The human way
About the sessions
Always my intention is –
from each new person
a new world...
We meet for one-to-one sessions, either face to face or over the phone. In general, sessions last between forty-five minutes and one hour.
Sessions are of three kinds:
- Focusing teaching,
- spiritual accompaniment, and
- experiential life-coaching.
Neither "spiritual accompaniment" nor "experiential life-coaching" is wholly a happy name. The names point, however, and will do well enough until I find something better.
The name spiritual accompaniment hints at a direction. We are not going to do as any person tells us, any group or any tradition. Instead, we shall follow the inner voice of conscience, or (better) the voice of life. We are going to listen to movements of the heart.
The name experiential life-coaching hints that we are going to look for action steps and action continuities, whilst always listening to the sensitive play of feeling and life-responsiveness.
For me, these two forms of practice are about seeing things as you see them and adding nothing more; and are driven by a passionate love for justice.
I hope that our time together may help you to weave experiential sensitivity into your life. For me, weaving-in is the heart of it all, a deep, central practice, something which makes it possible for life in the world to become a spiritual existence of poignancy and depth, with a power to transform us and to free us to act.
It is hard to get any sense of the feel and movement of the sessions, until you experience it for yourself. Sessions are very various, since they are not led by me, but are carried forward by a process of close listening.
During a session, I generally have only one thing on my mind, the question:
Can I hear what this person is saying to me?
The process all falls out from this question.
What is spiritual accompaniment? For me, it rests on four pillars. Here is a conversation between a Seeker and a Companion, which will make this clear. In effect, the Seeker is saying, "I need…", and the Listener is answering, "I offer..."
1 Relational depth
SEEKER: Above all, you and I must feel we are in touch with one another. Garry Prouty is spot on, when he puts human contact in the first place. My friend Ann once said to me: "Now I have it. You mean, you are the miner's canary of contact". Yes. Exactly so. For the canary, it is a matter of life and death.
COMPANION: Sometimes I may say something to renew our contact, to let you know I'm here - and who I am in myself, my feelings, and my being with you.
2 Experiential search
SEEKER: I am the expert on my life, both on what to say and how to move forwards. It is my life. I know how to find my way.
COMPANION: I'm listening to you. I try to take in every wrinkle of what you are saying, to follow each turn you make. I'm unhappy until each of us is sure that I've caught the sense and flavour of your meaning; that I am learning (enough) what this is like for you.
SEEKER: Then a magical silence may fall, into which the next piece comes.
3 The new space
SEEKER: Here is the bit which is unique to Focusing.
Sometimes all the feelings which come inside the situation die down, as waves breaking on the shore die down over several days, following a storm out at sea. Now comes the peace of a new day and calm at the water's edge. Without ruffling up a fresh storm, I let some mild new sense come to me of the-storm-as-a-whole.
Some way puzzled,
I sense the whole of that.
Now I am not that,
nor does it burden me.
Gray skies are parted,
and the air is clear.
This is the crucial shift, which tends to happen all by itself. The shift is from being IN the space of the situation, to the situation being IN the new space, the space of Focusing. Of the mild new sense which forms there, Mozart says, "It is like an apple in the palm of my hand".
COMPANION: Amongst the freedoms I allow myself is this – to say something intended to lead to an opening up of the new space – or which says "Hello there" to the apple which is lying in your hand.
Apples fall when they are ripe.
An apple fell into your hand.
I see it cradled there.
4 The open space
COMPANION: I'm just some guy sitting there, right? Just an ordinary person, a bit of a fool.
People say I seem very relaxed, very easy, not at all rule-driven. I don't know about that! Fully 95% of the time I am listening, wrinkle by wrinkle. I need all of myself, just to listen; just to stay plain and simple. Yet in a sense this is wonderfully easy, wonderfully peaceful. I am leaning into the flow of listening, letting myself trust you to find your own way. It is your life.
SEEKER: What of the other 5%?
COMPANION: It is so hard to stay fresh, to break free of every formula!
Apples fall when they are ripe.
An apple falls into my hand,
and my hand is open to gather it.
In the open space of listening, I may say anything at all which seems likely to be helpful, or just because I feel like it. Our encounter must be safe. So long as I am truly listening, it is typically very safe and very gentle. It must also be alive!
SEEKER: I am always safe, when you respond to me with the whole of your being, when you listen with your heart. And I need you to be alive! I do know when you're off-key! Sometimes I wince or protest. Or perhaps you hear something sour?
COMPANION: Then I go back to listening.
Little by little, in the flow of a session of experiential life-coaching, five main patterns tend to unfold:
1 Action review
Completing the cycle of action and learning – what action steps you have been taking, what you can learn from them, what further action steps are needed, and how to go about them.
A process of close listening or clearing a space, through which it becomes clear what the main things are that we need to explore in this session.
At some point, a turn to situational focusing, to generate new and creative ideas or life-forward steps.
4 Session review
Renewing the cycle of action and learning – going back over the session, to see what action steps have emerged: making sure they are specific in content, and clearly recorded for action.
5 The conversation about process
We may spend a few minutes exploring how our work together is going, and how we can make it still more helpful and productive.
The intention is to find a way forward today. I call this "the breakthrough principle". How long will it take to break through? We can't tell beforehand.
There is no guarantee of a breakthrough, unfortunately. But often, it happens anyway.
Our agreement is explicitly for one session at a time. At the end of each session, we decide whether to book a further session. In this, as in all things, each of us is responsible for our own well-being, and for making our own judgments.
Related professional work
From time to time, I will be offering an intensive training workshop, Changing Lives, in which a group of people come together to explore the principles and practices of this way of working, and jointly develop them further.
I continue to teach experiential focusing and close listening, as I have been since 1988, when Gene Gendlin authorised me to do so.
I regularly train Focusing Professionals, in my role as a Mentor for the British Focusing Teachers' Association, and a training Co-ordinator for The Focusing Institute.
I still spend much of my time teaching piano-playing, as I have for many years; in the course of which, little by little, I have grown very accustomed to living alongside another person – like a midwife, quietly present at each succeeding birth:
"I'm not so much a piano teacher, you know...
more a sort of musical companion."
—Gordon Green (personal communication)
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