Focusing = Pausing To Ponder

Intuitive Focusing  is one-half of the two Core Skills of the Creative Edge Focusing ™ Model.  Intuitive Focusing can be used any time to find out what is bothering you or to articulate an intuitive “inkling” into a creative idea or solution.

Intuitive Focusing is a predictable, step-wise method for sitting with the vague, wordless intuitive sense of something that is “more than words”….something you can’t quite put your finger on or put into words, but something definitely determining your behavior or how you feel……

Intuitive Focusing can be used not just for personal problem-solving but for sitting with The Creative Edge of anything: creation of art or writing, an exciting professional problem to solve, a good feeling that has a spiritual edge…

Here are just a few situations where pausing for some minutes of Intuitive Focusing can provide a way forward:

  • You have a “gut feeling” of  exactly what problem you want to work on, but you don’t have any words or images to describe it.
  • Your boss hands you a problem to solve out of the blue, and you have no idea where to begin, how to approach it.
  • You are “stuck” on a creative project, “blocked,” no inspiration about where to go next.
  • You know that something is bothering you, your whole body is tense, you can’t sleep, but you have no idea what the problem is.
  • You have an“inkling,” an “intuition,” (see Gladwell, Blink, 2005) but you can’t put it into words.
  • You have a “hunch” about what to do, an action you want to take, but you can’t verbalize any reasons to justify it.
  • You wake up with the “feel” of a forgotten night-time dream.
  • You have a wonderful feeling of well-being, a “spiritual” feeling, and you would like to spend more time with it, finding a way to describe it.
  • You have an uncomfortable feeling after an interaction with someone, but you don’t know exactly what it is about, so you don’t know what to do about it.
  • You know exactly what you want to do but find yourself blocked, unable to move forward.
  • You might have no feelings, no creative ideas. You feel like a flat piece of concrete.
  • You feel totally stressed out, confused, overwhelmed….

The Crux Focusing Steps For Creativity and Change

Intuitive Focusing defines the crux inner steps needed for creativity and change. In the 1960’s research showed that the single most important variable in predicting success in psychotherapy was, not what the therapist was doing, but the client’s own ability to speak from present, “intuitive,” felt experiencing rather than intellectualization. Research on creativity showed exactly the same thing: creative people were able to pause and struggle with, ponder the “intuitive” Edge of their thinking.

Eugene Gendlin decided we’d better learn how to teach that skill of “pausing to ponder at the edge of consciousness” to people. He called it Focusing and broke it down into six steps in order to teach it in a predictable, self-help way.

His  book, Focusing (Bantam, 1981), has been translated into over 15 languages and is used throughout the world. His Focusing Institute in New York  provides a network of Focusing Teachers throughout the world. Dr. McGuire, director of Creative Edge Focusing, is a Certifying Coordinator for The Focusing Institute.

Here are Gendlin’s six steps for use of this inner, meditation-like problem-solving process in a self-help way:

  1. Clearing a Space: Setting aside the jumble of thoughts, opinions, and analysis we all carry in our minds, and making a clear, quiet space inside where something new can come. You can take an “inventory” of all the issues you are carrying inside, setting each aside for later attention, or you can find the way inside through relaxation exercises.
  2. Getting a Felt Sense: Asking an open-ended question like “What is the feel of this whole thing (issue, situation, problem, intuition)?” and, instead of answering with one’s already-known analysis, waiting silently as long as a minute for the subtle, intuitive, “bodily feel” of “the whole thing” to form.
  3. Finding a Handle: carefully looking for some words or an image that begin to capture the “feel of the whole thing,” the Felt Sense, The Creative Edge: “It’s ‘jumpy;’” “It’s scared;” “It’s like the dew of a Spring morning;” “It’s like macaroni and cheese – comforting,” “It’s like jet propulsion! Something new that needs to spring forth!”
  4. Resonating and Checking: taking the Handle words or image and holding them against the Felt Sense, asking “Is this right? Is it ‘jumpy’?”, etc. Finding new words or images if needed until there is a sense of “fit” – “Yes, that’s it. ‘Jumpy.’”
  5. Asking: asking open-ended questions like “And what is so hard about that?” or “And why does that have me stuck?” or “What was so beautiful about that moment?” or “And how does this apply to everything else?” and, again, instead of answering with already-known analysis, waiting silently for the whole-body-sense, the Felt Sense, to arise.

    At each Asking, the Focuser also goes back to steps (2), (3) and (4) as necessary, waiting for the Felt Sense to form,  finding Handle words, Resonating and Checking until there is a sense of “fit”: “Yes, that’s it.”

    Gendlin calls this experience of tension release and easing in the body, this sense of having found the right words, a Felt Shift.  Dr. McGuire calls it a Paradigm Shift. It can be a small step of “Yes, that’s it” or a larger unfolding, a huge insight, with many pieces of the puzzle suddenly falling into place, with a flow of new words and images and possible action steps. Sometimes there is also a flood of tears of acknowledgment and relief or the release of other pent-up emotions.
  6. Receiving: at each new step, each Felt Shift,  taking a moment to sit with the new body sense, simply acknowledging and appreciating your own inner knowing for this new insight. Then, you can start again at step (5), Asking another open-ended question, (“And what is so important about this?”; “And why did that have me stuck?”; “And where does my mother come into all of this?”, etc.). And, again, step (2), waiting for the Felt Sense to form, step (3) finding a Handle, step (4) Resonating and Checking until there is another  Felt Shift,  a sense of “That’s it.”

Learning Intuitive Focusing

Video Demo: Gendlin's Six-Step Focusing

Remember, Focusing is a skill usually taught in 10 two-hour classes or two weekend workshops ---so, if it doesn’t work for you immediately, don’t give up!

While Intuitive Focusing is about learning to “listen to yourself,” many people initially learn Intuitive Focusing more easily with the help of an external Focused Listener. Using the other Core Skill of Creative Edge Focusing, Focused Listening, the external Listener helps the Focuser “hear” his or her own words more clearly and to find the words which “fit” and allow a Paradigm Shift.

Our Self-Help Package helps you set up your own Listening/Focusing Training Group. You can also get training from a nearby teacher in The Focusing Institute Listings on our Free Resources page or arrange for phone sessions with Dr. McGuire or other Creative Edge Focusing Consultants.

But, some people are natural Focusers and just say, “Oh, yes. I’ve been doing this all my life. Now, I can just do it better, more predictably, whenever I want.” So give it a try by exploring the Free Resources in our sidebar!

You will find a complete Intuitive Focusing exercise in the sidebar under Instant “Ahah!”s: Focusing – Find Out What is Bothering. Or you can click on the icon to download our Free Instant “Ahah!”s Mini-Manual with exercises on applying Focusing to “find out what is bothering,” “overcome blocks to creativity,” and “explore spiritual experiences.” Set aside at least 30 minutes for your first attempt.

The exercises in our Free Complete Focusing Instructions will introduce you to a number of different relaxation and imagery exercises for learning Intuitive Focusing step-by-step, including exercises for “Clearing A Space,” for “Getting A Felt Sense,” and for “Getting a Felt Shift.”

Our Instant “Ahah!”s e-newsletter and Creative Edge e-discussion/support group will give you continued reminders to practice and opportunities for feedback.











Want to learn more about Focused Listening and Intuitive Focusing?

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These materials are offered purely as self-help skills. In providing them, Dr. McGuire is not engaged in rendering psychological, financial, legal, or other professional services. If expert assistance or counseling is needed, the services of a competent professional should be sought.