Teaching focusing-and-listening to a Muslim

As always, it is both. I must listen to the students about what they feel they need to learn; and I must listen to myself. We have to reach a place of unity with one another about the process of learning together.

The students need space to reflect on their journey. They need to find ways to bring the different strands of training into some kind of harmony.

And the usual questions come. Are they ready to teach focusing-and-listening? Are they more confident when I am out of hearing? Does my confidence in them put wind in their sails?

And especially with these students: How much are they still in the shadow of a traumatic past?

The Islamic tradition has a lot of the teacher talking and the students listening patiently. When it works, the teacher is continuously feeling the mood and responses of the students, and comes to have a deep knowledge of their inner states and motivations. So there is a surface and an undertow.

I imagine that in a fractured culture, one might learn to imitate the surface and have no intuitive feeling for the undertow.

I really want to fight this word, “reflective”. It suggests that one says things back to have some effect on the focuser. But I say things back to check whether I have understood.

And while doing this, other things are conveyed: tenderness and affection, on the one hand; and my own being and shifting moods, on the other.

How Muslim are these Muslims, I wonder? (It sounds like a koan.) If they understand the tradition, then it would make sense to ask them about the Istikhara prayer, which I often mention to focusers with Islamic connections. In that way, focusing belongs in the heart of traditional Muslim practice.

If not, then some other bridge has to be made. Focusing isn’t something you do to people. It is something you do for yourself, with which other people are then infected, because it is contagious.

Our students have to find some way to embed focusing-and-listening in the mainstream of their culture, which means, in the felt life that was laid down in early childhood and in the social world to which they now give their considered allegiances.

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