TO THE FOCUSING COMMUNITY
8th January 2014
Christmas Day was the eighty-seventh birthday of our founder, Gene Gendlin. Focusers all over the world will want to rejoice with him and to celebrate the fact that he is still the same Gene, warm and brilliant, loving and empathic, and still (of course) working. He is writing a new philosophical paper this winter, in which he will carry his thinking yet further.
For more than thirty-five years Gene Gendlin and his wife, Mary Hendricks-Gendlin, have guided the growth and development of a worldwide focusing movement. Focusing has reached people in six continents and more than one hundred and sixty countries, in the developed world and in developing countries, in its original presentation and through a host of applications and crossings with other practices.
In this explosion of focusing practice all over the world, many, many people have played their part. Our thanks go to them all. Two need to be mentioned today for their outstanding contributions in recent years.
One person who deserves our thanks is Kye Nelson. Kye has been very close to Gene in his philosophical writing, has a deep insight into the Philosophy of the Implicit, and brought many original and new elements into Thinking at the Edge. She has served on the Board with care, kindness and integrity. She updated the website, did important work to bring the running of board meetings into line with Focusing values, and did a lot of work behind the scenes to prepare the present process of transition. Kye has worked very closely with Gene and Mary for the past fifteen years, and has a clear grasp of the values that have moved Gene and Mary as the worldwide focusing community has grown up.
The other person we need to thank is Melinda Darer, who has been with The Focusing Institute for seventeen years, acting as Managing Director, developing programs, running the institute in recent years, successfully overcoming great challenges, and steadily carrying more and more of the responsibility for long-term planning and for developing a vision for the future of focusing. Melinda has reached out to communities all over the world with inspiring courage, imagination and compassion. Warm, kind and practical, she is deeply loved and makes friends wherever she goes.
At eighty-seven years of age, Gene feels that it is time to retire from leading the institute. He wants to have more time “for philosophy and loving”, to be free of institutional responsibilities.
For a while now, focusers have been aware that change has been coming. We have been ready for a transition. Now the first steps have come. In November, Melinda decided that the time had come to resign from her work at the institute. And in December, after many conversations and much focusing, Gene, Mary and Kye resigned from the Board and a new, temporary Board was put in place to help further steps come and to help carry forward the process of transition.
In different ways, Gene, Mary, Kye and Melinda will still be with us, of course. Gene will have more time for his writing. Mary will accept an honorary place on the Board so that we will still have the benefit of her visionary clarity on important occasions. We are keeping closely in touch with both Gene and Mary.
Kye is glad that she will have more time for her private practice as a consultant and we are happy that she will still be available to share her brilliant gifts when we need her.
Melinda will still be around to advise us. We have had many informal conversations with her and were happy last night to welcome her to a meeting of the board at which we worked very constructively to explore our common future. We will greatly value being able still to draw on her long experience.
Melinda and Pat Omidian have just launched a new non-profit organisation: Focusing International. It will use Melinda and Pat’s combined experience, expertise and contacts to provide and facilitate social change initiatives through a variety of focusing-oriented approaches. For Melinda and Pat, as for ourselves, it is vital that the work of The Focusing Institute and the work of Focusing International should be complementary and mutually supportive and we are delighted to welcome and support this new venture.
What will happen at the office now that Melinda is gone?
The office is in safe hands. The day-to-day life of the institute will go on as usual. Many members have had some contact with Elizabeth Cantor, our Administrator, and her assistant, Rita Kirsch. After taking a degree in public relations, communications and management, Elizabeth has pursued a successful career in administration. She has been with us for several years and is very familiar with the day-to-day running of the institute. Those of you who know them will have seen that Elizabeth and Rita are extremely capable people, calm, competent, friendly and easy to talk to.
What is going on at the Board of the Focusing Institute?
A new temporary Board of Directors took office on 16th December last. We are Nina Joy Lawrence, Jerry Conway, Rob Foxcroft and Robert Lee. Gene, Mary and Kye have turned to us for help at this time of change and we are deeply honoured by their trust.
We are a little group of people who have a long-standing interest in forms of decision-making that are egalitarian, grassroots-based, felt-sense-led, and consensual. We have had very happy experiences of working together as a group and of initiating action in our community.
We have been brought in as a new team, to be a temporary Board for a few months. Our task is inspiring and a little daunting. We have been asked to transform this community from one led by its founder from the top, into one led by its members from the grassroots.
We needed to think very carefully before we could agree to become a temporary Board for the institute. We had many conversations with Gene, Mary, Kye, Melinda, Elizabeth and members of the community.
Finally we became clear that we could go forward, become the Board for a time, appoint further directors including the specialised professionals that the Board needs, and prepare a transition to a bottom-up form of governance in which there will be a much greater degree of participation by the community.
We have had several Board meetings and we love working together. We are working with Elizabeth to sustain the activities of the office and to create this year’s programmes, especially the therapists’ conference, the summer school, and the autumn weeklong.
We have drafted a revision of the By-Laws which is nearly ready to be filed and published. We have developed a Focusing-oriented way to conduct meetings, which is set out in the new By-Laws. We are working on the next newsletter, which will introduce us individually and say more about the current transition. We are working with a group of Co-ordinators to prepare for the forthcoming Co-ordinators’ Convention.
We are just four ordinary focusers, who accept this temporary role knowing that others could equally well have been chosen and aware that we will need a lot of help. We are quietly confident because we are sure that you are ready to help – and in fact many people have already been in touch to ask what they can do.
We are looking for a way forward that will feel right to everybody.
This is just to express my happiness at our new governance. For more than a year I have tried to step down. We accepted the advice of two consultants who are expert in not-for-profit organizations, who both recommended a pro-tem board for our transition. The group we invited to undertake this have accepted our invitation.
Now I have at last stepped down!
Considering that I am nearly 87, I am still doing quite well. I am writing
a new paper and thinking forward, although I am slowed down a lot in other respects.
Hello hello from Gene
It is evident that where there is focusing-and-listening, good things happen and difficulties melt away. The 1st Focusing Co-ordinators’ Convention will be held in New York next May (Sunday 18th to Thursday 22nd May 2014). As it approaches we are already seeing signs of the flood of new energy that will be released in the focusing community now that we have found our way to one crucial step in a necessary transition.
Focusing is now unstoppable. It has flowered in all kinds of countries, in all kinds of cultures, in rich and poor communities, in schools and universities, in businesses and in family life, in settled communities and in places torn by war and conflict. Much of this flowering has come about because Gene and Mary have been so determined not to get in the way. And now we need a new source of this determination, a source rooted in ourselves, so that we will not get in the way.
As focusing enters its second wave, we want to know, what can you do to help set focusing free to develop where you are, to reach new people and transform new lives?
And here we are. The focusing community has entered into a big process of transition. That is a good thing. Transition has to come. Without transition, we die. And we have learned not to be scared of transition. Transition is what focusing is all about.
One starts from some murky, unclear place. After a while, there is a clearer sense of what may come, even though it is still implicit and unformed. Quite soon, certain shapes emerge. And quite soon, the details begin to fill themselves in – often very easily and quickly.
As we enter this new phase, we need to listen carefully to one another, to make a big space inside ourselves for everything we hear. We need to remember the focusing attitude of kindness and friendliness to whatever is moving in ourselves or in others.
We want to ask you to take some focusing time as soon as you can. Please explore your feelings about these big changes. Please ask what you can bring that will be constructive and hopeful. Please see what comes to you, when you imagine responding to change in a way that is calm and pro-active.
And we want to end by repeating our heartfelt thanks to Gene, Mary, Kye and Melinda for everything they have done for us. Thank you, thank you. You go your way with our love but you will not be far away. We look forward to seeing how you will choose to take part in the life of the community as we all go forward together.
With sincere good wishes to all,
Nina Joy, Robert, Jerry and Rob
PS – Please forward this letter to any focusers or friends of focusing whom you know, who may not otherwise receive it. We would be grateful for any translations into foreign languages.
(Nina Joy Lawrence, Oregon; Robert Lee, North Carolina; Jerry Conway, England; Rob Foxcroft, Scotland: Certifying Co-ordinators of The Focusing Institute)