By Bill Gayner
I want to express my heartfelt thanks to all the faculty, organizers, volunteers and participants of the first Thinking at the Edge (TAE) Academy, which took place November 10-13, 2022. I feel very grateful that The International Focusing Institute (TIFI) and the TAE community are carrying forward Eugene Gendlin’s and Mary Hendricks-Gendlin’s pioneering work for the Focusing community and larger public on how to reflect deeply on what we know well from our own unique path and explorations, what has been working and what has not, what has been transformative, what we have carried forward from this, how to think for ourselves effectively from our bodies’ deepening participation in the world. TAE is a philosophical method that deepens experiencing and engaging in life, so that our understanding of our path continues to transform as we transform. How fortunate we are that a philosopher of Eugene Gendlin’s unique depth worked so hard to share with us his phenomenological methods that had already provided us with clearing a space and Focusing!
The first workshop in the TAE Academy, Nada Lou’s “Genesis and Taste of Thinking at the Edge” brought home to me what a miracle it was that TAE was developed at all and the pivotal role Mary Hendricks-Gendlin played in this. Nada shared with us how Mary had asked Gene to develop a series of steps that would do for his Philosophy of the Implicit and Life what his Focusing steps had done for therapy and self-help, but he, quite understandably, thought it was impossible. Fortunately, she continued to push him and together they were able to pull this miracle off!
TAE provides us with ways to reflect on something we know implicitly about our path, life or area of expertise, something that wants to be said, but we have not yet been able to express. We come alive to and explicate our felt sense of this as well as examples of it using words which we allow to mean what our body-world aliveness needs them to mean, rather than conforming to predetermined common usage or dictionary or technical definitions.
In doing so, TAE enables us to break through what Gendlin called “the public language barrier.” In the TAE Academy, Monica Lindner facilitated us in contemplating how the public language barrier interferes in our own TAE practice. I found it helpful exploring how, for me, it is the frozenness, those self parts protectors, who so often tighten my face, jaw, throat and body, and who have cocooned me through so much of my life. Those frozen fossilized forms within us which Focusing and parts work bring back to life transformed. They helped me survive the long exile I suffered in childhood from losing and forgetting adults who embodied compassionate and appreciative empathy and aliveness to/with/for myself and other children, my nanny in the first years of my life in the Philippines, and my Waldorf kindergarten teachers in Sao Paulo. What had solidified into lifelong exile became less intense as an adult through transformative therapy, meditation and living, but still haunted me until I learned more recently to find, appreciate and rescue that little lost boy still defending my gates, a cast away hermit soldier loyally fighting a war I lost 60 years ago. Rescuing him and the gifts he protected and brings, a process deepened by TAE, is opening me to participating and engaging in the world as homecoming.
Academy participants attended a series of daily sessions led by one of the four main faculty. I attended Evelyn Fendler-Lee’s series “Beginning to Think at the Edge from Anywhere.” Evelyn provided us with creative ways to be more richly in touch with our felt sense in the TAE process. Evelyn’s series deepened and refined my understanding of my project.
I am also looking forward to exploring and discovering different styles of enacting and teaching TAE through videos of the series of main classes led by the other main faculty: Hanspeter Mühlethaler’s “Thinking at the Edge (TAE) - A basic course for beginners and advanced learners,” Beatrice Blake’s “Experiencing the fertility of your felt sense,” and Nado Lou’s “Think Different (TAE steps).” I also look forward to watching videos of workshops I was not able to attend: Nada Lou’s second workshop featuring clips of her video of Gene Gendlin teaching TAE as well as Satoko Tokomaru’s workshop introducing participants to her flower bouquet method, an innovative, creative way to use drawing with crayons to think at the edge.
I have been attending training courses with Evelyn since 2021 to become a TAE instructor, a transformative process I deeply appreciate and have thoroughly enjoyed. My project involves exploring using Gendlin’s Philosophy of the Implicit to help orient an innovative meditative community of practice I cofounded with friends and colleagues, Touching the Earth Mindfulness Ontario (https://ttemo.ca/). Touching the Earth integrates transformative processes (i.e., experiential focusing and transforming emotion with emotion) into meditation, journaling, and sharing and exploring meditation experience together, adapting the format from Focusing changes groups. The community emerged out of therapist training networks for an approach I developed, emotion-focused mindfulness therapy.
I also appreciated Evelyn’s TAE Academy workshop, “Playfully Think at the Edge with Logic,” which provided us with engaging ways to explore the logical relations between concepts emerging from our TAE process.
While I enjoy experiential Focusing and TAE contemplation on my own, I continue to be surprised by how much easier both are in partnership with others and the depth of mutual, pluralistic sharing and learning that can happen with people whether friends or people I have not yet met such as in the TAE Academy. It is remarkable how crossing one’s own explorations with a Focusing or TAE partner deepens our own process. While I myself have been studying and practicing TAE for just a year now, I was surprised how people completely new to TAE were able to dive into TAE processes in the Academy, sharing discoveries of distinctive freshness and depth. It was wonderful too how diverse and scattered across the globe we all were, supported by how the organizers had tried to ensure participants could have a full experience no matter what time zone they were in.
I enjoyed Dana Ganihar and Baruch Brenner’s workshop, “Because it Is You: TAE and the Art of Living,” which provided us with a way of using TAE to explore the unique capacities and themes that characterize our life engagement. I found myself freshly contemplating this recently identified lifelong theme referred to above, “moving from exile to transformative homecoming,” a theme that deeply informs how I engage in and describe TAE and my project. I love how TAE is deeply rooted in focusing, so that the process starts with clearing a space and Focusing, and continually returns to inviting the ground to breath, inviting mercy, allowing, and understanding how TAE is not just another introspective intellectual distraction from and expression of the exile that pervades so much of my own and others' lives, but rather helps me better understand and engage in the processes of moving from exile to homecoming in my own life as well as sharing these processes with others.
What I find most amazing is that TAE provides us with a method for reflecting on, explicating and carrying forward what we know about our own unique, transformative path in a way that further transforms us, empowering our path and participation and engagement in the world. Coming alive to the felt sense about what we know and remember about transformations we have experienced, further transforms and enriches our understanding of our own path. I find these processes bring me more deeply into the world better able to share with and to learn from others in pluralistic ways. TAE has helped me explicate and share key principles of Touching the Earth practice with others this year. For example, TAE helped me create a video presentation on touching the earth for an international conference, PCE 2022. In August, I led a four-day retreat built around four key Touching the Earth principles I had explicated through TAE which my practice community found clarifying, inspiring, and empowering. After the Academy, I led the first class in our community on integrating TAE as a contemplative process into our practice which was well received. I am finding TAE provides Focusing with a transformative action step worthy of its depth.
Bill is a social worker, psychotherapist, in private practice in the Centre for Psychology and Emotional Health in Toronto and President of Touching the Earth Mindfulness Ontario. He presents internationally on emotion-focused mindfulness therapy and touching the earth: https://mindfulfeeling.ca/
 Thinking at the Edge (2000-2004), The Folio, 19 (1); Gendlin, E. & Hendricks, M. (2018). Introduction to Thinking at the Edge. In Saying What We Mean, Casey, E.S. and Schoeller, D.M.
 https://mindfulfeeling.ca/; Gayner, B. (2019). Emotion-focused mindfulness therapy. Person-Centred and Experiential Psychotherapies, Vol. 18, Issue 1, pages 98-120.