A memory isn’t just a thought image, but a unique, bodily-felt-experience

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The other day I saw one of the many videos on Facebook with nature experiences that people share. It was a video of some Mobula Rays swimming in synchronicity with a wave washing onto a sunny shore. In an instance it was as if I was there, as if I could smell the sea, hear the waves and feel the warm sun. Sigh…

But there was also something more, a kind of specific, kind of undefinable inner feeling or sense in my chest and belly. As if the colours and memories could be felt there, quite bodily. This bodily sense, if I pause there and sense it and I’m open to more, is many facetted, it has innumerable details, memories, feelings and thoughts in it. I have of course never been on that particular beach, so what I felt and remembered, wasn’t it, but maybe a different or many other beaches I’ve been to.

One particular beach I’ve been to, the restaurant I always had my dinner in, the people there, my twisted ankle, the sense of freedom, the feeling of “holiday”, the sense of warmth infusing my very bones, the waitresses smile, the taste of salt water, the dancing in a restaurant on the top of a hill, the smell of the airport bus, the feeling of being on my way. That particular sense of being far away from home, the sand on my skin, the laughter in the pool, the island I went to some years before that, the wind out there, the steep path down to the bay, the feeling of my muscles tensing in that particular way of walking down a steep path, the strength it takes to walk it back up, lying on my back in the ocean, the light feeling of the waves carrying me, the openness of the horison. I could’ve written page upon pace with everything that comes flooding back, probably even several books!

Our memories aren’t purely thoughts, or detached thought images floating inside our heads or in our brains, they have a bodily anchoring through our senses, like taste, hearing, sound. And at the same time there’s more, something different, more indefinable, more many faceted. Who could for instance create a universal description of, or say in one single word, the pretty specific, special feeling of “being on holiday a long way from home in the heat, with sea and sand, at that particular hotel, with those specific people, in just that many degrees for exactly that many days++++”? THAT is a very specific, unique, bodily-felt-experience that can open and open and open infinitly. Which is completely different from how the body “has” the sense of “looking out on the silence of a still fjord with light fresh show on the seaweed and on the stones on a short and minus degree cold winters day with the sun coming through a light layer of clouds mirrored on the sea of pink, icy blue, white and my breath becomes steam”.

This bodily-felt-experience was coined “Felt Sense” by Eugene Gendlin, who then created Focusing to help us access this Felt Sense more easily, so we could contact it and work through difficult emotions, or be more connected with ourselves and others, or feel the good feelings more deeply when they come.

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