May 17, 2016
You might be wondering how one knows that it is time to Focus with a partner. I mean, overall, life is just fine right? No major changes on the horizon, relationships are holding their own, your body is more or less working. Obvious reasons to Focus are not on the scene of your life. So what are those clues that invite us to Focus?
Some old sayings come to mind for me that often provide the subtle clues that something within us is ready to move forward. One is shit happens when we age. Some unexplained physical symptom arises, often quite minor, still an annoyance, it could easily be attributed to aging or chance. Interestingly, it comes to your attention at chance quiet moments. Another one is when you can tell there is more to a story than you just heard. And yet, the story just stops, like that’s all, even when you are waiting there for more to come. Another old saying that comes to mind is ‘there is more to this picture than meets the eye’. And sometimes you can feel the clue in body language, you might sense an eyebrow raising quizzically as you listen to yourself talk. You might find yourself on the floor peering under the couch or behind the bookshelf. Where or where is that favorite pen of yours? And you are doing this long past needing the pen…
There are many ways our body, for whatever reason, seems to be wanting to bring our attention to an unfinished story or incomplete picture. Something in us keeps bringing the topic back up, again and again, and often with somewhat different overtones.
I have an example that came up for me recently that I feel is very typical. Mine began a few months ago now. Sometime while I was sleeping one night I had a cramp attack. This one affected the top of my right foot. It was very painful at the time. I woke up and massaged my foot. Over the next few days, my foot continued to be tender. I began pausing regularly morning, night and sometimes during the day, to massage and gently stretch the top of my foot to relieve the tightness. Being the astute body-aware person I’m continually working toward, I noticed that the top of my foot remained tender and tight, kind of like, I’d just had the cramp the night before. It was not going away. I continued to massage it occasionally and began a regular chi-gung like stretching routine with my foot every morning. As I look back now, I also became interested in Focusing with other body symptoms that I’ve had even longer. I meet regularly with my Focusing partner every week and have other opportunities to Focus in front of classes, so it’s possible I could have invited this tightness in the top of my foot many times. I did not however. Instead older body annoyances came to my mind. I’ve invited the itchiness in my back right before I go to bed and a funny bump on my thumb. They’ve all had more to say than I imagined. One of these feels complete now and one is still unfolding.
This particular tightness on the top of my right foot rose to prominence over the past few days. It will be what I invite with curiosity sometime soon. First, I noticed two days ago, that I had fairly strong reactions to encountering some roadside workers. The first was a young black male who was stopping traffic where the road went to one lane. I was the first car in line to stop and this young man came up to my car to let me know that I would have about a 5 minute wait for the pilot car to come back. My puppy was in the car with me and we began a delightful conversation about the benefits of having a dog in the family. As the pilot car arrived, I recognized that I was in no hurry to follow it. The young man and I ended our conversation. As I drove away though, I had strong feelings of wanting to go back and tell him what a gift he has for connection. Our world needs more of this and I wanted him to know how these little encounters he creates are hugely appreciated. A young black male stopping traffic in a white rural community with his heart open. He’s an inspiration for racial healing. The next encounter was at the end of my day. I spent the day visiting my parents in a suburban neighborhood in Raleigh. It turns out a team of Mexican workers were digging holes to repair some sort of cable. They worked very hard all day digging red clay soil and chopping tree roots as needed. I took a walk with my puppy in the afternoon. As we were approaching the workers around a bend, I noticed one of them standing above his hole stretching his body, arms up over his head. My heart sang that he was taking care of himself. A sinking feeling deep into my gut followed though as I observed him catch my glance, immediately stop his self-care, pick up his shovel and jump into the hole to dig some more. Something in him was concerned that I would judge him as lazy. When I left my parents at 7pm that evening, these Mexican workers were still hard at work. A supervisor was there, managing them as they ran pounding machines to pack the soil back into the holes. I noticed that my heart ached deeply for the wear and tear of this long day on their bodies. I wanted so much for them to experience self-love
I might have let these emotional instances pass by as well, except for a dream experience that followed. I woke from a dream in which I understood that the pain in my right foot was connected to how touched I was by these outdoor workers. My dream was about two lives – first, being a slave during the Roman Empire and then, being in the position of a supervisor to slaves. I noticed that it was my right foot that was chained when I was a slave in my dream. In my dream, I found it intolerable to be in the supervisor position and killed myself. It seemed the best alternative I had at the time. Hhmmm…
And so here I am! Interested and curious to learn more about what my body knows about slavery, how it relates to my life now and maybe what more is there for me to understand. This feels like a potentially complex topic, a large holding space, definitely the type of situation I’ll be best able to understand with the support of my Focusing partner.