A series of drawings/explorations in drawing from direct links to internal experiencing. Particularly inspired by contemporary philosopher Eugene Gendlin’s practice of “Focusing”. Extending this to dual attention – on the internal and external – including for example using objects, nature or music. The project is not about representation of something external so much as about representing the way life (it’s internal and external manifestations) grows. It is the putting down on paper of the life that’s moving through me, through all of us and in all of nature – which includes us. The works are saying “art is a manifestation of life” “art is a manifestation of the life that’s in us” “art is a manifestation of life moving through us”, “art is a manifestation of us moving to life”. Life requires us to be here and it uses our hands and bodies and in fact it is our hands and our bodies. I believe art is a subtle communication of life by the artist to the viewer. You don’t have to be educated to read it but you do need a certain openness to what’s there and some time. You need to put your critics head down on the floor and sense inside the whole feel of it. That’s what I hope for.
FOCUSING FOR RESISTANCE, CHANGE AND SELF-CARE
Some info about a self-care practice that can help us be in stressful situations and resist following authority on autopilot or jumping in when you feel shaky.
The great thing about Focusing is that you don’t need to say everything. You can keep all the details of your particular situation or the experience you are Focusing on private to yourself. This can be particularly helpful in situations where you need healing but you know that speaking to a counsellor or therapist could lead to repercussions from the authorities or when relating the event feels re-traumatising or makes you feel in any way vulnerable. Always check with yourself whether something wants to be shared. Focusing is also useful because it can be taught and is a practice that can be worked on alone or with trusted friends. This undermines the professionalisation of therapy and makes it more available to the majority of activists who often can’t afford therapy and counselling but have experienced traumatic events or feel grief around what we have found out about the world we live in. Focusing is a beautifully reinforcing practice. It makes us feel good. That helps with building resiliency.
“Your physically felt body is in fact a part of a gigantic system of here and other places, now and other times, you and other people – in fact, the whole universe. This sense of being bodily alive in a vast system is the body as it is felt from within.” Eugene Gendlin, Focusing original describer
“Focusing” is a way of relating to yourself that comes from the counselling and activist traditions. In the 1970s the first ‘Changes’ groups were set up to support campaigning against the Vietnam War. Eugene Gendlin developed Focusing when he saw that over half of people didn’t get much out of counselling and wondered why. He was a philosophy student looking at how we experience life. He found people who were able to find something still vague inside and follow it, something they still couldn’t articulate fully, were the ones who did well in counselling. Everyone else was just up in their heads. He started to teach people how to find that place inside that he called the “felt sense”.
Focusing is a kind of meditative counselling that can help us cope with the feelings inside – whatever they may be. Importantly though it can also help us direct our lives – and everything we do – from within. We all have a gut sense of the situations we’re living in but it’s rare that we tune into that gut sense enough to move from that place. Or when we do we just get caught up in reactions and overwhelming emotions.
Focusing is a practice that you can learn and take away with you – needed because we will always find ourselves in new and sometimes overwhelming or scary situations. In those times we need a practice of our own. Focusing is a skill that can be taught so that you can go to it when needed without the need of a professional always there. It comes from a grassroots tradition that doesn’t want us to be following the authority of someone else but the authority of ourselves. The Focusing Institute follows those principles (and hopefully will continue to even though Gene and Mary have both recently died. Eugene said: “We have a kind of organization in which nobody can tell you what to do” and his partner Mary Hendricks said in one of the Focusing meetings that she was an anarchist. She developed the notion of the “Revolutionary Pause” as a way of dealing with authority.
I have been involved in activism and campaigning of various sorts for about a decade. I’ve also got loads from Focusing, walking long distances and being in nature as well as from good friends. I heard someone after a film about Fracking in Australia that you should bring what you have to the table. And this is what I have. If you want free one to one sessions or want to get a few people together for a workshop let me know.
Alex Brew, 07753826745 I have funding from Women’s Health Project London to give free one-to-one sessions over Skype if you want to learn the practice to spread to your communities.
Oil painting – The Heath and the Internal View. 2019
Painting from a landscape and the feel of my situation.
This site is dedicated to my own explorations of ‘Focusing’ – a system developed by Gene Gendlin to explore the creation of meaning in our experience. Here I’m interested primarily in documenting how I’ve used it in my art practice. It is also a deep therapeutic tool that can be taught. For more on my work there go to: http://www.focusing.org.uk/Alex-Brew
Oil painting on canvas 1,60cm by 80cm by 6cm
From a landscape. Hampstead Heath.
I was standing on a hilltop having climbed for an hour through lines of cultivated forest. My mind and body and soul were grinding a particular problem. The endless seeming rows of trees, straight, narrow, rough symbolised it just right. As I rounded the top of the hill I looked back to my left and there was a field of waving energetically moving dancing grass covering the slope. The grass was giggly full of life. Something in me knew this was the exact feel of what it would be if this whole thing was resolved. This would be the new feel and exact energy in my body. That was the symbol for my way forward. And it wasn’t just a symbol by looking at it I was able to feel it in my body and really experience the feel of it. That brought a sigh of relief and a way forward. In the same way, even if not out in nature, your body can sometimes offer you images and other symbols that exactly get just how it feels for you now and just what’s needed.