I help people sense what they are being called to in the current chapter of their lives, if it isn't yet clear. Then week by week we work with the next stumbling blocks on the path of realizing that calling. In finding next steps we always give close attention not only to the vision but also to the qualities of being they are choosing to embody, so that their life and work can shine with those qualities.
When trouble comes, as it does to us all sooner or later, I help my clients keep finding answers to the questions, “How do I live with integrity here, and now, in this situation, as myself? How do I go about staying innocent, heart open and uncompartmentalized, when life has become overwhelming in its demands, apparently contradictory, or unbearably painful? What shining thing, greater than my own individual predicament, gives me the tenacity to keep going and to prevail?”
Through our work at these times, people begin to see new possibilities and perspectives. They discover ways forward which meet the situation and which make sense to their hearts. I help them tap into spiritual and other resources, and regain resilience, peace of mind, and ultimately a renewed zest for living.
I spent the first seven years of my working life as a computer consultant: a troubleshooter. My clients would call me at their wits’ end because software they were relying on had broken down. I would find the bug and fix the code. But about twenty years ago, I shifted my focus to debugging people-troubles instead.
Some of these ‘bugs’ have been individual, others organizational. The work is wonderfully varied, and my clients have included artists, musicians, academics and educators, as well as nonprofit leaders and others involved in social change. The bugs we’ve worked on are whatever has stopped forward movement along whatever path of beauty that person has been called to walk.
Along the way, Focusing became an important dimension of my work with clients. Besides my consulting practice, I’m a Certifying Coordinator for The Focusing Institute, and have taught in the U.S., Canada, the UK, Europe, and Japan.
Thirty-five years ago, as a student, I studied a varied curriculum of programming, philosophy, painting, and printmaking. Programming was good schooling in how to tenaciously pursue a form which hasn’t quite come together yet. Printmaking helped me develop tenacity as well!
Egg tempera painting, my chosen artistic medium for the last thirty years or so, has continued my education in tenacity and the deliberate deployment of key habits to reach for something beautiful. Meditation, which I took up in 1968 and have practiced ever since, keeps me close to the luminous ground in the simplest, most direct way possible.
Programming also taught me an appreciation for logical elegance in code, something I find echoed in masterful philosophical arguments and in artistic masterpieces. This visceral experience of logical beauty and beautiful logic–as well as the debugging and coding skills I learned as a programmer–became especially relevant during the years of my collaboration with Eugene Gendlin.
Gendlin was the University of Chicago philosopher and psychologist who originated the concept of the ‘felt sense’ and the Focusing process. The best-known product of our collaboration was a formal methodology (in a sense, a ‘program’) called Thinking At the Edge (TAE). TAE is a way of forming well-grounded concepts and formal theories in any field.
TAE helps a person articulate accurately, something which they know implicitly from years of experience in their particular field, so that it can be communicated to colleagues or taught to students of the discipline. People also use the methodology much more informally, to help themselves see something more clearly which is central to them, and then to think profoundly about that thing.
My best-known contribution to TAE was 'step 0', which helps a person pinpoint what would matter most to work on deeply right now. In this way, TAE is brought into the service of a person's calling.
During the TAE years and beyond, I also worked independently of Gendlin to create several other methodologies: little scaffolds which helped people reconnect with the generative engine of their own being and a state of open heartedness, and gain a visceral clarity about which daily uses of themselves might be most natural and profound.
After TAE was complete, I created the Focusing In Contemplation (FIC) program. Participants from a variety of traditions, including Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and more, learned how to use Focusing to help support spiritual development within their particular tradition both personally, and also in their work as teachers and leaders within their tradition. They also learned the art of listening deeply, from the heart, as a contemplative practice in its own right. And they gained a deeper understanding and respect for other traditions through this very process of listening deeply to their fellow participants.
From 2011 through 2013 I served as Director of the Focusing Institute as the organization took its first steps beyond being a founder-led organization–never an easy transition for an organization, and especially tricky when the organization is a global one spanning many cultures. After handing off that leadership responsibility, I’ve continued to mentor people who are bringing Focusing and other practices into settings where they can help defuse conflict or alleviate suffering and trauma, an example being the project which has been bringing Focusing to El Salvador.
In my off hours I spend time with family, walk the river, tend my garden, and take pleasure in the abundant bees and butterflies who live around my home.