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The 2nd Felt Sense Conference in NYC 2019

By Grace Chan

Grace graduated from New York University with a master's degree in Art Therapy. She is a Board-certified Registered Art Therapist (ATR-BC) with ATCB in the U.S., and after completed trainings with Dr. Laury Rappaport, she is currently a certified Focusing-Oriented Therapist (specialized in FOAT®). She serves in individual and group settings for a wide scope of population, including people with mental/physical illness, intellectual disability, elderly with dementia, children with special needs (SEN), as well as facilitating art therapy support groups for their caregivers. Grace often integrates FOAT® in in-service trainings and caregivers groups, as a way to promote self-care in health care settings.

In remembrance of renowned philosopher and psychotherapist Eugene Gendlin, the “2nd Felt Sense Conference” was held May 17-19, 2019 at Hebrew Union College in the lively New York City, where Eugene Gendlin’s memorial service was held. The theme of the conference was “Creativity”, and included 2 full days of lectures and parallel workshops, followed with a final closing gathering at long-time Focuser Lynn Preston’s home on Sunday morning the 19th. Those who visited Lynn Preston’s home in the West Village NYC, found it a special place —as it carries Eugene Gendlin’s (Gene’s) presence and practices; back in those earlier days, Gene led Focusing groups in the same living room! Gene’s Focusing tradition is still alive and flourishing today.

Presenters, experienced Focusers, and those new to Focusing, came from countries such as Australia, Chile, Canada, Israel, Hong Kong, and the U.S.—all gathering at the conference to exchange theories and practices in fostering “Creativity” through the Focusing process. The conference keynote lectures were presented by Robert Parker and Evelyn Fendler-Lee, in order to solidify Gene’s theories on the concepts of Being Time and Thinking-at-the-edge. Workshop presentations covered a variety of creative modalities and applications, such as tango, creative thinking and writing, acting, graphic design/branding, photography and the Focusing arts.

As a Certified Focusing-Oriented Expressive Arts (FOAT®) Practitioner and Certified Focusing Trainer (and Focusing-Oriented Therapist), I was grateful for the honor and opportunity to present two workshops on FOAT® at the Felt Sense Conference this year. In the first workshop, I introduced the concept of integrating Focusing and arts to express felt sense; followed by a Theme-directed approach to FOAT® in the second workshop. I included art experiential exercises to explore the Focusing Attitude and the Source of Strength, and shared applications of each.

Participants enjoyed the Focusing and creative process, and had a fruitful sharing through the hands-on arts experience. I also shared the artworks created by FOAT® Hong Kong group exhibited in 2016 as examples of the FOAT® process. Overall, workshop participants enjoyed the art making experience, and were amazed at how it helped them to articulate the inner experience, bodily sense and feelings even more richly through the creative process.

In light of Gendlin’s influential philosophy, the 2nd Felt Sense Conference in New York was a success by highlighting the benefit of integrating Focusing and creativity. It demonstrated the power of Focusing with innovative approaches and perspectives built from Gendlin’s original thinking, opening up vast possibilities of externalizing the expression of a felt sense and experiencing through different creative arts modalities. It also brought a unique experience to participants: Focusers who were strangers from different countries and professions quickly became alive and opened up to intimate sharings and interactions through the creative expressions and wonderful exchange in Focusing.

On a personal level, the Felt Sense Conference was an eye-opening experience for me to have a first hand experience of the heritage of Focusing. It was inspiring to experience one of Gendlin’s original Focusing communities started by Gene and his New York students— where I was able to witness and experience the intimacy, warmth, acceptance and openness of this special community and how it is being carried forward.


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