Our emotions and our bodies are like water that stays in water. We learn to swim in the energies of the (bodily) senses.
Tarthang Tulku

Just as Perseus used his shield to confront Medusa, so many traumatized people use the shield-equivalent sensation – or FELT SENSE – o overcome trauma. Felt Sense involves the clarity, instinctive power, and fluidity necessary to transform trauma.

According to Eugene Gendlin, who coined the term ‘Felt Sense’ in his book Focusing.

The Felt Sense is not a mental, but a physical experience.


The physical awareness of a situation or person or event. The inner aura that surrounds everything you feel and know about a given subject at a given moment* it surrounds it and transmits it to you all at once and not bit by bit. The F.S. is difficult to define in words, as the language follows a linear course, while the F.S. is not a linear experience. Consequently, some dimensions of its meaning are lost during the attempt to clearly express the experience.

The F.S. gives the total experience of the organization, rather than interpreting what is happening from the point of view of individual parts. We could describe and say that it is the experience of being in a living body that understands the nuances of its environment through its reactions to that environment. It looks like a stream flowing through an ever-changing landscape. So it also changes depending on its environment.

When the ground is rocky and steep, the stream flows with vitality and energy, swirling and foaming as it bursts over the rocks. In the plains the brook meanders so slowly that one wonders if it moves at all. This wondrous sensation encompasses both the content and the atmosphere of our inner and outer environment. Like the stream that changes shape to fit those surroundings.

The F.S. is a wonderful and very natural human experience.

Those of us who are traumatized should realize that in order to work with F.S. is a challenge. Part of the dynamics of trauma is that it cuts us off from our inner experience, thus protecting our organism from sensations and emotions that could become overwhelming for us. It may take time to feel confident and allow an inner experience to emerge. This heroic journey is accomplished in very small steps at a time.

Embodied Listening

To listen to the body, the first step is to learn to use the Felt Sense, to listen to these instinctive voices. The characteristic that will help us on this journey is meekness.

Getting in touch with one’s instinctive self is a very intense experience. Take slow steps. The best way is to maintain an attitude of curiosity and acceptance. Do not try to analyze, interpret or explain what is happening. Just observe it and experience it. There is no need to retrieve memories, introspect feelings or anything else. It is more important to notice them and let them pass.

Take it as it comes is the best way to learn the language of F.S. Information will come to you in the form of words, images, insights and feelings invariably accompanied by a thin layer of sensory impressions. These sensations may be vague, but it is possible to recognize them when you learn to observe them on a particularly subtle level.

The first step in healing trauma is to learn to know you through Felt Sense.

The Felt Sense is closely related to awareness. Awareness means experiencing the present, without trying to change or interpret it.
Once you become fully aware of the nuances of an inner experience, the inner sensations always change to something else. Any change of this kind often moves in the direction of a free flow of energy and vitality.

The self is a complex biological and spiritual organism. The Felt Sense is delicate and sophisticated. But at the same time it is billions of times more complicated and sophisticated than the latest technology computers. It consists of awareness, sensation, acumen, variety and rhythm. If you begin to perceive both its primitive and refined elements, you are on the right track.