Inner Body Focusing – A Daily Journal Process
Focusing is a path of self-inquiry that welcomes nuanced experiences that we often overlook. We gently bring awareness into our bodies, which is where feelings and sensations reside. We allow and befriend whatever we are experiencing in a way that permits the stuck places to loosen …moving us toward greater peace, freedom, and wisdom.
~ John Amodeo, PhD
Making the Implicit Explicit
For many years I have kept a daily “focusing journal.” Focusing within my body has profoundly deepened my intuition. Focusing is also how I stay “emotionally fit” as a therapist. Focusing is a body-based inner listening technique that helps to confirm inner knowing.
Focusing psychotherapy, discovered by Eugene Gendlin, and further defined by Ann Weiser Cornell, helps to bring fuzzy, preverbal knowledge into conscious awareness. Focusing within the body invites what is unconscious to come forward into our awareness.
This way of journaling does not involve much writing. It mostly involves sitting patiently at the “growth edge”. This form of inner body listening requires sitting quietly while tending to vague physical impressions until they become defined and meaningful in the form of images, words, phrases, and felt-senses – and then writing them down.
While many psychological techniques involve releasing inhibiting habits and old beliefs, this body focusing technique is a way to attend to what wants to emerge for emotional healing. Everything we need to emotionally heal will arise in the present moment – in its own right timing – without fail – if we listen deeply within.
An Inner Body Journal Process
Below, I share my method of inner body meditation (based on Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy) to support you to process your difficult emotions. Typically, I sit for 15-30 minutes and jot down the impressions that arise from the edge of my awareness as a way to deepen my intuition. This is also a wonderful way to lighten emotional pain in a gradual way.
Listening to your body for just 15 minutes a day can help you to gradually process emotional pain and access deeper intuitive knowing. Start by sitting quietly with your journal on your lap. Close your eyes. When images, words and body senses arise, jot them in your journal.
1. Clearing a Space
Take a moment just to relax. Pay attention to your body. 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. Let the answers come slowly. When some concern comes, do not go right inside of it.
Stand back from your problem, say “Yes, that’s there. I can feel that, there.” Let there be a little space between you and what is troubling you. Say, “There is something in me that….” Then ask what else you feel. Wait again, and sense. Usually there are several things happening in our emotional world at one time.
2. Felt Sense
Select one personal problem to focus on from what came. Do not go inside of your problem. Stand back from the discomfort of it and witness it in a friendly way. There are many parts to that one thing you are thinking about – too many to sort out cognitively. But you can feel all of these things together on a “felt-sense” level. Pay attention to where you feel this concern in your body, and sense how the entire problem feels. Let yourself feel the unclear sense of all of that.
What is the quality of this unclear felt sense? Let a word, a phrase, a gesture, or an image come up from the felt sense itself. It might be a descriptive word like tight, sticky, scary, stuck, heavy, jumpy or it might be a phrase. An image or a memory might come to mind instead. Stay with the quality of the felt sense till something fits it just right. Write this description of your felt sense in your journal.
Go back and forth between the felt sense and the descriptive word (phrase or image) to see if it feels exactly right. Check how they resonate with each other. See if there is a little body signal that lets you know there is a fit – that you have just recognized and described it perfectly.
Hold the felt sense in your body and the word/phrase/image in your mind at the same time to see if they match. Let the felt sense change if it wants to. Also, play with the descriptive word or picture to see if it wants to change. Allow your emotions and the “handle” to change until they capture the quality of the felt sense just right.
Now ask: what is it, about this whole problem, that makes this quality that which you have just named or pictured? Make sure the quality is sensed again, freshly, vividly (not just remembered from before). At this stage you are asking the felt sense to define itself more – to speak more deeply to the root of the discomfort, dis-ease or “wrongness”.
Feel into your body and ask,”What makes the whole problem so ______?”If you get a quick answer without an inner body shift, just let that kind of answer go by. Return your attention to your body and freshly find the felt sense again. Then ask it again. Be with the felt sense until you feel a slight “give” or release in your body.
Receive whatever comes in a friendly way. It does not need to make logical sense. Intuition often speaks in pictures and metaphors that feel just right when you identify them. Stay with the sense of inner relief or recognition for a while, even if it is only a slight bit of new information. Whatever comes, this is only one shift; there will be many others. Linger for a few moments in this body-shift that has come from offering deep attention to your growth edge.
Ann Weiser Cornell shares:
“The knowing that comes through Focusing is often surprising, and operates from its own logic rather than following in a linear fashion from something previously known. Its signal can be an intensification or a releasing. It can also be a sense of flow, fresh air, opening, expansion, or the like.
Tears are a strong confirmation: tears that have nothing to do with sadness, but rather with the rightness of the knowing–“truth tears.” In contrast, the body’s way of saying “No” is a feeling of something being “off,” an uneasiness, a wrongness, limitation, or contraction, or backing away.”
You may not always feel a body-shift. With focusing, the main aim is to spend time sensing into an unclear holistic body sense for a dedicated period of time. Emotional shifts come spontaneously when the time is right.
The Wisdom of the Body
Our bodies are wise. Our bodies perfectly reflect how we have lived our lives. Our bodies hold insights about what we need to be more fully ourselves. Our bodies also tell us about what has hurt us emotionally and how to heal it. Our bodies know which people around us bring out the best in us, and which do not. Our bodies know the right next step to take for our growth.
Focusing returns us to non-analytic knowing that connects us to our intuition. When we build a better relationship with our body we can heal a troubled emotional life. Focusing becomes an inner “compass” that points the way to the unique “medicine” we each need in order to emotionally heal.