I first met Charlotte Selver in Mexico in 1975. It wasn't love at first sight. It wasn't even close. I liked being on the ocean in the small fishing village, Barra de Navidad, but the classes were strange. I waited for days for this little old lady with a funny accent to explain what we were doing and all she would say were things like "Do you feel your feet?" and "How is breathing?" To which I replied silently, "Of course I feel my feet, and what do you mean, how is breathing, and what does this matter anyway?" I put up with this for over a week, obediently doing the experiments in class, but mostly looking forward to lunch.
It happened with a jolt. About ten days into the workshop, I was in my small apartment washing dishes when heard my own critical voice for the first time ever, and in the same instant I felt a deep self-hatred. I felt it through and through, in the way I stood, held a plate, walked across the room, and spoke. The hostility informed my thoughts, and was lodged in everything I did. It was in my musculature, and in my breath. This shocking insight was so powerful and pervasive that it wasn't even unpleasant. It was more like, "Wow!" It was just the truth. I lived this, experiencing it for almost three days. As I felt it subside I began to sense a new warm and wonderful and tender place inside me, and compassion began to emerge for the first time I could remember in my entire life. I was hooked.
I studied with Charlotte, for many years, discovering deeper and deeper layers of who I am, and finding out about being present, or being "all here." as Charlotte would say. Through her guidance and presence she taught me how to simply be with what is happening without having to change anything, and that this in itself, leads to natural healing.
The most valuable qualities I can bring to my therapy and meditation practices are the ability to listen deeply, and to be open and present to myself and others in a nonjudgmental way. The person I am with senses this and begins to have confidence in me, and more importantly, in herself. When I hear the depth of her terror or shame or hatred or sadness, these feeling have space to exist and be accepted by her and consequently loose the power they once held.
Charlotte taught us to "listen and be present with our whole being." I ask you now as she would ask us, "Is your belly present while reading this? And, “How is Breathing Now?”