The power of slowness, pausing and “resonating”

I don’t know about others, but I have a tendency to be some kind of “induced” or “influenced”, maybe, by the quickness and efficiency demands of my everyday life. It’s like those are embedded in my being somehow, which also makes me want to make changes to myself “quickly”, in a way. So I need frequent reminders in many situations, to slow down, pause, and “resonate” with “myself”, or “my inner knowing”, or “the sense of meaning”.

In this post, I will describe some of the slowing down that we try to do with Focusing/Felt Sensing, which entails this particular process of “resonating”.

For those who do not yet know this process called Focusing, I am hoping this might also be a worthwhile practice to try out for yourself: slowing down, pausing and resonating with what, then, comes to be felt inside.

For those who already know Focusing (myself included) I am writing this because it seems I need to frequently remind myself, as well as my students, about that very powerful thing in the Focusing process called “resonating”.

I actually think it is powerful and important both when we listen to others and when we listen to ourselves. I don’t think “resonating” is only for the Focuser, or Felt-Senser, as I like to name it.

What IS “resonating” in a Focusing/Felt Sensing context?

So, what does it mean then, in the Focusing/Felt Sensing context, to “resonate”? As I understand it, it’s about taking real, slow time (maybe a few minutes), to slowly and deliberately tap, taste, check with, what we’re in contact with, to see if it responds well to our contact with it. And to see if we’re “really getting it”.

The point of “really getting it”? See below.

There are many ways to “pause” or slow down in life; meditation or mindfulness being, but in Felt Sensing or Focusing it isn’t the pausing or slowing down itself that is the goal. It is the staying in contact with what it allows; the allowing our inner experience to “talk back” to us, the trusting that there is a “knowing more” somewhere inside of me (More about this can be found in Gendlin’s book “Focusing” from 1978/2003).

I think this probably entails both the ability to generally “pause” and slow down, and to even pause whatever else might be knocking on the door for want of attention, for a moment. So that we can “zoom in on” or “focus on” one thing at a time.

NB! Maybe the particular speciality about this method called Focusing, in addition, is that we are letting the process decide what wants to “go first”, instead of deciding it from some kind of “should” or from wanting to go in a particular direction. The process itself decides the direction!

Therefore I think that also the Listener (With-Senser) can benefit from “resonating” – it will be easier to connect with and follow the process, and allow the process to teach us where it wants to go.

Maybe this is a superfluous description to a Focuser, but I find it helpful to read and write about the process, and if you’re new to Focusing it might be especially interesting to read this next section:

A few words about the Focusing or Felt Sensing process

So the Focusing or Felt Sensing process (usually) starts with a “going in”. We might even say that we’re “pausing” the regular stream of thoughts to connect with something “more” or “below”. For some, it helps to direct their attention to their “body”, whereas for others, that word doesn’t work, so it could be “inside”, or “where more knowing is, or “inside me”, that works better.

To do this, we might say something like: “I’m checking inside (in my body) what wants my attention right now”, or: “I am attending inwardly and I’m checking what’s in the way of me feeling all fine”.

And then we wait…

And maybe we’re refreshing that same sentence, or trying out another one, until something from inside starts to form. Something we can feel and be in touch with.

Pausing, directed openness, patience, waiting and slowness are very important here.

So we wait….

Let’s say what comes is an emotion. Usually I know what an emotion is, and what I’d usually call it, as it comes. It might be frustration, anger, fear, etc.

An drawing of a figure with their eyes closed, hand on something unclear, arrows describing resonating between description and something unclear. The person has an figure has an orange body, and is inside a green frame

So here comes the “resonating”: When I am in contact with whatever comes, let’s for instance say it’s what I would usually call “anger”, I (1) notice that very thing: that I would usually call it anger, and then (2) I resonate with that place: I “take” the word “anger”, and I sort of “give it back” to where I feel “it”.

Then I carefully, openly, slowly, interestedly and non-judgementally, allow it to let me know if that’s what it is. And I wait for an “answer” from what is there (the so far called “anger). And then I let “it” correct me! And it usually does – there will be more than just that word to describe it, and IT lets me know.

The resonating and slowness are at the core here – there is (a) “me”, there is (b) the “it” (emotion or whatever it is”), and there is (c) what it is “called”. And I check with it if the word FITS FOR IT. I am allowing the process, the “body”, my inner knowing to let me know what or who it really is or feels.

If I can do that, if I can make that kind of pause, and take my time to really check, i.e. resonate, for as long as it takes for the bodily reaction of:

  • a deeper breath
  • an inner stirring
  • an inner “yes”
  • an inner “aha!”

…to come: That is just a really big step in itself! It is the very “getting it” that happens. And that has the benefit of me becoming bigger, lighter, more self-compassionate, more self-understanding, more compassionate towards the other person, and it allows for what is there “to move toward its rightness” (Gendlin, Focusing p. 86).

And for the other person in the partnership, the Listener or With-Senser, I believe that allowing both the description and the “feel of” what the Focuser/Felt Senser is in contact with, to resonate in them, will be helpful for:

  • the Listener feeling part of the process,
  • the listener trusting the process more,
  • the Focuser really feeling the Listener there with them,
  • so that their own pausing, slowness, openness, patience is strengthened,
  • so that there’s a larger sense of space, because what’s there is in the space of “us”,
  • the process being more of a “we” or “us” makes it more of a human connectedness, which has a very particular kind of safety to it,
  • safety, which will possibly make the process less stuck and move “faster” towards its rightness

I tend to (and I notice my students tend to) forget to do the process slowly enough, which to me means to really take the time to resonate with what’s there. Even in a Focusing Session when my listener reflects my words. That’s why I wanted to write this little post about it to remind myself. Again. Maybe it is helpful for you too 🙂

If you’re still with me, here is a little bit about listening to others in everyday life.

What would “resonating” mean when we listen to someone in everyday life?

When someone tells us of a worry in everyday life, it could be that they are sick, have too much to do, worry about a family member or friend, don’t know how to do something, have too many demands on them, are tired and burnt out, etc. etc.

Most of us have a tendency to skip right to what someone could or should do about it. And of course, that is sometimes very helpful, but can sometimes also be quite the opposite. (Read my post about being weary of being told to think positively)

One way we can really help someone, maybe especially if they do give some kind of description of what it is like for them right now, is to take in the words they’re using, and give them back to the person to “check” if that fits. To me that could be thought of as a “double resonating”. I, as a listener am allowing the words to “resonate in me”, with a place of caring and empathy, and then I give the back (as best as I can), so that the originator gets an invitation to check against how they feel/felt, and so they can “correct” or go on to the next description.

“So, what I think I’m hearing you say is that you’re really worried [… you/your friend/familiy member/boss…] might […whichever description was made]. And that (maybe) makes you feel something like… […repeating feeling/emotion words, or even suggesting how you yourself might feel at the prospect]”. And then we wait and see.

Granted, some people might not respond well to this, and might feel it’s artificial, and if they do, you can just say something like “Sorry, that didn’t do much for you, just ignore that” and do something else, like offer a solution or whatever else may seem more appropriate.

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