Living in the Focusing Attitude

Some thoughts on crossing Focusing with everyday living

Living in the Focusing Attitude

Some thoughts on crossing Focusing with everyday living

Spring 2023:
When I dance Tango, I am usually the follower. My task is to listen with my whole body to what the lead is inspired to do, and to join in pretty much instantly. There is also a lot of freedom in Tango in what you can add, resist, or play with as a follower.

Some days I am a better body-listener than others. On days when I am a good listener, it feels like magic; it all happens in sync and much faster than I would ever be able to think about, to cognitively comprehend. On days when my body somehow has its own stiffness and doesn’t instantly catch what’s happening, there are many moments of subtle friction. The dance is just a little off. At times this – not exactly in sync – is so subtle that I can only notice it by comparing the overall feel to other days. But there are also obvious misunderstandings. I do something, and a split second later I know that wasn’t what the lead had invited me to do.

So I’ve noticed that I always feel bad when I misunderstand the lead in Tango dancing. There is a feeling of “Ohh no, I’ve done it wrong”, and with that thought I tense up. This affects my breathing, which, in turn, increases the likelihood for more friction to occur.

However, in Focusing – both as the listener and as the Focuser – I find very interesting those moments when the reflections (the following) of the listener don’t quite fit (unless they happen all the time). In other words: In the Focusing context, when the listener hears something different from what I meant, it makes me curious. When this curious inner attitude is present, the dissonance somehow makes the process even richer. It allows for new, unexpected doors to open, for something unknown to emerge as I keep listening to what wants to come from that dissonance.

With this realization, I suddenly thought: “How can I bring this same attitude that I have in Focusing to Tango dancing? What if I were able to remain in undivided curiosity and lightness, appreciate the sometimes new moves that emerge from such “misunderstanding” moments, and appreciate what the lead makes of my unexpected response?” That would be so wonderful. Fortunately, many of the more experienced leads are able to let something new emerge from the follower’s unexpected response. I hold this capacity with high respect, as it all happens in split seconds, and I feel grateful when they ask me to stop saying ‘sorry’.

I look forward to exploring this new vision in the weeks and years to come (-:

Spring 2024
Another shift of perception happened.
With dancing, not only does the synchrony/togetherness vary from day to day as described above, but it’s also that some bodies seem to understand each other, and with other bodies, my body can’t read the invitation, even if the person is clearly a good lead. This can get very frustrating and painful. 

One day, in the midst of this frustration, I said to myself: “When you find yourself in such a situation, Amona, let go of any attempt to understand what the lead is inviting you to do. Instead, focus your attention on: What does my body want to do now?”
This is a subtle but radical shift of inner attention, and I have discovered that it allows for better syncing with the other. It’s as if I can listen to the other person much better when I consciously listen to my own inner, spontaneous response.

When I teach Focusing, I tell my students that they don’t have to understand and remember everything the Focuser says. This effort to be the perfect listener can become very stressful and, interestingly, reduces our ability to listen deeply. Instead, I ask my students to listen to the resonance felt within themselves, within their body, to what the Focuser is saying and let this inner resonance guide them to “intuitively” recognize the meaning behind and beyond the Focuser’s words. With this kind of listening, the listener can more accurately reflect the heart or the core of what the Focuser has expressed. Focusing then becomes a beautiful and fruitful dance together.

Again, I was amazed to discover on the dance floor that, similar to Focusing, the follower can listen to their own body, for what it’s called to do in this intimate contact, rather than concentrating on what the lead might expect to happen.

There is so much more that could be said. My journey of finding the Focusing Attitude in all aspects of my living continues.

Focusing (Eugene Gendlin)
is a partner practice, in which one person is the listener, and the other is the Focuser, who wants to find out more about a personal topic, listens and expresses everything they feel, see and hear… around this topic. The listener is there to support the process of the Focuser and reflects what was expressed, the listener follows the Focuser in this gentle, slow process. It is like a shared intimate dance from which new, fresh and unexpected meanings and understandings emerge.