Our Present Normal

Back in April, I noticed some people were starting to use the words “new normal” in regard to stay at home orders, social distancing, and this whole big pandemic reality. It was an experience like having the rug pulled out from under us all, yet I resisted the phrase new normal. New normal is a phrase I’d become acquainted with while recovering from cancer treatments. I understood exactly what a “new normal” was after having my body altered in significant ways by the various treatments. Those were permanent changes that one had to adapt to and accept as an ongoing part of the rest of their life. It was truly a new normal in such a way that no “old normal” was expected to be returned to.

I couldn’t put the word normal anywhere close to this pandemic back in the Spring because my whole body wanted to say, “No! Temporary!!” However, at this juncture, some five months later, as I nonchalantly pull my mask over my face to manage the weekly shopping, I have to admit there is something about it that has come to feel “normal.” It will not always be this way, yet I’ve been observing there is a level of internal freedom that comes with accepting it just the way it is now, as our “present normal.” Present normal feels like the right phrase to me. It is how it is right now. We can be with that with care-full listening, understanding and acceptance. Better yet, “present normal” has a beauty we can carry forward; we can apply this phrase at any point in our lives no matter what we’re going through.

I wonder, how has it been for you creating a “present normal“ in these difficult times?
I’d love to hear from you.

Our Mutual Humanity

Building bridges and creating strong community feel like some of the most vital things we can do for ourselves in this unpredictable, ever changing world. In Quaker meeting Sunday several people spoke out of the silence about community. One sharing involved a rainbow and was quite beautiful. This is unusual as often times no one speaks or the topics raised are dissimilar. I think this speaks as a sign of our times and has inspired me.  While you are always welcome to Focus on whatever you want, we will focusing on the theme of Community at this next Changes group. I invite you to sense with me into what community means to you and how we keep it healthy, safe, and rich. If you will not attend the group but want to Focus on your own and share thoughts, please send them via email.

As I walked around my neighborhood the evening of independence day, I found myself noticing how different my attitude felt from behind the closed doors of my home texting one of my neighbors about what might or might not be going on vs roaming around the streets with my neighbors. Sequestered inside our own homes, or smallest circles, it can be easy to start thinking whatever those people out there are doing is, at best, not taking us into consideration and, at worst, may begin to feel like it's against us. This was me inside my home hearing all those booms and crashes wondering how I would ever get to sleep, and what were those people thinking anyway, surely not about me, my kids, or my neighbor's dogs.

When we are intentional in our relationships with one another and step out into the bigger picture, being present all together, the feeling is completely different. For me, our mutual humanity feels obvious in this wholistic sphere, I am no better or worse than you and we are each trying to make things the best possible from our own frame of reference and understanding. This is how I felt out in the streets WITH my neighbors. They were no longer faceless wonders behind large booms and crashes. They were people, enjoying themselves, equally glad to engage with each other and share the experience. When I returned home, I shared all this warmth with the neighbor I'd been texting earlier, who in turn expressed her appreciation of my vicarious perspective bringing. Let us remember ,when that familiar feeling of 'us and them' creeps up on us, where we begin to create negative assumptions, that there is always a bigger story to be shared. And it’s in the bigger stories that we find our biggest selves, our understanding and mutuality.

I am just a shaky being said Gendlin. Yet he was also a brilliant therapist, a philosopher, and much more. Each of us contains all of this. Please know, whether today you feel like the shaky being, the great therapist, the misunderstood philosopher, or anything else you are most welcome here. Come as you are!

Our Focusing Changes groups are one small way we can both make a wholehearted connection with each other and maintain our practice of Focusing.  Our next virtual Focusing Changes Group will be held on Sunday, July 12th, at 12:00pm and continue on with the third Sunday of the month. (August 16September 20October 18, November 15, December 20, and so on into the new year.) We will reserve two hours space for the group, however may end early depending on the number of attendees and individual needs. The experience will consist of:  Group attunement, brief check in, partner exchanges, and sharing.

Facing collective darkness together

As we've faced quarantine, anonymizing face coverings, and starvation from touch, there is a combination of collective and personal darkness brought out from the edges of awareness. At the same time I see moments of opening and great creativity. For some it’s a system reboot. For some it’s like the engine has been running in the red zone too long. Perhaps it’s all of the above for each of us in different shifting moments.

 Gendlin’s philosophy extols the principal that body and environment are not separate. We are in inseparable interaction with our world. We feel one another’s pain. One day several weeks after a friend of mine had surgery I found myself inexplicably having pain in the very same part of my body. I did not initially make the connection. Several days later, I had my Focusing partnership and decided to explore it. As I dipped into this pain my body brought my friend to mind, it showed me its sadness at their pain and expressed deep empathy and caring. It prompted me to reach out and shared my feelings and as I did so I found my pain resolving itself. I believe one of the essential balances for the collective grief and loss we feel in life is the sharing of our collective love and empathy through community.

Wherever you are at now, please know you are welcome and wanted in this community. This is a place of safety and you can bring yourself wherever you’re at with whatever you’re feeling.

I understand there is also exhaustion with being on screens. I joined a listening group a couple weeks ago and shared my need to be “voice only” during the listening exchange. It was not only well received by the group it was facilitative for the person I ended up partnered with. I showed up at the beginning and end by video just to say hello and goodbye, but turned the video off and covered my screen for the rest. When you come to a changes group, supervision group, or one on one mentorship session, please know you are welcome to take care of yourself this way or in any way you need to that feels right!!


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