Looking Forward to Donata Schoeller’s A Process Model Workshop

Donata Schoeller

I am looking forward to attending A Process Model Workshop taught by Donata Schoeller, a philosopher leading a partnership of universities in researching using Eugene Gendlin’s philosophy of the implicit integrated with another form of contemporary phenomenology to train and mentor graduate students and faculty in diverse fields in attending to and making sense of implicit experiencing as a central part of their academic work. A Process Model is Gendlin’s mature work, a doorway into experiencing life free of the Cartesian dualism that haunts our world. Registrants should have familiarity with Focusing, but do not need experience with philosophy or A Process Model. If you are not able to attend, the International Focusing Institute regularly offers Donata’s workshops. You can join the Institute as an associate member for a nominal fee.

Exploring philosophy can feel like a daunting undertaking and professional philosophers have done a terrible job in sharing “their” field with the rest of us. Exceptions such as Gendlin and Schoeller prove the rule. Philosophy belongs to us all. Research shows how kids start philosophizing at a young age, but most adults do not know how to encourage them in it. It is vital that we re-introduce ourselves to philosophy in bite-sized chunks that we can chew on without choking. Donata is a wonderful teacher and will be sharing ways for us to read, reflect, feel and discuss our way into Gendlin’s work together.

As dense as Gendlin’s philosophical writings are, reflecting on them has deeply practical implications. For example, I was surprised at the beginning of the pandemic to discover what research was already indicating, online therapy is as effective as in-person. However, as a psychotherapist, reading A Process Model helped me understand and experience how Zoom does not separate us from our clients, since, after all, the felt sense is interpersonal and situational, rather than intrapersonal. The felt sense we feel is not isolated within one’s skin, it is an expression of the situation, mutually co-constructed. For sessions to come alive whether on Zoom or in person, it is vital we come alive to the felt sense within ourselves and our clients. We are not separate from our environment, nor from each other. We are intrinsically relational beings whether on Zoom or not. This does not mean confusing oneself with one’s client.

Part of the problem with Zoom is how seeing each other framed by our computers can hit the governing Cartesian metaphor of separation that so deeply structures how we experience ourselves and the world square on its nose, exacerbating it, leading us to pull away and shut down, reinforcing this tendency within each other. The way out is for us to come alive together, sharing these processes of coming alive to the felt sense. As therapists, we can share this with our clients.

I imagine most of my readers know what it is like “to die inside” and the sheer relief of feeling alive again, the freshness of it. Too many people have been dying inside on Zoom–Zoom meetings as shared die-ins, hearts turned off. Mind you, it doesn’t take modern technology to do this between and within humans, it has always been a big issue. In the Pali cannon, Gotama said, those who cultivate the path with care do not die and those who do not cultivate the path with care are already dead. (“Already dead” is clearly a metaphor, so surely “do not die” is also a metaphor.) In the New Testament, Jesus said, I come to bring you life and in more abundance! The I Ching writes of the living warrior leaping into the land of the dead. These words are important metaphors that point to the kind of beings all of us already are and can be, and what it means for psychotherapists and clients to cultivate showing up in therapy sessions, bringing us all back to life.

When we are seeking to cultivate a meditative practice over the course of a lifetime, we are embarking, whether we know it or not, on a philosophical exploration. This means if you learned to meditate oriented to a psychotherapeutic modality such as Emotion-Focused Mindfulness Therapy or Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, it can be very helpful to study the philosophy that underlies the modality that orients your practice. EFMT as an Emotion-Focused Therapy orients to neo-humanistic principles such as the primacy of experiencing, authenticity, presence, freedom, equality, self-determination, pluralism, and growth, informed by emotion theory and the philosophical work of Les Greenberg and Juan Pascual-Leone. Their work emerges out of Jean Piaget’s, but also carries forward Eugene Gendlin’s philosophical and therapeutic work on experiencing and making sense of the implicit.

Exploring the philosophical underpinnings of our meditative practice helps us to more deeply integrate the practice into our life as a creative process of discovery that transforms how we understand and experience self, others and world. It also frees us to be able to draw on and be inspired by whichever ancient and contemporary perspectives move us without being trapped within them in dogmatic ways, orienting us to the living questions great philosophers and religious figures expressed, joining with them in exploring these fruitful questions in embodied ways, each living our unique, fresh way into the answers.