In this newsletter, we continue a new section called "Milestones" in which we are honoring all those who became Coordinators or Coordinators-in-Training in 2020. We began the Milestones section last month with the sad announcement of the death of Christel Kraft and her husband, Siegfried. This month, we have a tribute to her; please take time to read about this beloved member of our community who remained active with us right up until her death.
Eric Ma's article about Thinking at the Edge in Hong Kong evoked many feelings and memories in me. After the shocking US election of 2016, TIFI held some Zoom meetings for people to process their feelings. A Focuser from Hong Kong said to us, "When we see the chaos and upset in the USA, it makes us ask ourselves in Hong Kong: Why are we are fighting so hard for democracy?" It was moving and comforting to be on a call with someone -- literally on the other side of the planet -- who was engaged in a struggle both very different from mine and at the same time so similar. It made manifest for me that humans share a kinship in our struggles not only as individuals but as communities and societies.
Eric Ma's beautiful reflection leaves me with an even more intense sense of connection with all those in Hong Kong striving to live meaningful, authentic lives for themselves and for their societies. It felt like he could be talking about my country when he said, "The people... were not only burdened by the pandemic, but by acute political crises as well."
The degeneration of democracy in my country, especially over the last 4 years, has had me asking myself again and again about what makes individuals fall into conspiracy theories, cultish groups, fabricated realities or, on the other hand, honesty, integrity, and "reality-based" thinking. I believe that the practice of Thinking at the Edge has an important role to play in finding the answers, especially at this moment in time. Eric Ma's article could not be better timed.
I met a woman the other day, a US citizen, who has left the United States permanently. She had been very politically active for many years, and "gave it her all," in her words. She felt that her state was so corrupt, that elections are so "rigged," that she no longer believes that democracy in her state is possible. Her preferred candidate won the national election, but in her state, she had lost all hope.
So often, in Focusing, we must welcome a loss of hope in order to find a new, more solid place in which to find the right way forward. So I try to remember not to beg myself or others to hold onto hope, but rather, to sense into the whole of a situation. What are we hanging onto, that perhaps we must let go? And what is there inside that calls us to say, "Here is a solid place to stand"?
Eric's article invites us to "answer the call of our time in a manner unique to each of us, embodied in our life, and embedded in the society at large." His beautiful turn of phrase reminded me of a recent Focusing interaction. When I was recently deeply discouraged about the state of affairs in the USA, I was on a call with a Focusing friend. She was with me in my despondency, and when it was her turn, she shared her perspective: "I feel like I was born to be alive at this time." Hearing that opened a new possibility for me -- that whatever political circumstance I am living, perhaps I was born just for this moment.
Wherever you are in the world, and whatever kind of society you find yourself in at this moment, my hope for you is that you have discovered (and are always discovering) the unique ways that you can live in ways that strengthen your own soul and the society you live in.
With warmest regards,
"Saying What We Mean"
on the work of Eugene T. Gendlin
April 8-11, 2021
co-sponsored with Seattle University (Seattle, WA, USA)
The Departments of Psychology and Philosophy at Seattle University, in partnership with The Gendlin Center of The International Focusing Institute, will be holding an online symposium advancing the work of Eugene Gendlin. We invite participants to explore the implications of Gendlin’s posthumous collection Saying What We Mean: Implicit Precision and the Responsive Order (2018). This extraordinary collection, edited by Edward Casey and Donata Schoeller, brings together a series of essays demonstrating Gendlin’s creative and insightful ability to balance conversations across a wide range of voices in philosophy and psychology.
The Weeklong is the flagship event of The International Focusing Institute, begun in 1979. It is intended for all those who are advanced in their practice of Focusing. It is a warm and intimate event, and features a certification ceremony.
This year, we encourage attendees (if it is feasible) to find a place to be away from home while attending the Weeklong online. If possible, arrange to be somewhere with great internet service which will allow you to be away from your everyday life, in order to have a retreat during the week.
Registration and pricing are not yet available for the Weeklong, but last year's cost was $500. Those recently certified will receive a $300 discount on the tuition. Scholarships are available through the Janet Klein scholarship program. Information on that will be sent out in spring 2021.
International Focusing Conference
June 22-26, 2022
(June 20 - 21, 2022 for Coordinators)
The 2022 International Focusing Conference will take place in beautiful Ardeche, France, at
Christine Groscarret of IFEF with Catherine Torpey at the 2019 IFEF Summer School
We began this new section of the newsletter last month. Here we will be announcing new Coordinators and new Coordinators-in-Training, and perhaps announcing other milestones in the community. We'll see how it develops! We felt it best to begin by congratulating all those who became Coordinators or Coordinators-in-Training during 2020.
New Coordinators in 2020
Patrizia Bonaca, Italy
Patrizia Bonaca is a Certified Focusing Trainer and Coach at Focusingdialogue. She is available for on line Focusing sessions and to follow international students for the basic, trainer and Coordinator level. To get an idea of her work visit: https://www.focusingdialogue.com/index.php/en/english/
Maria Dionisio, Italy
Maria Dionisio is a Certified Focusing Coordinator in the tradition of Inner Relationship Focusing. She is also a Somatorelazional Counselor and an Illustrator.
Camille Hiu-Ching Li,China
Camille Hiu-Ching Li is a Coordinator in Focusing and Certified Focusing Trainer in Children Focusing. She also has great interest in learning TAE (Thinking at the Edge).
Gaby Riveros, Chile
Gaby Riveros is the founder of Creative Agency Brill and author of Focusing and Creativity in Design (2019). She is also the Director of Focusing Chile Institute and Spanish Continental Focusing School (www.ecfe.cl).
Laura Talamoni, Italy
As a Focusing Trainer since 2006, Laura finds teaching Focusing classes has been an important part of her life as a psychologist and Yoga teacher. Her book, "Focusing - Connect to life," is now being translated into Spanish and English. Please visit: www.poggiomonte.com
Tal Varon, Israel
Tal Varon is a Certified Focusing Trainer who combines his Focusing work with mindfulness and Buddhist principles and methods, which he has been practicing and teaching for 20 years. He is an active jazz musician, saxophonist, and composer, and is a senior teacher in the method of The Art of Practicing and Performing, which integrates mindfulness-based practices – including Focusing - into music education.
Rachel Lai-Wa Wong, Hong Kong
Rachel Lai-Wa Wong is a Coordinator in Focusing and Certified Focusing Trainer in Children Focusing. She also has great interest in learning TAE (Thinking at the Edge).
Jose Ignacio Salazar, Chile
Arpad Kantor, Hungary
Ayelet Levanon, Israel
marie sherrie McDonald, Canada
Jose Ignacio Salazar, Chile
New Coordinators-in-Training in 2020
Josefina Castronuovo, Argentina
Wing Yee Grace Chan, Hong Kong
Rachel Hendron, New Zealand
Kara Hill, United States
Katherine Kwok, Hong Kong
Nikolaos Kypriotakis, Greece
Judy Leith, New Zealand
Alex Maunder, Italy
Yu Yen Mok, Hong Kong
Yifat Peres, Israel
Paula Riveros, Columbia
Paola Schiesaro, Italy
Thinking at the Edge and Working on Hope in Hong Kong
by Eric Kit-wai Ma
2020 was a difficult year for people all around world. It was especially difficult for the people in Hong Kong who were not only burdened by the pandemic, but by acute political crises as well. Many are considering leaving the city. Pessimistic sentiments are widespread. Occasionally, people cheer each other up with words of hope - “We shall overcome,” some say. But more find it difficult to swallow the continued decay of the city.
Last summer, I wrote an essay on the power of hope based on some of the writings of philosopher Gabriel Marcel. He said that amidst the darkness of deep despair, there is a yearning for light and redemption. Like many of my fellow Hongkongers, I have witnessed the rapid deterioration of the rule of law, free speech, and many other things we cherished in our everyday life. Hoping against hope, much like whispering in the dark, has been depleted of applicable meanings. But a few months ago, I took a course on TAE from Nada Lou and have been rethinking the meaning of hope ever since.
Over the past two years, I have participated in various classes and Zoom meetings organized by Edward Chan, one of the founders of the Hong Kong Focusing Institute. I came to know Edward’s teacher, Nada, when I asked about Gendlin’s take on issues concerning faith, religion and spirituality. I got a reply from Nada with a video clip of Gendlin talking about his “cat theology” which inspired me to write for my weekly column another piece on the contrast between religiosity and spirituality. Then, someone from the group came up with the idea of inviting Nada to lead a Zoom course for us. Not thinking it would come to fruition, I was surprised when a small group of eight of us were gathered around the computer screen with Nada in just two-months’ time.
At first, I thought this Thinking at the Edge (TAE) course was another version of Focusing. I soon learned that TAE is a combination of felt sensing and analytic thinking. I had watched a few video clips on TAE previously, but hadn’t registered its relevancy. I do know a bit about Gendlin’s philosophy of knowing, by felt sensing, the emerging ideas from the implicit. According to him, this is where new and unique philosophic knowledge can be originated. That said, I had no idea how TAE could be applied to my life. Amusingly, I was caught by a strong sense of synchronicity in the first Zoom session.
For a few months before meeting Nada, I had been experimenting with a new mode of writing. Whereas before, I would plan ahead when writing my column, sometimes point by point with a preconceived structure, now I was beginning to wait for something to unfold before me. This involved some elements of Focusing, waiting for something written upon my senses, and writing from that something I felt. The writing process was not clear to me yet. The only word to describe it is WAIT. Right at the very beginning of the course, when Nada explained the basics of TAE, it dawned on me to see that "Thinking At the Edge" was exactly what I needed at that particular juncture. Throughout the six sessions of this elementary TAE course, I Focused on the words “anticipatory waiting,” exploring the rich meanings behind my weekly writing ritual by checking back and forth with concepts and felt senses.
Towards the end of the course, the group of us summarized the projects we had developed. When each of the small projects were placed side by side, we felt a faint ray of hope shine through the dire situation in Hong Kong. This was an unexpected turn. Personally, it was a hint for me to rethink what hope is for Hongkongers who are facing the challenge of a liberal city having fallen into tight political control. Maybe we could regain a sense of hope by thinking at the edge and working out what we discovered. In a way, hope is not just an abstract concept - a conviction, a longing for a better tomorrow - it is more. Hope could be fleshing out when we answer the call of our time in a manner unique to each of us, embodied in our life, and embedded in the society at large.
In Nada’s classes, we paid attention to the small details in our daily routines. Most of us had been practicing Focusing for a long while. As for me, a beginner, I was interested in relating Focusing with my previous experiences in research and teaching. Before my retirement, I taught qualitative research methodology for many years and did quite a lot of ethnographic studies. I noticed that Focusers and ethnographers are both trained to attune to the minute sensations, stimulus and feelings of the situation, with Focusing being more into the unknown dimensions of the body. Sometimes I borrowed Heidegger’s concept of Being-in-the-world (Dasein) when I discussed with my research students the theoretical assumptions of ethnography. In any given situation, the ethnographer is not an isolated and objective observer, s/he is embedded in the field, interacting with the things and people s/he is researching. The inter-penetrative nature of Being-in-the-world is the foundation of ethnographic understanding. There is a little bit of you in me; there are some bits of the world in me too. Being-in-the-world is extensively vast and it is also privatively minute, inside the implicit realm of the individual body.
Dasein is a philosophical concept. For Focusing, Being-in-the world is an embodied practice. Felt senses are emerging from within the body, and bodies are situated in particular life worlds. We bear the imprints of our time and each individual marks his or her life story onto the world. Undeniably, the social unrest of 2019 and the pandemic in 2020 have changed Hong Kong radically. The city we know is gone. It is estimated that 5-8% of the population will migrate to other countries in 2021. The recent social changes have left profound impacts on those who stay. Fresh experiences and rich meanings are fostering in the community. Each individual is struggling to find a way to sail through turbulent tides and turns. I believe these are the implicit realms where Hongkongers could find hope.
Nada worked with us on the first five steps of TAE. The first step of TAE is to “choose something you know and cannot yet say, that wants to be said.” The eight of us had different ideas to work on: doing voluntary work, engaging in therapy and counselling, trying out a new working style, being more active in building up friendships, etc. Then, we spelled out the public meanings of the keywords in our project. It was a fruitful exercise when we checked these public meanings with our felt senses and recognized “that’s not what I meant.” Then, we tried to describe these meanings in full, using fresh language unique to us individually.
Nada saved step two for the second-to-last session, which I think was a wise move. We worked on the paradoxical nature of our implicitly felt project. “Paradox is a promise,” Nada said. It really is. Things inside us which are at the edge of our awareness - or even at the edge of our existence, beyond our comfort zone, at the crossroad – surely, they are full of paradoxes, running in different directions, unresolved by logical thinking. These implicit meanings and experiences are raw and new, untamed by public meanings of known vocabularies. We toyed with these sentences:
Voluntary gift has a price.
Welcoming suspense is fulfilling the promise of living.
Recovering is not returning to the original state.
I know it is not wrong, but it is not right.
These paradoxes bring richness and energies.
My TAE journey has inspired me to reconsider the existential nature of hope for Hong Kong in this particular point in time. Hong Kong is a vibrant city. People here are mostly ethnic Chinese, but because of some unique historical circumstances, Hongkongers have developed a modern and cosmopolitan culture different from other Chinese communities. We are Chinese, but not quite. We are westernized, but not quite. As a former colony, Hong Kong is still carrying some of the British legacies. In the post-war years, for more than five decades, this vibrant and pragmatic Hong Kong culture has stabilized and we are used to this in between quality.
The big shock of 2019 and 2020 has been the sudden demise of this relatively stable socio-cultural system of Hong Kong. For me, the previous two years have been difficult, but being in this city, I feel connected. I am standing right at the edge of a big social transformation and my life story is having a few significant turns. I am sure many Hongkongers feel the same way as I do: there are unfolding felt senses on the individual and collective level. In a way, hope is not that remote and abstract; it could be embodied in these freshly formed experiences.
Nada concluded our class by sharing Gendlin’s idea of the divine call. The felt sense of an individual can be seen as part of this call. It is a unique invitation and can’t be fleshed out by any other human being on earth. I remember Gendlin’s cat theology, mentioned at the beginning of this essay. Gendlin’s cat felt his presence when the cat was sitting next to him on the sofa, but the cat didn’t know where he bought the cat food and what he was doing at the seminars and forums far away from home. It was a world beyond the cat’s understanding, but the felt sense of togetherness was there. Gendlin refrained from affiliating himself with specific religious institutions, but he could share the felt sense of his connectedness with the Divine, like his cat was with him. This cat theology strikes a chord in me. There has been a call for me to write in a new mode, to wait for a freshly emerging felt sense and write about it.
The TAE course helped me to think clearly at the edge and offered fresh wordings about that something I couldn’t yet say. After working on the first five steps of TAE, I came up with this, which is much more than the word WAIT:
I write with anticipatory waiting, like a boy leaning forward, looking around, expecting something to happen. Meanwhile, this waiting is also contemplative, looking inward, felt-sensing the implicit from within me, and crossing with the hearts and minds of the people I have met. This waiting is suspenseful and anxious, hanging in mid-air, as there is the possibility of waiting in vain. Have faith in the unfolding stories, whether they bring agony and despair, excitement and fulfilment, it is a process of growth and discovery.
In the last week of 2020, I wrote about my TAE experience in laymen’s terms and encouraged Hongkongers to pause and felt sense their own “something they can’t yet say.” If they can articulate that little something, it is a gift to Hong Kong.
I ended my essay with a New Year wish for 2021:
We turn our heads, interested in something not yet clear. It is a calling, from the Universe, the ONE seeing something in us, this something is unique, when we respond, from within, and from our Being-in-this-world and far beyond, we are connected. Thinking at our own unique edges of the moment, it is raw, new and exceeds all existing vocabularies. If articulated, it is a gift to us and the world, however small, it is a contribution to humanity. Especially in Hong Kong, our beloved home, in this difficult time when all roads have been blocked, felt sensing the freshly unfolding experiences, a silent but persistent call from the GOOD of all, the gift would die with us if unanswered, but if the invitation is accepted with care, a ray of hope will shine through the edge of our life.
Eric Kit-wai Ma, Ph.D. is a retired professor having taught at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, School of Journalism and Communication where he specialized in Hong Kong cultural identity and popular culture. Retiring early at the age of 56, Eric Ma is now a writer with a column in the popular Chinese newspaper, “Ming Pao.” He is the author of several academic books, including Culture, Politics, and Television in Hong Kong (Routledge, London), Tales from a Bar and a Factory: Urban Study in South China (People’s Press, Nanjing), and his most recent book, Resilience: Clearing a Space in Difficult Times (Breakthrough, HK).
這兩年，參加了陳志常老師的課，十多位同學，隔周一聚，分享生命自覺的體驗。志常老師七十多歲；他的老師Nada Lou身在加拿大，比他大十多歲；而Nada的老師，則是創立生命自覺的Eugene Gendlin。不知是誰提起，問Nada會否開班授徒？因緣際會，我們八個學生，就在十一月開始，每星期在網上跟Nada學習。感覺好像跟師祖上山學法，完全沒有心理準備，本以為都是靜觀自覺之類，怎料她教授的是一種叫Thinking At the Edge (TAE) 的思考法。
我把Focuing、TAE揉合一下，迎接2021年，試試做這樣一種希望的功課。首先要細心覺察自己的變化，Gendlin提議：choose something you know and cannot yet say, that wants to be said。在我們漫長的人生裏，有些性格傾向及價值觀，我們都有自知之明；但在某些過渡階段、某些關鍵時刻，內心的悸動，或明或暗，感受往往未能被言說。Gendlin所指Something cannot yet say就是這種「暗在」的忐忑。2020充滿未被言說的悸動，觸發很多隠而未現的體驗。苦難當前，我們內心有什麼感應？有什麼掀動我們的心思意念？Thinking at the edge，在生活的邊岸，在我們comfort zone的邊沿，在我們習慣了的人生軌跡的三岔口，多一點留意邊沿的微聲，往往對自己、對香港、對世界，會有新的認知。
迎接新的一年，師兄弟之中，有人感到要主動一點維繫朋友之間的友誼，有人想到坦誠一點與家人溝通，有人在思考如何讓自己舒服又優雅地做義務工作，有人在推敲如何運用心理治療的知識幫助親友和學生……這些生活上的改變及新嘗試，先用一般坊間的關鍵詞來描述，例如「復原」、「主動維繫友誼」、「義工」、「溝通」……Nada請我們從字典去列出這個字眼的「公共意義」（public meaning），去對照自己內心的感受。她說，我們每個人都是獨特的，回應外在的處境，也有獨特的方法。將「公共意義」對照自己內心那確實的something cannot yet say，字典的解釋往往不能如實描述每個人的經驗：that's not what I meant。我們試試用不同的言詞和字眼，描述內心的意感。
整整一個月，我們各自聚焦在那些個人化的、實在的、卻未能言說的感受。Nada在後期更邀請我們留意內在矛盾對立的意感，她說paradox的字根正是promise，矛盾能觸發豐富又多元的新體驗，paradox is a promise！各人的經驗，既有公共性，也有個人的獨到之處。尤其是在社會劇變的轉捩點，慣定俗成的語言，往往不足以承載時代的經驗。用自己的言語，不忌矛盾，把自己回應處境的something not yet say言說出來，對自己、對社會，是一份嶄新的禮物。
Much of this article is in Christel’s own voice or in words from her family, collected, arranged and added to by Nina Joy Lawrence.
Christel Kraft was born in 1932 in the former Koenigsberg, Germany. Siegfried was born in 1930 in Libau, Latvia. When they met in the refugee settlement of Gifhorn, Germany, after the end of WWII, Siegfried immediately fell in love with Christel. He dearly wanted to take her along with his family as they prepared to emigrate to Canada in 1950. Initially unsure, Christel ultimately followed her heart, leaving her family and the new life she had started to rebuild in Germany and joining Siegfried and his family in Winnipeg, Canada in 1955.
Christel and Siegfried married and raised four children. Later, Christel went back to school to earn her Masters' degree. She found Gene Gendlin’s Focusing book around this time.
Christel speaks of her history in Focusing:
It seems to me that I have been focusing, listening, having felt senses, handles and shifts, leading edges, and big implicit insights since I was born. Of course, I did not have all these fancy labelings, but I know that I always knew where/what/how was right for me.
I had, “Listening deep inside, being with that, connecting - sensing always
deeper to an ever-increasing awareness of something more and more and more - getting guidance and clarity for the next step and the next development. I have been born with it; it has been and still is part of me.
Could I or did I live it all? Of course not. Significant adults in my life tried chipping away at me and adding on what I knew was not me. I learned to play the game of needing/wanting to be accepted and loved. It actually worked quite well, even though I knew that what I portrayed was partly fake. I wanted to survive - one of me inside, one of me outside.
I did something inside me I called “Root knowings.” When I discovered that not everybody seemed to have these “going deeper and deeper explorations,” I dreamed of writing a book someday and sharing this wonderful “something” with the world.
And then a friend gave me this book, Focusing by Eugene Gendlin. AHH - someone had found a way to teach it, and I was relieved. I did not have to write it, I could just follow his outline and enjoy the fruits of his labor!
And so began my long story with Gene. He invited me to Chicago where I met his group of Focusers, learning and sharing with them. At some point, he asked me to become a Coordinator [1985, she says in another document] and I was off and running with it all.
At the same time, I was in the process of finishing my Masters in Educational Psychology at the University of Manitoba, and almost flunked my exam when I introduced Focusing into my course work. These were the days when Carl Rogers was just being softly introduced into these holy halls of wisdom. So, I put on my “good little student” fake hat again and got the desired letters behind my name.
[from The Focusing Institute Coordinators, 2008, compiled by Nada Lou]
Christel and Siegfried followed their hearts and the path they felt held the most learning for them. They were definitely trailblazers in role reversal when Siegfried left his work as a production manager at the furniture company to take over the household when Christel became the director of the Reaching Out Employment Services for differently-abled people – an initiative that was born of her Master’s Thesis research.
After graduation, I began a full-time position as an Employment Counselor, researching and designing a program for the purpose of assisting persons with physical disabilities to enter the job market. I stayed for nine years as the director of the agency.
During that time, I conducted a small research project about the application of Focusing for career counseling, which I included in my book later.
Although I taught Focusing to my employees, which they then could also use in their work with clients, I did not enter into teaching Focusing full-time, which perhaps had been my favorite option.
[from The Focusing Institute Coordinators, 2008, compiled by Nada Lou]
Christel set up a 5 Level Training Program for certifying Focusing Trainers in Winnipeg. After taking several workshops with Fathers Ed McMahon and Peter Campbell, she added from their approach and created the Manitoba Association for Focusing and BioSpirituality.
I managed to teach Focusing classes at night for the University’s continuing education classes, as well as for community groups and individuals, and at YMCA Senior centers. Of the hundreds I taught, a few became Trainers, and one became a Coordinator to replace me as I retired.
[from The Focusing Institute Coordinators, 2008, Compiled by Nada Lou]
In 2016, Christel wrote a bit about the history of Focusing on the Focusing Discussion List and sent some of it to Catherine Torpey. This part concerns her feelings about the transition when the new Focusing Institute required the Weeklong Training and began certification and membership fees.
In here comes a muddled, painful experience. My understanding at that time was that students were encouraged to attend some function where they would receive a certificate. So, I went with five of them to Chicago where I introduced them to Mary McGuire, Gene and others. It became suddenly not just a blessing from Mary and Gene, but a huge additional fee for Coordinators and certified students. My whole being rebelled! That’s not what my long-term students had been told, and I did not know either about this new arrangement. They had paid already for my teaching over a two- year+ period, which I had kept at a reasonably affordable financial level.
After some unpleasant confrontations, Mary McGuire arranged an agreement for a continuing yearly fee to TIFI in this kind of exceptional unexpected transitional space.
In 1999 at age 67, Christel finally did write and publish her own Focusing book, Energy Flow Focusing Explorations: Passageways into Your Hidden Treasurers. It includes basic teaching guidelines and also illustrates many applications of Focusing: in conflict resolution, dream exploration, spirituality, personal growth, self-esteem building, and identifying limiting beliefs and values.
When she was 76, Christel wrote, “I still use my skills to assist people as a Focusing Oriented Therapist in my part-time practice in Winnipeg, and have no immediate desire to quit, even though I am beginning to feel tired more often than I want to admit.”
[from The Focusing Institute Coordinators, 2008, Compiled by Nada Lou]
Christel and Siegfried retired to their home at Lake Winnipeg, where Christel spent time with her many hobbies: stained glass, painting, beading, bike riding, swimming, and appreciating nature. She spoke of “Focusing into whatever feels life-giving.” Christel still worked part-time in Winnipeg or on the phone from home doing FOT and Life Transition Coaching, Interactive Focusing, and other creative Focusing applications.
As she became unable to travel much and no longer worked in Winnipeg, she began to feel closed in and wondered how she could keep connected and involved with the Focusing world. In 2016, she worked with Focusers stuck at home and those attending the International Conference in Cambridge to make some workshops available on Skype. As video conferencing became the main way for Focusers to communicate, Christel learned quickly and reveled again in being an active part of the community she valued so much.
During the last year of her life at 88 years old, Christel had the energy to use the internet for support and community. While isolated by the Covid-19 pandemic, she intensely valued being able to attend sessions on Focusing Initiatives’ Coronaplaza, Roundtables and other offerings from The International Focusing Institute, Whole Body offerings and Resonant Sensing for Peace facilitated by Bruce Nayowith. In these group meetings, she would eagerly - and sometimes impatiently - wait through the group discussions to get to the breakout rooms so she could go deep with one or two other people, to touch others and be touched to the core. She also arranged individual Focusing sessions with people. She often said with urgency that what she most yearned for and appreciated was deeply connecting with other human beings.
Her children said:
Christel and Siegfried’s skills lay not only in their hands, but in the wisdom and attentive listening that helped an uncountable number of people, including family, to see their way past obstacles in their own lives. Their considered wisdom gained a global reach, which for Siegfried found community in Mexico and for Christel in a global online community, primarily the Focusing Community.
Our parents lived their entire lives questioning the status quo about life, present, past and future. They sought out to explore what more there was to the human mind and sought to challenge the mainstream. As their physical bodies wore out, it was with a courage many of us wish we had, that they made the decision to leave this earth with the help of our medical system.”
Christel and Siegfried had already discerned together their plan to use the Canadian Medical Assistance in Dying when the right time came, and as each further deterioration came upon them, they checked inside to see if it was time. Each time it was clear that there was still joy in life and deep connection to continue. Then there came a time…
Siegfried and I have made plans to ‘go’ tomorrow. My knee and legs are going out… such pain…I would have to go to a hospital… I had wondered when it would be time to go, and this is our sign for leaving… Tomorrow we will be gone.
I did not know that one could be so peaceful and convinced that this is the right thing to do… We are very clear that it is… Siegfried has been in so much discomfort and has been staying for me.
It is very important that we decided this as a couple… We have celebrated our 65 years together and are happy about that…
Jesus has given me a message that He lives in my heart and I live in His heart and that we have His blessing.
My life experiences have really evolved, and now I am wonderful that I can feel peaceful. I hope you can live your lives and continue them, and keep me in your hearts… Lovely to be here with you. Wishing you well.
Accepting that I am happy and I hope that you are happy for me…. I send my love to you and will continue to do so…
[from a letter to Bruce Nayowith, the day before she died.]
Christel lived this whole long life through inner sensing, checking, and finding next steps, even her last step.
Dear members of TIFI,
In January, we wrote to give you some information and to ask for your feedback. We are including our request below, and we want to acknowledge that we have gotten a lot of feedback. Much of it has come to us directly through [email protected]org, and there has been a very vibrant conversation among our Coordinators, including many of the most experienced who knew Gene well.
There are some very strong feelings about our proposed changes, and we take very seriously the concerns which have been raised. Some have expressed discomfort with changing the statement because when it was originally approved in 2009, Gene Gendlin was the President of the Board and his wife, Mary Hendricks-Gendlin, was the Vice President. There is a sense that changing the statement threatens to abandon some fundamental principles of TIFI. There is also concern about the addition of the phrase which explicitly says, "This does not preclude The International Focusing Institute from defining parameters and competencies which must be met in order to qualify for certification." Some have expressed fear that adding this sentence might signal an intention to impose restrictions on how our Coordinators teach, contradicting the very notion of diversity.
We are listening, and we are going to continue to listen. It is important to us to be faithful stewards of the legacy left by Gene Gendlin, and to honor that "tension" which naturally arises between the value of diversity of approaches and "the need for effectiveness and efficiency in meeting [TIFI's] goals."
Please read the original announcement below. We will be collecting your input until at least after the Weeklong event in mid-July of this year. We will be setting up more Zoom meetings soon for members who would like to engage in conversation around the issues and ideas raised. Please watch your email for those announcements.
Thank you all for your commitment to Focusing and for being vigilant guardians of its ethos.
INFORMATION ABOUT THE "DIVERSITY (OF APPROACHES) STATEMENT"
In 2009, the then-Board of Directors crafted a statement which they named the "Diversity Statement." This was a statement affirming that The International Focusing Institute (TIFI) would not standardize the way in which Focusing is taught. It was intended to express the value of having diversity in the practice, teaching and application of Focusing.
In 2020, we find that (at least in the United States) something called a "Diversity Statement" is expected to address issues of ethnic and racial diversity. So the name has become a source of confusion. For that reason, in October 2020, the Board of TIFI voted to change the name of the statement to the "Diversity of Approaches" statement.
Furthermore, in December 2020, the "Diversity of Approaches" statement was provisionally revised to:
explicitly include the teaching of the Philosophy of the Implicit, Thinking at the Edge and other emerging approaches
make more explicit that the value of diversity does not preclude the Institute from defining parameters and competencies which must be met in order to qualify for certification
In addition, the Board assigned one of its members to work with the Executive Director to craft a separate "diversity statement" which will address TIFI's commitment to including all people. That work is just beginning; at the appropriate time, we will include the community's input in that process.
At this time, we are asking for your reaction to the revision of the Diversity of Approaches statement. This is the revised statement:
DIVERSITY OF APPROACHES STATEMENT approved December 2020:
Thinking with the implicit always honors what arises freshly in the moment. The philosophy of the implicit, Focusing, Thinking at the Edge and how they are taught by our certified teachers will not be standardized. It is a core value of TIFI that diversity of approaches will be protected. This does not preclude The International Focusing Institute from defining parameters and competencies which must be met in order to qualify for certification. Constructive critiques are welcome among our teachers or between TIFI and individuals presenting or applying practices which arise from the philosophy of the implicit. These should be offered by means of open, respectful communication. TIFI itself will seek to honor the value of diversity of approaches in its operations, while recognizing that tension can arise between this and the need for effectiveness and efficiency in meeting its goals.
In this conversation, Serge Prengel talks about thinking as a mindful, contemplative process. He describes the three stages of the process as he sees them, before providing a specific example of him going through this process.
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