Friday, 2 October 2015

What biofocusing can do in respect of grief

Here are a few ideas of what happens in Biofocusing: the Grief Workshop. No explanation can replace experience which is what the workshop is about, but a few points about how biofocusing works will help. The sub-heading for biofocusing is "choose a point of attention, and then act in respect of it". Attention, focusing and intention are closely linked. These seem to be cerebral words, like encouraging, persuading or forcing the brain to go somewhere. Once you pull emotion and volition into the mix, something holistic happens. Like falling in love, you don't do it with part of yourself. Everything about both of you is involved. Biofocusing is like stepping back, or perhaps forwards, into your livingness and experiencing it with a different intensity, perhaps more, perhaps less, allowing the focus that presents what arrives. Biofocusing is about managing attention, which is a good thing, because humankind hasn't learnt how to do that. We believe too much and we know too little. I have often been intrigued by how children follow their parents' careers. From farming to law to medicine to business, the pattern is re-presented. The management of attention is achieved almost completely unconsciously in this way.

Attention is also hijacked by illusions of reality: centrality of money, depth of love, power as freedom, solitude as prison, and many more. Where our gaze goes, our sense of reality persists.

Aunty Carol who was my Mary Poppins, used to sing to me:"Be careful little eyes what you see, there's a God up above, looking down in love, so be careful little eyes what you see". It's a child's ditty, but really, I can't help seeing what's put in front of me. Yet I can certainly choose where I look. And where I fix my gaze.

Similarly, I can choose what I hear.

I heard what they called the Gospel so frequently as a child that I knew the jist of it from back to front. It has taken me close to sixty years to make any sense of it. In fact, much of the motivation to develop the Grief Workshop arises from my experience of people using words that didn't help, deep words, to convince each other that they weren't grieving, although they were grieving as much as anyone ever has. That has bothered me a lot, because, intuitively, from the beginning, I knew that grief can be transformational. Grief is the signal that part of our mission as humankind is to create love, not to miss it.

Being alive is surprising, mysterious and often baffling. Grief lets us know it's also deeply painful. Taking a step into livingness involves getting closer to emotions. The pleasant ones feel better, the painful ones are best avoided. The worst ones are shattering and we prefer not to go there. Yet, as C.S Lewis pointed out, pain is God's megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

Grief is not a singular emotion, but a vivid and multi-faceted experience that emphasizes uniqeness. What grief does to me is pick up all my understanding, drop it so that it shatters, turns my body into a spasm of unbearably awful pain, and then, after some time, reminds me that I am not only able to choose where to put my attention, but that in fact I am forced where to put my attention. Don't misunderstand the "force" of that. It's not about coercion, but about the sense of truth.

It's weird: what you choose as truth is a major factor in creating your sense of truth. Politicians and attorneys know all about this. Biofocusing involves choosing living. Choosing living is not the same as not choosing death. An early lesson they mistakenly teach at schools is "opposites". Life and death are not opposites. And living is not temporary. If you attend to the experience of grief you will learn something unique. Attending to grief is not about becoming ever more grief -stricken. It's about going where the exeprience wants to take you. There's no recipe, and no generic outcome.

When I turned thirty, Uncle John, who had been my Sunday School teacher, joined the party. He had become a friend whose company I valued and enjoyed. On that birthday, the most ubiquitous gift was ice-buckets. But his was something different. I unpacked a small, dense parcel, and unravelled a message that read:

"out of the eater came forth meat, out of the strong came honey: things are not always what they seem to be".

 It was a Lion matchbox, and into it and around it he had managed to pack R50, which was a significant amount in those days.

The elephant in the room is also not always what it seems to be. Temporary and eternal are not opposites either. The drama neither ends nor begins when we stop breathing. It's in the here and now, and the meaning is not a given but what we create.

So far I've been addressing biofocusing more than grief. I'm saying more than "life is paradoxical" and I'm certainly not saying that grief is illusory. I'm pointing out that attention is malleable, even fluid, and that when one is offered ways of managing one's own attention, very much can change for the better. I had two outstanding mentors, Ken Dovey and John Gibbon: one taught me that life is for living, and the other showed me how to manage living. Now that I've combined the two for myself, I'm in a position to share the praxis.

What we do in the Grief Workshop is attune emotional attention, just as perceptual attention has been stimulated by the last three pictures. What you experience isn't all that there is. It's difficult to run when you're weeping. But it's not difficult to weep when you're running, especially when its towards and not away.

Joy and grief arise from the same place, and this is not a linguistic trick.

More in the Grief Workshop. Thank you for your interest, locally and globally.