The modern Zen master, Robert Aitken Roshi, has said that students beginning serious study of Zen could find no better preparation than to learn Focusing.
Focusing was first articulated by the psychologist, Dr. Eugene Gendlin, in the 1960′s. It is a simple method that helps ordinary people access and be with their feelings, especially difficult feelings, part of the self-understanding necessary for the “letting go” in Zen. It also teaches how to access one’s “body knowing” (as opposed to “head knowing”) on an ongoing basis as a primary source of trusting oneself. Another word for “body knowing” is “experiential knowing” which is the “knowing” of Zen.
Dr. Gendlin writes: “Focusing guides you to the deepest level of awareness within your body. It is on this level, unfamiliar to most people, that unresolved problems actually exist, and only on this level can they change.”
Accessing this deep level of awareness, accessing the richness and complexity of the relative self through the doorway of feelings, learning to see that difficult feelings are not what they seem to be but rather are guides into the truth of who we are, is the work of Focusing.
Focusing is not Zen but because it is so close to the process we follow in zazen, it is exceptionally helpful as a tool to assist us in the ultimate work of Zen, which is the surrender of self. As Professor David Fontana writes: “One needs to have a strong self in order to have the resources to go beyond it.” Focusing helps us realize this strong self.
-Sensei Janet Jiryu Abels
Please also refer to the Newsletter article of January 2005 on “Zen and Focusing”
Sensei Janet Abels, a certified Focusing teacher from the Institute for Bio-Spiritual Research.
Julia McEvoy, senior jitsu, a certified Focusing teacher from The Focusing Institute.
Dates of Workshops:
April 27, 2013 11:30 am – 5:30 pm
Returning Focusers $35.00
To register call Still Mind Zendo at 212– 414-3128.