Skip to main content

Meeting at the EdgeFocusing in the Body‑Centered Professions:


A Report From Ischia, Italy May 14 to 17, 2007

Co–sponsored by The Focusing Institute

“Our bodies do our living… Our bodies don’t lurk in isolation behind the five peepholes of perception: we act from the bodily sense of each situation.” —Gene Gendlin

Body–centered practices and the self–discovery process known as Focusing share a special resonance for reaching deeply into personal process. This workshop was intended for professionals interested in integrating Focusing with our own body–centered therapies: body–work, yoga, movement therapy and dance, acupuncture, body–oriented or experiential psychotherapy, and related disciplines.

Organising Board: We formed as a group out of the Focusing and Body–work/Movement Interest Group that first met at the Focusing International Conference in Costa Rica in 2004 and continued to meet at subsequent Focusing Internationals. We are: Jack Blackburn (US); Francesca Castaldi (US/Italy); Claudia Conza (Switzerland); Nicoletta Corsetti (Italy); Mathias Dekeyser (Belgium); Larry Hurst (US/UK); Stephen Scholle (US).

At the workshop: Forty–seven of us gathered on the beautiful island of Ischia, coming from the Unites States, Ireland, Greece, Belgium, France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and not least Italy. We came together with a fierce desire for sharing and experimentation, reaching to the tender and vulnerable spots in our work, trusting in our willingness to nurture each other.

Here you will find a still in–process report consisting of:

Focusing, Creativity, and Person–Centered Democracy in Group Settings. By Francesca Castaldi, as published in The Focusing Connection Vol. XXIV, No.5 September 2007

Can a professional conference be truly stimulating of creativity and collaboration for all the participants? Or is it just a place for presenters to showcase already completed work? When we were organizing the workshop/conference Meeting at the Edge: Focusing in the Body–centered Professions that took place on the island of Ischia, Italy in May 2007, we asked ourselves this question. Here is something of the process–structure that we used because it can be applied to other professional meetings and group contexts.

What is meant by process–structure? It is a framework that helps structure interactions during a meeting, a conference, or a gathering. A process–structure directs our attention to ways of generating and processing information: like Focusing itself the emphasis is not on content, but on process. In formulating the process–structure for our professional meeting at Ischia we asked: what kind of process(es) can best facilitate not only the presentation of projects and ideas already well–established, but the very creation of new possibilities generated by meeting with other professionals? Read more

Back to Top

Workshops Descriptions:

Body Mapping (Steve Scholle)

This workshop was a presentation and exploration of Steve Scholle’s work on the web platform The Body of Information. Steve presented one model from the site providing participants a step–by–step means of entering more deeply their felt–sense and felt–shift. Participants were given sheets of poster paper to draw a body figure. Then, at each step they labeled and drew their experiences on the figure. In this way they mapped their way into their emergent experience.

For more information please go to

Body Shape and Meaning: Focusing and Bioenergetics (Nicoletta Corsetti and Emmy Parisi)

This presentation has been inspired by the work of Stanley Keleman, author of the book “Embodying Experience”. From the recognition and the exploration of the body shape, we went into a Focusing process revealing the meanings implicitly carried by it.

First part: the whole group comes into grounding according the bioenergetics principles, each person coming in contact with their own bodily shape.

Second part: individuals draw the outline of their body, with arrows, lines, colours and words.

Third part: each person chooses the most significant element, such as the muscular pattern shaping the whole body, or the most important element in the felt body or the whole felt sense, and focuses in pairs.

Fourth part: final sharing and short introduction to the possibility of a much more articulated work.

Nicoletta Corsetti
Emma Parisi

Contactful Focusing (Francesca Castaldi and Larry Hurst)

Francesca tells participants of how she has envisioned using the Focusing process to put into dialogue the ethics of weight sharing and touching from the practices of Contact Improvisation and Shiatsu bodywork. Such vision was stimulated into concrete form during the Netherlands Focusing international (2006) when she was receiving a Focusing oriented Shiatsu session from Larry. Toward the end of the session she started to move and that brought surprise to Larry who nevertheless continued the session. The present work is a more deliberate continuation of that process.

Francesca verbally presents the score she has designed to further the exploration:

  • Person A is the Focuser and the Mover.
  • Person B is the Companion and Body–worker.

Larry and Francesca demonstrate the score including talking only as it pertains to the session itself. They then ask participants what they observed and are open to questions. They perform another demonstration, this time making the process more transparent by verbalizing what they are attending to. They welcome more questions from participants. Participants explore the score themselves, in the role of A and B. Participants report on their experiences and ask questions.

Francesca Castaldi
Larry Hurst

Focusing Attitude (Claudia Conza)

“Different energies flow to a meeting point where they share being and presence. There is a ‘listening within and without’ in a non–judgmental, compassionate and maybe loving way, accepting but not knowing what will come (Edge.) There is a trust that the right thing will come and an openness toward all possibilities.”

This idea came to me when I Focused on what MAE means to me as one of the organizers. I realized that this is my attitude not only when I work with clients in a Focusing session but also when I give Esalen Massages or do other bodywork and even when I teach. “Wow, this is the Focusing attitude the way I experience it/is it true for me, too?” were my thoughts. I believe that the Focusing attitude creates a special field where we can experience others and ourselves as holistic beings. Read more

Focusing e Linguaggio dell'Unione: dal Felt Sense alla Presenza (Rosanna Camerlingo)

In questo workshop attraverso il movimento, la postura ogni partecipante è entrato in contatto con il proprio felt sense. Abbiamo usato poco il linguaggio verbale, poichè la scelta era quella di simbolizzare il felt sense soprattutto attraverso il linguaggio corporeo. Dopo aver esplorato insieme la simbolizzazione di ognuno, siamo passati dolcemente all’esercizio del Tao, proprio del linguaggio dell'Unione, per percepire e stabilizzarci nella Presenza e nella centralità. L’obiettivo del lavoro è quello di esplorare il proprio Felt sense e quindi identificarsi sempre più nella Presenza, sposando Il Focusing con il Linguaggio dell'Unione, per una percezione ed una consapevolezza sempre più sottili.

Rosanna Camerlingo

Focusing and Zen Meditation (Sidney Journò)

Si è fatta un’esperienza classica alla pari di focusing della durata complessiva circa di 40 minuti tra gli otto partecipanti. Successivamente si è fatta un esperienza collettiva di meditazione zen basata sulla consapevolezza della posizione del corpo seduto che respira. Poi c’è stata una condivisione di tutti i partecipanti dell’esperienza vissuta. Dopo ciò ho dato alcuni elementi filosofici e sul metodo della meditazione. Obbiettivo del conduttore è di verificare se l’esperienza previa di focusing favorisce l’approfondimento dello stato di consapevolezza della esperienza stessa di meditazione la sua qualità e intensità. L’ipotesi teorica da cui si è partito è che l’esperienza di focusing tramite l’attenzione alla sensazione percepita alleggerisca del vortice dei pensieri e aiutasse la percezione del corpo qui ora adesso nel momento presente creando condizioni di preparazione ottimali per entrare molto più rapidamente e intensamente nella meditazione zen ovvero la consapevolezza del corpo mente seduto nell’immobilità che respira che nel suo microcosmo esprime la vita in tutta la sua universalità. L’esperimento a mio giudizio dopo la condivisione ha avuto esito positivo perché si è riscontrato una consapevolezza del corpo mente intensa e profonda che per persone digiune di meditazione zen come lo erano tutti i partecipanti è inequivocabilmente una cosa nuova normalmente chi inizia un processo di meditazione per la prima volta arriva a tale qualità e intensità di consapevolezza. Confermo quindi la validità enorme del focusing come strumento di aiuto e sostegno ai processi meditativi.

Sidney Journò

Feldenkrais and Focusing (Brigitte Moretti)

Brigitte Moretti is interested in finding a way to enhance (motor) learning skills by combining Feldenkrais’ “awareness through movement” with the focusing practice used as a new starting level. During the workshop participants were first guided into a short time of attuning, sensing their bodies in space and in relation to gravity, sensing inside, their supporting parts and particularly their spines. The spine, and its peculiarity in orienting head and pelvis, upper and lower parts of ourselves in space, was the core theme of the ATM (Awareness Through Movement) lesson. The second part of the workshop was dedicated to focusing processes in pairs. Unfortunately after that, time for feedback was very short and each one could only share a first impression.

Brigitte Moretti

Ginnastica Posturale e Riequilibrio Energetico Integrato con il Focusing (Olga Pasquini)

Il Focusing, introdotto nel lavoro corporeo che faccio sia con i gruppi che individualmente, si è rivelato uno strumento efficace per ottenere una espressione verbale che si avvicini sempre più a ciò che viene sentito.

Tipicamente, il lavoro così come l’ho impostato, si articola in sei fasi:

  • una prima fase di “sintonizzazione” con il proprio corpo (riassumendo con una parola ciò che si percepisce di se);
  • una fase successiva in cui si disegna su un foglio di carta una figura umana
  • una terza fase di lavoro articolata in diversi esercizi fatti con palle di gommapiuma e corpo a terra (procedendo dalla testa e scendendo fino al sacro);
  • nella quarta fase, anche questa di sintonizzazione, si ascolta il proprio corpo dopo il lavoro;
  • una quinta fase si riprende il disegno, osservandolo e completandolo
  • nella sesta fase si realizzano processi di focusing in coppia.

Olga Pasquini

Intimate Contact (Diana and Richard Daffner)

The Daffners presented a practice called “All of Me” that they teach to couples. Focusing experience is not required. With easy, guided instructions, this simple communication process, adapted from the Inner Relationship Focusing model of Ann Weiser Cornell, quickly creates cohesion and heightened loving presence. Participants paired off to practice and were pleased with the results.

More information about the Daffners work can be found at

Music Playing and Embodiment (Barbara Altwegg)

Barbara Altwegg organized this workshop as a way for music makers to tap their focusing process in their playing. It was a participatory exploration, where each of us had opportunities to deepen our playing as well as listening experience, and provide feedback to each other. Some breakthroughs were achieved. For instance, one participant who had relied on reading her music throughout her playing career was able to step back and play through her sense of the music, even if it meant improvising. She felt this was a new direction for her playing.

Barbara Altwegg

T'ai Chi (Diana and Richard Daffner)

The Daffners led a daily practice of T'ai Chi Chih, a meditative movement program that fosters balance, awakened energy and peaceful serenity.

Titles of workshops that were also presented:

  • Felt Community (Jack Blackburn and Robert Lee)
  • Four Legs and Two Hearts (Yvonne Meissner)
  • On Pain (Jack Blackburn)
Back to Top

Interest Group Descriptions:

The Psychotherapy and Touch Interest Group (Mathias Dekeyser)

We gathered daily (3 times) during the MAE event. Most participants identified as psychotherapists, a few as body workers; all participants identified as focusers.

  1. In the first meeting, we compared levels of experience in using touch in psychotherapy/counselling, toyed around with indications and contra–indications for touch, bringing to the foreground differences between therapeutic orientations. The first meeting left participants unsatisfied, and a few participants hesitated to stay in this group. Two participants simply decided to leave.
  2. In the next meeting our group made a turn towards our felt senses. We made room for feelings of hesitance to use touch in psychotherapy, as well as a longing to get more at ease with it. We recognized our interaction in the first meeting as the typical kind of discussion you get when you put a few psychotherapists together to talk freely about touch in psychotherapy. For some of us touch had been forbidden explicitly or implicitly, during training or at work. The idea of being “allowed to touch” brought up strong feelings. The group then decided to experiment freely with touch in pairs or triads and to report to the group afterwards. Basically, after these experiments, everyone felt satisfied, safe, and supported in their ability to use touch in therapy. The value of clients touching themselves was also recognized. The energy in the group was so strong, that all participants of this second meeting (only) were invited by the Irish participants to come to Ireland in 2008. There they would devote a weekend to do more free experimenting with the use of touch in focusing/counseling/psychotherapy.
  3. In a final meeting — where all of the initial participants re–united, we discussed the process of our group, and recognized that there are many colleagues who hesitate to use touch or even to talk about it. On the other hand, some bodyworkers feel uneasy about releasing strong emotions in their clients. Some participants took upon themselves the task of trying to soften the taboo of touch, and to help colleagues in using touch or in talking about touch in psychotherapy. We also wondered how we could join efforts in this “mission”. The issue was left open for discussion in Ireland, and/or on the next occasion of MAE.

During the closing ceremony we made a statement about our ability to work with our bodies, and our ability to go against ruling norms. We just piled up some chairs in the middle of the room, and together we physically expressed the crux of our experiences in this workgroup.

By Mathias Dekeyser

The Inner Voicing Interest Group (Larry Hurst)

The idea for this embryonic group grew out of earlier experiments in vocal toning carried out by the Bodywork and Movement Special Interest section of the Focusing Institute at two international focusing conferences.

In 3 meetings over the 3 days, our group stabilized at a total of 8 participants. We each experimented with the effect of granting ourselves permission, while self–focusing, to allow sounds – whatever their form – to emerge spontaneously from the inner depth of our felt senses. Physical movement and touch were neither ruled in nor out. Our aim was to find out how far we could benefit from the experience and whether there was anything we could convey to the MAE gathering as a whole. Read more

Bodywork Interest Group (Jack Blackburn and plenary notes)

Overview: There were about 16 persons in our group, representing quite a variety of bodywork modalities: massage, Feldenkrais, energy work including Reiki, Therapeutic Touch, Massage, Trager, Shiatsu, Craniosacral, Esalen, Somatics, and others. A number of those participating are bodywork teachers as well as Focusing Trainers. We presented our modalities to one another including some exchanges. This is one of the first gatherings where teachers of different modalities presented what they do with clients and why. We also talked about how we combine our work with Focusing. Many of us also presented our own workshops. We were all interested in how we individually combined the principles of Focusing in our sessions with bodywork clients.

What We Explored, Learned and Discovered about Bodywork Focusing

  • Focuser (the one receiving) is in charge of the session.
  • In a Focusing Partnership plus bodywork we found some challenges with staying with the Focusing process
  • How do Focusing and bodywork work with inexperienced clients:
    • How aware one is with their body affects the work
    • Can persons without Focusing experience or body awareness still lead themselves into process?
    • Less focusing experience makes it more difficult to work
    • Agenda of client: when client tells you what to do, with their own agenda – makes it difficult:
    • On–going questioning about bolstering, warmth, comfort, etc., may help keep the client become somatically aware, even before learning to Focus:
  • Verify the contract in the beginning; what is the goal?
  • It is challenging to the practitioner when the client comes only for pain relief and comfort– not wanting words:
  • Combining Focusing and bodywork is new and a partnership setting, instead of a client setting makes this easier to see both functioning:
  • We are having to work with a new paradigm — a team approach between practitioner and client.
  • Only the client knows (can have access to) the client’s full (subjective) story — this is what makes them equal to the practitioner. The practitioner only sees the symptoms:
  • We bring the person into their whole process.
  • The work begins before the client comes to you; by choosing the right words you create an openness to change:
  • Practitioner and client must be on the same page in terms of motivation
  • Focusing as a tool may sometimes not be appropriate — eg. Client uses the time for safe touch
  • Touch can be non–verbal focusing.

Principles for Bodywork Focusing

  • Using touch in a Focusing way
  • Using Touch to reflect
  • Using Touch to listen
  • Using Touch to meet
  • Metaphor — different techniques; also to use through reflected words and also in the physical body
  • Power of touch creates touch
  • Tool for combining bodywork with Focusing
  • Different metaphors create different body effects
  • We are always tuning and refining for the process
  • We are always refining–not leading with our reflecting words. We may be in a pre–verbal space here.
  • The body reveals the process.
Read more

Titles of interest groups that were also formed:

  • Body–work and Focusing
  • Focusing and Touch
  • Focusing and Music
  • Movement Awareness
Back to Top

General Reports by Participants:

Brigitte Moretti:

Here I go. Traveling back home. A nurtured overall sensation. Despite the fatigue. It is impossible to start telling anything about this magic experience, without welcoming and giving space to a profound sense of gratefulness towards all of you organizers.

Yes, I think you succeeded in creating a setting/context where each one of us could be welcomed and welcoming, listening and expressing, meeting oneself and meeting the others from inside, nourishing one another,supporting a process which, I think, can only be and develop as an individual and common pathway if it includes diversities. Maybe that is why a word shows up again right now: inclusive. It was to me an “inclusive meeting”, not an exclusive one, like I'm used to attend normally.

There is also an image that arises, now, connected to the departure. Everyone of the group since yesterday afternoon left Villa Spadara, Ischia, some left Italy, some Europe … and we are bound to so many different places in many different directions: it could be rays shining from a central point, a sun, a star…and, if I stay with it, it becomes an Aikido Master ready to move in any direction, or just doing a somersault in his wide trousers.

Barbara Altwegg:

I experienced the 3 days as one big focusing. The team never seamed to drag anyone really anywhere, we all circulated in a natural and smooth way, there was always space for everybody, one never had to necessarily follow any other one. So this process–oriented sensitive happening grew more and more into a materializing shape and I felt more and more reached, affected, met and meeting, seen and seeing.

In my own workshop with the violin a wonderful shift took place (thanks, Steve, once again, for taking me off the hook at the beginning). I found the solution on how to play the instrument smilingly and happily, far away from the ‘old ways’ of Bach and Haendel. Sylvie who participated in the workshop even wants me to come and smile in Paris….

On the level of experimental groups the most powerful experience was the presentation or our sound research result. Out of an utterly chaotic, ill–sounding (I once had to flee the cacophony) and self–centered heap we were able to move together into a very powerful, common direction with an amazing beauty. So I think once more that chaos and order need each other and that this kind of experimenting would not have been positive for less experienced and less stable people, or then with a clearer structure.

I have of course many many memories of Ischia. The extraordinary place for a start, with so extraordinary people working there to study positive methods of farming — this emphasised the comfort if felt already, it gave me air and space as well, and a down to earth friendliness, a kind of peace in my heart.

The look out of the bedroom window was like on a cheating prospect: there was only grass outside my window and a lovely view onto the sea. The moonlight glittered on the water and I knew Capri was just around the corner. — The beds were marginal and there could have been more blankets around, but never mind!! I slept well! I suppose for a low budget the food was rich, but slightly boring — but never mind!! I didn’t starve!! The expressos at the bar tasted heavenly and that you can only have in Italy.

Ischia will affect my work more and more. Not only could I experiment whether focusing was a tool for any instrumentalist (it is a skill which also one has to carefully think how to integrate.) Having had the opportunity in Ischia of watching and assisting such a large number of people from so many professions and ages and have the common denominator of focusing, not only relates me better with my surrounding and the universe, but makes me more loving at times.

Polyxeni Koutla:

At first, I was surprised and then anxious and suspicious about the way the whole event was about to be, because I was not used to participate in meetings without any kind of agenda (ok, my prior experience of “fixed scheduled” events interfered and triggered also a bit of self–doubt on the choice I made to participate). Then, while the organization committee was explaining the way the everyday schedule would be formed, I could not figure it out using my imagination and that triggered a familiar feeling of self–inadequacy. The need to control came across with the face of helplessness!

But all the above was put aside as soon as collective action was taken in order to find our way. THEN IT WAS THE MIRACLE — still now I cannot analyze mentally the wise and gentle way of everything taking its place and leaving the process to do it’s job! I can say:

  • I was amazed of the variety of themes (workshops and interest groups).
  • I found myself wanting to experience everything but because of workshops given at the same time, I felt so sorry for the ones I lost and enthusiastic about the ones I chose and manage to participate in. I also realized how difficult it was for me to prioritize.
  • I felt the amount of time given for the workshop was so wise because: 1. The information and experience was so touching and intense for me, I surely needed time to absorb it (experiencing that in the form of bodily tiredness). So many things were happening in me that I needed time to embrace them and make room for them. Especially after being “the model” for Anastasia’s workshop and felt the whole therapeutic process from the point of the client (yawning was my way to express the tension release).

In general:

  • It was the first time in my life experiencing in such a number of participants the absence of antagonistic stance and self–promotion. On the contrary, I was experiencing simplicity (expressed even in the way of dressing for example I co–lived with so few women wearing make–up!), the willingness to give (thank you Ruth!) and share and experience — either as a participant or as an experimenter or even as a focusing partner according to needs. The experimenters showed so much humbleness — especially taking our feedback (for example Sidney, Jack and Robert). I could say I was given the image of a flock of birds from all over the world meeting to promote humanitarian help to their local nests…
  • I learned many things for myself (than you Jack also!) and felt the shift in all the workshops I participated, although I admit I was trying to avoid the agonies flying with me from Greece there in the island of Ischia! But this happened in an unexpected way, all that answers and inward realizations (now I can say that touching is so tricky !!!)
  • I felt very happy because I found people to believe in the inner wisdom of our “bodies” (oh, thank you Robert and Yvon!).
  • Also all who tried to combine focusing with any kind of body–work made me more sure about my therapeutic stance. That is so rare in Greece, I was feeling so lonely — now I belong to the flock of birds I mentioned above — and that gives me the motive to try to keep working on it either through that kind of combined work or promoting it through articles and so (I hope I’ll have to tell you more about it in the near future!!!).
  • It was also for me the opportunity to “remember” my material body especially through the “getting to know” with the Villa on the first day, using all our senses, something that brought me back to my childhood where everything was so new and I was so willing to focus on everything!! That “going back” is so important for a person like me who lives in a big city!! It brings me back a lost harmony — the harmony of my human nature!

Furthermore, the Villa itself was so beautiful (ok, I admit I will miss the cakes!!!) — the perfect place for such an event. Also, the fact that we were the only residents there, made me be more focused on myself and the experience of the meeting — a little vacation to an earthy paradise!! Moreover the travel information was so helpful (I came all alone there) and also the way responsibilities were divided.

Finally, I would like to thank all the participants, the organization committee and especially all the people I worked with — even if I do not mention them here, and I hope I’ll have the chance to meet you all again in the future. Also I would like to tell you I am sorry I could not talk at the last meeting we had but I was feeling so touched of the whole experience I could not say a word on how important was for me to share it with you!

Modalities Informing the Work of Participants (Other Than Focusing):

  • Acupuncture
  • Bioenergetics
  • Behavior Therapy (e.g. EMDR)
  • Contact Improvisation
  • Cranio–sacral therapy
  • Esalen Massage
  • Feldenkrais
  • Gestalt Therapy
  • Ginnastica Postulare
  • QiGong
  • Person–Centered Psychotherapy
  • Psychodynamic Psychotherapy
  • Riequilibrio Energetico
  • Shiatzu
  • Shakuhachi Playing
  • Tango
  • Tai Chi Chuan
  • Trager body–work
  • Union Technique
  • Violin Playing
  • Voice Improvisation and Toning
  • Zen Meditation
Back to Top

This page was last modified on 01 January 2012