fall.  I  became aware of the sunlight behind my closed eyes,  the sounds of traffic in teh distance, slow traffic parking nearby  and birds singing.  And I could  feel that ‘I am all here, and I am OK’!

Mostly, if I let myself know it, I felt grateful.  I heard this wise and caring voice inside me pointing out that if I did have to fall over, it was much better that it happened  here in town where there were people around.  Much better than on a remote cliff edge on Ouessant (a mostly unpopulated beautiful island of the coast of Brittany) where I had been few days before.  I did indeed have a few scratches, but this little mishap was much milder that other times I had fallen.  There were no broken bones, no blood, and people were  around – even though the first guy that came along  didn’t give me the support I needed right then, I am sure he was well-intentioned.

I sat there for a while, and made space for the shock to be there . What a relief to know there was no need to change anything, and that everything was OK, just exactly as it was.  Then I realised that I was hungry,  and treated myself to a really nice lunch.  Evidently today was not the day to explore this city….. It was time to catch the train and go home, and  uncharacteristically for me, I slept most of the way home –so may be falling over wasn’t so bad after all!

I definitely wasn’t hard on myself for this having happened, as I would have been in the past, and I found many small moments of kindness, and tenderness towards myself on the way home.  There is one inside me who can be hard on me sometimes – but on this little mishap I felt only self-acceptance and self-kindness. It could have happened to anyone and thank goodness it was so minor!

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Wiggle your toes

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This first blog post entry I share an experience of grounded presence, the foundation stone focusing, and how it is helping me in my life.

What does it mean to be really PRESENT – alive and awake and aware of the ground beneath my feet, the sky above me, aware of the sounds coming in from out side, aware of the thoughts that whizz thru’ my brain.

I am watching the tirade of thoughts spilling out of me now as a I write.  I notice them, not really caught in them, just acknowledging them, putting them gently aside – one by one as they come up.  Then I come back to my thought-process as I write – I notice the self-judgements that come in thick and fast.  In me, these voices, and similar ones, are cajoling around, too much of the time.

It was certainly  like that for the longest time. In the past little things would trigger huge reactions, that afterwords left me feeling embarrassed and a bit hopeless – how did that situation repeat – again?

One day, midway through yet another challenging situation,  something different happened. A new friend invited me quite simply just to feel my toes, and to feel the contact between my toes and the ground, and from there slowly to bring in to awareness all the parts of my body  one by one.  By the end of it I felt calmer, more present, more alive and simply aware of my energy and everything that had been triggered by this challenging situation

You can always wiggle your toes!   It might sound silly, but its remarkable what a huge difference this simple step can make.  Here am I, standing here, sitting here, and whatever else is going on. I can feel my toes, I am in contact with the earth through the soles of my feet. Gravity is acting downwards and, sure enough the gentle reaction from the floor pushing back.  I can feel my own presence more strongly, I am more alive and awake and it all starts with the simple step of wiggling my toes!

Check it out and experiment!

Keeping this blog in focus…

I am writing this blog to share some of the insights I and my clients get from Whole Body Focusing Sessions.    Sometimes I am really moved by something that happens for a client in a session with me, and a vignette of that session may appear on the is blog.  It will give you an insight into the types of things that can happen in a focusing session . Obviously every session is unique, but these posts may give you an idea of the types of topics that people work with in a focusing session – and the types of benefits people get when they work with me.

Equally, I am using focusing in my own life – sometimes situations stand out and the blog will come out of my gratitude for how focusing is helping me in my own life.