Self-care is always an option

I am often so caught up in problem solving (or problem not-solving) I forget there’s always the option of noticing my inner suffering and making a compassionate turn toward self care. Does this sound at all familiar?

We tend to fixate on what is outside us–my partner’s behavior, my financial woes, a confusing dilemma–in part because we have a felt urgency pushing us to find a solution. It’s worth taking the time to bring  raw urgency itself into awareness and to gently sit next to it, like a friend on a park bench. If we are really in pain we can learn to see our pain as something to which we can relate, rather than as the whole of our experience during a troubled period. Often this simple shift in process is enough to turn down the heat under our troubles.

This practice requires awareness of a particular kind. It is neither diving into the suffering nor pushing it away. What I’m suggesting is more like holding our suffering/pain/urgency before us, touching the outside of it, acknowledging, oh, yes, that’s there, there’s a “something” in my experiential field. It’s a subtler and more liberating movement than “getting in touch with our feelings.” Gene Gendlin has spent a lifetime illuminating this practice, which he calls Focusing. I encourage my clients to keep this “experiential focusing”  near the top of their tool chest.

The first movement in Focusing–the way Gene teaches it– is clearing a space. If we do nothing more than clear a space for ourselves, and negotiate a conscious distance from our inner objects (some heaviness in my gut, a tight jumpy place around my heart, that steel rod in my throat) there’s much to be gained. See if you can let go of rushing to conquer that which is causing you discomfort and make space for being with the discomfort itself, in gentle, curious awareness.

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