Offering Presence to the Electorate Through Thinking at the Edge and Focusing

Something that has scared me the most before the election has been the cycle of fear and polarization. This leads to failures of thinking and imagination - and then more fear and desperation as creative options diminish, and old ways seem to be the only options....

...feeling something in myself, and in others becoming smaller and smaller in response, losing our vibrancy and 'shine'.. if there were some sort of 'short-circuit' in the life flow processes of the culture...
...and wanting to reconnect with my, with our, vibrancy....

Feeling the cramped nature of a polarized, two party system in which each side is trying to win.

It as if, during the presidential election and for several months before, the 'vocabulary of action' was essentially limited to two 'words' in our public language.
....two choices only to express all that we have in our hearts and souls...

'Two words' that became the focus of debates and discussion forums...

Much of the wisdom and caring of a nation was given two words with which to express or describe our hopes and fears and dreams and ideas - what we wanted for ourselves, our country, and our future.

These two words were:

"Bush" ................. and .................. "Kerry".

It feels sad and constrictive and painful to have such a limited vocabulary in the public language. Yet that was the nature of the election process.

We used them to the best of our capacities, as did everyone else, but it was hard. Using this narrow language reduced us in some way, diminished ourselves, others, and the field of what was possible.

Is there a way to interact with such limited public language in way that that we might reclaim it? ... something that Focusing and TAE might have to offer here?

What follows is a simple practice based upon the first movement in TAE.

It is something that we can offer ourselves, each other, and really anyone as we feel moved.

(Important advisory! If we are going to offer this to others, it really helps to get clear first about our own voice. This makes it much easier to hold a listening space for someone else. So, we need to find ways to keep spaces open for our own voices to articulate themselves, for us to live forward into them....)

Steps 1-5 in TAE are 'one movement', a movement that can be summarized by the question:

"What did you want that/those words to mean?"

[[For example, someone may use a word with a common meaning, such as 'support'.
"I think that we all need to support our troops."

But that word has a meaning somewhat unique for each person. So, in TAE we ask:
"When you said 'support our troops', what did you want that to mean?"..... ...and we listen as the person senses more deeply into what those words meant for THEM. ]]

TAE and Focusing offer a way to reclaim our truth and deeper intentions around our nation.

Because, even if this 'two word language' is intrinsic to the structure of the present election process, and it does shape public behavior, we are all much larger than the public language.

And when we take some time to connect with OUR meanings within the public language, our own meaning emerges!

In this spirit, what if we began asking ourselves, and others:

"What did you want it to mean when you voted the way you did?"
"What were you voting for when you voted for your candidate?"

And what if we listened deeply to the response, and welcomed more unfolding, by reflecting or inviting: "Could you say more about that?"

As we do this, the deeper meaning and life energies emerge from inside of each one of us - a richness that had been obscured amidst the narrow public language.

Even if someone is not felt-sensing at first, or knows anything about focusing, one can often speak from a deeper place about something important when given listening space and interest.

And when one is connected with their experiencing, with what they care about, something can move life-forward for them.

[[In contrast, I notice how my usual questions "Why did you vote for whomever ?" could generate explanation or defensiveness, but not expansiveness...]]

I also see TAE opportunities in what examining our assumptions. Someone wrote:

"I am saddened at the idea that the majority actually supports the current administration despite the long litany one could give..."

And then I realize that I don't know what the 'majority' meant by their votes.

I honestly do not know what 'the people wanted their vote to say'.

I know how they voted as a whole.
I know what commentators on TV are telling me that the victory for Bush meant.

I can make some assumptions and interpretations about others, about what 'it' means for 'them'...

... and then Focusing reminds me about how not helpful it is to do those things...

I deeply know the disempowerment that can come in interpreting for others individually.
What about when I am interpreting for others collectively!?
Might I be somehow limiting and disempowering, not in touch with the intricate richness that each person meant, that each person wanted, with whomever they voted for?

Can I remember to hold space for people in general, and especially for anyone who feels to me like a 'them' ?

(interesting focusing on 'the place in me that feels that someone else is a "them"' and what comes for me about all that - another rich area for another day...)

It feels incredibly important that people be heard, and that the voices be shared.

We know from Focusing and TAE how listening with interested curiosity can restore and expand the treasure of each person's dreams and expressions.
(This may be a unique experience for those who have not felt listened to or heard in their lives, who don't know what it even feels like...)

We know from Focusing and TAE what it feels like to be directly connected to our truth in a bodily felt way, and what it feels like to companion another or a group as they do the same.

We know from Focusing and TAE that it is possible to 'reconstitute' a very narrow public 'word' and evoke an expanding space of incredible diversity and felt meaning and vision from which creative possibilities can emerge and be shared.

We know from Focusing and TAE how to balance the perspective of media and spokespeople who want to convince others of their 'right' explanation and interpretation of what happened post-election. Once people find their truth, THEN they can better listen and receive what they hear from other sources without losing themselves.

When we can be with what is, and allow it to breathe - in ourselves, in others, and in our nations - we not only make our corner of the world a bit more sane and peaceful, we also help others find their voices and share their gifts with the world.

An idea starts forming - some sense of a "listening project" - a simple
expansion of focusing listening to be able to offer this in pairs or

Yet it would not just be 'listening'; it would also be 'helping bring something to life'!

We could simply ask people, or invite circles of people, to come together to consider questions along the lines of:

"What did you want your vote to mean? - What did you (myself, yourself, others) want it to mean when you voted? "What did you feel that you were voting for?" "What were you wanting to help happen by voting that way?"

Doing this with another is rather simple, as long as we honor the rules of focusing listening and not argue or merge our stuff in the same space as another person (trying to convince them, etc, once we have heard them and disagree...)

Doing this with more than one other person at a time would need the space to be held - either by a facilitator, or by a process (Council Circle process, for example) that holds space by its very structure.

Several on the Focusing list have talked about the ways that we can 'continue to vote' by our actions and choices.

I would like to encourage those who may feel moved to offer this precious gift of listening presence to others. These others may be people in this community who need to spend time with all that is happening and find their right next steps, or people in other communities that we connect with.

Or perhaps offering this to others, some of whom may have never felt
deeply listened to or heard, or who are trying to find their own voice
amidst the clamor.

Because, as I see it, each time we speak from this place, or help another to do so, we ARE casting another vote - in a 'larger election campaign':

- another vote for the intricate richness of each person,
- another vote for respect,
- another vote for cooperation and shared exploring,
- another vote for another way of being and relating to ourselves, to each other, and to the larger world...

We can let this time be an opportunity to deepen our understanding as a nation and a world, to allow each voice of "I, this Person" to emerge and be heard.

And, out of a space of sharing, the voice of "We, the People" begins to emerge more fully and clearly, and can then guide our steps wisely and kindly....

Thanks for listening,

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 11, 2004