Working with the Whole: Focusing and Buddhist Meditation

Date: 2017/7/1-2

Venue: ELCHK, Professional Training Centre, 12/F, Place 18, 18 Cheong Lok St, Jordan, Kowloon

Dr.Campbell Purton


This workshop introduces a new way of thinking about Focusing, which has implications for Focusing practice. At the beginning of his work on Focusing, Eugene Gendlin emphasized the importance of attending to one’s sense of the whole of a situation, and similarly his philosophical work.

A Process Model is centrally concerned with how to think about things as wholes. In giving attention to a problem in focusing we may first give attention to bodily sensations, but not everyone finds this helpful. It can be more helpful to look at what one likes or dislikes about the problem, or consider what words catch the essence of the problem, or find a creative metaphor or picture of the problem. These are all aspects of the focusing process, but we can easily lose sight of them if we focus too much on a ‘bodily felt sense’. Dr. Campbell suggests that ‘the bodily felt sense’ is, in a way, an illusion – what we need to be doing is staying with the problem or situation, though bodily sensations,  likes and dislikes, discrimination and creative pictures can help in carrying us forward.

In developing this approach to Focusing Dr. Campbell have found it helpful to refer to the experience of meditation in Buddhist practice. In the Buddhist tradition, attention is given to bodily sensations (such as those involved in breathing), but also to feelings of liking/disliking, perceptions or discrimination the ‘samskaras’ or mental creations, and consciousness itself. These five ‘collections’ or (skandhas in Sanskrit) are prominent in Buddhist accounts of meditation practice, and relating them to what seem to me to be similar aspects of Focusing practice. In Gendlin’s terminology ‘crossing’ Focusing with Buddhist meditation, and we shall see what can arise from this.

In the last part of the workshop we will consider in what way the fifth skandha of consciousness or awareness relates to Focusing practice. One possibility is that the fifth skandha takes us beyond Focusing, beyond the point where we are trying to resolve our particular difficulties, and instead  opens us to our relationship to the world as a whole. We will work with the skandhas in an experiential way, as well as discussing how they relate to the Focusing process.