What Exactly is Bio Spirituality Focusing Anyway?
Updated: Sep 7
Your physically felt body is in fact part of a gigantic system of here and other places, now and other times, you and other people–in fact, the whole universe. This sense of being bodily alive in a vast system is the body as it is felt from inside.” – Eugene Gendlin, Founder of Focusing
(On Saturday, September 10th, Contemplative Outreach Atlanta is hosting a Bio Spirituality Focusing workshop led by Mike Smoolca. Below is Maggie's interview with Mike about the workshop. Registration information here.)
What exactly is bio spirituality focusing?
BioSpiritual Focusing is a method to discover a deeper awareness of healing and wisdom accessible to each of us through our bodies. It is like other Body Presence and Contemplative Awareness practices, such as the Welcoming Prayer, the Presence Process, Somatic Experiencing, and RAIN.
Where did this practice come from and long has it been around?
BioSpiritual Focusing is one Focusing school method originally developed by Gene Gendlin researching in the 1960's with Carl Rodgers, Ph.D., at the University of Chicago. They studied why psychotherapy was effective for some patients but not for others, discovering that the therapist or the mode of therapy made no difference. Clients made much more positive progress by referring to an embodied feeling underlying an event or emotional response.
In the early 1970s Jesuits Peter Campbell, Ph.D., and Ed McMahon, Ph.D. founded BioSpiritual Focusing to bring a Christian Spiritual context to Focusing. They simplified the process to emphasize a Loving Caring (Agape) Presence to accompany persons to heal instead of avoid felt senses. They recognized that the Felt Shift (the point of healthy integration that is the healing movement in the Felt Sense) is an embodied experience of Christian Grace.
How did you get interested in this?
In 2012 my life seemed to be coming apart. I hated the career I used to love, my key relationships were experiencing difficulty, and I was overweight. Stopping to reassess, therapy sessions pointed me to pay attention to my relationships and my body. I moved from a casual Contemplative/meditative practice to a more committed one.
Luckily my therapist introduced me to the Presence Process, the first one I learned. He guided me to focus on Body Awareness and we did body presence work together. For more than a year, although I couldn’t feel anything in my body, I trusted him and continued to work at it while he patiently stuck by me. Finally I began to notice healing changes.
As I continued with the Presence Process and through my work with Contemplative Outreach, I found the Welcoming Prayer around 2014-2015. That was and still remains a vital practice for me. Around 2016, I was informally introduced to BioSpiritual Focusing, the core of what we'll be discussing in the workshop. That added a deeper dimension and understanding to Welcoming Prayer (which I’ll explain later), and it hooked me. The years of work I had done up to this point with Body Presence allowed me to understand and make quick progress in Focusing. Living only a half hour from the East Regional BioSpiritual Focusing Center in the Genesis Spirituality Center in Westfield, MA, has made it convenient to experience and learn more deeply. I’ve since become a Companion and BSF teacher affiliated with both Genesis and BioSpiritual.org.
What have you seen as the biggest benefits to this practice?
The biggest benefit I've found from my work with all Body Presence and Contemplative Awareness practices is that I have gained an ability to be with difficult emotions without reacting to them, rather now I allow them to be integrated. This process removes obstacles to the expression of my True Self and enables me to live more fully. BioSpiritual Focusing’s emphasis is to explicitly invite Loving Caring (Agape) presence to any hurting place. This has opened me up and brought that presence more fully into my life. I've encountered deep Wisdom that is available inherently in the Body, sharpening my intuition. I have profoundly, at times, experienced my deep connection with the Universe and the deeper source of Universal Consciousness, which is so well described by Gene Gendlin:
“Your physically felt body is in fact part of a gigantic system of here and other places, now and other times, you and other people–in fact, the whole universe. This sense of being bodily alive in a vast system is the body as it is felt from inside.” – Eugene Gendlin, Founder of Focusing
Can you tell us more about how this upcoming retreat is structured? What is covered?
Participants will be introduced to methods to discover a deeper awareness of healing and wisdom accessible to each of us through our bodies. We will establish BioSpiritual Focusing’s place in Body Awareness Practice and then progressively and experientially introduce participants to the focusing concepts. We will conclude with a demonstration and discussion of Focusing. Participants will be invited to welcome and hold their feelings with curiosity and loving care in order to achieve integration into greater wholeness. The day provides the necessary foundations to pursue further practice and study of BioSpiritual Focusing.
Mike Smoolca is the Chapter Coordinator of Contemplative Outreach of Connecticut. Mike is a certified practicing BioSpiritual Focusing Companion, teacher, and team member of Genesis Spirituality Center of Westfield, MA's BSF team. Commissioned as a Presenter of Centering Prayer, Lectio Divina and Welcoming Prayer, he has trained, formed, and mentored people as Presenters of Centering Prayer. He is a practicing spiritual director who also trains and supervises spiritual directors. Founder and Coordinator of the Christian Contemplative Experience at Holy Family Retreat Center in West Hartford, CT, Mike also coordinates the North-Central CT Chapter of the International Thomas Merton Society.