THE POWER OF ACTIVE LISTENING
IN THE FOCUSING PARTNERSHIP
The importance of focusing partnership reads like a list of cliches but they are all absolutely essential and valid. The partnership is based on trust, understanding, knowledge, respect and commitment. These are the same foundations the guide and client relationship are based on. One could easily include these things inside the general umbrella of focusing values as well. These are, of course, the qualities we want to bring to focusing partnership.
The focusing partnership is a subtle and non judgemental commitment. The commitment is not only to be other focused, but also a sort of commitment one makes to oneself. A commitment to look inside, to be present, to listen and to hold space for things within you or for your focusing partner. Obviously there is a commitment to set and respect times, and to be a participant in the sessions. It is important to respect the appointed times and give proper notice if those times can not be respected.
In focusing in general much is made of the role of the focuser and how essential it is to honor and respect the focusing space and to in some way assist, even in absolute silence, the focusing process. These are all correct and essential tools one brings to the focusing process, but it is the role of the listener that can deepen and empower the process further.
Listening, or a process I call “active listening”, to be a bit more precise is a crucial skill to refine and hone while in focusing partnership. When combined with reflecting words back to the focuser it makes for a powerful process. Developing tremendous focusing skill involves developing this skill I call “active listening”. I would describe this as “active focusing” as well. Self in presence while in the role of the listener is an essential component but active listening will make anyones process a richer and deeper experience.
What do I mean? Well, the better we become at listening and active listening along with holding space, while we are engaged in the focusing process as the listener, the better a focuser we can become. This is accomplished through applying the very principles of our active listening skills during our own focusing process.
As we become great partners and great listeners for other people, so too must we apply this way of being to our own parts and our own focusing process. In our, self in presence listening process, we become greater listeners to our own internal stirrings. To some people this may come very naturally, but some might also be missing fantastic opportunities for growth by refining their listening skills while actively engaged in the role of the listener.
In focusing partnership we take turns to be the focuser, but this also means we take turns being the listener. This can sometimes be overlooked and people can look at their time as the listener as a “chance to relax a bit” and sit back and support the focuser in their process in the way the focuser has decided.
What can one do to enhance their own focusing skills during a listening process? There are things a listener can do to become better listeners?
Here are some things you might want to try to enhance and deepen the way you active listen.
Listen for the focusers rhythm. This means getting a true sense of their voice and understanding where it is coming from in their body. Is their voice in the throat, the chest, the belly? Where is that physical voice coming from? Is it high, low, hidden, scared, quiet, evasive, full, welcoming? The answer may help you better understand the kind of process a focuser is in.
Listen for the breaths. Is the focuser breathing at a regulated pace? Are they holding their breath? does their breathing seem deep or shallow? Can you hear feel or listen for shifts in the focusers process through the breath or their breathing.
Pay attention to the silences What is happening in the silences? It is important to distinguish between “active silence” and “drifting silence”, active silence is when you can sense there might be something more and so you might hold off a reflection for an extra second or two for that thing to materialize. Drifting silence might be when you sense a drifting away quality to their connection and the reflection can be used to gently bring the focuser back to their process or a place where they were prior to the “drift” or drifting away.
Either way it is important not only to listen, but to feel for these moments and also check with your self to assess them correctly.
As listeners we want to enhance process and often that can be doing as little as possible. Of course we always need to be in tune with the focuser and in focusing partnership we can refine that frequency over a period of months or years. One of my current focusing partnership has been going on without interruption for five years, still I approach every hour we set aside for focusing or listening with the same care and gentleness I have from the onset and I have sought to deepen and enhance these skills.
Focusing partnership is important for the working professional as well. The partnership allows a working professional to set aside deliberate and non paid focusing to further develop their focusing skills and also to have a focusing time set aside for things which might arise in their practice from time to time. Knowing that there is an ongoing support system in the form of focusing partnership gives the focuser and working professional a support system and continuity.
The partnership and particularly the role of the listener is rich, precious space which should be honoured and maintained using the focusing values described I described earlier. Be open, listen deeply, respect and honor process and more importantly the human being in front of you.