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What’s Different And Important About Community Wellness Focusing?

Jill Drummond

Several things seem important to me as I’ve learned about Community Focusing:

1. No Single “Right” Way: There are many ways to teach focusing, many approaches to communicating the essence of focusing. There is no one right way, and we can freshly find new ways. The teaching of Focusing can include skits, humor, creative arts, writing, and much more.

2. Teaching a “community” that already exists: We are not usually teaching individuals who come together, unknown to each other, to take a class. We’re teaching a group of people who already have some common sense of “we-ness.” They share a common “culture”, in some sense of that word. So it’s about individuals as well as the community as a whole.

3. Cultural Context: By considering the culture into which we are offering focusing (another country, a sub-culture in our own country, like the medical profession, a religious group, an artistic group, etc.) we can find more appropriate ways to teach. We want people to “have” Focusing in a way that’s most helpful to them.

In the 1960’s, the original focusing teaching was done within a university context, hence a certain approach to training that fit with an academic environment. Other approaches may fit other communities better.

It helps to find ways to connect what we are teaching to things that are familiar in the “culture” we’re teaching into. Rumi’s Guest House poem was perfect for Afghanistan. Besides metaphors, finding links to things that are familiar within that community can be very important. For example, for the medical community, there is a book called The Immune Power Personality, by Henry Dreher, written in 1995. It has a section on Focusing. The book is about “traits” (I think they are better described as “skills”) that research has shown lead to higher immune function.

We also try to draw out what people are already doing that is a piece or aspect of Focusing. They can see that they already know something about this.

4. Metaphors: For a long time I’ve believed that a metaphor functions very much like a felt-sense. In a metaphor, many meanings and an intricacy of detail come to us all at once in a felt way. It contains much more than we can list and say in words, yet conveys a rich sense of meaning. Our body recognizes it. So the search for culturally-appropriate metaphors (like Rumi’s “Guest House”) is important.

5. Collaboration: This is a collaborative form of teaching, not a “top-down” model. Each group is a “learning community” and collaborates with the facilitators/trainers in discovering their own metaphors. The whole group finds ways to adapt what the trainers offer to their own particular community or culture.

6. Focusing as a skill set: Focusing can be shared as a “skill set”, with component skills learned in a way that busy community people can get small bits at a time. People can practice and experiment with the skills at home, during the week between classes. Each skill has value on its own, so even if a person only gets a few, and they don’t really get the whole of Focusing, they have something useful. When combined, Focusing skills have much greater power. Examples of such skills are: pausing, turning attention inward, listening in silence, acknowledging or “saying hello” to something sensed inwardly, finding a felt sense of the whole situation, resonating (checking the description against the felt sense, etc.)

 7. “______ and Focusing”: We can start with learning what this particular community needs most, and find ways to address that need while also teaching Focusing. In Afghanistan, the communities needed to learn about psychosocial wellness and resiliency, because there were few clinical services available for one-to-one counseling. In El Salvador, people had a need for non-violent ways of relating to one another. Focusing was introduced through first teaching the basics of Non-Violent Communication. In other communities, different things would be combined with Focusing, to meet the community’s unique needs. The teaching can be adapted to blend other important concepts and material with Focusing.

8. The emphasis is on wellness and resiliency, not pathology. We support people in learning skills to become more resilient, find their own forward directions, develop a more loving relationship with themselves and with others in their life. Together we discover what people are already doing well in order to be healthy and resilient. There’s little mention of pathology and “trauma.” In the same way that learning about healthy lifestyles (nutrition, exercise, not smoking) can prevent illness, community wellness focusing can be thought of as a “healthy lifestyle” for our way of being with ourselves and with others.

9. Passing It On: Focusing can be passed on immediately as it is learned, in small ways. Since it is based on an innate, human capacity, everyone can learn how to access it, and we can teach it to one another. We don’t have to wait until we are certified teachers before we share what we understand of Focusing with our neighbors, friends, family.

10. Humor: (This is not specific to Community Wellness Focusing, but I first saw it used within this context.) People learn a lot when they’re laughing. Humor involves several things: taking a larger view, seeing something in fresh or surprising ways, appreciating paradox and irony, recognizing one’s self in something universal. These take us outside our habitual ways of being with ourselves and bring new possibilities. Having fun, being playful at times, helps the learning.


This page was last modified on 08 February 2011