Your Projects

Community feeling

Little by little, we come to understand that the whole world is one community. Our community includes everybody.

We have a natural feeling for others. How can we turn our backs on the pain of the poor, the vulnerable and the disenfranchised?

Because of the economic, political and social interwovenness of the modern world, we are all implicated in the causes of poverty, injustice and discrimination.

The wealth and power of the few rests upon systematic subjection of the many.

Because we live in a partly (or partly functioning) democratic society, in a globalised world, we have a direct line of responsibility to all who suffer – equally when they are near and seen, or distant and out of view.

The question we have to ask is:

What am I going to do
about the suffering and oppression of others?

We have a duty to all feeling, sentient creatures – and therefore to the integrity of the web of life as a whole – and therefore to the environment as a whole.

There will be no lasting peace
while there is appalling injustice and poverty.

There will be no genuine security
if the planet is ravaged by climate change.

—Tony Blair

Incredible though it may seem, a few people are still pretending that there is no crisis of the environment. But the evidence is plain.

The way we live is unsustainable. We are too many, we live too well, and it can’t go on. We face species extinctions, environmental degradation, and climate change. Unless we act now, there will certainly be warfare, as people fight over water, land, food and scarce resources. Other civilisations, which seemed secure, have crumbled into dust.

Tacitus says:

When they make a desert,
they call it peace.

We have been making a desert, and calling it wealth.

How are we going to turn things around? How shall we set about leaving behind a world, which is fit for our children to dwell in?

It is time to ask –

What am I going to do
about the destruction of the global environment?

But perhaps you feel helpless?

Whatever you do will be insignificant,
but it is very important that you do it.
You must be the change
that you want to see in the world.


Act anyway. Join with others. Do what you can.

It is never right, to abandon hope.

Art, justice, environment

We come to think of an idealist as one who seeks to realize
what is not in fact realizable.

But, it is necessary to insist,
to have ideals is not the same as to have impracticable ideals,
however often it may be the case that our ideals are impracticable.

—Susan Stebbing

Dance Boatman Dance by Jila Peacock

I very much like to work with a person – using experiential focusing as a source of direction and creativity – when the project on which they are working belongs to one of three kinds. These are projects, which relate to my own deep interests and concerns:

  1. Creative arts projects
  2. Environmental projects
  3. Social justice projects.

Creative arts projects

I am fascinated by the magic of words, sounds, gestures and images, and have many years experience of engaging with creative and artistic projects.

Only through the power of the artist to engage hearts and minds do we become fully human, able to commit ourselves to life, and to take a full part in the life of the world.

The three practices of being in the body, the act of creation, and situational focusing work together to set free the artistic forms and images which are generating in your mind.

Environmental projects

Only when the last tree has withered,
the last fish is caught,
and the last river has been poisoned,
will we realize we cannot eat money.

—Cree Indian tribal saying

I love wild places, and am deeply troubled by what is happening to the environment. It means a great deal to me when I can support an environmental project.

Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power.
We have guided missiles and misguided men.

—Martin Luther King

We have to gather our courage now, to face how bad things are – and to act decisively.

We the human race have ruined the earth,
and our own chances,
by greedy exploitation.

It’s almost, but not quite, too late
to take steps – but what steps? – to retrieve the situation.

—David Hughes and Gerry Durrell

Social justice projects

The way of acquiescence leads to moral and spiritual suicide.

The way of violence leads to bitterness in the survivors
and brutality in the destroyers.

But the way of non-violence leads to redemption
and the creation of the beloved community.

—Martin Luther King

I am haunted by the great issues of social justice, equality, peace and human rights.

I want to do whatever I can to help people who are fighting against violence or injustice, alleviating suffering, or working to dissolve tension and build bridges between those who fear and distrust one another.

The time for the healing of the wounds has come.
The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come.
The time to build is upon us.

—Nelson Mandela (speech at Pretoria, 10th May 1994)

It is too easy to look away from the suffering of others, as if it were nothing to us, who can shelter for a little while in some local comfort and security.

Seafarer by Jila Peacock

Your Projects

The act of creation

There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside of you.

—Maya Angelou

Many people, caught in the need to make a living, have put a project on the back burner. “I’ll do it one day,” we say, but one day never comes.

The feelings which drive our natural creativity are too powerful to be pushed back like this. You must rouse yourself. Listen! Something is calling you. What would be the worst thing that could happen, if you made a beeline for fulfilment?

There are no rehearsals. This is the performance. Isn’t it time to take a look, and see what your dream looks like?

Project coaching is about creating something in the world, developing one project which matters to you. It is straightforward and imaginative.

My ideas about manifesting a dream have music behind them – they are inspired by the working methods of Beethoven and Mozart. For this reason, they are intensely practical, and centrally preoccupied with time and timing.

You may well find, as you set about making a dream come true, that life begins to sing again. Other areas of your life also look up.

Nothing is so attractive as the person who is alive to life, who is living positively, rather than simply getting by.

Sometimes, however, the creative path demands sacrifices of us. To bring a child of the spirit to birth is never without a certain cost.

The act of creation has four phases. These are non-linear, rather than step-wise:


  • Scenario
  • Specification
  • Timeline
  • Sketches

In addition, there are two warnings, about monsters we all have to meet on the creative path:


  • The danger of dissipation
  • The ubiquity of rancour.


Travel in the Shimmering Space by Janet Pfunder

The scenario is the work, the overall conception, the vision, the idea. It is by living with and inside the scenario that the power of the work is generated.

The scenario may begin with a germ, and grow little by little. It may spring up abruptly before your eyes, like an armed man leaping into your path.

Mozart said:

I do not begin to compose,
until I can feel the whole work before me, like a building.

That is the scenario.

Little by little, the scenario is elaborated further and further until (in the classical vision) every detail of the work is integrated into an overall structure.


The specification comprises all practical constraints.

Creativity thrives on limitations. It is in facing constraint that we are compelled to come up with flashes of genius.

Christopher Wren rebuilt the churches of London on odd irregular limiting sites, which made him manifest unique solutions.

Mahatma Gandhi fought the British Empire by walking to the sea to make salt.

We fulfil our destiny when we are practical, when we take account of the facts: when instead of being driven back, we are inspired to be more original, more dedicated, and more inventive.


There is a timeline of project actions, of course, but that is not what I mean here. I mean the timeline of the finished work.

Perhaps because we have a paper-and-screen education, most of us are curiously insensitive to sequence, to clarity of time structure, and to dramatic effect. You want to manifest a sharp sense of timing, to wake people up with the unexpected turns and lightning responses of comedy.

The power and tragedy of Beethoven is rooted in the comic timing of Haydn.

When Sibelius heard his 5th Symphony, he knew at once that the time-sequence was a failure. He spent the whole of the next year crafting an amazing transitional passage within the first movement – one of the most thrilling passages in any symphony.

Stravinsky said –

Music is the point of intersection between man and time.

That is true, so far as it goes. In music, in a sense, there are only times and sounds. But every project (not just in music) happens at the point of our intersection with time. It comes to life in time, and depends upon timing.


Sketching is about catching any ideas, of any kind, at any time. You will always be working on your scenario, specification and timeline – and these sketches, which fall out of the sky at odd moments, find their places one by one in that emerging whole.

The Red Ribbon

You don’t have to work in consecutive order. Ideas come when they come. Seize the idea as it passes. It seems so vivid now, like a dream. Don’t be caught out. Like life itself, it fades in a moment, and you lose it.

Beethoven, like Leonardo, filled hundreds of notebooks with sketches – bits of rhythm or melody, fragments of harmony, ideas for structure or instrumentation. The famous tune in the 9th Symphony for the Ode to Joy (or is it rather, the ode to freedom?) was sketched 220 times before it reached its final form.

Constant sketching is how you get to be at home with the naturally loose, non-linear nature of the creative mind.

The danger of dissipation

The generative process, which I just outlined, is entirely useless without the executive process, which gets things done (see Getting things done).

Many, many profoundly creative people waste their lives and happiness, failing to build this vital bridge between the generative and the executive processes.

Please, please, please – don’t be one of them!

The ubiquity of rancour

Notoriously, people are unable to see straight, when it comes to their own creative work.

As he was dying, the poet Virgil gave directions for The Aeneid to be destroyed, but happily the emperor Augustus had other ideas.

The composer Tchaikovsky suffered agonies of self-doubt. The song-writer Henri Duparc wrote only a dozen songs before the gremlins stole his voice.

The philosopher Bertrand Russell abandoned a book which he was enjoying writing, which had been going well, after his “friend” Wittgenstein ridiculed it “when we were both hot and out of temper”.

There are a great many stories of this kind.

In George Eliot’s novel Middlemarch, there is a character called Casaubon, whose “key to all mythologies” is a morass of confusions – scrappy, chaotic and valueless. Casaubon is (of course) a portrait of the novelist herself, of that twisted reflection which she saw in the mirror, in black and rancid hours.

Complex forces lead us to savage our creations (and ourselves). Typically, we are far more cruel to ourselves, than we would ever be to another person.

The great teacher Nadia Boulanger said:

Your work is like anybody else’s,
neither good nor bad,
neither modest nor immodest,

just like writing a letter.

So we need not be taken in by the words of gremlins, the sands which shift beneath us, the corrosive night-visions. There are countless manifestations of rancour. Happily, countless ways also to deal with its advent.

Your Projects

Want-tos & have-tos

Everybody has needs.

  • We need bodily health.
  • We need physical safety.
  • We need belonging – to be sustained by the love of our community.
  • We need to assert ourselves, to gain respect, and to have self-respect.

Beyond these come vital spiritual needs, for knowledge, beauty and meaning. If these were left unmet, our lives would be poor and thin.

(These seven levels are taken from Abraham Maslow.)

This section is about looking at your needs and longings, seeing what matters to you, recognising what has to be done, noticing where you are in fact putting your time and energy, and deciding whether to vary that.

Many people’s lives are out of balance – always working and never playing, for example, or always caught up in events and never taking time out, or always spending and never saving.

It is good to feel clearly and strongly the things you want to do; to face up to the things you have to do – and to discard things with which, as it turns out, there is no need at all to burden yourself.

I suggest looking at your life from twelve points of view, one by one. Notice where your priorities have lain. Are you going to rethink them?

Nine of these points of view are close to the ground. You see specific life-areas. The last three are way up high. From up here you see your life as a whole, as a single territory.

Sense of self

  • Body
  • Play
  • Renewal

Sense of purpose

  • Work
  • Money
  • World

Sense of others

  • Friendship
  • Love
  • Tribe – family, allies, community

Looking at your life as a whole

  • An image of the future
  • Reading the blueprint
  • Treating your life as a story.

We can ask questions (a few are suggested below). We can evoke images and visualise the future. We will need situational focusing. We may frame new projects, planning chains of action-steps. There will be much to talk about.

Sense of self


Being, health, vigour

Everything begins with the body.

How can you have a sound mind, unless you have a sound body?
Are you taking care of yourself?

Diet, sleep, exercise. Just by taking care of these three, you could transform your sense of well-being, increasing your life expectancy by many years.

You could review your eating, drinking, smoking and other dependencies, sleep, weight, fitness, tension, moods, energy, health, risk-taking, driving, injuries, medications, hygiene, teeth, smell, appearance, clothes, hair.

It’s a good idea to make sure that your relationship with your doctor is equal and pro-active.

Do you need to clean up your act? If so, how?


Rest, fun, free time – and fulfilment

Do you allow yourself to rest?
Do you take time out?

What habits do you have which give you energy?
What makes you laugh?
What does fun look like?

In what ways are you over-serious about your life?
In what ways are you over-serious about your self?

Under what conditions does the urge to be pompous,
self-important, stiff and critical get the better of you?

What? Never! Well, well, well… think of that.

Do you like to think, to read, to see movies, to hear music, to play sport, to make things, to grow plants, to see the world, to meet people?

Do you thrive on creative achievement? on study and discovery?
On beauty in art or nature? on quiet introspection and the spiritual path?
On lively or intimate human encounter?

What do you like best to do?
What do you love about it?

When are you going to do it?
How are you going to afford it?


Pelleas by Jila Peacock

Integrity, growth, wisdom, silence

What do you do to renew your spirit?

How do you deal with stress?

With emotional issues?

Do you reflect on your life?
Do you review your actions from time to time?
Do you review your relationships?

Is there a rhythm to your life?
Do you make space for ritual?

Are you at peace with yourself?
Do you make space for silence in your life?

Sense of purpose


Purpose, meaning, satisfaction

Work is more fun than fun

—Noel Coward

Have you found your purpose in life?
Do you like your work?
Is it fulfilling?
Is your heart in it?

What are you best at?
Does your work use these abilities?

What is hard for you?
Are there other people who could do these tasks?

How do you present yourself to the world?
Do you put forward a clear image of yourself, visually and aurally?
Do you use language effectively?

Do you know what you do?
Is that sufficiently focused?

Can you say what you do in less than a dozen words?
Can you expand that into a short, convincing story?
Can you substantiate that with evidential points, photographs,
and notes of appreciation from others?

Do you come over as convincing and professional in your meetings, emails, letters, calls, documents, website, advertising, and other kinds of self-presentation?

Have you mastered the art of networking?
Have you learned to give recognition to others?

Have you found out how to seize a passing opportunity?
Have you studied the art of letting one thing lead to another?

Is your self-presentation full of spin?
Or are you straightforward, honest and authentic?

You may want to reflect on the relationships you have with your colleagues;
and on how your work impacts society and the world.


Assets, liabilities, cash flow, financial literacy

Do you like money?
Are you comfortable around money?
Are you (and your kids) financially literate?

Do you keep an income statement and balance sheet?
Do you keep track of your cash flow?
Do you make good use of your money?

Are you honest?

Are you servicing debts?
Are your tax affairs sorted?

What age do you want to retire at?
What provision have you made against sickness? injury? redundancy?

Have you provided for your partner and children,
in case you should die tomorrow?
Are you giving to charitable causes (not for profit organisations)?

Do you need to streamline the financial aspects of your life?

All these questions and many more need to be explored, and actions taken.


Summer by Janet Pfunder

Nature, surroundings, stuff

What are your surroundings like?
Do you like to be in natural or urban surroundings?

Do you like the place where you live?
What would your ideal home (and garden) be like?

Are you tidy or messy?
Is your stuff controlling you?

Is your place clean, attractive and welcoming?
Is the fabric sound?
Do you get the chores done?

When you have a clear image of your ideal surroundings,
you can move towards realising them.

Sense of others


Loyalty, closeness, mutuality

What is friendship?
How important is friendship to you?

What is loyalty?
What is trust?

Who’s your best friend?
Do you make time, to stay close?

What is this friend like?
What is your friendship like?

Do you talk about your dreams?
Do you talk about your life problems?

Are you open with each other?
Are you honest with each other?

What place does touch and physical contact have in your friendship?
Do you hang back from friendship, in case people think you are gay?

What’s the strongest thing about your relationship with your best friend?

Who is the most important person in your life?
What is that like?


Tenderness, intimacy, sexuality

What space is there in your life for tenderness?

For softness? sensuality? warmth? comfort? texture? colour? and line?
For touching? hearing? seeing? taste? and smell?
For affection? trust? mutuality? acceptance? kindness? and openness?
For feeling? for unhurried ease and forgetfulness?
For spacious, appreciative slowness?
For lazy, warm togetherness?
For being sentimental, playful and voluptuous?

Do you like your body? Are you at home with it?
Do you enjoy sexual feelings and reverie?
Do you share sexual fantasies with your partner?

Or perhaps you prefer close friendship to sexual intimacy?

Do you need more balance in relation to sexuality?
Or to be looser, more uninhibited, more expressive?
What’s the scariest thing about sex? The best thing?

How’s your love life? What would be the perfect love life for you?

What would your partner like, that you are not doing (enough)?
What would you like, that your partner isn’t doing (enough)?

What space does intimacy have in your life?
Can you share and hear strong or difficult feelings?

Do you listen to your own feelings and needs?
Do you give appropriate weight to them?

What would be the perfect way to spend time together?
What is the very best thing about your relationship?

Sexuality is mysterious, puzzling, so close to us, and so little understood.
Do things go on here, perhaps, for which sex may only be a mask?

We need not be too much impressed by anything we are taught about these strange magnetic attractions and repulsions; about ecstasy and disgust. In this strange territory, we must explore for ourselves.

What is your own sense of your own sexual nature?
What is happening in you, when love and sex are calling?

This image which shakes you – what is it an image of?
Where is the true reflection, in this hall of mirrors?

What does intimacy mean to you?
What is romance?

What is fidelity?
What is marriage?

What is love?
What are you truly longing for?

It is deeply embarrassing to me, to have only such foolish and clunky questions to put here. I can only hope you will find a way of your own to reach into the depths behind.

More than anything, I hope you will yourself reflect with both tenderness and truth on the great issues of love and fidelity.


Family, allies, community

What is belonging?
How important is it to you to belong?

What is kindness?

Are there ways in which you twist yourself out of shape,
conceal your feelings and needs,
or betray your own values,
so that people won’t mock you, reject or look down on you?

Do you get caught in “shoulds”, from which you ought to free yourself?
Have you found ways to stand up to your family and friends when you need to?

How good are your boundaries?
Could they be clearer?
Or are they even too well-defended?

What do other people find really bugging about you?

Whom do you need to forgive? Is that possible?
Whom do you need to thank?

When are you going to say, “I’m sorry” ?
When are you going to say, “No way!” ?
When are you going to say, “I love you” ?


How do you get on with your family?
Who is your favourite?
Who is tough to be around?

What do you like most about family life?
What is a drag?

How are you with children and young people?
Do you enjoy playing and hanging out?

Do you have children of your own?
If not, would you like to have?

If you do have children, what is that like for you?
Is it rewarding, being a parent?
Or do you find it restricting and frustrating?

How do you deal with issues of authority?
What are your hopes and dreams for your family?

Do you load your children down with your dreams for them?
Do you allow your children to have their own dreams?


Sharing and giving are the ways of God.

—Native American saying

Who are your allies?
Who can you trust?
Who can you lean on?
Whose help do you need? Can you ask for it?
Who needs your help? Can you offer it?
Can you be specific about what help you need or are offering?


From what we get, we can make a living.
What we give, however, makes a life.

– Arthur Ashe

What place does giving have in your life?

What is your community like? Do you like these people?
What do you get out of living in this community?

What taboos thwart the life of your community, making it false and arid?
What taboos sustain the life of your community, so that it can thrive?

Is there any energy for giving in your life?
What are you giving back to your family?
To the community? To the world?

Do you have money to give? Skills to share? or to teach?
Do you have social experience, which others can benefit from?
Do you have time to give?

Do you have wisdom to share?
What is wisdom? And if you had it, would you know?

What is your special gift for giving?

It is always tempting to ask:

“If I stop to help this person, what will happen to me?”

We have to have the courage to reverse the question:

“If I do not stop to help, what will happen to them?”

That’s the question before you now.

Looking at your life as a whole

Visions by Janet Pfunder

An image of the future

Looking at these nine specific life-areas…

Which are dominant?
Which are neglected, stuck or thwarted?

What is your vision of a balanced life, seen as a whole?
What is your vision for your future life, seen as a whole?

Let a pattern of detailed, specific, vivid images emerge…

Each of these images brings with it a mood and feelings.
Sense into the felt quality of each image, and see what comes there.

What can you do now, to bring your life into balance?
What can you do soon?

So let’s not lie to ourselves, OK?

What are you going to do?
Decide on specific upfront next actions.

To refine any action step, ask four questions –

Is it do-able?
Is it will-do-able?
Is it review-able?
Is it celebrate-able?

What is the timescale?
How are you going to follow up?

Reading the blueprint

The blueprint is “How life should be”.

No matter what has happened in your life, no matter how deeply conditioned you are to feel and think and act in certain ways, layers of conditioning are never the bedrock.

Beneath all of that stuff, there is a texture of deep, natural oughts. A few of these we can say, very roughly –

“Every child ought to be loved”
“Nobody should be abandoned or betrayed”
“Everybody ought to be allowed self-expression”
“Nobody should be humiliated”
“Everybody needs to find emotional and imaginative and sexual fulfilment”
“Nobody ought to be raped or abused, starved or brutalised”
“Everybody needs to be treated kindly and fairly”
“Nobody should treated as a means, a mere instrument to be used for another’s ends”
“Everybody needs to be seen, to find understanding from others”
“Nobody should be discarded, thrown to the side, cast away or treated as refuse”
“Everybody needs to live from a sense of human belonging”
“Nobody should live in fear”
“Everybody needs forgiveness”

– and so forth.

At certain moments, when a listener names some natural value, which the blueprint holds implicitly, the person may experience a deep flowing current of relief – a profound inner carrying forward of what should have been lived, but was stopped in its tracks.

A stage of growth which has been obstructed for many years may sometimes “fill itself in” (the phrase is Gene Gendlin’s). This may take only a few minutes, when a person comes into contact with the experiential blueprint; with what should have been.

Of course, if naming a value has no experiential effect, the listener will go straight back (as always) to close listening, and make no fuss. The naming may have stirred up some deep echo, way down in the person; or this value may simply not resonate just now.

Treating your life as a story

In some ways, life is like a story, which we tell ourselves. How would it be, if you were to tell yourself some new stories?

How would you like your life to unfold? Are you living the life which is natural for you? Are you writing your own script – or are you reading from a script, written for you by others during your childhood?

Changes will happen in your life and feelings, when you re-write the script. You will want to be aware of them, to notice, when you are living differently – that is, when some pattern changes.

Here are four methods, useful in a life-review, which are strikingly powerful and elegant (I learned them from Bala Jaison and from the “brief therapy” of Steve de Shazer):

  1. Scaling On a scale from 0-10, how OK is this?
  2. Looking for exceptions Think of a context in your life, where the problem is NOT.
  3. The miracle question When this problem is all solved, what will your life be like? What changes in your life will other people notice?
  4. Observation tasks Notice when something is different.

So on the one hand there is the blueprint; and on the other, the script. The script is “The life plan which others wrote for me”. In effect, it is over-written on the blueprint.

It is more or less impossible to grow up, without learning a script. I wonder which of the following scripts ring bells for you:

“I am a winner”
“I will always struggle, and never achieve”
“I am an athlete”
“I am not OK”
“I am the pretty one”
“I must never put myself first”
“I must never feel grief or sadness”
“I will always be loveable”
“Nobody can be trusted”
“I must be good”
“Life is always a little grey”
“Work comes first”
“Other people have rights before me”
“I hate children”
“It’s safer to be invisible”
“I am (not) competitive”
“I mustn’t be selfish”
“Sex is evil, scary and messy”
“I am a cheat and a liar”
“Life’s a bitch and then you die”
“I have to be reliable and prudent”
“I am over-emotional, and will always suffer”
“You have to look after Number One”
“It’s bound to go wrong”
“I must be brave and reckless”
“Share and share alike”
“I am an angry person”
“I am inferior”
“I am creative and artistic”
“I am an outsider”
“Everything that happens is my responsibility”
“I will always feel tired”
“I am the leader”
“You always lose (or hurt) the one you love”
“I will have a weak heart, and die young”
“I am brainy, but I have no common sense”
“I must stay in control”
“I will always have to try harder than other people”
“I will always be skating on thin ice”
“Money doesn’t grow on trees”
“I am clumsy”
“I will always be rejected”
“I am here to take care of people”
“It is always already too late”
“I must always know what other people are feeling before they know it themselves”
“I will always feel sad”
“I am helpless”
“I will never find love”
“I am weak and unwell”
“I can only live at second hand, through other people’s living”
“I make no commitments”
“What’s the point?”
“I was born for glory and power”
“I must never be angry”
“I will never belong”
“I must always look after Mummy”

I tend to think that script-forming is natural to us, a part of our social nature.

Scripts can be benign – perhaps most people find that some parts of the script match their sense of who they are, supporting them as they face the world.

But there is no doubt that script-writing goes badly wrong. A script may be a blight, or a hard frost, a cold foggy darkness, or a millstone round your neck.

And so the twelfth step in the practice of reviewing our want-tos and have-tos is to study the script you have grown up into; possibly to rewrite parts or all of it, but more probably to let them fall away.

For clearly, dealing with the script will be mostly a matter of unlearning, rather than of pasting on yet more layers.

Unfortunately, the script is like a Rosetta Stone. It may take years to decipher. A clue comes here, a clue there. A friend or a stranger may be able to read a line which is murky to you; or other people may obscure your lines by fulsome praise, when you are being (not your true, but) your scripted self.

For many people, the hardest place to be true is amongst family members. Both gross and subtle coercion is used by families, to shrivel a person back into their script.

Far more than any other practice, close listening tends to free a person from the scripted lines. The person, who feels deeply heard (and deeply seen), begins to discard layers of inauthenticity. Pretences fall away one by one, quietly and naturally.

Being in the body is crucial – for the body cannot lie. Situational focusing is a further powerful way to loosen the script. Story-writing and journal-keeping often help. Movies and stories, music and images tend to stir things up, to free us to be ourselves.

For if I am not going to be myself (if my life is going to be a lie and a fiction), well really, what IS the point?

And so the practice of want-tos and have-tos, which seems perhaps at first a little mechanical, a little superficial, turns out to hold a key to integrity and authenticity.

Little by little, energy which has been bound up in keeping me false and twisted gets to be freed up. I come to live as the person I truly am.

The metascript – drift or drive

When we are very young, the big people in their big world seem to know everything. We feel helpless, but they can do whatever they like. We are the weak. They are the strong.

Young children respond in two ways to this state of affairs. Each way has a slogan:

  1. “I can do it all of myself”. That is, “One day I’ll show you all.” – The strategy is one of turning towards life.
  2. “Can’t, won’t, shan’t.” Or, “I’ll never be able to do all that.” – The strategy is one of turning away from life.

More simply, I call this choice “drift or drive”. One child decides to drift, to be helpless, to flee, to give up on engagement. The other decides to act, to fight, to be independent, to take life by the throat.

I think that in many of us, drift or drive functions at two levels. There is the broad global choice which we made as children – our metascript. But also, we fluctuate from day to day, and context to context.

A strikingly independent person may subside into passivity, when faced with illness and hospitalisation. Traumatic life-events may throw even a confident person into a state of confusion and helplessness – perhaps frozen, or terribly over-sensitive.

Conversely, a hesitant and evasive person may be highly competent and decisive in some one area; or may notice that other people too “feel the fear and do it anyway”.

Given this continual fluctuation between drift and drive, the final step in our systematic life review is to explore it.

You need to be observant – to notice what situations or contexts trigger a drifting or evasive pattern of response, what patterns of feeling or illness happen, which enforce it; and on the other hand, what situations set you up to be active, competent and capable, or even to be rigidly, excessively independent.

You may even decide to change the strategy chosen in early childhood. How about that?

A choice of metascript is not final.

Your Projects

Getting things done

This is about creating order in your life at a basic level, keeping track of the things you have to do, and getting them done.

Countless people are stuck, because their lives are flooded with emails and other demands; because filing is just not happening; because the eyes are bigger than the stomach. More and more things keep pouring into our already saturated lives. Modern life is pretty crazy.

As David Allen points out in his splendid book, ‘Getting Things Done’, we need to build order from the ground up. Don’t start with the big picture. Start right here, where your desk is a mess, your files need updated, and you are letting yourself get committed to things which you can’t possibly do.

This is a cyclical process, with four stages –

  1. Collection
  2. Decision
  3. Action
  4. Learning

This section ends with a note on evasiveness as a spiritual practice.


First of all, you have to gather together ALL your loose ends.

Anything left hanging is a weight on your mind, which is ill-designed for holding onto stray information. Collect together everything you haven’t yet done – which you have to do, or want to do, or feel you ought to do, or might do one day. Everything.

Decision (+ projects)

Second, you have to make an upfront decision about every single item. Don’t postpone. You MUST decide.

Just work through:

  1. Throw out all the rubbish. File the things you want to keep. Do any little two-minute actions as they come along.
  2. Say “No” promptly to whatever is unnecessary, or adds nothing, or is a side-issue, or which (in fact) you will never get done, or which is too much to take on.
  3. Delegate what you can, and set up a waiting for list, so that nothing falls out of your life.
  4. As for the remaining actions, they go into a system of lists, if they are not time-specific; into your diary or calendar, if they must done at a certain time.
  5. For any item, if it requires more than one step, then it is a project. Here the word “project” means “anything you intend to do which requires more than one action”. Any project goes on your project list, and may need its own project file.


Another New Fish by Jila Peacock

Third, you have to DO the actions you just decided on. There are two cases here:

  1. Since you now have everything under control, you can act very freely, trusting your instinct from moment to moment.
  2. But when you are working through a certain kind of actions, it generally pays to be dogged. Work through steadily. Don’t keep picking and choosing. Don’t avoid the next one on the list.

Just do it.

Learning (+ review)

A week has gone by, and chaos is creeping back.

You have to review:

  • Where did I get to?
  • What loose ends are gathering?
  • What am I avoiding?
  • Where is trouble brewing?
  • What did I learn?

Did you do what you decided to do? What happened? What worked? What didn’t work? What can still be streamlined? What will you do differently next time?

Every week, as you restore the system to order, you see what you can learn.

Once in a while, you step back and make a much wider assessment of where you are now, in both these respects:

  • Where does chaos still loom in my life?
  • What have I learned over the past while?

Keep answering the master-question:

  • What am I going to do?

By applying the four-stage process of getting things done consistently, you will transform your life and your consciousness. This is the most direct and powerful context for the cycle of action and learning.

You will feel free and have a clear mind, because you are no longer desperately clinging to lots of unrecorded loose ends – and you will be learning a great deal in the process.

Evasiveness as a spiritual practice

Getting things done is demanding, because we lie to ourselves, and are ruled by habitual evasions. So it becomes a spiritual practice, in which we search out our weakness and destructive self-indulgence, and look at them eye to eye.

The secret of getting this process to work for you is to track down your weak links and fix them. You may not like doing this. You may kick and scream. But you will like the results.

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. So when you deal with some seemingly trivial evasion, the good effects may be disproportionate.

Finding-and-fixing can become a passion. It’s well known that people who least need to refine these skills are just the people keenest to make yet more progress.

Your Projects

The cycle of action & learning

The Ascent of Tiger Mountain by Jila Peacock

This section is about learning from what happened, when you did what you just did.

Here we are exploiting the power of the feedback loop. In other words, by being very sensitive to how the world responds to your actions, you are able to tune what you do more and more finely.

When we come to feel differently, we act differently. This may go both ways. In action, we learn – and as we learn, feelings are transformed.

How can you be sure that your actions are your own? How do you know that the judgments on which they are founded have not been fed into you by your parents, your peers, your partner, your staff, advertisers or the media?

The answers to these questions are found by developing a rhythm of action-and-learning, tuning each new action on the basis of what just happened.

Of each small new action step, ask these questions:

  • Is it do-able?
  • Is it will-do-able?
  • Is it review-able?
  • Is it celebrate-able?

That is:

  • Is it practicable?
  • Will you in fact do it?
  • Is it clear and specific? – with no room for doubt, whether it has been done or not?
  • Will you be glad you did it? – no matter how it works out?

And further:

  • What is the timescale?
  • How are you going to follow up?

The Ascent of Tiger Mountain by Jila Peacock

So you do something, and you learn something. The next action is more fine-tuned, and the learning more powerful.

You keep track of your actions; and watch carefully what happens. This is an ongoing process of feedback looping, which works consistently to re-shape your life as a whole.

The rhythm of action-and-learning generates the reality of your freedom.

Your Projects

Your Projects

Seafarer by Jila Peacock

This part of the site is about taking charge of your outer life, about your dealings with the world.

Life loves to be taken by the lapel and told,
“I am with you kid. Let’s go.”

—Maya Angelou

You need to bring order, balance and focus to your life in the world – your work, your projects, your time out and your future. You have to know where you are going, to assert yourself as the person you are.

You need to live out your own gifts.

The five sections are:

  1. The cycle of action and learning
  2. Getting things done
  3. Want-tos and have-tos
  4. The act of creation
  5. Community feeling.

There are two practices here:

1 The cycle of action and learning is the foundation of action (as close listening is of human relationships). It has two applications here:

  • Getting things done is a foreground application, a matter of paying close attention to the details of living from day to day.
  • Want-tos and have-tos is a background application, in which you review your life systematically, conjuring up a fresh vision of who you are and where you are going.

2 The act of creation is about bringing a project to life. This is a natural, non-linear model of the creative process.

Finally, the section about community feeling puts your life and projects into the context of human society and the wider world.

Your Integrity

The laws of integrity

Are there any general principles, which will help me to live well?

I think there are four:

  1. to have a policy of strategic optimism
  2. to be tender to whatever is living and growing
  3. to be fair, and
  4. to engage in any situation with its own peculiarity, its unique pattern.

The law of strategic optimism

Life is inherently hopeful. Life is always living forward. In any situation, pessimism is a kind of betrayal. The pessimist is half-way to defeat. The person who looks for a way through, who trusts that there will be a way through, is going to survive and prosper.

On that journey, the good is the enemy of the best. If we are ever to come home, we will have to resist the sirens – all those voices calling us to good things, which are not what we truly want.

Pessimism is an insult to life.

– John Dewey

Think positively, because it works. This is a strategic optimism – neither animal buoyancy, nor sentimentality, nor empty metaphysics.

Life may be bitter, grim, tragic and unrelenting. Especially at such times, we learn the value of the enduring heart.

The first law of integrity reads:


The law of tenderness

Balancing Baby by Jila Peacock

It is easy to dry up, to shrivel, to get trapped in rules and formulas, to become narrow, rigid, safe, tough, critical, brittle and anti-life. We have to pass beyond these limitations.

The hard man is the friend of death;
the gentle person is a friend to life.

– Lao Tzu

We need to be open, tender, generous, passionate, supple, daring and inventive. Life is sacred – demanding of us a resourcefulness which wells up from the depths of our being.

A response, from everything in us which is open-hearted and merciful, to whatever is green and new, to whatever is frail and vulnerable, to whatever is honest and courageous, to whatever calls to us from the depth of life for reciprocity, justice and compassion.

The second law of integrity reads:


The law of justice

It is crucial to have a warm heart. And a warm heart is not enough. Also, we need to use our heads, to build on our natural sense of what is fair.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

– Martin Luther King

Integrity is founded in the instinctive values of children – in attachment to individuals and elemental fairness.

The sense of fairness is, I think, primitive in us. It is simply part of human nature.

It is vital to understand how deeply ethical reflection is embedded in our language; to realise there is a gulf between what we think we value, and what indeed we do value; to try to discover what is right, rather than merely what feels right; and to reflect on the complexities which underlie that difference.

For justice to be done in any situation, however, we need to have access to specific raw materials:

  1. the stories, feelings and perspectives of all the people involved
  2. factual information about the situation, and
  3. an ability to stand outside the situation, reflectively.

Given these raw materials, we may be able to weigh the different factors, to see the underlying pattern, and to discern the just way to proceed.

Above all, it is vital not to betray what we know to be just – whether out of submission to wealth or power, or for fear of consequences, or because we are subject to pressure from those around us, or because an unjust state of affairs is embedded in the social structure – or for any other reason whatsoever.

The path of justice is not easy.

Nevertheless, the third law of integrity reads:


The law of context

What I am most concerned to do is to call attention
to the complexity of the ethical situation.

Whether he likes it or not,
Nero is within the wider situation.

The question which confronts him is whether
in this definite situation

it is better to stop fiddling
and put out the fire.

—Susan Stebbing

We have to bring several kinds of sensitivity to bear – emotional, ethical and practical. We have to avoid forcing any set of fixed rules or principles onto a situation.

Every situation has its own particularity, its unique configuration.

Nice distinctions are troublesome.
It is so much easier to say that your neighbour is good for nothing,
than to enter into all the circumstances that would oblige you
to modify that opinion.

—George Eliot

The language into which you were born is rich in ways to think about life and action. The society in which a situation arises has a finely wrought pattern.

The more sensitive we are to those practical and ethical nuances which are embodied in language and custom, the more finely we will tune our actions, achieving success without stirring up needless conflict, and without compromising our self-respect – or humiliating others.

The fourth law of integrity reads:


These four laws of integrity are the foundation of the successful life as I understand it, keys to a life of love and of respect for self and others.

Your Integrity

Experiential focusing

We set out to explore the depths of our psyches
and the reaches of our spirits.

—Ray Manzarek

I am going to speak of five forms of experiential focusing. But the foundation is experiential search – the natural process of a person’s self-exploration.

Here a listener can never lead, only follow – this scrupulous habit of following the person’s inner process informs all other forms of focusing, saving us from degeneracy, emptiness and technique.

1 Experiential search

Ascension by Janet Pfunder

Dwelling in and with your feelings, thoughts, images and intentions – being sensitively aware of the movements of your inner life – all this is like browsing.

Goats browse. They move about in an area, feeding on the leaves and shoots of trees and bushes. In the same way, a person can move around inside their problems, nibbling a little here and there, getting essential nourishment.

When you browse amongst your feelings, a succession of little steps comes, through which a situation may gradually be transformed, by small incremental stages.

Of all the processes and practices outlined on this site, experiential search is the most natural. It is how we spontaneously explore (or talk through) whatever is going on for us – our problems and projects, fears and nightmares, dreams and intentions.

Because browsing is so natural and so very variable, I will say little about it, except that it is by far the most complex and elusive human process known to me.

For this reason, when a person begins to explore their world with a companion, it is vital for that companion to be a listener, a following presence. A companion who tries to guide or direct may well disrupt the fragile intricacies of the natural process.

So the listener is with the person in one sense – as an empathic and human companion; but in another sense, allows the person to be utterly alone, picking a unique and idiosyncratic path through the landscape.

Browsing, you may need to be alone or to have a companion, to write or walk, talk or fall into silence, dance or sit, daydream or shout.

You may be calm and self-possessed, quietly and sensitively reflective. Or you may be over-wrought, possessed by waves of uncontrollable feeling, so that there is a natural transition from experiential search to fully feeling.

Again – there will be times when the forward movement is blocked, and you find yourself making a natural transition to situational focusing. I know four main forms of this transition:

  • You are stuck for words – and pause at that point, waiting for words to come.
  • Your listener does not follow – and you search for another way to make your point.
  • You find you are stuck (there is no forward movement) – so that all you can do is dwell on the overall sense of your perplexity.
  • You come across a complex feeling – it presents itself before you, for the next phase of your search.

Through all of this, there is a thread, which the listener (if there is one) must faithfully follow.

It would be contradictory for me to offer guidelines for experiential search. It is your search. You must find your own way – and you will. In the course of finding your way, you also find yourself.

As for the listener, everything I know about keeping company with the rich, subtle process of experiential search has been hinted at somewhere on this site – in particular in the sections on the way of the listener, close listening, and listening sensitivities; and in the two sets of so-called “laws”: the laws of encounter and the laws of integrity.

For much I cannot say, which is intangible and subtle, unique to the human moment.

2 Situational focusing

By The River by Janet Pfunder

When you face any difficulty, it is good to know how to dwell in a place of feeling, paying attention to your sense of being puzzled, blocked, thwarted or perplexed. For this is the true secret of human creativity.

Many writers have drawn attention to the role of a feeling of perplexity in the process of thinking, amongst them philosophers – Plato, Frege, Dewey, and my great teacher, Gene Gendlin.

Gene has devoted his life to the study of these feelings of perplexity, which he calls “felt senses”, and to delineating the process of situational focusing.

Everybody knows what it is like to be without words, feeling for a way forward. You may say, “I don’t quite have it yet. It’s on the tip of my tongue…” or “No, that’s not right. Let me see. It’s more like _____”.

When you stay with that sense of perplexity, you will find that it guides you. As various ideas come to mind, this sense or feel of the situation adjudicates (as it were) between them.

To one idea, there is no felt response. To the next, a cautious wavering, as if something in you is saying, “Well, maybe”. Finally, there is a marked shift of feeling, a kind of “Eureka! I got it!” You get to know what comes next, or what to do next.

A life-step has come. Life-steps are often unexpected. When they come, you may have a marked feeling of relief or surprise.

This sequence is situational focusing. It is the direct path. It is both feeling and thinking. It frees you to make your life your own.

We have all heard of “emotional intelligence”. Situational focusing is your emotional intelligence.

We need to go beyond the formed ideas which we already have. To an extent, the formed ideas are stale – they are like so much machinery, or like a computer: they work out implications, but can never generate a truly creative next step.

But when you are touching and tapping the felt sense of the words you say, the images you see, the music you hear, the gestures you make, the problem you are working on; touching and tapping – then you are waiting for something fresh to break through: for a life-step to come, for an unmistakable moment of real change.

You find the next idea, the next piece of the puzzle, the solution, the life-forward direction. It is like getting a breath of fresh air.

Situational focusing is a way of working with the wisdom of your felt or inarticulate knowing.

But in many people, this natural process has become blocked or obstructed. This essential process is lost to them.

Gene Gendlin and other teachers have devised many different versions of a set of teaching-steps, which enable anybody to re-learn this form of creative thinking.

Rob’s teaching steps for situational focusing

1 The situation

1 The situation

You have a problem in your life. The forward movement is stopped.

A “problem” is simply “something which is calling for attention”. It need not be difficult or negative. It might be delightful, fresh or inspiring. But it is in some sense caught in an eddy – needing to find a way back into the running stream.

You are feeling some sort of blockage in your soul.

2 Saying “Hello”

2 Saying 'Hello'

In villages in many countries, it is important to say “Good morning!” and “Good afternoon!” to everyone you pass on the street and even when you climb into the back of a transport truck.

And in Focusing too – sometimes you might feel too ashamed, or too something, to get at all close to something that happened to you, or something you did, or something you witnessed. But you can at least say “Buenos dias”.

“Uh-oh! – here’s a blockage. Hullo, blockage!” You notice a loss of way, and you just say, “Oh, that’s there.” You say hello to all-of-that.

Whoever passes you in the street, you can always say “Hello!”

3 The space

3 The space

You stop what you are doing. You are probably still caught in the thoughts and feelings which come inside the situation.

You let these thoughts and feelings settle down. You need to be calm enough to feel very low-level emotional states.

Soon you are aware of a clear space within you, some (perhaps small, but sufficient) degree of stillness or openness.

You have come into a little pool of silence.

4 The whole thing

the invitation

You sense for a feeling of the whole problem, inviting a “felt sense” of the whole situation to form, noticing what it feels like as a whole, noticing the quality of the whole thing.

4 The whole thing

the fuzz

Rarely or never is this felt sense simply there waiting for you. What generally comes first is “the fuzz” – a murky, unclear sense of diffuse dissatisfaction.

the felt sense

But after a few moments, the felt sense falls out, comes into focus, gells or crystallizes – a feeling of the whole thing. This feeling may well be extremely subtle, even elusive. Even so, it is clear and stable, compared to the fuzz.

The felt sense may have a precise bodily location, but need not. It may seem to form in, around or outside the body, or have no clear location at all. It may not seem to be “bodily” in any way.

In one sense, nothing has yet changed. And yet, it is a very different thing to have a sense of any situation as a whole, and no longer be trapped inside it.

the junction

Either when the felt sense gells, or later on, you may find yourself unexpectedly at a junction. What was one mass now has several parts. At this moment, you may feel a marked easing.

Now you must choose: should I follow one path at a time? or will I wait here at the junction, holding the whole pattern in awareness.

There may be many strands. Each has a story to tell, and will tell that story, once it is ready to – through words or images which come, accompanied by movements of feeling, changes in the overall quality of the felt sense.

Each feeling is like a guest, whom you make welcome.

5 The likeness

5 The likeness

You set out to look for a word, phrase, image, sound or gesture, which will capture the quality of the felt sense or perplexity. You refine that saying, until the feeling noticeably eases a little.

You begin to be able to say what the feeling is like – and something in you goes “Aaahhh Yes That’s how it is.”

You begin to have a sense of who the guest is, of what she is like.

6 Sensing towards an opening

6 Sensing towards an opening

You are inviting the stuck pattern to loosen, to free up in some way as yet unknown.

You are sensing for some carrying forward, waiting for a creative step to bubble up, accompanied by some kind of felt movement. Since what you are sensing is the whole thing, it will be the whole thing which now changes, mutates or moves forward – as a whole.

You are dowsing – waiting for an opening – and will know it when it comes: for with it comes surprise, release or relief – a sigh or laughter, heart-easing or tears.

Your guest tells her story, and offers you some gift which she has brought you.

6.1 The intrusion of threat

6.1 The intrusion of threat

Typically, before the opening comes, you may experience “threat”. It is hard to speak about threat, because it takes so many forms. In essence, threat is the fear of change.

There are complex forces in a person, whose job is to hold existing patterns in place. They are valuable, even essential, for without them our lives would be all over the place. But since these forces defend the status quo, they cherish the old ways, and are unfriendly to change.

As any pattern loosens, these forces wake up. They try to distract you. They are hostile, fearful, clever, ruthless and inventive. If you fight them, they win.

You must delicately feel your way forward, when threat intrudes upon the process, protecting that space in which the felt sense may open.

Your guest may be frightened by a hostile intruder.

7 Giving thanks

7 Giving thanks

You receive any opening or life-step, when it comes.

You are taking time to allow the new to be integrated, so that the system does not fall back into the old stuckness, when you say “Goodbye” to the loosened, open space. For even after an opening has come, threat may creep up stealthily, to rob you of the gift which you were given.

You are thanking each guest for the gift which she has brought.

Sensitive attention to feelings of perplexity pervades the process of creative thinking. Situational focusing is the wind which fills the sails of your engagement with life.

2 Inner worlds focusing

Tambourine Mother by Jila Peacock

Inner worlds focusing is both like and unlike situational focusing. In a way, it is just a matter of the starting point – but then again, the different starting point tends to lead to a process with an entirely different flavour.

1 Going inside

You find a time and place to be quiet. You bring your attention into your body, into the inner world of sensations and feelings. After a little while, you feel you are there.

2 Something

You notice “something”. The something may be anything, so long as it is felt. It may be vague and fuzzy, but it is unquestionably physical.

You may or may not know whether this feeling has anything to do with your life.

3 Words or images

You begin to find words or images, which describe what the something is like perhaps in oddly poetic or metaphorical ways.

It is very much as if the “something” is showing how the world looks from its point of view. You may be taken by surprise.

4 The inner relationship

Sometimes something has feelings about you. These may include gentle irony or sarcasm, as if it is saying, “Well, hello. How unusual, that you would be listening to me.”

Or as the goddess Aphrodite said to the poet Sappho: “What is it this time?”

There is typically a developing inner relationship, as you and your feelings slowly come to trust one another.

5 Felt movement

Whenever the words or images truly capture what the feeling is like, it changes – perhaps in a subtle way. When you feel the coming of one of these little steps, you take time to welcome and absorb it.

Once in a while, there may be a big shift. You feel wonder and surprise. There is a striking sense that you are being carried forward in your life.

6 The trail

Steps of felt movement form a chain, just as if you were following a trail in the hills or woods, as it turns and winds, or being carried by an ocean current.

When you feel you have gone far enough (or you run out of time), you find a place to close or cadence – and you make a gentle retransition to the world of ordinary life.

Note: In describing inner worlds focusing, I have drawn largely upon the work of Ann Weiser Cornell and Barbara McGavin.)

4 Fully feeling

Instead of the little piecemeal steps of experiential search, some people, who have “the gift of tears”, are overtaken from time to time by grand cathartic releases – huge waves of anger, fear or grief, which break dramatically over the rocks of old rigidities, and may shatter them – freeing up bound energy, dissolving chronic tightness which has been locked into the muscles of the body.

For some people – for example, my friend Kathy McGuire – fully feeling is a central practice, guided by a subtle sensing towards the approach of tears or deep emotion.

Tidal Wave by Jila Peacock

There are a thousand kinds of tears.

There is no need to be afraid of fully feeling. It has its own cycle. You only have to wait peacefully for the cycle to complete itself, for the flood to subside, leaving a changed and fertile landscape.

5 Clearing a space

Most people go through life constantly bearing all their worries and concerns, like so many heavy parcels.

You don’t have to do that. You don’t have to feel weighed down all the time. It’s not necessary. You can put your problems down, and have no fear of losing them. Don’t worry. They will be back to trouble you further.

Clearing a space is a way to have a clear mind, freeing up life-energy for living.

There’s nothing insincere or inauthentic about having a little happiness, energy and clarity of mind.

Almost anything you might want to do is likely to go better, when the inner space is clear; when present experiencing is not veiled behind a gauze of habitual global (bad) feeling.

Patient work with the clear space and the background feeling tends to bring profound changes in a person’s whole attitude to life.

(Gene Gendlin, Marine de Freminville, Mary McGuire and other colleagues have come up with many ways of clearing a space. Here I have woven several together to make an independent practice, hoping you will find it both spacious and poignant.)

1 Evoking the clear space

First of all, picture a time and a place, real or imaginary, where you were truly happy. Evoke it vividly. Be there. See it and hear it and touch it and taste it and smell it.

Don’t let anything contaminate this imagined space.

Everest and Lhotse from Tenboche

You can do this really elaborately – especially if you are in deep trouble, or feeling very distressed.

Use all your senses, your memories and associations. You might even want to draw or paint the place.

You are taking a little holiday from your life.

2 Distant echoes

The middle part of clearing a space is a cycle, with five little steps:

1 Listening for an echo

Allow your attention to turn to whatever might disturb that clear space, noticing the feel of one issue at a time – very faintly and remotely – as if you were remembering your life from a great distance.

You are letting just one thing draw your attention, which could come between you and feeling “all fine”.

Or one good thing, which is pulling on your attention. We don’t want to be biased towards the negative.

You are evoking images of various life-situations; letting each image generate just a hint of its associated global feeling-state.

But you yourself – stay always in the clear space. Make sure that nothing clouds its feeling or its images.

You might feel yourself moving back and forth between just barely sensing the issue, and backing away into uncontaminated space.

Once you find your balance with one issue, so that you are able to be aware of it, without either losing touch or drowning in it, then you can go on.

2 The felt sense

Stay for a moment with the feel of this whole issue – the way in which it colours or slightly overshadows your sense of being all fine and at peace.

How does that whole thing feel to you? Please be careful to distinguish between the feelings you would have in the situation, and the feel of the thing as a whole.

Don’t go into anything.

Just now, you are going to stay with your mild sense of the whole thing.

3 The handle

Invite a handle to come – a symbol which comes up out of that felt sense, and will evoke the feeling again, if you should need it to.

What word or phrase or image (or sound or gesture) would catch the quality or flavour of that whole thing?

You know that a handle has come, when the feel of the issue responds in some way. Something in you says, “Yes, that’s it. That’s how it is”.

In other words, it’s a handle for just so long as, when you pick it up, the suitcase comes too.

4 Friendly curiosity

Now spend a few moments here. Perhaps this felt sense is ready to open. You are just briefly touching and tapping the feeling, with a sense of friendly curiosity.

Perhaps some little forward step is ready to come here, so that the issue will feel a little different, and you will know that you are one step further on with it.

If a life-step comes, make it welcome. And if not, that’s fine too.

5 Refreshing your sense of the clear space

All the time, whilst you are listening to an echo of your distant life, in your imagination you are still at peace, in this (perhaps remote and beautiful) place, where you can be happy.

Before you go on, let the images of being in that place come back; let the feeling of happiness and peace be fully there again.

Now let’s see what else you are carrying today.

The background feeling

Once all the specific issues have let go of you, at least to some extent, you feel easier. Now, if you are attentive, you may become aware of a background feeling.

Fullness by Jila Peacock

What is a mood or attitude which pervades your life, is always with you: your sense of “that’s just how life is”?

How would it be, if you could also put down that mood, attitude or pervasive colouring?

Go through the same five little steps with the background feeling, which you just went through with each life-issue.

There is not one single background feeling. There are many layers. This is a profound and subtle territory. Don’t worry if it proves to be elusive at first. Once you become able to let go of the background feeling, you may find that other issues vanish, or carry forward far more easily.

When you are being deeply real with yourself, whatever needs to happen, does happen.

It’s so tempting to retreat into theory.
There’s a longing for something simple,
which can only be had by denying pain and contradiction.

—Ray Carrick

Life moves forward, once we stop hiding away from ourselves, and stay with whatever is real for us.

By clearing a space, we are able to be with whatever is really there, without drowning in it or living under grey clouds.

Your Integrity

Being in the body

O for a life of sensations rather than of thoughts!

—John Keats

Demeter and Persephone by Jila Peacock

It is good to feel at home in your body, to enter into your animal nature.

You need to fall silent, so that you can be aware of what you are feeling in all its immediacy. To be sensitive to fine sensations, vibrations and delicate flows of energy. To notice how you are affected by your immediate environment, your here and now. To become aware of desire, as it wells up and dies down again.

You are going to sink down softly, into your own embodiment.

For many centuries, in many parts of the world, people have feared and suspected the body. The physical and the sensual have been widely condemned – and often brutally punished. Now people turn against these customs, but in ways which may be merely rebellious.

Are we still contaminated, despite a surface hedonism? Are we divided selves?

And are you not human, in a human frame? Are you not alive?

Here is a practice, which is simply about being alive. It is easy. It takes little time. Soon you will find that the puritan who watches over you is fading naturally away.

The practice branches after the first three steps. And so you must choose.

At the branching point: will you actively choose one of the five branches? Or will you choose to wait and see which branch opens up before you? Then as the process develops: once you are on one branch, will you commit yourself to it? Or will you leave yourself free to move from one branch to another?


The first step is to become still.

Find a time and place to be quiet, to shut out distractions. Let yourself be comfortable, in whatever position feels good to you, standing, sitting or lying down.

You are allowing your thoughts to subside, little by little.


Spend some time simply being aware of raw sensation.

This has nothing to do with naming or describing. Nor having insights, nor being wise. You need not set out to change anything.

When the mind begins to chatter or images to stream, come back gently to what you are feeling.

Just sink luxuriously into whatever is there. Be aware of the body as a whole – the complete body-image – and felt patterns of sensation, vibration and energy.


Demeter and Persephone by Jila Peacock

At times, you will be aware of your present environment, your here and now.

Whatever sense impressions are here, just let them be. The world is having a certain effect on you, which the body registers.

Now the practice branches:

The sensual branch

In the crucible of stillness, as the elements of sensation and environment combine, there wells up in your body some kind of wanting, desire, restlessness or longing – an impulse to act, or a wish to be acted upon by the world.

Here you meet both freedom and captivity. You fall into a world of pure sensuality, the pleasure and the agony of the physical.

The compassionate branch

Demeter and Persephone by Jila Peacock

Perhaps you are in pain. You have been through some deeply traumatic experience, either in early childhood or later on. When you try to work with the pain or frozenness which is left behind, it is too much – too direct, too invasive, and unsafe.

You might try just being very gently present to the world of your sensations, quietly aware of the place in you which is hurting. It may be that little by little something will ease.

There may be a symbol – that is, an image with a charge of associated feeling. Perhaps you can let the image simply be there in the image-space? – letting yourself be gently aware, so gently aware, of the pattern of feeling which it carries.

Now suppose, for all your gentleness, you find yourself beginning to drown. Then clearing a space may be more helpful – for it offers a way to be just barely in touch with painful memories; safe from being sucked back into their agony.

The contemplative branch

Meditation is awareness without judgment
in the whole of your life.

—Akong Tulku Rinpoche (personal communication)

Now you are simply watching your feelings, as they come and go.

Our souls are cluttered up with psychic litter. All our lives we have been hoarding junk. Let it emerge, and let it go.

When we simply discard – not pushing anything away, but simply releasing, releasing, releasing – sometimes there comes a breath of profound existential relaxation – an unfamiliar opening into freedom and space.

Perhaps some veil will be drawn aside. You may feel desire or terror, awe or mystery, clarity or joy, peace or benevolence. You may find yourself entering into the white oceans of silence.

There is nothing here to hold on to. Inner states come and they pass.

Something remains.

The intuitive branch

Demeter and Persephone by Jila Peacock

You are listening to the shifting energies of the body.

You may simply leave yourself open to the Other; or you may actively say (to yourself, to God, to the source, to the universe, or wherever the magic comes from…) –

“Please – I need some help with Problem X”.

And you wait…

A window may open here – perhaps into the world of dreams; or perhaps some intuition will flash into your mind.

Please don’t expect to remember what comes. Insight is often fleeting. You may need to write or draw for a few moments, to capture what just came.

The expressive branch

So long as you are still, be still. After a while, you will feel ready to move.

When you need to move, then move. You might move into dance or poetry, music or painting. Some form of creative expression is natural for you. You are allowing it to emerge gracefully from the silence of waiting.

You can go to and fro between stillness and movement, each informing the other.

Your Integrity

Your Integrity

It is the heart that makes a man great –
his intentions, his thoughts, and his convictions.

—Muhammad ’Ali

The Seafarer by Jila Peacock

Integrity is wholeness, the whole person acting as one.

For we are often fragmented, one part pulling this way, another that. We are tempted to side with one part and squash the rest. Does this ever work? – Well, sometimes, perhaps. But it costs.

I want to invite you to explore the texture of your life impartially; to question your beliefs and values; and to think creatively, facing each problem squarely, and setting out to make your dreams come true.

In order to live fully, you need to have a good relationship with yourself; to be in touch with your inner life – your longings and dreams; your motivations and sense of meaning; your anger, fear and sadness; your dread of boredom, loneliness and humiliation; your love, joy and hopefulness – to be open both to tenderness and pathos in your life.

Feelings play a crucial role in our lives, as the engine which drives our thoughts, images and actions. Alas – we are always liable to be self-deceiving, where feelings are concerned. Thus, when I speak of your integrity, I am thinking above all of feelings.

But integrity is more than what you feel. It is about thought and sound judgment, ethics and conscience.

Since the dawn of time, men and women have engaged in a deep, natural process of search or vision-quest. You have to learn who you are, to accept yourself as the person that you are.

You need to discern your own gifts.

Until you find your own vision, you are swept this way and that by surface waves. It is hard to be stable, to get ground under your feet, to be wholly yourself.

How shall we achieve this stability?

I wish I could trap neatly the search for integrity. But after many years of reflection on the role of feelings and judgments in our lives, I see this can’t be done. The inner life of human beings is so complex and so variable that there can be no way to sum it all up in a single practice.

I am going to talk about two practices – and to make some approach to the complexity of our inner lives by speaking of further branches within each.

In this part of the site, then, there are three sections:

  1. being in the body
  2. experiential focusing
  3. the laws of integrity

The first two sections describe practices – ways to deepen your sense of personal integrity and your knowledge of yourself. Underlying the practices are certain crucial ethical principles, the four laws of integrity.

Each practice has a number of variations. Temperaments vary, as do situations. So these variations are all needed.

1 The practice of being in the body is about simply noticing all sorts of bodily sensations, tensions, feelings, emotions, currents, energies, and so forth.

It has five branches:

  • the contemplative branch
  • the sensual branch
  • the compassionate branch
  • the intuitive branch
  • the expressive branch.

2 The practice of experiential focusing is about finding ways to symbolise what you are feeling – in words, images, sounds or gestures.

I will set out five variations:

  • experiential search
  • situational focusing
  • inner worlds focusing
  • fully feeling
  • clearing a space.

Experiential search is the natural, spontaneous process by which any person explores their feelings and needs, and searches for some way forward.

Situational focusing is about sensing a situation as a whole – getting way up above and seeing the whole thing in a new way. It is about seeing the whole wood, rather than each individual tree or clump of moss.

You start from a place in your life which is blocked in some way. It is no longer moving forwards. There are three phases –

  • finding a vantage point
  • getting a sense of the whole thing
  • inviting the whole thing to mutate in some way.

Inner worlds focusing is about being intimately aware of what is going on in your private feelings; finding words or images to describe the subtle movements of the soul.

Fully feeling is about going fearlessly into the heart of your emotional responses, sensing their raw power in all its nakedness. The fire of passion burns through all obstructions, and there is a sudden outpouring of new life.

Clearing a space takes an approach directly opposite to that of fully feeling. Instead of feeling the force of your emotions, you sense them delicately, as if from far away. You are spared the dread of being overwhelmed.

These two simple, powerful, inter-related practices – being in the body and experiential focusing – ground and develop your sense of integrity or congruence.