Levels of connecting with the Life Force

A 'Connection with the Life Force' continuum


Gene Gendlin described a graded series of listening responses in The Listening Manual, one of the last chapters of the book Focusing.

Based on this, it appears that there are different levels of connection and response to relate to life-forward movement and the forces that underlie that movement. For brevity's sake, I am calling "life forward movement and the forces that underlie it" the Life Force.

It can be very helpful to recognize that, when you feel a disconnection in trying to explain Focusing (and other modalities that are based on self-organization or emergent process) to people, that there may be a core perceptual conflict, based upon whether or not one believes in, or is connected directly with, some Life force.

This simple model can be very helpful to make the shift from getting stuck in an argument about 'what is real' , to offering a larger picture that can honor others' worldviews while also making space for my own focusing-based understandings which might otherwise seem to be mutually exclusive. Acknowledging this as at the heart of the discrepancy may help shift the discussion towards examining this core area, and may lead to a conversation and shared inquiry rather than an arguing of one truth against another.

I find that it often helps me to keep this model in my awareness. It can also be shared and may help others to see the continuum and to honor their own places in it in various areas of their life.


Along with a description of each level, I also include below several suggestions for encouraging and "being with" each level of understanding. It is hoped that this may allow the natural life-forward movement inherent at EACH level to move forward with its rightness.

[A note of caution is important here. My own experience has been that often different aspects of our being and acting operate on different levels. While these levels are helpful tools, it is a form of oppression to categorize a PERSON as dwelling on any particular level. Not only is overly simplistic, but it violates the truth that there are aspects in each of us that are deeply connected. These are 'cognitive empathy tools', and not to judge or diminish people.]


Level A - No belief in, awareness of, or direct experience with an unseen "life force" , body wisdom, or  "healing intelligence"

At this level of awareness, there is no belief in, no awareness of, and no direct bodily-felt experience of the presence of a Life Force, or of any natural healing capacity that has innate intelligence and intention.

 There is no understanding or belief in “life process” as a force or energy that one can relate to, facilitate, or cooperate with. After all, there is no awareness that there is anything to cooperate with!  

From this worldview, healing is guided by attempts to fix or CONSTRUCT something that mimics natural life processes.

All of the effort and energy for change and growth is done by external initiatives or intervention. Depending on the level of disconnection, they may have some imposed, mechanical, depersonalized, or artificial quality to them - constructing something or 'fixing' something by some intervention. Western medicine offers a good example of the high effectiveness of this approach for certain conditions, and a certain tendency for disconnection inherent in the technology and body-as-machine approach.

At this level, the change agent (doctor/counselor/psychotherapist) may have all good intentions. But, ignorant of the true nature of the healing process, they may interfere with the Life Force in some ways.

(To relate this level to The Listening Manual, this may be analogous to having someone trying to help "fix" your feelings, or help you "solve a problem" so that you feel better - not realizing that there is something inside you that can naturally lead you back into balance and growth.)

The sociopolitical implications of this "material" world view are immense. Not believing in a life force makes it easier to treat others and the world itself as things. There is no real sense of the Sacred from this worldview;  things are often valued for their utility. Without connection, the disease of isolation spreads.

It is important to recognize that these approaches can be very effective - much of the success of Western technologic culture is due to these approaches!  

The good news is that they are easily reproducible and can be very productive. One downside is that they do not include much of a sense of consciously "working with a natural force".


Level B - There is an awareness or belief that a life force exists, but no DIRECTLY FELT EXPERIENCE of it.

At this level, we believe that there is a deeper intelligence, a "natural force", that exists and has its own "logic" and order, but we do not feel able to (or don't realize that we CAN) physically contact it.

The primary intentions and efforts of the change agents at this level are to create the conditions that support and encourage this "natural force" to operate as it knows how to do.

This requires a certain amount of faith, as change agents at this level have no "direct feel" of the process of life moving. They DO have a belief and trust "in the process" because of personal experience with the better results that occur when these principles are applied. In other words, they BELIEVE based on RESULTS, but not necessarily because they 'feel in their bones that this is the truth.'

My own response to first learning about Focusing principles would be an example of this. I trusted the process‚ and began to operate according to principles that had been discovered about ways to encourage the life force. I was operating primarily from a cognitive space – being quiet and allowing and trusting - not from feeling very much as listener or facilitator, yet it allowed others around me to more deeply connect and unfold and grow.

Change (healing) efforts here are less about "constructing" or "fixing".
There is more "allowing". Because of an increased trust in the process, there can be a letting go of trying.

For example, people can learn to simply say nothing, just listen attentively, and offer simple reflections back to others. These are steps from 'The Listening Manual' that apply to a listener operating at this level of Focusing.

One may allow a space free from interference, and let the Life Force naturally bring about balance in its own way. Efforts are made to create the conditions that support healing. The change agents "get out of the way" of the natural healing. Or they facilitate its movement by loosening up blocks to healing.

If you asked someone operating at this level what they were aware of, they might describe their experience or intention as actively trying to behave in accordance with certain principles. It is unlikely that they would have awareness of some healing presence or energies on a regular basis.

The concept of "being present" might seem foreign at this level, because, from their perspective, there is not anything perceptible that they are being present TO!

An example of this level would be practicing acupuncture by listening to the patient's symptom description, finding the diagnosis in a book, and then treating the prescribed points as the text states.
Using a book as the major 'authority', without an intuitive sense of anything else, is a good example of this.


Level C- One has not only an intellectual awareness and a belief in the existence of the Life Force, but also some DIRECT, 'REAL-TIME' FEEL for its presence and movement.

At this level, there is some direct experience of something deeper, something moving, some energetic qualities, a Presence…

 One begins to have a feel, get a felt sense, of this in themselves or in another. Or, they may have a visual or auditory referent – something tangible, something that comes through the senses.

 This allows a much more intimate connection with and sensitivity to the life forward movement, and allows a much more conscious and cooperative relationship with this energy, especially with being able to connect with its unique unfolding.

At Level B, the major role of healer/participants' conscious awareness was to apply certain principles or to "stay out of Nature's way‚" so to speak.

As one moves more into Level C, the principles still guide the practice, but the healer's conscious awareness is refined and sensitive enough to actually assist in facilitating healing in a more participatory way beyond being limited to only "staying out of the way."

At this level, one is more likely to describe oneself as "being present to the process", rather than as "staying out of the way". Even if verbally quiet the whole time, at this level the 'healer' brings a different level and quality of attention and engagement and interaction.

[At the same time, finding some cognitive principles to help "hold" the intuitive learning is often helpful, even at this level.]

Most good intuitive therapists, spiritual guides, and bodywork or energy practitioners work at this level.

Many healing practitioners get an intuitive sense of what a client or system is needing.


Intuitive pulse diagnosis in acupuncture, the "feel of" how a craniosacral manipulation wants to occur, are examples.

So is being "in the groove" in music or skiing. All craftspeople and high-level artists and athletes perform on this level of connection.

[[ Often people experience this in one or several areas of their lives - their craft, vocation, a sport, or spiritual practice - but this connection has not generalized to the rest of their life.
In these cases, practices such as Focusing can be of great benefit to allow the deep connectedness one has in one area of their life to be carried into other realms of their life. ]]

Examples of this in Focusing taken from "The Listening Manual" could include the deeper levels of listening  - such as offering felt meaning in response, or offering one's own intuitive sense of the situation when listening.

Notice the deeper sense of intimacy, connection, and creative expression that occurs as one moves through these levels. Here "faith in the practice" is a felt experience of connection with something unseen, but most definitely experienced. There is also more description of a palpable Presence that can be felt more and more.


As one gains experience and trust in working and being on this level of relationship and connection, their practice becomes 'guided' more and more by what 'it' - the Life Force, the body-intelligence, some guiding energy - needs. As this happens, the 'teacher' becomes the Life Force Itself, and one takes more and more of a role as 'responder'. One's intentions move more towards being responsive and being true to the guidance that Life offers through the practice.

The greater the awareness and connection with the Life Force, the Spirit of Creation, the more rapidly and deeply healing can occur. From time to time, one may get glimpses of something that bridge beyond the sense of our unique individuality, into Something Larger:

Level D "HOLY RELATIONSHIP" (term taken from A Course in Miracles)

While I would not include this next level in secular presentations, I feel that this is another stage on the continuum.

When all come together with shared intention to connect as fully as possible with life and with healing -- there is the potential to experience a level of connection and intimacy where the distinctions between client and healer move into the background.

 What comes more and more into the foreground can be a transcendent Presence that is fundamental to any sense of individuality or personality - 'timeless moments' -  when all may experience 'healing' by being in contact with what is most "True and Holy"  their true nature, the Ground of Being.

(This is often experienced, not necessarily as an 'undifferentiated unity', but possibly as where the richness of the diversity present is more fully appreciated, while the larger unity - the 'stuff we are made of' - is also very present in awareness]

At times, what one connects with can momentarily transcend the  concepts of living and dying, of illness or health on any material level, as one connects with Something Larger in, and beyond, space and time.

Experiences of this type have the capacity to permanently reconfigure one's understanding and experience of the nature of life, the universe, and one's relation and responsibility to the rest of the world…

It is a great source of hope to me to realize that such profound spiritual experiences can be shared as well as individually experienced, and that they can occur in 'healing' contexts as well as 'spiritual' ones. The possibility of their occurring exists whenever two or more unite with a shared intention towards healing or making the world a better place.

It is my hope and intention that, by being aware of this extraordinary possibility, we may help 'make more space' into which it can emerge into our awareness and into our world.

Thank you for your interest and attention.



Some Brief Teaching Suggestions Based Upon This

One useful teaching and learning tool is to recognize that people can be seen as being  at different levels of connection and immersion to this life flow. Each level has its own belief system and sense of 'what is real'. By acknowledging each level while presenting this as part of a larger developmental continuum, it can assist people in helping dissolve some of the cognitive dissonance between paradigm, and facilitate a shift into a deeper immersion of the deeper movements of Life.

The following simple three-level continuum is based on ideas implicit within "The Listening Manual" at the end of Gene's Focusing book.

Level A- No belief in, or experience of, a life force

Level B- Belief in (mental connection with), but no directly felt
experience of a life force

Level C- Mental and physically felt experience of the life-forward
movement and flow

Until now, Focusing has been primarily taught as a way to help people
deepen their experience of Level C. While this is absolutely useful,
and the ultimate goal, teaching of Focusing principles can also be
very helpful to people who are at levels A and B.

1) Starting at Level A -

a) Introducing this model and talking about it.
b) Sharing stories of the VALIDITY of Level A, where a mechanical model of the universe DOES apply and is effective. Then, once validating their reality, we can begin wondering about places or experiences where it does not seem to apply.
c) Sharing stories of being connected to something larger or some innate intelligence of Life can begin to help people consider and open to the possibility of relating and operating in a way that is more open to and connected with the Life Force.
d) Encouraging people to felt sense through exercises
e) Seeking 'instances' of where people are already connecting with or relating to a life force on some level.


2) Starting at Level B -

a) Introducing this model and talking about it.
b) Sharing stories of the VALIDITY of Level B, where it DOES apply and is effective. Then wondering about places or experiences where it does not seem to apply.
c) Sharing stories of being connected to something larger or some innate intelligence of Life can begin to help people consider and open to the possibility of relating and operating in a way that is more open to and connected with the Life Force.
d) Understanding the value of teaching Focusing theory and principles
e) Encouraging people to felt-sense through exercises
f) Seeking 'instances' of where people are already connecting with or relating to a life force on some level.


3) Working from Level C -- ways of helping people more deeply connect with and expand their felt sensing

a) Introducing this model and talking about it.
b) A large aspect of work at this level is to help people find ways to deepen their capacities to sense and respond to what they experience. Traditional Focusing training does this well.
c) Group co-sensing and sharing intuitive perceptions to learn how to felt-sense into more areas and subtleties
d) Learning to perceive 'signs of life' and speak to them in self and others.
e) Using processes to expand the connection in one area of one's life into other areas of one's life.

Focusing Shareware - We offer this material for you to use freely in leading workshops, teaching Focusing, or working with clients. Please contact us with regard to any other uses of this material.

Created on ... November 25, 2004