The Practice of Zen Focusing for Emotional Wellbeing
Zen Focusing is based on the work of Eugene Gendlin, a philosopher and psychotherapy theorist and practitioner who worked with Carl Rogers at the University of Chicago. Focusing brings to Zen a meditative way of awakening to, reintegrating and healing wounded and split-off parts of ourselves that most spiritual practices do not address, but bypass!
See our Upcoming Events page which lists when Zen Focusing will be offered online and in person from our various communities.
The practice of Zen Focusing allows us to be aware of and listen to the dysfunctional aspects of ourselves where the threads of problematic memories, difficult emotions, and distorted thoughts and behavior patterns intertwine and are stuck in a knot (klesha). These stuck confluences are often unknown to us but serve as destructive templates for the ways we relate to ourselves, others and situations in our lives. These historical and deeply personal tangles require a special attention and practice that meditation, koans, and the study of sacred texts cannot alone undue and free. Such psychological blocks must be dealt with on the path of spiritual and human development.
Zen Focusing is not simple awareness of our mood or state of being; nor is it simple cognitive reflection on present past or future situations. This work accesses and draws upon information stored in the neurological and biological processes of the body not yet named or known cognitively. This somatic approach holds a Felt Sense open with interest and curiosity while suspending for a time naming, judging, and criticizing. This openness held in “not-knowing” allows the surprising emergence of memories, images, fantasies, unexpected associations to come into consciousness with fresh, rich information that helps unfold stuck places, bring them back to life with a forward movement toward integration and resolution.
Zen and Focusing both teach a way of being, The Practice of Presence to what is. Reality! Enlightenment is not something we attain, but something we do that brings us into intimate connection with the flow of life.
Buddhism is bringing powerful transformational practices to the west that can help illuminate and resolve the destructive effects of the underlying philosophic, religious and cultural traditions of simplistic, ignorant duality. However, Buddhism and Zen do not have an adequate psychology. Psychology and psychotherapy are cutting-edge disciplines Western practitioners are bringing to and integrating with traditional Buddhist practices.
Today most Western Buddhist teachers can recognize when a psychological problem is impacting a significant area of a student’s life and functioning and refer that student for professional help. But are the rest of us emotionally fully integrated? Roshi Dennis Genpo Merzel stated, “Don’t ask if you are stuck; ask where you are stuck.”
We do not have or do not make time to reflect deeply on our daily experience. We live like flat rocks flung and bouncing across the surface of a lake. Our fellow-travelers in the 12-Step movement remind us to slow down and “smell the coffee!”
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