A FOCUSING SESSION
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Printable Document (A 4)
by Peter Fritz Walter
This focusing session was inspired by the following book:
Eugene T. Gendlin, PhD
2d ed., New York: Bantam Books, 1981
©1978-1981 Eugene T. Gendlin, PhD
What is Focusing?
Focusing is a method for getting in touch with our body wisdom, our deep-down feelings, our
intuitions, our sixth sense. It is a unique way of receiving holistic answers from the totality of our
being. The method has been drafted in the 1970s by Eugene T. Gendlin, Ph.D., from the University
of Chicago, USA.
Focusing gets close to Eastern meditation methods, however better suits the Western mindset
than most meditation methods. In the beginning, the simplicity of this method was not quite under-
stood and focusing was reserved to the therapeutic setting or used for coping with anxiety or drug
Only later people found how similar focusing is to meditation. With this insight, focusing be-
came a widely accepted and practiced method in self-experience groups and an activity for com-
pany seminars or staff excursions, not to mention its adaptation for boy scouts meetings or special
classes in gifted children workshops and alike. This are the six steps:
• 1/6 Clear & Claim Inner Space
• 2/6 Feel & Sense
• 3/6 Put Handle
• 4/6 Get Feedback
• 5/6 Ask Question
• 6/6 Receive Answer
1/6 Claim a Space
This ﬁrst step is just getting ready. Most of us have lost touch with the source of power inside
and need to get tuned, step by step, to sense again the monitions coming from that source. You can
remain in the position you are or you can sit quietly on a chair, if you prefer. Turn off all sources of
distraction, radio, television, and your phone and sit a moment in silence. If silence is very unusual
to you or if it creates anxiety (this can happen if you are really out of your continuum and shows
that you badly need to begin working on your inner selves), you may put some soft music such as
slow classical tunes (preferably baroque music) or Jazz ballads.
Now you clear a space and claim a space. What does that mean?
Without your own inner space, you are utterly dependent on your outside world and events.
Moving from the periphery of your being to your center, you need to claim an inner space ﬁrst.
Claim your space by quietly afﬁrming that an inner space containing all the wisdom of the universe
exists right now within you! Clearing this space is the next step.
This space can never be spoiled and is pure. Clearing the space is a metaphor for your directing
your awareness inside. This means that you are passively watchful to all what is going on inside of
you, at least for the time of this exercise. How to do this? You may ﬁnd it hard in the beginning.
Thoughts come and go, or, if you are of a visual type, inner images keep changing.
Accept your inner cinema, accept the contradictory thoughts, accept the emotions that come up,
including anger, hate, feelings of anger, and even of revenge, destructive thought, sexual arousal,
the urge to possess another person, depression, the painful remembrance of humiliation.
Accept all of that quietly and totally. Give up any judgment, any moral stigma, any evaluation if
any of this is good or bad!
Because all of this is both you and not you. It is you as far as you accept it to be part of you. It is
not you as far as you possess enough detachment to decide that it is not part of you. All this is truly
under your control, believe it or not! You are the master of this inner world and you are free to rule
it. You are neither good nor bad. You are I AM, your own space, your own universe, your own pow-
erful entity, spark of light and divine cell.
2/6 Feel & Sense
This second step was originally named Felt Sense by Eugene Gendlin. This step is usually the
most difﬁcult to master because of the detachment you need to reach regarding your problem. If
you go too deep into it you are overwhelmed and lack the necessary distance to proceed further in
focusing. If you are too much detached from it, you will not be able to sense it. It is really an art to
not go inside of your problem but get the whole feeling of it.
Now you focus on the point in your body where you usually feel things. This is for most of us
the belly, for others the solar plexus. Now let yourself feel the quite vague sense of all of your prob-
lem, all that communicates it to you. How to do this?
If you are the rational type of person, you may ﬁnd this rather unusual. If you are highly intui-
tive, you may know already what I am talking about. Please ﬁnd the ideal posture for this part of
the exercise. For me it’s sitting with a straight spine yet relaxed. If your back is curved and your po-
sition sluggish, I found, it’s much harder. But if you are tense in your belly, it’s not working well ei-
A FOCUSING SESSION
ther. Your diaphragm should be relaxed but your spine muscles ﬁrm so that your posture is upright, a
bit like in yoga or in meditation.
Now just sit still for a moment and focus inside on that point where you feel there is the whole
of the problem. This may feel awkward, anxious or irritated, or insecure. Note that I am not talking
about a medical problem or health problem but something in your life that needs a decision, an act
or commitment, a let-go or ﬁrm grasp. That can be a relationship, a ﬁnancial situation, an acquisi-
tion, a difﬁcult family decision, a partnership or something you have done and regret, and so on, in
one word, any problem that really moves you.
Focusing is to imply your body wisdom in your decisions so as to get about a more holistic deci-
sion making in which your inner or hidden wisdom is equally involved.
Now get the felt sense, identify the completeness of this feeling that your body or an inner part
of you communicates now to your conscious mind. And just stay with this and don’t do anything
In this part of the focusing process you just had to get this felt sense and that’s it. Take a moment
of rest before continuing, but not more than about ﬁve minutes.
3/6 Put a Handle
Putting a handle simply means that you try to identify the quality of this unclear feeling that
your body has communicated to you. Furthermore, you try to put this quality in words or one
word, or a word cluster, a composition of words like this strange-scary-all-around-problem-that-
feels-hot-belly or this stuck-heavy-jumpy-thing-inside. You can also describe it with an image. How
to do this?
Now you should keep changing this description several times until you feel you have hit the
point and got a description that quite ﬁts the situation or inner feeling. Sometimes we get it imme-
diately and it feels right, sometimes we have to change it until some kind of inner wisdom tells us
‘Okay, that quite ﬁts it, let’s keep that for the moment!’
Please bear in mind that nothing in life is rigid and that all keeps changing. What you feel now
as a handle of your problem may tomorrow feel different already. Accept this fact and your life will
be more beautiful and more energetic because change is the driving force of life.
4/6 Get Feedback
This step of the focusing process was originally called Resonating by Gendlin. I do not use this
term since for most people it sounds strange or unusual although this expression is actually very
nice and descriptive. How to do this?
This step is just to make sure that the handle you have put really ﬁts. So you silently ask your
body to give you feedback about that and practically you do this by letting that vague total feeling
and the handle you have put resonate with each other. Then you passively watch what ﬁts and what
odds. So you keep changing the words, the word composition or the image until you ﬁnd what just
feels right in capturing the quality of what you sense inside.
You may write down the different words or draw the different images on a paper that you have
previously put on the table for that purpose or you may just do it without any further help. Both
methods work for different kinds of people. Try to identify the one that works best for you! Be ﬂexi-
PETER FRITZ WALTER
ble and try different ways of doing. Play with it and have fun that way. You can’t destroy anything
by doing wrong. It may only take a little longer to get the felt sense or the feedback.
5/6 Ask Question
The next step in the focusing process is quite decisive. You have to take an initiative. Until now
you were rather passive in the process, rather watching or observing, rather still with focusing in-
Now you are called upon to take an action. This action consists in asking your body a speciﬁc
question. Before you ask, make sure you are really connected to this vague and complete feeling,
not just remembering it, that you are really with it. Then ask. The question sounds as follows, and
please repeat it in exactly this way:
– What is it that makes the whole problem feel so .... [here you put your quality or handle] and
what is in this sense?
The right answer is not the one that you get quickly without feeling a shift in the feeling you
sense. It is the one that is accompanied by a real shift in the feeling. Something in the feeling or the
way you experience this feeling will shift, will change, will really transform. If that happens you
know you have found the key, that your question was the right one.
How to do this?
If nothing happens or your intellect just gives you ideas and you ask questions without having
this feeling of a shift in your body sensation, then please be patient and quietly ask again, and
again. Not more than about ﬁve times.
Respect your body! If it does not feel like cooperating today, it will tomorrow or later. Your body
has its own unique intelligence and it knows why it behaves this or that way. There is always a deep
logic in its behavior, a logic you may not understand at once, but which is real.
So if after about ﬁve times you feel your question has not provoked any shift in your total felt
sense, give up for this time and click through to the next step.
If you feel your question was right since it was accompanied by a shift or change in your bodily
sensation of the problem, you can proceed to receiving an answer.
6/6 Receive Answer
The last step in the focusing process is called Receiving. You will get an answer from your body
if your body feels like answering and if you are ready to receive. This is not always the case. It usu-
ally happens if the previous step was successful, if you have felt a shift while asking.
Receiving is often felt like a reward we get from the body and it may be a mind-opening experi-
ence. However, it cannot be forced upon. Your body does not like to be forced and it tends to block
if you try to force it.
The answer will come on its own and insofar we do not have control.
How to do this? The art of focusing is to be serious and committed while going through the
steps yet not tense and not greedy, but open to anything that might happen. Do not expect an an-
swer or reward coming, and the chance is so much higher that it comes! This means that with all
involvement needed, you have to keep a portion of detachment in the process.
A FOCUSING SESSION
You may object that this really doesn’t sound easy and I reply to you that I did not promise you
it was easy. But I tell you also that it will be much easier after a few attempts. If focusing inside was
something very unusual in your previous life, it will of course be harder for you than for somebody
who has always lived in accordance with their body and was used to carefully listen to its feedback.
So please keep trying and also keep in mind that if your body does not want to give you an an-
swer today, it is likely to give you the answer tomorrow, provided you are really serious to get an
answer. And you will be rewarded if you continue on a regular basis, for sure!
PETER FRITZ WALTER