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By Nada Lou, Coordinator, Montreal, Canada

Nada can be reached at: www.nadalou.com, nadalou@nadalou.com, 450-692-9339

In previous yearly visits to Australia, I shared my excitement about developing the philosophical practice “Thinking at the Edge” (TAE). This prepared the ground for the first official TAE workshop in Sydney in March 2004. It was a delightful exploration of the first phase of TAE that could be named “Breaking the Language Barrier.”

The three day event was held in the beautiful historic building of Sancta Sophia College. Heavy warm rain outside provided for us an inner atmosphere of time and space. There was a rich variety of people: writers, a yoga teacher, a business man, an architect, therapists, a “parent,” a “husband.” Numbers were balanced between experienced Focusers and relatively new ones.
Excitement became palpable when people detected a knowing that had value, but they did not have words to say it yet. Enthusiasm intensified as I encouraged them to notice that their sense had more to reveal. TAE steps provide a stirring at the edge that can take people deeper within their generative potential. An energy for social/political transformation often comes.

Participants worked with topics such as teaching university students from the teacher’s felt sense and teaching to the student’s felt sense; parenting patterns; making space in a busy life for “just being”; creative writing; advertising an architect’s new company; what a father’s love is all about .

The ability to recognize and trust the felt sense is a must because TAE is a conversation between the felt sense and thinking. I was very encouraged to find that one does not need to be a long-time trained Focuser to be able to do TAE. In fact, long time Focusers had, at first, a harder time! They had to use their abilities for felt sensing in a different way. However, once they opened up to the generative mutability of the felt sense, they were able to go into a deeper, more meaningful process.

Comments from Workshop Participants:

“TAE opened a way of working with words to find ‘just the right way of saying something.’ I have used the skills I learned immediately. I wrote a tribute about a friend and was able to put my ‘felt sense’ about that person into words that represented her in ‘just the right way.’ I used the TAE skills again in putting forward a proposal within one of my work groups.” — Andrea Pelletier, Focusing Trainer

“I now think of the act of ‘knowing’ in a completely new way. Not like, ‘I’ve learned a lot, and read a lot, therefore I know a lot, and can say a lot.’ Rather, that I have areas of experience and expertise in me, and I can touch into them in a Focusing way, and then, using the steps of TAE, I can purposefully tease and draw out what’s implicit. And what will come will be new and rich and far more comprehensive than the head knowing alone, because it comes from this inner knowing that is the felt sense of all that I know in a bodily way.” — Chris Brouggy, Trainee

An Example: Engaging Creative processes

Tereza Crvenkovic is a yoga teacher and is working on her dissertation towards a Masters of Philosophy. She has a special interest in the phenomenology of dance and other aspects of performance. Tereza is a Focusing Trainer and a Coordinator in training.

“What initially started as a vague knowing developed into a whole new way of saying how I engage in creative processes and how to engage the creativity of others. I worked on the idea I have for a Focusing workbook. The initial sentence that came out of the felt sense in Step One was, ‘The workbook will create a shift in perspective and a new paradigm for me and for others.’ The word that stood out the most in this sentence was ‘create.’

Step Three, ‘No words fit,’ was for me the most ‘meaty’ part of TAE. The three words that I chose to work on from my initial sentence were ‘create,’ ‘new’ and ‘perspective.’ Not only did I gain insight into the glaring discrepancies that exist between the public and private meanings of words, I found the overall exercise to be a lot of fun. For each of these words, I found seven or eight of my own personal meanings. For example, the dictionary definition for ‘create’ is ‘to make happen or exist,’ ‘to produce a particular feeling or impression.’ This says nothing about the way I experience ‘create’! Amongst other meanings, ‘create’ has a ‘melt in the mouth quality like chocolate’, ‘bringing together and making whole,’ ‘being in present time,’ ‘giving presence to what is known but unsaid,’ ‘giving form to the formless.’

“Step Four, ‘All the words fit,’ was where something started to ‘come together.’ As I allowed the word ‘create’ to speak from my felt sense, an image of a whirlpool emerged. There was a sense that this whirlpool is always there waiting for me to ‘go inside.’ What came out of this was a sense of willingly stepping into the whirlpool when I’m being creative and willingly stepping out when I’m done. The most important piece here was my willingness to step into this state, and to allow a collaborative interaction to take place with what is already always there. Ultimately, a spiritual dimension emerged out of this when I realised that because the whirlpool is always already there, and outside of me, it has a life of its own and the ability to provide the ‘gift of creation.’ But I won’t receive the gift until I collaborate with what is always already there.”

Another example: Inspiring excellence

Graham Barr manages a team of analysts who study market conditions and developing trends in the telecommunications industry in Australia and around the world. He is working on a project to try to raise the standard of work in the team--starting from what is already good--and from there to attain excellence in all they do.

His original sentence in Step One was, “I know something about how to inspire people to want to excel through their own abilities, overcoming current perceived limitations, cynicism and recent background.”

In Step Three he generated new phrases for the words, “inspire,” “want” and “limitations.” From this evolved some further next sentences to say what he meant:

“To inspire people to lust for personal excellence, despite constraining beliefs.”

“To inspire people to passionately strive for personalised excellence.”

In Step Four further phrases and sentences were generated out of his sense of what he wanted his words to mean. This led to a new saying of his knowing: “My own confidence and enthusiasm is what leads others to passionately strive for personalised excellence.” (Notice how the word “inspire” shifted in meaning. It started as a desire to do the “inspiring” to other people, and then moved into being/coming from an “inspired ground in himself.” )

TAE Partnerships

It is important to explain the difference between TAE partnership and Focusing partnership. TAE partnerships are a lot more collaborative, but still non-intrusive. Some practice is needed to help long time Focusers loosen up into collaboration, and newer Focusers to know the difference between collaboration and interference.

Using the DVD “TAE in 14 Steps” as a teacher

“ I wanted to tell you is how good this TAE DVD is. The structure is brilliant: first the general explanation, then the instructions, then the detailed case example, and all the comments on the same point gathered at the same place. This really works for me, and I am sure for a lot of people. It made me not only see but integrate each point! I did my own process as I watched step by step. It is a workshop on its own!” — Brigitte Jandey

I am optimistic that TAE has taken a healthy root in Australia. Partnerships have formed. I will continue to coach and teach by phone and on future visits. I am continuously energized and excited seeing how this process has an effect on people. When people use TAE steps to tap into what was previously experienced only as an interesting personal signal, they engage in a remarkable generative process.

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