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A Tribute to Bala Jaison by Paula Nowick


"... the most wonderful part of Bala was her generous Focusing approach..."

Bala Jaison died on March 7, 2023 after a lifetime devoted to championing Focusing by teaching, writing, editing, and helping others in her Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy practice.

In the 1980s, she had started a small newsletter with a few articles written by her colleagues who were exploring a fascinating philosophy proposed by Eugene Gendlin. She typed, mimeographed, stapled, and offered the few pages to the young Focusing community in Chicago.

Bala Jaison - Weeklong 1978
Bala (right) with Mary McGuire, co-leaders of the 1978 Weeklong in Chicago. In the center is Brian Korzec. Bebe Simon peeks out from behind him.

By 2008, under her dynamic leadership, her newsletter had grown into The Folio, an annual, professionally-bound journal of 376 pages with articles from 37 Focusers. Along the way, she successfully persuaded The International Focusing Institute to underwrite the cost of publication, secured the unwavering support of Gene Gendlin, and solicited articles from authors around the world. Her work shined a light on the vast and varied intellectual interests within Focusing, all while educating and entertaining thousands.

As I found out when I became her coeditor of The Folio, Bala was a force of nature who was able to not only dream big and execute flawlessly, but also inspire many others (like me) to join in and support her high ambition.

Bala (right) with Ruth Rosenblum co-leading a symposium on Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy in memory of Gene Gendlin. This event took place in the afternoon following the memorial service for Gene which was organized by TIFI in New York City in August 2017.

Behind the scenes, she was a tireless worker. She kept a meticulous spreadsheet tracking the progress of every article, from the date it was received to its final draft. When we later added guest editors, the spreadsheet grew to two pages. It was not unusual for us to spend several hours exclusively discussing the spreadsheet. Throughout, Bala remained vigilant, undeterred, and full of humor.

But the most wonderful part of Bala was her generous Focusing approach to every writer. No submission was ever rejected; she would – being the great therapist that she was - ask questions, offer options, and encourage thoughts to form into sentences. No submission was too deep or too light. In her mind, The Folio should be by and for everyone who loved Focusing. She was sensitive to each writer's right to speak from his/her own voice, often gently phrasing our edits as "perhaps this a way to make it easier for the reader." Indeed, those words might be the motif of Bala's life - how Focusing is a way to make our (complicated) lives easier for ourselves!

As I read the many touching tributes to Bala posted online, I was struck by how many others treasured Bala's many gifts. I've included a few sentences from some of these online posts celebrating Bala's life. (see the following entires)

Bala Jaison

"I always felt Bala’s smile, inquisitive curiosity, depth of experience, heartfulness and playfulness. I also appreciate that Bala was always supportive of my journey and work exploring the integration of the arts with Focusing." Laury Rappaport

"Bala was a force of nature--feisty and fully engaged with life--a brilliant teacher, a highly-skilled therapist, a terrific author, and an excellent and tireless editor of The Folio. She was committed fully to teaching and spreading Focusing, and her longtime work with Mary McGuire was legendary. Their workshops in certifying so many Focusers, over years, truly helped grow our worldwide community." Joan Klagsbrun

"She will be lovingly remembered and broadly missed for her unique 'presence' and sterling qualities... A full-of-energy persona, so dynamic, with a bright humor and a hearty smile/laugh, professional resources, knowledge." Anna Karali

"Bala was my very first Focusing mentor & teacher way back in the 80s. I wish I had known that she was declining so I could have told her once more how much I loved, admired and appreciated her." Anna Jean Bradley

"Our emails fine-tuning the piece [I had written for The Folio] were wonderful examples of a real collaborative effort. Her responses and suggestions always came from the felt sense, not 'the head,' and she brought that forth in me." Joyce Kornblatt

"When I went for a Weeklong to get certified, the Director, Mary McGuire, was not able to lead and Bala as assistant Director took over all that training responsibility. And her role as co-editor of the Focusing Folio over the decades can only be described as astounding." Kathy McGuire

"A loss to the community at large indeed, Bala was one of the Focusing stalwarts and a leading presence for a long time." Nancy Hartog

"Always energetic and full of ideas, Bala’s contribution to the Focusing world is outstanding. We will all keep her in gentle memory and enjoy what she left us behind." Nada Lou

"This is a sad loss for the community." Alastair Farrugia

"So, Bala and Paula had to mentor and encourage me in order to 'come to the point' and finish the paper, as I had meanwhile lost the courage to say what I wanted to say. I briefly met her in Cambridge, although … she had always a circle around her. She was popular, authoritative and independent." Maria Emanuela Galanti

"Bala was an amazing, wonderful human being. She made a great contribution to our community and world." John Amodeo

"Ahh Bala isn't there anymore..... This makes me quiet, touched and sad. … I sense soo much her lived passion, soo much her connected humor, soo much her attuned wisdom, soo much her open clarity about what is essential and her capacity to spread all of this!" René Veugelers

"I am sad and shocked, then quickly remembering my time with Bala, especially at conferences, I feel how much fun she was, a whirlwind of energy and humour. She was petite but her presence was great. I shall really miss her hugs, her smile, her speed, her life energy." Greg Madison

“In the first 20 years of the annual International Focusing conferences …Bala was always there and often very strong in her positions. It was always amazing to me how we could disagree so strongly and still come out with respect and regard for each other. And she could be so funny, even hilarious. Rest in Peace, Great Warrior for Focusing!” Robert Lee

"Her style of presenting and her whole way of being was so genuine and enlivening. Bala was always so gracious, giving, and keenly interested in my own growth. And she was also so authentically herself - putting forth an opinion, a complaint and a warm laugh - a breath of fresh air!" Glenn Fleisch

"Bala was my first Focusing teacher in the mid-1990s. She always received our cohort of classmates with generosity and liveliness inside her Toronto home. We loved taking classes there. She was there in the background of my Focusing professional life, always wishing me well." Karen Whalen

"I am saddened at the loss of this special person who contributed so much to Focusing personally and professionally. On Purim we celebrate a strong woman whose actions saved the Jewish people. Both Reva (Bernstein) and Bala were strong women who gave us so much." Ruth Hirsch

"Her passion for mobilizing the Focusing community and her initiatives were always important. Peace, Bala!" Sergio Lara

"I am practically shocked by the sad news of the passing on of our precious Bala, whom I have known for so many years. I will continue to carry with me her amazing lively energy, her caring for the spreading of Focusing around the world, and her deep devotion and commitment to The Folio for many years!" Atsmaout Perlstein

"I remember Bala her very vivid and sparkling energy, and so many good moments together during the many conferences where I met her." Aaffien de Vries

"I miss Bala Jaison very much. Bala I knew was always active with big smile. Bala Jaison and Mary McGuire were my first Focusing teachers." Mieko Osawa