"Inner Listening"
January 2016 Graduate Meeting

Videos and article for this meeting:
Learning Focusing video by Ann Weiser Cornell [21 min]
Power of Empathy video interview of Ann Weiser Cornell [22 min]
The Power of Focusing article by Ann Weiser Cornell

In Week 5, we introduce the counter-intuitive idea of turning toward, rather than away from, emotional difficulty (this is an idea that extends to physical difficulty, as well, as described in Week 5b). The most sophisticated and complete method I know of for turning toward our inner landscape is Inner Relationship Focusing, as taught by Ann Weiser Cornell. Becoming completely comfortable and skilled with Focusing takes some time and work, and is beyond the scope of the MBSR course or even the Graduate meetings, but for those who are interested, some introductory materials are provided here. Much more, in the way of materials and training, can be found on Ann's website, Focusing Resources. Below is a segment of The Power of Focusing article listed above.

Being a good listener to yourself
    Do you remember a time when someone listened to you, really listened? Do you remember how good it felt to be heard? Perhaps you began to understand yourself better, and you clarified what you were thinking and feeling, simply because someone was listening.
    Perhaps you also remember a time when you wanted to express yourself and be heard, but the other person didn't hear you. Instead, perhaps they criticized, or told you about their own experience, or offered well-meaning advice. Advice isn't listening. If you wanted to be heard and you got criticism or advice instead, you probably became more confused or frustrated or upset instead of more clear. And you probably felt you wouldn't come back to that person again when you needed to be heard.
    Focusing is being a good listener to your inner self. There are parts of you that want to be heard, without judgment, without criticism, without advice. In Focusing, you can give yourself that non-judgmental listening that feels good and brings greater clarity.
    The qualities of good listening are:
                • A welcoming presence
                • Holding the space
                • Hearing the essence
                • Staying in present time.
    A welcoming presence means you are interested in everything you become aware of inside. Each feeling you become aware of, no matter how ugly or negative it appears at first, has a good reason for being the way it is. A welcoming presence gives it the space to be and breathe, evolve and transform.
    Holding the space means bringing your awareness to your inner world and holding it there. It's as if you're saying to your inner self, "I'm here and I'm staying with you."
    Hearing the essence means listening for what is longing to be heard. When something first comes forward, its message may be difficult to understand. If you keep listening for what "it" wants you to hear, the message will become clearer and clearer.
    Staying in present time means not being distracted by dwelling on what happened in the past, or on fantasies or fears about the future. It means staying in touch with how you're feeling in your body right now, even when what you are focusing on is related to the past or the future. Whenever you find you have drifted away from the present, ask yourself, "How am I feeling in my body right now? What am I aware of right now?"
Being a friend to your felt sense
    Focusing is like being a friend to your own inner experience. The qualities of true friendship include acknowledging, allowing, patience, curiosity, respect, warmth, welcome, empathy, compassion, and love. If you don't feel you can be that much of a friend to yourself immediately, don't worry - you'll be able to build up to it, step by step. And the first step is as simple as saying hello.
    When you notice you're having a feeling, say to the feeling, "Hello. I know you're there." This might seem ridiculously simple, but it's actually such a powerfully helpful move that you'll probably feel relief just from doing this alone. It's amazing how often we don't do this. We ignore how we feel, we try to get rid of how we feel, we argue with how we feel - but we're not actually acknowledging how we feel. We treat our felt senses like unwelcome party guests, to be talked about but never directly spoken to.
    If your felt senses are at all scary or intense, saying hello becomes even more important. "I feel this constriction in my chest, and it's getting tighter and tighter!" said Rebecca. "You might just say hello to it," I suggested. "Oh! Now it's easing up quite a bit!" she reported, amazed that simply acknowledging could make such a difference.
    The reason that acknowledging is so powerful is that your felt senses are here to communicate with you. Excuse me for talking about felt senses as if they were people, but the truth is, they want you to listen. They want to be heard. That constriction was probably getting tighter and tighter because it was panicked about whether it would be heard. As soon as Rebecca acknowledged it, it was able to relax a little, because it knew that she knew it was there, and that she would listen to its story.
    I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to say hello to what you find in your body. I've seen over and over how people skip over this step and find themselves in trouble. For example, Catherine had a tightness in her shoulders that she had been feeling for weeks. She wanted to focus on it. The people in the workshop watched as she rolled her neck impatiently and said, "I want to ask this what it's all about, but it won't talk to me. I feel stuck." Then she looked down at the card she had received at the beginning of the workshop and saw the sentence, I'm saying hello to what's here. "Oh," she said, "I haven't said hello to it yet."
    Then the other workshop participants saw a remarkable transformation. Catherine's face flushed, her head stopped rolling, and tears sprang to her eyes. "I've never said hello to it!" she exclaimed. "I've called it bad, I've tried to get rid of it, I've shamed it, I've tried to fix it - but I've never actually said hello." From that moment on the tightness in her shoulders began to release and by the end of the session, after it had given its message, Catherine experienced her body quite differently.
    Focusing is about having a positive and supportive relationship with yourself. Every relationship begins with hello. It isn't respectful to start a conversation without first saying hello. So give your felt sense a hello first of all, and the rest of your friendship with it will naturally follow.
           - from The Power of Focusing by Ann Weiser Cornell

Closing Thoughts
[contributed by Palouse Mindfulness graduates]

from, and by, Nikki (New Jersey):

    There is a voice.
     It speaks to me in patterns and rhythms. When I am not listening, because I'm too busy seeking the right answers to fix something, it ties my belly into knots and spins my mind like a whirly swirly top. It screams, without a sound, loud enough to make my heart race. And it pushes me past the point, to where the ground is no longer beneath me and I am forced to stop and listen.
     And when I do. When I finally do, I find it had all the answers all along.


from Becky (Idaho):

    If you hear the whispers, you won't have to listen to the screams.
           - Cherokee proverb

from Jan (South Dakota):

    Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.
           - Steve Jobs

from Dave:

     This is not an answering machine.
     This is a questioning machine.
     "Who are you and what do you want?"
     If you think these are trivial questions,
     most people go through life without answering either one.
           - Peter Russell's answering machine