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Mind and Movement 3 – Honouring Yourself

When attempting to use coex we must remember that we are dealing with natural processes, and they have the possibility of entering into our conscious life when, and as they need. However, because of the way our personality relates to spontaneous drives, and perhaps also because of our social training as children, the self regulatory process of coex does not work spontaneously in most people. Nevertheless, the movements and techniques given in chapter three, and those about to be explained in this chapter, must be seen as exercises to re-establish our natural spontaneity. Therefore, when we use coex in a situation where we have chosen to apply it, to be clear, we need to recognise that we are choosing to allow it, or are ‘practising’ it rather than it is emerging in its own way. Practising coex, or allowing it to emerge are both valid ways of experiencing it. The need to be clear about this point however, arises from that fact that if we ‘practise’ coex, it will gradually begin to ‘emerge’ in ones life anyway, and that is natural and good.

Some examples will illustrate how this works in everyday life. But I want to set the scene a little to bring out certain aspects of what we will look at. So Peter and Adelaide, who we are going to consider, need to be seen as human animals. As physical animals they have certain very real needs such as a reasonable amount of food, air to breathe, and protection from the extremes of temperature. Physically they feel these needs and respond to there absence or their fulfilment. This response can be by feeling well and happy, or feeling ill and dying. But their organism as a whole responds in a whole range of ways to many more things than food, air and temperature. Having conscious personalities which are named Peter and Adelaide extend this range of response enormously, and make it more complex also. For instance Peter’s father may be ill in hospital. At a physical level Peter’s body was looked after by his

father while Peter was too young to fend for himself. From purely basic animal kinship feelings Peter has a drive to return that caring, but because of personality clashes between the two males, Peter doesn’t visit his father while he is ill. He suppresses any feelings of wanting to care with memories of past arguments.

In this situation Peter’s psychological self-regulatory process would attempt to find some sort of balance between the kinship drive and the hurt feelings in the personality. Biologically the kinship drive is more important than a hurt pride, so the drive would attempt to express into conscious life. If Peter had learnt to suppress such feelings however, they would remain unconscious. If Peter suppressed such attempts at self regulation over a period of time, then a growing feeling of dis-ease would occur, with Peter unaware of its cause.

That is purely a ‘suppose’ situation created to illustrate how coex can be suppressed from spontaneous emergence. But let us look at a real situation existing with Adelaide. She is 42, a good looking woman with a strong drive toward sex, (i.e. relating to a man, procreating, raising children). Adelaide’s mother recently died, and this triggered an emotional breakdown, causing Adelaide to withdraw from caring for her children, caring for her home or herself. Her husband left her during this period and Adelaide found another man who lived with her. Normal conversation was difficult with her because she spoke on and on in a long blurt about sex, her children, other people, her work. After a few months her new man left her. Adelaide was hospitalised several times.

From the intensity and length Adelaide spoke about love making, having a man, and suicide, her organism had very powerful responses to these areas, yet her expression in regard to them was not organismic. I mean that if an organism, a cell, a creature, a human animal, is hurt or pleasured, it responds in a physical way and with obvious feelings. The reaction might be sexual erection, deep sobbing or any other straight response. But Adelaide’s was almost wholly verbal. This suggests that Adelaide had a powerful suppression on her self-regulatory process, preventing the experience of emotions flowing from her real inner fears and pains. Yet why would a person suppress the very things which would balance their being and bring about greater ease?

The answer could be linked with how Adelaide is structured as a personality, and how her personality relates to the processes of her body. Clues to this lie in her age, that her breakdown occurred after her mothers death, and her preoccupation with procreation. One of her statements was that the man she lived with couldn’t give her a baby, and this was the only real form of love. So we can see that the structure of her personality is deeply bound up with being capable of childbirth. That she is 42, faced with losing her procreative ability, confronted by death and the loss of two men, must not only threaten to destroy her personality as it is, but cause many inner responses to occur which she is not allowing to express. If she allowed the responses to emerge into consciousness, she, Adelaide, would have to meet and integrate the very facts of life she most rejects – meet them WITHIN HERSELF!!!

Peter is in his late forties in his second marriage, and has attempted to honour coex in his life for some years. What follows is his description of how coex emerges into his life spontaneously now.

 “After some years of gradually learning to let myself meet the sort of feelings I used to hold inside, I now meet coex in quite gentle yet effective ways. For instance this morning I woke feeling good, but knowing that I needed sexual meeting with my wife Eileen. When I got close to her though I could feel her withdrawal and lack of physical excitement, so I didn’t push my need. As I was dressing the conversation revolved around how Eileen related to her first husband, – a topic she initiated – and how we were relating – initiated by myself. We had not reached any satisfying conclusion by the time I was ready to start the day by visiting the post office, and I left feeling I wasn’t going to be pulled down by her mood, and determined to be independent. As I left I had an uneasy feeling inside. I started to push it down but realised that my attitude to Eileen only satisfied my independent self, and there was another part of me which was upset by what had happened. By the time I was walking back from the post office the feeling was clear enough for me to see that although it was fine to be independent, I was attempting to achieve it at the expense of my feelings of care and connection I had built with Eileen over the years. When I arrived back Eileen was sitting playing with her granddaughter. She looked okay but I went to her, hugged her and said, ‘It’s a big world out there, and I don’t want to go it alone.’ Tears sprang to her eyes, so I saw she had been trying to play silly buggers just as I had. Then the tension which had existed between us vanished.

“Maybe that sounds like a very small incident, but I know that in the past I let those small things mount up until they were huge grudges inside. Now I can allow the feelings which arise, and so I let my whole self have a say in how I live, instead of being the sort of dictator I used to be.”

The simplest way of allowing coex to enter our life is to honour what we feel. While working with a man – Andy – recently, one of the common errors connected with this was demonstrated to me again. Andy had allowed spontaneous movements and feeling while working alone, and had arrived at a sense of confusion and failure. In his words, “I feel blitzed”. When I asked him to explain what he meant he said that he just couldn’t do whatever was necessary to succeed with coex, and felt devastated. In other words, Andy was looking for a feeling of success and confidence as the thing he should have found. When I suggested he allow himself to experience the ‘blitzed’ feeling instead of searching elsewhere, he cried with real emotion, and could directly see how the feelings were related to his childhood when he was put in an orphanage. In his very search he had been avoiding the things most meaningful by only wanting to see the positive side of himself. Allowing the tears enabled him to acknowledge how important his ‘orphanage’ feelings were in influencing his life. Letting them be felt was the beginning of their integration into his conscious life.

This integration would let them grow and change instead of being locked unconsciously into him in the same form they were in his childhood.

HONOURING OUR FEELING SENSE

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Apart from our well known five senses such as seeing and hearing, we have other senses, equally as well known to us through experience, but seldom mentioned or defined. We have a sense of balance, a moral sense, a musical sense and a feeling sense. When using coex the feeling sense is particularly important, and the experiences of Peter and Andy show how this sense worked for them. Long before the development of language in the human race, or in our childhood, the feeling sense was the urge or means by which the complexities of life were dealt with. When we watch animals in the wild deal with difficult situations and survive without being able to think as we do, it is obvious how practical the feeling sense is. It becomes understandable when we remember that most of our memories and experience are unconscious. Also, many impressions we gather, and many of our mental functions such as cross referencing information, take place outside of our waking awareness. Information arising from these sources and expressing through the feeling sense has been given a variety of names such as hunches, intuition, presentiment, and so forth. Obviously, what some people call premonition or a hunch is simply their own anxieties or prejudices. My mother in law, before I married my second wife, told us she had experienced an intuitive insight that our marriage would only last eighteen months before it failed. Our marriage is now in its seventh year, and what was claimed as intuition was obviously an expression of hidden desire.

Most of us have correct hunches arising from our feeling sense though. Such hunches or insights can be about our own internal psychology, such as Peter and Andy experienced, or about any aspect of our life. Years ago while I was running a book business and was only beginning to learn how to use my feeling sense, I read a book about Edgar Cayce. For two days I had a powerful urge to write to people who were continuing his work in America, and make contact with them. I did this but still the feeling persisted. It subsided only when I wrote again and offered the services of my book business if they needed it. A week later two letters arrived from Virginia Beach. The one with the earliest postmark explained the work of the organisation – A.R.E. – and then asked if I knew of someone who would stock their books, as they had a lecture tour planned, and needed someone to act as agent for them. The second letter simply said, “We must be working a fine case of telepathy here. Thanks. The books are on their way, and our lecturer, Col. Adams, will arrive soon.” The results are seldom that dramatic, but are nevertheless generally helpful.

Memories and processes occurring outside of verbalisation and conscious thinking, have often never been formatted into words or clear concepts. Therefore they cannot be conceptualised – but they can be FELT! Our subtle feelings and senses enable the unconceptualised material to be presented to our conscious mind. Feelings form a link between our thinking, verbal self, and the deep unconscious self. If, like my mother in law in her response to my marrying her daughter, one is the victim of ones feelings and anxieties rather than the observer of them, hunches are confusing rather than helpful. But there are very clear techniques which enable us to meet our feeling sense in a constructive way. These techniques form an excellent introduction to the ‘practice’ of coex.

NONE OF THE FOLLOWING METHODS ARE ‘BETTER’ OR ‘WORSE’ THAN ANY OF THE OTHERS.

I THEREFORE SUGGEST YOU TRY THEM IN THE ORDER EXPLAINED, AND FIND WHICH MOST SUIT YOUR NEEDS AND ENVIRONMENT.

DISCOVERING THE SEED OF GROWTH

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There are exercises of mind and body one needs to practise to develop acquaintance with the feeling sense. Each of us have a feeling sense, but often we have not developed it or learnt to use it consciously. So these exercises are rather like an artist learning to use their sight for their art. Eugene Gendlin, in his excellent book FOCUSING, (Bantam Books) calls it the ‘felt sense’, and says that it is what we experience before we speak. We seldom know beforehand the words we are going to use, except in a formal situation, but we do have a ‘felt sense’ of what we are going to say. This then becomes verbalised when we say it. Also, if we think of two friends, if we move from one to the other in our mind, we have a feeling sense of how different each one is. We have these feeling responses about everybody we meet, everything we think, and everything we do. They underlie our whole life, but very often we fail to notice them. In the following exercises we are going to spend time considering, exploring and learning to work with them.

To begin this first practice you need to create the right setting and situation. You need to wear comfortable clothes which you can easily move and relax in. Take your shoes off, put a blanket on the floor area you choose to practice on, and clear a space big enough for you to stretch out in and spread arms and legs. Create a space in time also. It is important to give yourself about half an hour without other pressing issues to properly meet your inner feelings. Drop self criticism and give yourself permission to express sounds and movement freely.

When you are ready to begin, stand or lie in the centre or your space and raise you arms above your head. Hold them so they are quite extended. Then bring to mind the idea or image of an unplanted seed. It can be any sort of seed. Now notice whether your body in its present posture feels as if it is expressing the form and condition of the seed. The aim is to consider how you and your body feel in relationship to the idea and sense you have of the seed.

Many people find, for instance, that having the arms extended does not ‘feel’ like an unplanted seed. Don’t struggle with this. It is just an experiment, play with it, have fun. So if you do not feel your being is expressive of the seed, move about, explore different postures until you begin to feel more satisfied.  Explore in this way until you feel you have found a position that is right. Take your time. Notice whether the arms and head are right. Would a seed that is not growing feel alert, sleeping, waiting? See if you can find an inner feeling which for you feels like a seed. Do not attempt to think the whole thing out or consider it scientifically. Let whatever feeling sense you have guide you. If you get lost, come back to arms and legs extended and spread and again consider whether that FEELS like a dry unplanted seed. If not, work with that feeling of ‘not right’ until it gets to be ‘right’.

When you find a position and inner feeling which suits you, take the next step by letting yourself explore, in just the same way, what happens when the seed is planted in warm moist soil and begins to grow. Continue your feeling exploration to find out what will occur when the seed grows, puts out leaves, blossoms and fulfils its cycle. Explore the whole cycle of the seed’s expression. Don’t hold a rigid idea of what the growth of the seed means. What we are looking for is that you explore your own feeling sense in regard to the thought of the seed’s growth. It might be that as the seed you feel very strongly you do not want to grow. In which case simply remain in the form of the seed until you feel a change and an urge to grow, or until your session time is up.

Not only is this an exercise for our feeling sense, but it is also a way the process of coex can express. The concept of the seed structures what happens, but it is still a channel for self regulation to occur. You can consider it a successful coex experience if some aspect of what arises is spontaneous or unexpected. Even if the unexpected does not emerge in the first session, it will do so as you learn to let go of thinking and critical appraisal of what is happening, and leave the body open to free expression. So at first it doesn’t matter if the session feels mechanical and contrived. Having those feelings means you are sensing what is happening, and you can thereby refine your technique with their help. By letting go of the controlling urge, you can let the spontaneous and creative part of you express.

It is helpful to use this form of coex once or twice a week for a full half hour or longer each time. What happens may differ each time, for the unconscious is very creative. In symbols, or in direct experience, something of your own nature will be expressed in the drama of growing. As you practice, any stiffness of feelings or hesitancy will lessen. The theme of what emerges will become clearer and more fully felt. As this happens you can use different starting points. Instead of the seed, use the image of WATER, of AIR, of EARTH, or the SUN. Just thinking about them they may seem very abstract, but my experience is that very few people are unable to enter into them quite deeply through their feeling sense and coex.

Judith, who teaches a yoga class, describes her use of this approach to coex as follows:

 “….I felt as if I were the bud of a crocus. I seemed to be slowly unfolding with difficulty. Not until I fully opened did I feel a great relief. The results of this have made me feel very positive in my outlook, and far happier…..I am a trainee yoga teacher and have been teaching for three years. I have a small class of fourteen students who are keen and attend regularly. I decided to have my students try coex to see how they would react. I explained it as well as I could, and the feedback I got was:- A man in his thirties said, ‘I felt I was in a womb. It was very comfortable, cosy and dark. I wanted to stay there. I didn’t want to come away – it was so peaceful. I have never experienced anything like it before.’ He was very impressed. A woman in her thirties felt like throwing her arms around and kicking her legs.  ‘I felt I wanted to give birth and was about to deliver.’ She didn’t fling herself about, but held back. I think it was a pity she didn’t let go. Perhaps I didn’t explain the whole procedure clearly enough for them to understand that it was entirely free movements. The majority acted out being flowers.  Only one in the class thought it was a lot of ‘bloody rubbish’, her words. She didn’t even try. She thought she would feel stupid acting out a seed. I personally was surprised at the outcome, that so much should happen first time.”

When using the starting point of the seed, or water, etc., we are giving the unconscious a ready made structure to work with. Because we may be unfamiliar with a completely unstructured approach to our inner processes, such a structure gives at least some sense of familiarity and confidence. Even so, some people find they want everything fully described, scripted or choreographed. The very point of coex however, is to begin moving beyond the known in ourselves, towards creative newness and the unexpected. So even if some anxiety is felt, as with the woman Judith describes who defends her anxiety of the unknown by calling the exercise ‘bloody rubbish’, one needs to gradually move beyond such resistant feelings.

With the structured approach one also needs to leave the result open ended. With the man in Judith’s group, for instance, although he started with the structure of the seed, his experience was one of being in a womb, in a peaceful feeling state, and the woman felt as if she was about to give birth. With a large enough sample, the results would be enormously varied. Many people would go through the whole cycle of the plant’s life; some would find they grew to a certain place and stopped; some would have no impulse to grow at all; some would move quickly from the seed structure to personal feelings. So in your own practice leave yourself open to what emerges. If you stay with the seed and its growth that’s fine, but if you find you inner process diverging, let it express what it wants to.

 

IF FEELINGS ARE A NEW WORLD

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Eugene Gendlin suggests exercises which are less active physically than the seed structure, and are helpful if you are uncertain whether you have feelings or not. People often tell me that they are not sure if what they are observing in themselves is a feeling or a thought, and Gendlin’s approach is helpful. He suggests:-

1] When in a time of quiet, think of something or someone you love or think is beautiful. It can be a pet, an object, a person, anything.

2]Consider why you love what you have chosen, or why it is beautiful.

3] Notice what different feelings arise in you, how your body feels, when you consider what you have chosen, than when you think of something else.

I find it helpful to think of the body as a T.V. screen you are watching. Before you think about your beautiful thing, notice what tensions or peace are on the screen. Take note of any aches and pains, any sense of tiredness or energy, and any attitudes such as boredom, or being pleased, which are there. Don’t try to banish these, just note them. Then bring to mind your chosen object and note what changes take place on the screen of your being.

4] See if you can find any words which fit what you can observe or feel. Let yourself feel what the words are about, and note whether what is on your screen changes, and what it is expressing.

A series of exercises I devised which help to define this important feeling sense, is an extension of considering oneself as a screen. With a similar sort of setting as used for the seed exercise, stand and relax unnecessary tension. Take note of what is then happening on ones ‘screen’. Simply note, do not alter. Then think of a word such as ashamed. Hold the word in mind and note what changes occur on the ‘screen’, and what changes in body posture. Give this some minutes, then change the word to unashamed and note the difference.

Try this with different words such as depressed/happy, failure/success, etc.

Most people, but not everyone, can find an easily noticeable change with the different words. Even the body posture alters. And the exercise not only help us to note the different feeling qualities we have with each word, but also demonstrates how just holding a thought can alter our whole body and feeling situation.

Because the ability to consciously verbalise or be able to clearly think about what one is considering, is the last and integrating stage in levels of awareness, it is important to express what one experiences in these experiments. I believe a good test of integration is that what one describes is understandable not only to oneself, but also to any casual listener. For some people the word and the feeling are very much connected. Something which is very important is that when we look at the ‘screen’ and note what is happening, some parts of what are being experienced will be clear and easily put into words. But there will also be an area which is not yet clear, not yet capable of being expressed. You are looking into a place in yourself which is beyond words. If you continue to observe it however, it begins to open up, to grow, as it were, and gradually becomes clear enough to join with words. That is the most important area. In watching it we are looking into the unconscious. When it ‘opens’ the unconscious emerges into consciousness where it can be verbalised. WHEN YOU ALLOW THE FREE EXPRESSION OF COEX TO UNITE WITH THE OBSERVATION OF THE WORDLESS PLACE IN ONESELF, A NEW AND WONDERFUL LIFE SKILL HAS BEGUN. The process of coex can begin to release into consciousness important experiences which were previously unavailable. Our observation of the place beyond words allow a communication between our deep unconscious and our conscious sense of self. If these exercises in contacting the feeling sense are used, and the greater facility in this area is brought into the seed approach to coex, a much fuller experience will result.

THE UNSTRUCTURED APPROACH

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Because there are so many facets to human nature, ranging from nameless anxieties to insights into the nature of life, any structure we place on coex may limit it. I have noticed with groups which approach coex from a particular standpoint, such as psychotherapy or religion, that although the basic functioning is the same, the experience in the group is largely within that heading. In Primal Therapy for instance, even when the feelings arising are spontaneous and unexpected, they are nearly always about childhood pain. In Subud groups however, which is a spiritual brotherhood, although the activity is obviously self regulatory, what arises is mostly idealistic and to do with moral development. Barter for example, describing his early experiences in Subud, says it was like being baptised in a flow of water. Participants in Primal Therapy describe their experiences as reliving the pain of being born, etc.

W.V. Caldwell, writing about the findings arising from LSD psychotherapy says, “The kaleidoscopic patterns and heightened sensory perceptions; the sumptuous and exotic fantasies that seem to bear no personal application, the symbolic myths and rituals that do; the experiences of fusion, Samadhi, and psychosis; the physiological urges to squeeze, or bite, or throw; the passage of protoplasmic disorganisation; the historical recalls of childhood; the splendid religious and philosophical revelations – how can one make sense of them all? If the psychedelic experience had confirmed the theories of Freud, or Jung, or anybody else we might have been relieved. Instead it has confirmed them all and added a few more besides.”

We must beware of putting any rigid conceptual framework onto what it is to be a human being, especially in regard to our unconscious life. If we feel naked and anxious without such firm theories, then by all means use what is necessary. But recognise at least that your approach will limit what you allow yourself to find. It is easy to see that our being spans the distance between solid physical substances, such as our bones, to the most extraordinary subtleties of mind. All of these are ourselves. To open to only a part of what we are is to miss a great deal of the wonder.

The approach to coex in this unstructured form needs the same sort of approach we used in the structure of the seed – i.e. sufficient floor space, etc. You start by standing in the middle of your floor space, giving yourself the same sort of time and attitude as before. This time, instead of holding your arms above your head as with starting the seed, start by circling the arms. Take the arms above the head, down the opposite sides of the body with the arms fully extended, then upward crossing the front of the trunk. In the full movement the hands are then forming wide circles which cross the front of body. This arm circling, just like the arms stretched above the head in the structured approach, is simply to help you begin coex. Dispense with it as soon as you can allow coex without it.

Meanwhile, circle the arms with the eyes closed and bring your awareness to the shape your hands are making in space. As you become aware of the shapes the hands are carving in space, watch what feelings you have as to how you would like to move. Give yourself permission to ‘doodle’, to make any sort of shapes your feelings or body incline you to. Allow any sort of posture or movement, as active or quiet as you like. Allow sounds to accompany the movements if there is an urge to, and allow whatever feelings accompany them. Hold the attitude that what you are doing doesn’t have to make sense. Nor does it have to comply with what other people might expect of you. Realise that you are allowing another part of yourself, perhaps a non verbal part, or a facet unknown to the rational mind, to express. With a non critical watching attitude, relax and let your body and feeling sense direct what happens. There is no need to fiercely concentrate in order to wipe the mind clear of other influences. But you may need to relax the part of the mind that always needs to know beforehand what you are going to do. This is not like creative dance, in which there may exist a need to produce something pleasing for others to watch. With coex you need an open area in which your being can make its own adjustments, and movement and feeling has a chance to express outside of rational criticism and demands of everyday life.

Give yourself at least half an hour in which to explore what spontaneous movements and feelings emerge. Below is a summary of what may happen in this practice.

1] Although the movements may at first appear haphazard and irrational, if you allow them to continue without criticism, they usually express – perhaps only over a period of several sessions – a particular theme or point.

2] Like a dream, the theme or drama often symbolises ones life situation, or something within oneself, such as the remaining emotions or attitudes from past experience, or a creative realisation. Or the movements may be expressive of the body’s own need to release energy or mobilise itself and its urges.

3] There are obvious stages or depths to the experience. Movement is often the first. Feelings and fantasy can then combine with the movement. Only with a few people do they occur without each other. If met in the right way these can lead to insight into what is being expressed. In other words the symbolic movements, if that is what they are, can give way to rational understanding. This is not because one has thought out a plausible explanation for what happens. An example given by Barbara will make this plain.

“For several sessions in the group I was practising with, my hands had made complicated movements as if I were making something. I realised as I observed that my hands were working at something, operating on someone in a healing way. As this happened I had strong sensations of energy and feelings streaming along my arms into my hands. There was a woman in our group who had cataracts of the eyes, and what my hands were doing was a psychic or spiritual healing on her eyes. The physical sensations and feelings were strong enough to make me wonder what would happen. I didn’t tell the woman, but watched to see if her eyes improved. Each week the same thing occurred, but the woman’s eyes did not improve. This left me with the question, ‘What on earth am I doing?’ Leaving this question in mind I allowed the thing to continue. As I was watching it during the session straight after I had considered the question I suddenly had a memory of my teenage, when I read a lot of books about spiritual healing. I felt again something of the intensity of desire which I had felt in wanting to be a healer myself. Suddenly the answer popped into my head. My urge to heal had set up a message in my unconscious to satisfy my ideals. There was something like a ‘program’ in me which diverted some of my energies toward healing, or at least, acting it out. As soon as I realised what was happening my hands stopped their movements and they never occurred again. Up until that point I had thought my inner self was lying to me. It was saying I could heal when I couldn’t. But with the new realisation I realised it wasn’t lying at all. It was simply expressing energy in ways I had set up in the past. That such expression was non-realistic had now become evident, and so I could let go of that old pattern.”

Barbara’s description shows that her understanding came out of observation, a ‘floating’ – not a forcefully searched – question, and by allowing the continuing process to respond to her question. Also, what she says illustrates another point about coex. Namely that some themes in coex express habitual patterns of energy use or attitudes. For instance if we have a habitual pattern of turning our anger inwards, our coex movements or theme might express as banging our own chest aggressively. Our awareness of such habits enables us to begin changing them.  5] The basic action in our sessions is self regulatory. In these movements, themes and fantasies, our organism attempts its own healing and balancing. But a part of self regulation is the process of physical and/or psychological growth. So some parts of what emerge are to do with adding to our psychic experience and stature.  6] The process is amenable to direction. It is a learnt skill, allowing the unconscious to express in a way that is meaningful and integrative with consciousness. Some of the possibilities of this direction will be explained in other chapters. 7] What arises, if we are open, comes from many facets of ourselves. Overall there is a uniting of the light and dark sides of ourselves. Caldwell describes this as follows:

One person, “looking for herself, came upon a tightly closed box. Tearing it open – in her fantasy – she found inside a lovely rose, and realised that she had been enclosed in a box of Puritanism, of self denial and physical shame. The outer petals of the rose, pink and mauve, seemed to whirl and dance; they sent her fancy spinning off like a ballerina into flowered landscapes of delicious femininity. The inner petals were shaded from the light, obscure and mysterious. Here the colours darkened to deep crimson and velvet purple. They reflected her deep animality. These she avoided, until she realised that it took both the light and the dark to make a lovely rose. She could not have one without the other. Gradually the rose became a nourishing symbol in her life and growth.”

TWO’S A POWER GREATER THAN ONE

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Anyone who has practised coex alone and then has the chance to experience it with another person, or other people with whom they feel safe, knows what tremendous amplification or added power is brought to it. Such a person or group need to have the same absence of destructive criticism and judgement, the same open curiosity that one brings to oneself in the practise. When this happens you may be able to enter areas of experience previously closed. Even though I have been using coex for many years, having a good partner or group who will witness my work is still an enormous stimulus.

A simple way to work in a group of two or more is to find a room or space that is suitable and start off just as one would if practising alone. Use the arm circling if you have never practised coex before – or if you can allow coex easily, start by standing together for a few moments to drop what has been happening in everyday life. Get into the feeling of an open body and non-judgement. Then stand apart and allow coex for the time allotted. This format can handle a group of two or a hundred. Size doesn’t matter. But by having other people with you, a good environment in which the action of coex can express is formed through mutual support. In such a setting it does not matter if very little or a great deal happens. Being in close proximity to other people allowing coex is helpful even if little outwardly occurs. It establishes in one the realisation that people can allow the irrational and be none the worse afterwards. So a sense of trust in ones own unconscious builds.

For some people coex will not occur until this trust is established, so they may need an ongoing group which will allow them to witness coex in action. Ursula began reasonably quickly, practising with Krysia who had learnt coex in a group with myself. She here describes her first three sessions:

The first time we met I was active in a pleasant mild way with the odd disturbance thrown in.

The second time was also quite contained and at the end I sat as in a meditation but aware of what was going on around me. Then Krysia came to me to let me know time was up. She knelt before me. I did not move. She touched me and it was like a dam breaking and release happened. I cried a strange cry. As I cried I was happy to the same measure as I was sad I had well-being in me to the same degree I was involved in it.

The coex after that started with yawning which could not be satisfied no matter how much the body helped the momentum of the yawn, or how loud the sighs were. Then the yawns became shouts and screams. I wanted to give the final yawn as I did not see much sense in spending an hour yawning. But then came a final piercing scream which only vaguely seemed to come from me; as I heard it more than did it. As it happened I was no longer looking out of the window of that room, but saw my mother’s portrait etched against the window, as I saw her once when I was a child. She was fighting an angina attack and screaming with pain, losing control of her body functions and senses almost. Then I broke into sobs and tears. Strange sobs to me, as I felt all the panic, yet all compassion, all the lies with which she held me, the negative lies, and I felt love for her too. Yet I was also watching myself sobbing; ‘Oh mum. Oh mum.’ And ‘Let go. Let Go.’ And later I felt freed and quiet after the storm. As my hands smoothed over my body it felt so good. As the sound ‘U’ came out on breathing deeply it made a warm vibration in the small of my back which radiated up to the ribs and down to the tailbone. During the period of quiet which followed I saw that place in me filled with light. I was coated in the light, and a counterpart of me, made of light, penetrated me and extended beyond me. I also felt my posture in that area had changed and I had no more difficulty with being comfortable in certain sitting positions.”

Ursula managed to allow herself greater freedom of expression in just three sessions. Although she was applying judgement to her yawns, she nevertheless allowed them until they became sounds which incorporated feelings. Her flowing energy could then clear a source of stress which had remained in her for years. When that cleared Ursula was able to allow feelings of pleasure which incorporated a sense of light. The result of this was an immediate change in her posture.

Another way of working is with just one partner, where one allows coex and the other witnesses. Although this may sound little different to the way Ursula was practising, where both people allow coex, in use there is a great difference. The witness acts as an unspoken question which stimulates our process to respond more fully. It is the format most often used in therapeutic situations, and in groups such as Co-Counselling. Its advantages are that the witness can give feedback to the worker, and with experience, can point out what the worker may have missed. But perhaps the fundamental strength is that when we have someone else’s attention our being is much more expressive. After all, it is the basic form in which communication takes place. Even if one regularly works with a therapist using Gestalt or Co-counselling approach, I find it an advantage to bring to them the freedom of movement and expression coex allows.

During a recent course I taught, I took advantage of being able to work with a partner and had a very helpful session with Barry, one of the students. Afterwards he said he had felt helpless at times because he didn’t know what to do or what to say. From my point of view that wasn’t true at all. Just by being there Barry had been a great help. Also, at no point did he judge what I was doing as good or bad. I felt an active sympathy and involvement from him, and that was enough. However, learning creative listening can aid the process still further. So below some useful points are listed.

1) There is no need to respond to what the worker says or does. It is their work session. They are working on themselves. Your main function is to witness, so do not be tempted to begin a conversation. In one class in which I was teaching creative listening, Di, a rather motherly woman, could not stop herself responding every time her partner spoke. Di had years of caring motherhood behind her, and she couldn’t get out of the role. So when her partner said something like, “Last week I had a real bust up with my wife”, Di would respond with something like, “What a pity. You shouldn’t row with your wife like that. It doesn’t do any good”.

Such responses are highly judgmental and are value judgements at that. If you are on the receiving end of such comments, they either irritate or lead you to feel you do not wish to expose you inner life to such a person.

2) Some of the most helpful responses  are:

3) A summary of what the worker did physically given at opportune times. Thus you might say, ‘At first you were quite still, then you crumpled to the ground.’ If you can gain an impression of what such movements describe in a dramatic sense that is helpful too. So in the already stated movements we might add, ‘When you crumpled I felt you were expressing despair. You remained quiet for a while then got up with what seemed like a new strength.’ If such information is given as an opinion rather than a fact, it allows the worker to find their own response, and to see whether it fits their experience.

4) A statement of any overall theme you notice. So you might say, ‘Many of the movements you made were backwards as if retreating.’ Or, Almost all you said seemed to have a note of complaint, as if you felt a victim.’ While using coex there is no need for the worker to respond to these comments as in a conversation. It is enough to hear them and let their inner process respond.

5) Questions are a very powerful tool in such a relationship and should be used with great care. If a worker is in the middle of a session in which subtle feelings are emerging, and you suddenly ask, ‘Has this got something to do with your mother?’ could draw them straight into an intellectual consideration of the question, inviting them to respond verbally. It would be much better to put the information as a suggestion, such as, ‘My feeling is that this has something to do with your mother.’ This does not call for an immediate response and so allows the worker to carry on with their experience.

6) Beware of preconceived opinions about what the worker is dealing with. I remember in one of my early experiences as a witness the worker, a woman, kept rubbing her vagina. I felt sure it must have something to do with a repressed urge to masturbate. Fortunately I kept my opinion to myself, and it turned out to be childbirth. If we do get stuck in an opinion, and pin it on the worker, it can cause a powerful conflict between what is arising within them, and what we are pushing on them from outside. It help to remember that our opinions on what someone else is experiencing are just that, OPINIONS. With experience our statements can be enormously helpful, but not until we have learnt some humility and discipline.

7) There are important questions, however, and these should be used at the end of a session. For instance, if the session is symbolic in some way, it is helpful to ask what the worker feels it expresses. For instance they may act out being locked up in a small space, and when asked for opinions of what it expresses, say it feels just like their work situation, where they feel stifled and cramped. Having moved from symbol to life situation the next step is ask the worker to explore via coex how they might satisfyingly get out of the trap. At first this might once more be in symbols, but can be brought into everyday terms by discussion.

If the worker uncovers an area of childhood experience that was painful, or any other important event, it is bound to have left certain habit patterns in them. Even when the stress of the event has been released, the habits will remain unless made conscious. Eddie had released the shock of being put in a hospital and separated from his mother at three. He went on to re-enact the scene where his mother used the threat of putting him in a ‘home’ in order to make him obedient. The tensions had been released, but when Eddie was asked what the experience left him with, how it influenced his life ‘now’, he discovered previously unconscious habits. Namely, he had made an unconscious decision as a child never to trust a woman with his love again. This meant that in his marriage Eddie always kept a lot of his feeling cut off from his wife to avoid the possibility of getting hurt again, as he was in childhood. Being aware of this pattern enabled Eddie to gradually take the risk of sharing more of himself with his wife.

Therefore the questions need to lead 1) from symbols to insight. 2) From past experience to what habits the experience left. From the awareness of the habit(s) to a re-assessment of what the person wants to do with that part of themselves now.

If the worker contacts feelings which are not clear, they need to look at what they are experiencing to see if they can recognise having felt it at any time in their life. Andy, mentioned at the beginning of this chapter, from his unclear ‘blitzed’ feelings became clear when he saw them as results of being in an orphanage. One cannot always make this sort of connection with feelings, but if you can it integrates them much faster.

9) Discussion of the session is useful in nearly every case, whether as witness and worker, or as a co-practising group. It helps to clarify and define what occurred. It also means the person exposes to other people what may have been hidden even from themselves, which in a sympathetic setting can be healing.

THE SEED GROUP

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The structured seed approach can be used in a group form as well as alone. In group form it has a slightly different framework and a lot more possibilities than when practised alone. It needs three or four people, with or without experience of coex. It is best if at least one person has used coex though, and probably best if each person has used the ‘alone seed’ at least once.

To start the group, one of the members chooses to be the Seed. This person is the worker. The other members take on the roles of earth and water. But these latter roles are only loose guides, and I am not suggesting any attempt to act them out rigidly should be made. Basically they are witnesses, but in a slightly different form to the one-to-one work. Whoever is the Seed starts by standing in the middle of the others, who take time to make contact with her/him. They allow time to find an attitude which enables them to get closer physically and emotionally than usual social roles. So without forcing or acting mechanically, the members touch and draw near to the Seed. When this is established the Seed curls up on a prepared space – with blanket or cushions – on the floor. The members draw near and make contact again. Get close, cover the Seed’s body with yours, penetrate with your touch, as does earth and water.

As a guide to this, it is helpful to consider in human terms, if you are in the water role, how you would penetrate the seed to stimulate its growth process? If you are in the earth role, again in human terms, how would you relate to the seed to give it a medium in which or from which to grow? If you are in the seed role, then you allow your spontaneous reaction to this. Allow the process of coex to move you without considering what you should do. Trust your inner process. The group is an intimate one. It has many dimensions of experience possible. Not only is it a meeting of people in a way not usually possible socially, but it is also a place to learn human contact, how to give caring and support to another human being, and how to communicate with others non verbally.

Because there are so many different ways people experience the seed group, I will quote a few responses. “I’ve never been with people in that way before. I think it was the first time I really relaxed with a group.”—”When I was the seed I didn’t have any urge to move or grow at all. At first this worried me. I kept wondering if the others would be bored or disappointed. When I told them, the worry disappeared; they were all just enjoying being close.” — “Being the helper was great. I got so much pleasure from supporting and being near the Seed and the others in the group. But when it was my turn to be the Seed I didn’t enjoy that at all. I felt restless and claustrophobic and quickly pulled out. It has made me realise for the first time in my life that I find it difficult to receive that sort of closeness from others. I have to be the giver.”— “Until I became the seed I had never realised how hungry I was to have other people near me. I wanted to hold and touch in a way I had never allowed myself before. Since then it has been easy for me to hold people, babies, my wife, with more giving than I could in the past.”— “First I was just curled up. I felt comfortable, and relaxed into it while the others completely covered my body with theirs. It really was like being planted. After a while a flicker of movement arose pushing my head out. This came in waves, increasing in strength, until my head was pushing out and up like a plant growing. I didn’t try to think what I ought to do, just went with the pleasure of it. In the early stages this didn’t seem to involve the others, although I could feel them close. But by the time I was up on my knees there was such pleasure flowing through me, such joy at being close, being able to feel the soft skin of a face against mine, that my pleasure involved the others. It is the nearest thing to making love without sex I have ever come across. I felt all the flow, the contact, without in any way going into areas that are unacceptable. When I was standing, growing from the sheer energy of movement welling up from within, we all seemed to be one moving, living process. I felt I had given something of myself to the others without saying one word. And I also experienced them as distinct qualities around me. At the end I could sit with them for a long time, holding hands, head on them, without the need to speak.”

Although we start with the structure of the seed and its growth, you do not need to stay within that structure if your own experience takes you out of it. Some people feel they are a baby being born. Others have a direct here and now relationship with the group which needs to be explored. But basically one is setting up the group as an environment in which to allow coex to occur. The coex action might take up the seed image and use it, or express in another way. Because other people are so near, what emerges may be quite different to what arises alone. Like the person who found it difficult to receive, ones theme might be about the difficulty or pleasure in relating to others.

The notes given about the creative listening or witnessing also apply with the seed group. As a helper we are supporting the Seed in their work. The Seed is the one to say when they are ready to finish the session, but as a witness you may be able to give them an assisted passage by careful feedback. Also, discussion and feedback are important at the end of each session. There is a great deal to learn about ourselves, the way we relate, and what emerged in the seed group. It is an unusual social setting and we may have reached beyond boundaries we usually erect. To know how others felt about you laughing, touching, not moving, expressing deep feelings, etc., is vital to your realistic appraisal of future relationships. Again, this is something which although important, we do not experience often enough. The experience of Jane quoted below shows another side of the need to complete, through discussion and careful witnessing, what began in a non verbal way.

“When I got back – from the seed group – I felt quite ill, and dragged around for a few weeks feeling like death. I even went to the doctor, but all he could find was mild anaemia. This feeling developed into a period of absolutely compulsive eating, with an awful feeling of never feeling satisfied by what I ate, and guilt at eating too much. This went on for a couple of weeks until, trying to find out what was causing it, I remembered that after my birth experience in the seed group, I had a tremendously strong urge to suck. I checked with my mother and found she didn’t feed me as soon as I was born – so a possible explanation is that I’d gone back to this infantile experience of wanting to suck and not being able to. It certainly explains a lot – like my thumb sucking in particular and, more generally, my strong and continued dissatisfaction with everything, that nothing is quite right. After all, it was the first thing I ever wanted, and I didn’t get it. It seems to me I’ve been looking for that all my life. Anyway, once I’d realised this and thought about it the obsession for eating just disappeared, and I felt much better straight away.”

This situation could have been speeded up by attempting to see where the feelings had been experienced in the past; or by having another session with the question held as to where the continuous urge to eat arose from. Also, the woman was not regularly using coex, so it took her longer to clear what arose in the one session.

As was said at the beginning of this chapter, coex is a natural process. As such it does not need any techniques or special settings. But like any natural force, such as electricity, different structures cause it to express different qualities. These structures are ones I have found useful. You need to find which is most suitable for yourself.

Copyright © 1999-2010 Tony Crisp | All rights reserved