In this age of emails, cell phones, satellites and instant messaging, there is one critical form of communication we tend to ignore. Its voice is soft but insistent. Its message is wise and loving; and it can tell us how to lead better, less stressed-out lives. We will find that voice deep inside the wisdom of our "knowing bodies."
According to Virginia Matter, a Benedictine Sister, our bodies hold the fundamental truth of who we are – not who we think we are, or who we’re trying to be – but the core person destined to live an authentic, more peaceful life. "Unfortunately," she adds, "we rarely stop and listen to what our body is trying to tell us."
Matter teaches a tool called "focusing," which re-awakens our ability to listen to, and be guided by, our body’s wisdom. This tool evolved in the 1960s when Eugene Gendlin (a student of Carl Rogers) discovered that true psychological healing and wholeness took place when clients dealt with emotions in a special way; that is, by feeling them physiologically.
His studies showed traumatic experiences don’t necessarily cause psychological pain. It’s ignoring how our bodies carry that traumatic experience, or the felt meaning of that experience that keeps us stuck. Being stuck, he said, is the source of that psychological pain.
While Gendlin was figuring out what makes a person psychologically healthy, Edwin McMahon and Peter Campbell, priest-psychologists, were figuring out what made a person spiritually healthy. They explored Gendlin’s "focusing" technique and found that the body’s ability to experience felt meaning was also a primal bridge that led people to "Spirit."
So McMahon and Campbell expanded "focusing" to include the component of "grace" (or spontaneous gift) and called it Bio-Spiritual Focusing. The Bio-Spiritual focusing technique is described as follows:
It is learning to listen to the "story" in what you feel.
It is stopping and paying attention to what is going on inside.
It is connecting with the body life of your own spirit.
It is being congruent so you live from the inside out, rather than taking direction from the outside.
It is a way of moving out of your head and inward into your body to listen, notice and gently let the message unfold.
It’s a practical process anyone can follow.
It is easily taught to both adults and children and becomes a powerful tool for nurturing human wholeness and healthy relationships.
"Bio-Spiritual focusing," Matter explains, "reawakens our ability to be guided by our body’s wisdom into greater wholeness. It is more than just thinking or feeling. It is felt-sensing the unique personal messages about our feelings that come from deep inside."
Matter explained the difference between feeling and felt-sensing.
"Feelings lead us to our body’s wisdom, or the felt sense," she said. "That’s why feelings are so important, even the painful ones. They guide us to our next step, which leads us into the body-life of Spirit. When we are troubled or tense, our body already holds the key to healing – long before our minds can even comprehend it. By tapping into this hidden resource, we can find answers to personal problems or troubling situations."
As an example, she describes coming into contact with an angry person. "That person leaves some negative energy behind, so I focus on how it affects my body. I listen to my inner truth and begin to see this experience as a friend and not an enemy. I listen to how my body responded and gently nurture myself."
Bio-Spiritual focusing opens the door to the profound wisdom we carry inside. It is a bridge that connects us to our inner gifts which, in turn, hold the keys to healing and a happier life.
A retreat on "Listen Deeply: Bio-Spiritual Focusing Basics" will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday, January 24, at the Benedictine Center in Maplewood, Minn. It will be led by Virginia Matter, OSB, and Joanne Dehmer, SSND, certified teachers in Bio-Spiritual Focusing. The $105 cost includes lunch, materials and a certificate. To register, or for more information, go to www.stpaulsmonastery.org and follow the Benedictine Center link; or call 651.777.715