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A New Initiative Grapples with Collective Traumas

Global social witnessing is a technique that uses group mindfulness to process large-scale tragedies.

By Lori Shridhare

AUG 22, 2019

Thomas Hübl (right) is the founder of the Pocket Project, an international initiative that aims to heal intergenerational trauma.

Thomas Hübl (right) is the founder of the Pocket Project, an international initiative that aims to heal intergenerational trauma.

Meeting on monthly video calls, several people sit together, close their eyes, and after several minutes of silence, turn their attention to Brexit. On another day, the topic may be the Syrian civil war, climate change, North Korean nuclear capabilities, or migrants at the US border. The meditators are engaging in a practice called “global social witnessing” (GSW), and their aim is to become more present to the pain of these events.

The idea is that we have unprecedented access to information about tragedies occurring around the world, but rather than become more informed, we allow the data to overwhelm us. We experience compassion fatigue, end up feeling numb or depressed, and retreat into indifference. The danger is not only inaction. By turning away from the world’s traumas, GSW proponents argue, we also perpetuate, albeit unconsciously, painful cultural shadows that underlie global trauma. Collective and historical trauma, they believe, lies at the heart of many of the atrocities and conflicts in the world today. Global social witnessing practice groups create and experiment with a kind of “relational space,” in which participants can cultivate a greater depth of understanding about their own responses to traumatic experiences of other communities. 

The idea for GSW came out of the Pocket Project, a nonprofit whose mission is to support the healing of collective trauma through education, training, and other programs. In a recent weeklong training session, participants divided into triads each afternoon to unpack and digest together some of the emotionally taxing issues reverberating in our global culture today: oppression, sexual abuse, colonialism, slavery, racism, and genocide. 

“Collective trauma is not an idea; it’s a tremendous amount of energy that hasn’t been processed yet but influences our daily thinking and feeling, and our relationships,” said author, spiritual teacher, and Pocket Project founder Thomas Hübl during one of the training sessions, which was part of a part of a yearlong program. “It has created shadow structures in society that we assume are normal. The only way to address this is to create conscious structures that will support resourcing and awareness processes.”

Trauma, Hübl believes, has effects similar to karma. When two people argue, then move on without a resolution, this unconscious material becomes “carry-on baggage” they transfer from one moment to the next. But while the consequences of a single argument may be relatively minor, a mass atrocity can lead to emotional scars that are passed from generation to generation. And it’s this large-scale historical trauma that we have all been born into no matter where we live. 

Related: Healing Trauma with Meditation

In an article on collective trauma for the journal Spanda, Hübl wrote, “We must be willing to consistently and consciously resolve those energies that have been left stored and undigested. In essence, we must open the carry-on baggage of our world, sort its contents, unpack.”

One of the training participants was Flavia Valguisti, a former defender and judge in the juvenile court system of Buenos Aires. For her, framing this process in the context of karma and Buddhist practices clicked. 

“When we talk about karma, it’s not just personal, we’re all part of it,” she said. “In healing collective trauma, we move from karma to dharma. Dharma is the path.”

The Pocket Project is based in Oldenburg, Germany and aims to heal collective and intergenerational trauma. The organization is led by Hübl, who completed nearly four years of medical school during the 1990s in his native Austria, when he felt a calling to drop out and dedicate himself almost entirely to meditation during what became a four-year independent retreat in Czechoslovakia. His retreats and online courses, many of which he teaches in collaboration with academics, center around both science and what he refers to as mystical principles, derived from wisdom traditions including Taoism, Buddhism, and the Kabbalah. He launched the Pocket Project in 2017, and since then, similar initiatives have formed in the US, Israel, and Argentina to explore country- and regional-specific trauma.

Many of these groups emerged during the yearlong Pocket Project training on collective trauma from June 2017 to May 2018. Most of the training was conducted via video conference except for two in-person modules that bookended the course. In the modules, trainees participated in five days of mindfulness-based meditation, movement, group discussions, and vocal-toning sessions, a sound-based group activity inspired by religious chanting. (The course fee for the year was €1,900.00 [around $2,130.00]. Several scholarships were made available.)

While trauma was familiar territory for the psychologists, scientists, and physicians in attendance, few had studied collective trauma. This isn’t surprising, considering that a recent PubMed search for literature on collective trauma yielded just over a thousand results, compared with a search for publications on post-traumatic stress disorder, which generated more than 13,000.

When he returned from his meditation retreat in 2000, Hübl taught meditation in Germany and found that symptoms of trauma would arise in the group, which he believed could be traced back to historical and intergenerational trauma around the Holocaust and the horrific legacy of World War II. 

Over the next couple of years, Hübl began inviting Israelis and Germans—often up to a thousand people—to meditate together and work through their respective histories. The idea of cultivating “pockets” of clarity throughout the world inspired Hübl and his wife, the Israeli artist Yehudit Sasportas, to choose the name “The Pocket Project.” Students from his early training courses launched the offshoot initiative Witnessing in Empathy, which hosts meditation retreats at the former Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camp sites.

And in the US, monthly practice groups meet to discuss the roots of trauma in America’s history which manifest as “symptoms” such as violence, racism, and political divisiveness. In July, Dr. Christina Bethell, a board member of the Pocket Project and a professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, provided testimony on science and policy around childhood trauma during a House Committee hearing on this topic.

Global social witnessing groups create and experiment with a kind of “relational space,” in which participants can cultivate empathy for the traumatic experiences of other communities. The role of relationships in integrating trauma was a central theme of the Pocket Project training sessions. 

Voices of those who work in war-ravaged communities expressed their pain and fears. Others explored their buried hurt, rage, and guilt as soldiers who harmed and injured others on behalf of the US, South Africa, and Israel. And those from countries that have perpetrated genocide explored the shame and culpability woven into their culture’s psyche. Emerging from a space of deep compassion, genuine apologies were conveyed by citizens of countries that had inflicted war onto those of others.

As facilitator, Hübl encouraged people to open up about the emotions behind their words. This is a key feature of the method he employs to both encourage individual healing and to strengthen the witnessing capacity of the larger group. A key lesson from the training was the importance of translating spirituality into action. 

Participant Mukara Meredith, a practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism as part of the Nyingma lineage since 1984 and a leadership consultant based in Colorado, said the training reflected the three refuge vows: Buddha, sangha, and dharma. 

“I love the principle of integrating the temple with the marketplace. We do live in culture, not in caves, and we need practices to help us digest our experience of culture to truly live in an interconnected way.” 

Meredith, who participated in the training with the blessings of her teachers, is currently developing a trauma program for women in China, and Valguisti has started a “pocket” group in Buenos Aires.

For each individual, trauma can become a roadblock, a shadow that prevents the expression of future possibilities. The same applies to our global culture: In witnessing our own blocks, we embrace our collective responsibility to work toward restoration and healing. Participants in global social witnessing and other Pocket Project initiatives see it as the tool we need to keep moving forward. 


View original article HERE

The Role of Somatic Awareness in Group Leadership

This is a partner post to our Matrixworks podcast, Episode 6! (Click here to listen to the episode in the iTunes store)

In the past few episodes, we have been discussing skills necessary to have transformational groups in the 21st century. Today we will continue on this subject and talk about the role of somatic awareness as part of that toolkit.

So, what do I mean by somatic awareness? Somatic awareness is our capacity to use our bodies as an instrument of knowing and to make use of our eyes, our facial expression, even our physical proximity to the members of the group.

One of the most powerful interventions that a leader can make to demonstrate that they care and that they are hearing someone who is struggling is to physically move toward that group member. For some people, the leader will need permission to take this action, so I will often ask “is it OK if I come and sit closer to you?” I then make sure I’m tracking body language of member – they may say yes but shake head no, or I may see a visible contraction. Then with permission I would go to sit beside or in front of and even to touch a non-threatening part of body, for example a shoulder, back, knee, or foot. This demonstrates beneath the level of verbal interaction by speaking to the person’s unconscious. It is like saying “I’m with you and I’m choosing to be on your side.” I am offering reassurance to the person’s unconscious that I really want to be an ally. If I move closer to a person, I continue to track how they are doing with my bringing myself closer to them, and I will modulate my voice as I go. My voice will get softer, almost as if I’m speaking to a younger part of that person. Often this is true – it allows the person to be in touch with the younger part of their consciousness. If I sense that the contact is too strong or has gone on too long (I would get that info from watching their body language) I would say I think it’s time for me to go back to my spot, watch their response and act accordingly.

After safety in the group has been established, I enjoy exercises where people sit back to back. I don’t do this right away. You have to get a feel that this is OK that this is not so beyond the innate culture of the group (especially with pre-existing groups) that it would cause people to shut down. However, once you get the feeling that the group is ready for something like this, it can be very powerful. Encourage them to feel the warmth of the back of their partner and find a place where they are receiving support and offering support at the same time. This is usually very satisfying and nourishing. There’s usually a lot of laughter afterwards as people express their appreciation of their partner’s back. This is non threatening physical touch. A similar exercise would be to have people walk with arms linked around the room. This also invites deeper levels of consciousness into group via physical experience.

Another important somatic skill for leaders is the use of the eyes in really being able to see and to allow yourself to perceive even the energy around the body. This can be set up as an experiment in dyads or triads. If you are tracking/doing a body reading as an exercise you may find that there is more energy in one part of the body more than another and you can explore that with these smaller groups.

Another element is the use of sound (a part of voice) and silence. Both sound and silence are aspects that really influence a group’s ability to move to a higher level of organization – to really become a living system. Renee Levi studied groups and found 7-8 indicators that show when a group transitions from simply a collection of individuals into a living system. Sounding (chanting or toning, for example) and silence were two of the most valuable indicators for transition into a living system state. I often use the syllable “ah” which means openness and all possibilities in the Tibetan tradition. People will often harmonize and you can feel the field coming together and being fed. This allows for the movement from the “me” to the “we” – towards the more collective level of consciousness. We don’t lose ourselves here, but we have its support available to us. The same thing happens in silence. An example of bringing silence into a group could be as simple as inviting people into mindfulness. Just letting there be stillness and silence. We often associate silence with contemplative traditions and meditations. For groups that go on for a long time, beginning with meditation can be great. This duality of sound and silence is a balancing polarity between movement and stillness – sounding is the movement, and silence is the stillness. Together, they result in a feeling of wholeness.

I hope this introduction is useful to you. We would love to hear how you use the body in your leadership exploration, and how you use voice and silence to create accessibility to power of small groups.

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Leadership Skills for the 21st Century Part 2

This is a partner post to our Matrixworks podcast, Episode 5! (Click here to listen to the episode in the iTunes store)

Today we will be continuing on our previous post themes: What are the necessary components of leaders and members so that group work can be transformational and nourishing for the members?

Following are some specific skills useful for group leaders. These are generally accepted as basic, necessary components of leadership:

– Active Listening: Listening to content, but also paying attention to voice and body language. Find ways to use yourself so that the person speaking really feels heard. This is common to a basic counseling skill set, but more complex in a group. Let’s take a look at how this translates to reality: Take for example working with group of 12. You as the leader are listening to the person speaking and also watching how the others are responding. It can be extremely helpful to have a co-facilitator so that while one person is speaking, the other can watch the group and their reactions to what is being said. This makes members feel really seen and heard, perhaps as never before. This is a complex skill because you want the listening to actually call forth more and more truth & authenticity from the member who is speaking. You are listening the member into speaking more deeply!

– Reflection: This does 2 things. It helps group members become more aware of what they’re saying, and it also communicates to the speaker that you are aware and you have joined with this speaker at the level at which they’re speaking. When leader is reflecting, it’s also an opportunity for the group leader to broaden from the person who is speaking and make it applicable to more group members. For example, to broaden out to group the leader might say, “I wonder if anyone else here has these same concerns? I would just like to see the hands of people who have also felt troubled by ___.” This supports the sharer to understand that they aren’t alone, which is one of the main healing components in group work. So much of each individual’s pain and suffering is really a part of the universal human experience. This shift in perspective allows us to take ourselves less seriously, find humor in challenges, feel that we are a human family, and that we all have challenges that help us grow.

– Clarifying: This requires real attention because you don’t want this to slip into giving advice. Clarifying helps the speaking member of the group make a distinction between a part of a situation, person, or experience and the whole of that topic. For example, a girl says she hates her father. Through clarification she can realize that she only feels frustrated with some of his behavior and really doesn’t hate all of him. This technique is very useful especially for younger group members.

– Empathizing: One of the most healing skills. So much work about mirror neurons in brain has come out recently, really giving us the biology of empathy. Empathy simply means that you can walk in the shoes of the other and feel for and with them. It shows that you can grasp their experience, but also that you don’t get lost in it (retain sense of self).

– Interrupting and confronting: Today’s most important and most difficult skill to learn. In my journey, I found that if I didn’t interrupt a person who was going on and on, that actually they ended up being scapegoated or not feeling a sense of belonging, and that was much worse than the awkwardness of my interruption. Here is an example: a member of a group was telling the same story over and over in different ways. I physically moved closer to her and asked if I could come and put a hand on her knee. I asked if she felt like we were with her right now as she was telling her story. She said, “No, I feel like people are bored and I’m not feeling understood.” I asked her to summarize what she was wanting us to know as follows: “What’s most important to me in what I was trying to say is….” and I used my body language to show her that I really heard and understood what she was trying to say. I then asked her, “Would you be willing to look around and see how people were affected by what you had to say?” This time people really heard her and felt compassion. If I hadn’t interrupted, she would have felt isolated, alone, and disengaged.

I hope that these essential leadership skills are of use to you in your group work. As always, please comment and share your thoughts!

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Leadership Skills for the 21st Century Part 1

This is a partner post to our Matrixworks podcast, Episode 4! (Click here to listen to the episode in iTunes)

Today I would like to discuss with you some of the most important skills for group leadership in the 21st century.

The first and most important principle, comes from a study of complexity and the role of complexity in working with groups as living systems. The basic premise here is that when working with a group, there are two interventions possible:

  1. Contain the group. One way to do this would be to have a strong boundary around time for example, or to stick to a specific theme and not let the group wander from it. This intervention establishes safety and certainty and helps people relax.

  2. Perturbation, or stirring the group up. This is the opposite of containment in that it involves introducing small experiments that move the group towards an experience of chaos. An example of this is encouraging members of the group to confront one of the leaders. This is more challenging, and shifts the power balance, introducing the positive value of perturbation. Not every leader is comfortable with this, and in my experience, trying to perturb before establishing safety usually doesn’t work, it dysregulates people. BUT if we fail to do this after there is adequate safety, group either goes flat and has no energy, or becomes explosive and acts out in a way that isn’t helpful/productive and doesn’t result in maturity.

I believe that going back and forth between these two poles is the most essential skill for leading in the 21st century.

Here are more leadership skills that I think are particularly relevant:

* Courage! To have the courage to trust one’s own intuition, produce inner confidence and courage in order to ride the ups and downs of group work, and model an ability to be in authentic relationship. This sets the tone that even though groups can be scary and activating, that they can still be a positive experience and the results can bring the kind of maturation that really develops our human capacities.

* Presence! A way of understanding and being with each other without giving advice or being condescending. Presence allows us to really bring heart, minds, and spirit into interaction with the group.

* The leader’s own relationship to sense of good will towards each member, and even a sense of love towards each member. This can be continuously cultivated and helps people feel safe to take risks, and empathize with each other. It helps take the ego out of the equation.

* Openness! While leaders should be careful what personal details they disclose, they should share enough to disclose that they are human and aren’t perfect. As a leader, you definitely don’t want group to feel like they unconsciously have to take care of you. You are like the parent. As the group continues, the movement towards more and more openness can progress. Start by leading with role and backing up with person, later switch to leading with person and backing up with role. This also creates a social field that is warm, welcoming, and healing.

* Sense of personal power, energy, and stamina – the intention is to have an attitude that anything/everything is possible. Personal power shows up as a kind of willingness to seek new experiences, to be open to including diversity, and to have the energy to stay with something – to support the ability of a group to really be nourishing to the members. Most people have a kind of wariness about groups – it seems unpredictable and not always safe. If we can demonstrate the stamina to stay through the confronting and chaotic moments, we show that things really are workable and possible.

* Capacity for self awareness (an ongoing process) – ability to know what I’m experiencing in my person and in my role and from there to be able to sense what is happening in the members of the group. This is a great component of high level leadership. There exists a continuity between awareness of self and receptivity to others’ experience. It gives a sense for each person that they are being seen and known.

 

In conclusion, our own personhood – the time that we spend facing our shadows, these things are crucial in being able to lead groups that can be transformative for people, and create a larger culture where we can see groups as healing and as a source of nourishment.

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Living Systems: The Human Body Metaphor

This is a partner post to our Matrixworks podcast, Episode 3! (Click here to listen to the episode in the iTunes store)

Today we will explore using the systems of the human body as a metaphor for groups as living systems. I want to show you how to make this theory come alive in a training and really be a dynamic experience for us.

Living systems are made up of divergent parts. You can think about the bees in a beehive – there are many bees and together they make a beehive. In a group of people, the individual people in the group are the parts.

You can also take the human body as a metaphor and look at how the parts and systems of the body come together and make a convergent whole.

This whole is more than the sum of the parts. The way to understand this is to imagine that you have all of the pieces that make up the human body. This doesn’t mean that they would necessarily come together and make a whole individual. When we use this model of living systems, one of the conditions that has to be present to understand living systems is that the whole must be greater than the sum of the parts.

The other piece to understand here is that the parts exist in a dynamic relationship with each other, and in this dynamic relationship, there is continuous self-organizing and self-creating in order to serve life.

Let’s use the human body as a reference point. All parts of our body are constantly interacting and communicating with each other– cells, neurons, etc. Many levels of communication are taking place. These parts are continuously self organizing with one another to be in service of life for the human being.

 

How do we work with this in MatrixWorks?

We help leaders and individuals in groups understand this relationship between the parts and the whole. It plays out in group dynamics, so we point to the body system as a reference. This happens at the level of the individual, the interpersonal relationships, and also it impacts the larger field, or the energy present in the group. What MatrixWorks is trying to do is help us work with these principles so that we have choice, creativity, courage, and compassion in all groups we are a part of.

The metaphor that seems to be the best in communicating these principles is to look at the wisdom of the body systems, and understand how we all have these systems, but we may lead in a particular situation with one or another of these systems.

This was originally created by Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen in her Body-Mind Centering work. I studied this work further with Susan Aposhyan, when we began to look at the psychological correlation for each system.

 

The systems we will discuss:

  1. Muscles

  2. Bones

  3. Fluids

  4. Brain (both an organ and a part of the electrical//nervous/endocrine system)

  5. Organs

  6. Cells

  7. Breath

One system not included here that I may want to add is the system of the fascia– the connective tissue that is like a big wetsuit in the body and connects everything together.

 

All of these parts are very much needed, but if they’re out of balance within a group, it can be problematic.

  1. Looking at these first individually, if I’m interested in the intelligence or the wisdom of the muscles, what we’ve discovered is that people who take on this role have a preference for accomplishing tasks. These people really like to get things done and feel satisfied when the project can be complete. These are more likely the people who don’t want to process, talk about things so much, but instead want to push through difficulties and have the satisfaction that the job has been accomplished.

So reflect to yourself: How do you focus on tasks in a group? Are you using the intelligence of your muscles to contribute to the group, or is this a quality you need more of?

  1. Bones– we often called ‘the ancient ones.’ The psychological quality of bones is that they’re not emotional, they’re very neutral. Using this intelligence is like using structure to solve problems. People who lead with this quality of neutrality would say something like: ‘You can count on me to not be emotional and to bring structure.’ We can go to the wisdom of the bones to help us bring new structure in organizations.

 

  1. We find Fluids in people who enjoy a quality of flow, people who have a strong sense of this function sometimes as the mother of the group. These people are always trying to make connections, and like fluids, transport energy and information throughout the body/system/group. The gift that the fluids give us is the capacity for flexibility, adaptability and to be able to let go. “You can count on me to make connections and to be flexible.’

 

  1. Brain, nervous system, and endocrine system – these are quite interconnected, and function together, but we’ll take them apart a little bit.

The brain can have one of two modalities– sometimes the brain is defined as the CEO of the body and tell people what to do rather than partner with the whole. More and more we are understanding that the nervous system is distributed throughout the body and that three systems, as they work together, say something like: ‘You can count on us for everything’. They’re largely responsible for a lot of executive action in the human body.

The nervous system says: ‘You can count on me to keep you safe’. It is always scanning for safety, modulating behavior internally and externally in a way that a human can feel safe, and therefore be at our best.

The endocrine system provides a juiciness, a possibility for excitement. This can make us feel very uplifted or very depressed. ‘You can count on me to spice things up.’ The endocrine system is very much engaged in the mystery of love. It is one part that we want fully active in our bodies and roles in group.

  1. The next system is one that I’m particularly appreciative of, and this is the organs. People who lead with this are people who often focus on healing and transformation. Actual organs transform food into nourishment and have qualities of digesting and metabolizing. The provide a rhythm that is deep and slow, and hold the energy of new growth and possibilities. ‘You can count on me for depth, and for transformation.’ People who bring the qualities of organs like to process and consider.

What might happen in group when there is someone who is very much in this slow, deep, transformative role, and others who are very strong in the muscles and bones? If both are not valued, conflict could easily arise between these overt styles.

  1. Cells are the foundation. Current research says we have at least 76 trillion cells in our human body. They have a selfless quality, willing to do anything for the whole. Cells are willing to sacrifice, if needed. The interesting thing here is that if they are isolated from each other, they will die. The cells require connection in order to live. Some research suggests that every one of the 76 trillion cells know what every other cell is doing at all times. If only we could be half that capable, as humans, of sharing information and keeping energy and information flowing. ‘You can count on me to be connected to all the other cells’. They give us the power of creativity comes from their high level of connectivity.

  2. The last system is system of breath – the key to the kingdom. Connects inner and outer and moves through all that is through the ‘breath of life’. Breath and life are synonymous. ‘You can count on me to support your quality of life.’

 

This is a quick explanation of the psychological and emotional definition of parts of the systems. In a group, we have each person take on one of these roles. People can try on different roles intentionally to see what it would be like to interact with the group in specific role and get/give feedback.

Then we have them work on a creative project, and some amazing creativity has come out of using this model. If you would like to go further into this model, consider taking one of the MatrixWorks classes that focuses on living systems.

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Tools for Completing a Group Process

Protocol for Closing a Group in the Matrixworks way

Designed for the HakomiMatrix Training in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

1) By establishing your time frame at the beginning of your group, you will support the safety and integrity of your Container. Arrive early and set the environment for members to arrive. Once members are in their seats, begin the group with a Welcome and Appreciation for those attending. Then to establish the time boundaries, you might use a phrase like: “We will have 1 hour (or whatever the total time is) to be together. We hope to hear from everyone, and co-facilitators will watch the time for you.” If it is true for you and you think it is a good idea, you can reference that good time boundaries are like banks of the river, helping the river of the group to flow. Use your intuition about whether to speak to this out loud, or just know this for yourself.

2) About 15 minutes before the group is to complete, remind the group of the time frame, and let them know you, as co-facilitators, will be directing the group energy to this completion.

3) Invite anyone who has not spoken to share. Hopefully, because of your skillful facilitation, there will only be one or two people who have not spoken. If there are more, get creative: invite those who have not spoken and who want to speak to just share a word for how they are feeling just now.

4) Shift to completion-integration by fielding a question like: ”What has happened here? What themes, issues, discoveries are in your awareness as we complete?”

5) Wait to see what arises from the group. If there is silence and it feels awkward, as leaders, you can prime the pump by naming a few special moments from the group.

6) As participants speak, try to stitch together a description of the journey, using the knowledge you have of the Spirals of group life. In other words, what significant interactions and self-disclosures happened in the arenas of CONNECTION, CHAOS, CREATIVITY, or CONSCIOUSNESS? Is there anything incomplete? Note: there always will be ‘incompletes.’ We often finish in our next group, things that began in a prior group.

7) Co-Facilitators complete with each other, acknowledging their work together. Share an appreciation for each other out loud. Modeling collaboration rather than competition, demonstrating interconnectedness and autonomy.

8) Name the next meeting if there will be one, and offer information about how to stay in touch with each other and the leaders.

9) Co-Facilitators: offer a few words that are genuine about the power of the small group. Name that connection and care are the medicine for these times. Acknowledge that this group can bring healing for everyone because of the compassion that comes from connection.

10) Invite everyone to bring their energy back to themselves, and be mindful of how they are impacted by the group. Formally close the group with a gesture (could be a bow, but something else if that is more aligned with the culture of the group). Could close with few moments of mindful silence. If time allows, you could do a round of sentence completion: “One thing I have loved about the group is _______. Then, open the circle and exchange goodbyes with members.

11) Debrief with Co-Facilitator: especially attend to levels of Safety, Satisfaction and Connection in the group and with each other. Celebrate your completion. Express your gratitude for your own willingness to learn and to be in relationship.

12) Plan a new/next group!!!

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HAKOMI with GROUPS: MATRIXWORKS

The Greatness of Hakomi applied to Groups and Organizations is called Matrixworks 

We all want to relieve suffering.  Whether for ourselves, our relationships and groups, or the planet, the one thing that unites our work in the world aims at the relief of unnecessary suffering.  Some attempt this by accomplishments, some through spiritual work, and some through the harmony of relationships and group dynamics.  MatrixWorks focuses on the power of groups as a means to balance all three.  Just as Hakomi utilizes an understanding of living systems to inform healing in the body, so does MatrixWorks use this understanding to inform our work in healing groups and creating healthy communities.  Here’s how we apply the 5 underlying principles Hakomi to group work:

The unity principle.  In groups, we embody and practice the unity principle by valuing and respecting each person’s experience, ideas, and uniqueness.  One particular tool we use to practice this is imagining the group as a body, and mapping each person’s role to a particular body system.  Hakomi treats the human body as a living system, and MatrixWorks treats the group as a body that is a living system.

Tip: Ask yourself, what part of the body do I represent?  Do I offer structure like bones, or strength like muscles, do I process like organs, or support energy like the endocrine system, do I provide direction like the brain, or connection like the circulatory system? What part of the body would other members of my team represent?  How can we work better together to move the entire system to health? 

Organicity.  MatrixWorks honors organicity through our understanding of the cycle of group life, the pattern of growth that happens in groups: connection, chaos, and consciousness. Allowing for these cycles to happen without getting stuck on any one in particular supports the organic unfolding of group intelligence. 

Tip: Notice or track where a relationship or a group is in the cycle.  If a relationship or group is going through a new stage of connection, then welcome all ideas with acceptance, inclusion and support. If the group is in creative chaos (which it will naturally tend towards if there is enough safety, but will get stuck in if safety is skipped), then trust the chaos, which brings up power dynamics and challenges us to incorporate different sides and polarities into a higher unified whole.  If a group is in the consciousness stage, then congratulations!  You have accomplished the task of working through conflict by staying in relationship and can celebrate your resourcefulness and commitment to growth and discovery.

Mind/body holism.  MatrixWorks translates this principle into group work by incorporating basic neuroscience in our teachings.  We’ve found that a scientific understanding of how the mind works can give greater insight into what’s going on inside the body.  We’ve introduced mirror neurons, the social engagement system, mitochondria to groups, and the essential teaching we share is about the triune brain, which brings an understanding of how the amygdala, limbic system, and neo-cortex activate in groups.  The amygdala always scans for safety or threat in the environment. 

Tip: Track how you feel in groups.  If you suddenly feel shut down, threatened, or a heightened sense of alarm, remind yourself that your amygdala is activated.  Recover the cortex by activating the limbic system through safe connection.

Mindfulness.  Early on in MatrixWorks, a team in the business world renamed what I called “a moment of mindfulness” or “the power of two minutes”.  It made more sense to them to contextualize the practice as slowing down now to go faster later.  Allowing the group to rename the practice in a way that made sense to them was important.  When we go into groups, we typically design for 60% of the content to come from MatrixWorks, and 40% to allow for the group’s frame of reference, which helps them incorporate the practice into their reality. 

Tip: Be mindful of your own frame of reference, while making space for different perspectives.  When diverse ideas come together, it opens the door for new possibilities to happen. 

Non-violence.  MatrixWorks emphasizes the importance of basic goodness in groups through the practice of loving kindness.  When companies start to assume common intention instead of competition, an energetic shift happens that serves the whole of life. 

Tip:  Balance task and accomplishment oriented work with self-nourishment and relationship-nourishment.  Negotiate the terms of a partnership by sharing: “This is something that I want or need from you as we work together, and this other thing is something I want for you as we work together on our project”.  Remember that you’ll go farther if you go together.

This is the tip of the iceberg for how we work with groups, so we invite you to deepen your learning with MatrixWorks.  While there was a time when this work was radical, most businesses are open to exploring how to make the workplace more human-friendly.  The most important take-away is to remember that healthy connection is the foundation for relationships, groups, and businesses to accomplish more and go farther.  Relationship is all there is.

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MatrixWorks is a model for understanding Groups as living systems. It has evolved through the study and practical application of Chaos and Complexity Theory, Hakomi, Buddhism, Somatic Psychology, the Group Leadership Training and the universal healing principles of Biodynamic Cranial Work. MatrixWorks offers classes, workshops, and consulting for groups as living systems.  It has been well received by groups all over the world.  We’ve seen success working with fortune 500 companies, women’s leadership, and group facilitation by creating the conditions that drive confidence, productivity, and work that supports life and everything living.  A complete book of their theory, exercises, and tools for how to change the world is coming out in 2016.

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Personal Relationship Assessment Exercise

We invite you to take time with each of these questions and do your own personal relationship assessment exercise.

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1) What is the level of Mutuality in my relationships? Can I offer and receive support, or am I always in the role of being the ‘one-in-need of help’, or the ‘helper’? Am I stuck in a pattern of being ‘one-up’ in relationships, or, possibly, ‘one-down’?

2) Is there an explicit agreement in my relationships that we are committed to each other’s growth and positive evolution?

3) Do my relationships reflect a commitment to core values, such as, the Good, True, and Beautiful, that give life meaning and purpose?

4) Do my relationships have a built in understanding that ‘messes and mistakes’ are part of the interpersonal territory, and self-correction and repair essential to the human experience?

5) Can I be my best and most authentic self in my relationships? Do I call forth the best from the Other?

6) What are my agreements about Feedback in my relationships? Do I seek it out, welcome it, and invite both constructive and appreciative feedback? Do I take risks and inquire: ‘What is the impact I have on you?’ or ‘What do you think are blind-spots I have about myself?’

And, finally, we leave you with the mindfulness statement we use in our Patterns of Relationships class:
“Relationship is all there is…”
You can say this phrase to yourself when you are in a relaxed state of mind, and just notice what happens in your sensations, thoughts, feelings, or movement impulses. Share with someone you care for. Let us know how it goes!

ENLIGHTENED FEMININE LEADERS

Who is She, this ENLIGHTENED FEMININE LEADER?


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She is one who…

  1. Has the strength to ask for help

  2. Sees herself and others, not as machines, but as Living Organisms (Living Systems)

  3. Can improvise brilliantly: takes risks and enjoys ‘working live’ with situations.

  4. Creates cultures of connection, compassion, and care.

  5. Uses intuition and empathy to make decisions and choices.

  6. Attends to personal needs, grows her own gifts and talents.

  7. Values emotion, presence, passion, pleasure (play).

  8. Has clear core values and serves a noble purpose.

  9. Employs humor, laughs at herself and learns from mistakes.

  10. “Is always evolving: being something and becoming something new”.

We invite you to read each of these capacities several times in a mindful state of consciousness. Then when you are ready, rate them in terms of importance and embodiment for yourself. In other words, in your own personal leadership context, which of these would be #1 in importance to you and which would be the least important, i.e. #10?

If you want to take the exercise one step further, share the list with a friend you trust, including your assessment of the most and least important quality to you. Ask them for feedback: do they agree with your self-assessment or do they have a different perception of you.

This willingness to ask for feedback is one of the many magic tools the Enlightened Feminine Leader has cultivated.

4 Principles of Living Systems

I find myself reflecting on the 4 Principles of Living Systems as a trustworthy guide to living a meaningful life: I offer these musings and invite your responses.

4 Principles of Living Systems:

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1) Understand the parts and pieces of our lives: Are they resonant? Is there enough diversity? Is there depth and breadth? Are they of my choosing? Or are they from the past?  And most importantly….

2) Do the parts leap into a coherent Whole that is greater than the sum of the parts? Does the Larger emerge into the center of the mandala so that everything finds its right place and allows genuine meaning to un-conceal itself in a state of … ?

3) Dynamic relationships that continually self-organize and self-create: which means the creative principle of the universe is moving things and people into and out of our lives as part of a divine design. This design can be felt, if not seen. Welcomed or resisted, we come to know ‘relationship is all there is’ and we give the value of relationship first place in line.

4) Finally, we acknowledge that the only answer big enough to meet the question of “WHY?” is the fact of the choice to SERVE LIFE. Not serve as in Subject/Object/Action, but serving life by being life. Fearlessly BEING life.

As the poet, Dylan Thomas says, “(being) the force that through the green fuse drives the flower.” Nothing is more satisfying than being driven by this force in community with others with whom ‘the green fuse drives the flower.’ I will meet you there.

SURFING the EDGE of CHAOS to find FREEDOM

We’d all like to have greater access to subtle realms and increase our ability to see through surface confusion and into core confidence and fearlessness. To work this as a process, I choose to face an issue I have been avoiding at the interpersonal level with someone I care deeply about. Just the resolve to ‘face into’ the situation liberates incredible energy for me.

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Drawing upon MatrixWorks principles, I remember that chaos and conflict often need a larger matrix than just the conflict pair, so I ask a second friend to hold space for me and my conflict partner. She agrees. More energy is released.

The next step is my internal preparation. Here are three questions I use to prime my inner pump and prepare for new possibilities:

1)   a) What awareness or personal value will help me drop my defensiveness and truly open to a genuine curiosity about our misunderstanding?
b) Answer: Remembering the basic goodness of myself and the ‘other’, and being willing to take 100% responsibility for myself, my actions and intentions, and to sincerely care about my impact on my friend.

2)   a) What resources can I draw upon to upgrade my ability to “listen well to feedback” about my blind spots?
b) Answer: I can practice something I recently learned about 3 levels of     Listening. These listening levels are: 1. radical receptivity; 2. total interest;     and 3. deeper currents and depth.

3)   a) What mindfulness or meditation practice can I engage in daily to create a field of positive potential for this meeting?
b) Answer: I choose a short, 15 minute practice using the Tara mantra and commit to doing this every day to strengthen my intention for a deeper relationship with my “friend-conflict-partner”.

Through this process I have greater trust in the restoration of right relationship and in the power of chaos and conflict to create the sweet spot of Freedom.

Share with us: How do you ‘surf the edge of chaos and find this sweet spot in your life’?

Communicating with Mitochondria

Enlightened Feminine Leadership

One example of context is a class we teach called Enlightened Feminine Leadership. This class (and MatrixWorks in general) tends to attract more women than men, which sets up a different context or tone for the group development. Because women (and balanced men) tend to have a natural understanding of this work, we can weave together and give voice to some big themes that women naturally intuit. It seems important to give Feminine Leadership its own section because it is a large part of our focused work.

Weaving together some BIG THEMES: Enlightened, Sacred Feminine, Leadership, Embodiment… from the old story of separation and domination to the new story of possibilities of love and connection. Creating the context helps ground big ideas into present awareness, insight, and action. We begin to envision together what a new model of Leadership might entail. The following practice is a staple in our Enlightened Feminine Leadership offering.

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Practice: Communicating with Mitochondria

We take responsibility by becoming more aware, and to increase awareness we have to continually resource ourselves. The deepest resource is to get in touch with wisdom in our bodies, one by getting in touch with mitochondria. Wisdom Traditions say the energy we inherit from our ‘Mother Lineage’ and pass on to our off-spring is in our physical body as the Mitochondria in every cell of our body. The Mitochondria produce the Energy of Life (ATP~150lbs of it each day) we need to live in every cell of our body. Mitochondria are 10% of our body weight. Lack of oxygen signals cells that it’s time to die, and lack of oxygen make the Mitochondria less efficient at turning glucose into the energy cells need to function. If there is a lack of energy, vitality, life force in our being, we can use our attention to connect with the original intention of the Mitochondria to support life. Burn-out of modern times. We can restore our own connection to the blue-print of perfection inside our cells. Here is an exercise you can try with your groups to get in touch with and restore mitochondria in the body.

  • “Empty Chair” : Begin to dialogue with your Mitochondria. Inquire how they are and if they have a message for you.

  • Work in groups of 3: Three Roles: Experiencer, Guide and Supporter

  • Experiencer sits or stands with Supporter behind and Guide in front. Guide invites Experiencer to focus on her Mitochondria, moving from feet up to head and back down again. Allow several minutes for this to deepen. Do several rounds of the Torus energy flow.

  • Guide asks the Experiencer: “If your Mitochondria could speak to you, what would they say?” Repeat 10-15 times.

  • Supporter writes down what experiencer says and reads back to Experiencer at end of the session.

  • Shift roles: Each person has a turn at all 3 roles. End with whole group sharing about the impact of the experience. Opportunities and Challenges to your expressing Enlightened Feminine Leadership in your life.

 

 

This is a preview excerpt from Mukara’s upcoming book, MatrixWorks: A Life Affirming Guide to Facilitation Mastery.

Tracking: Part Four

Simply put, Tracking is Paying Attention to verbal and non-verbal aspects of communication.

In the group, we hold the intention to be receptive and responsive to what each person is experiencing in the moment. This requires a capacity to let information come to you rather than you go out to get it. At first, we may only have hunches, guesses about what is happening inside another. However, with practice, we start to perceive more directly and learn how to check this out with the other. The information we receive is often telling us in large or small ways that the individual(s) feel seen, heard, received, safe or not; and how this matches or challenges their internal beliefs about themselves, other people, groups and the world. It is as if the ‘mind of the body’ speaks a special language we can learn if we attend to the non-verbal aspects of communication. Notice what you can notice about the following:

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The Connection Spiral of Groups

Explore these primary pattern of relationships:
“Nice and Polite”
“Tough and Right”
“Inquiring and Reflecting”
“Magic and Flow”

 

How might you see yourself using these stages of relationship when working with a group?

This was the final in a 4 part blog series on group tracking. Here you’ll find part 1on tracking the body, part 2 on tracking relationships, and part 3 on tracking geometry. We’d love to hear your thoughts and how these tips work for you!

 

 

This is a preview excerpt from Mukara’s upcoming book, MatrixWorks: A Life Affirming Guide to Facilitation Mastery.


Tracking: Part Three

Simply put, Tracking is Paying Attention to verbal and non-verbal aspects of communication.

In the group, we hold the intention to be receptive and responsive to what each person is experiencing in the moment. This requires a capacity to let information come to you rather than you go out to get it. At first, we may only have hunches, guesses about what is happening inside another. However, with practice, we start to perceive more directly and learn how to check this out with the other. The information we receive is often telling us in large or small ways that the individual(s) feel seen, heard, received, safe or not; and how this matches or challenges their internal beliefs about themselves, other people, groups and the world. It is as if the ‘mind of the body’ speaks a special language we can learn if we attend to the non-verbal aspects of communication. Notice what you can notice about the following:

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Tracking the Geometry

In this movement of focus of attention from oneself to others in the group does a lot to help us move from me to we/to broaden awareness of the whole.

Flying fish: a moment of magic when the group gels

Spark: delicious energy that could go into conflict or could fall in love

Swirl: not getting to the point, disorganization, not landing on the truth

Internal squeeze: Someone in the group uncomfortable, holding back

5 friends: where along this spectrum is the group? What does the group need to reach the next level?

Hot spots: tender, vulnerable topics that trigger members of the group

Near and far: who is resonating with the topic, who is neutral?

In and out: paying attention to who is included, and who is left out

 

How might you see yourself using these concepts when working with a group?

Stay tuned to our blog in the next few days to find part 4 to this blog series! We’ll be including more details about different types of tracking. Here you’ll find part 1on tracking the body and part 2 on tracking relationships.

 

 

This is a preview excerpt from Mukara’s upcoming book, MatrixWorks: A Life Affirming Guide to Facilitation Mastery.

Tracking: Part Two

Simply put, Tracking is Paying Attention to verbal and non-verbal aspects of communication.

In the group, we hold the intention to be receptive and responsive to what each person is experiencing in the moment. This requires a capacity to let information come to you rather than you go out to get it. At first, we may only have hunches, guesses about what is happening inside another. However, with practice, we start to perceive more directly and learn how to check this out with the other. The information we receive is often telling us in large or small ways that the individual(s) feel seen, heard, received, safe or not; and how this matches or challenges their internal beliefs about themselves, other people, groups and the world. It is as if the ‘mind of the body’ speaks a special language we can learn if we attend to the non-verbal aspects of communication. Notice what you can notice about the following:

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Tracking Relationships

Who sits by whom?
Who talks after whom?
Who talks a lot?
Who talks a little?
Who talks through using non-verbal language?
Who is paired with whom?
Who are the members of the natural Triads?
Who leads with feelings?
Who needs food for the left brain to feel safe?
Who needs to be invited “in”?
Who is sensitive to power dynamics?
Who is the oldest/youngest?
Who has the most/least confidence?
Who are you drawn to?
Who are you not drawn to?
Who do you ignore?
Who do you imagine is drawn/not drawn/ignores you? Who do you see as a “natural leader’”? Why?
Who do you trust?
Who do you envy?
Who do you feel more skilled than?
Who has access to their deep inner experience?
Who comes alive in connection?
Who orients to invisible dynamics in the Field? Who focuses on Task?
Who focuses on Relationship and Nourishment? Who is longing to be met with strength?
Who is defended against Intimacy?
Who is your peer?
Who understands that you are human?
Who touches your soul?
Who has a ‘hungry spirit to do good?

 

How might you see yourself using these questions when working with a group?

Stay tuned to our blog in the next few days to find parts 3 and 4 to this blog series! We’ll be including details about different types of tracking (including tracking geometry and group spirals). Here you’ll find part 1 on tracking the body.

 

 

 This is a preview excerpt from Mukara’s upcoming book, MatrixWorks: A Life Affirming Guide to Facilitation Mastery.

Tracking: Part One

Simply put, Tracking is Paying Attention to verbal and non- verbal aspects of communication.

In the group, we hold the intention to be receptive and responsive to what each person is experiencing in the moment. This requires a capacity to let information come to you rather than you go out to get it. At first, we may only have hunches, guesses about what is happening inside another. However, with practice, we start to perceive more directly and learn how to check this out with the other. The information we receive is often telling us in large or small ways that the individual(s) feel seen, heard, received, safe or not; and how this matches or challenges their internal beliefs about themselves, other people, groups and the world. It is as if the ‘mind of the body’ speaks a special language we can learn if we attend to the non-verbal aspects of communication. Notice what you can notice about the following:

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Tracking Body

How is the body held: stiffly, loosely, openly? Does it reflect Earth, or Water or Air or Fire? How does it relate to gravity, to space? Does it seem to draw you in or hold you out? What is the energy field around the body? Is it animated or subdued? Do the eyes shine or do they hide? Does the smile warm your heart? Does the smile seem to mask a pain? If this body could speak, what do you imagine it would say? What is the overall level of Tension/Relaxation?

Posture: Is the posture relaxed or rigid; comfortable and flowing or held and protective? If the Posture were expressing a need, what do you imagine the need would be: for contact? For space? For attention? For appreciation? Do any particular hand or face gestures seem to fit with the posture, or, feel incongruent with the posture?

Pace: How fast or slowly do the individuals in the group speak, think, move or interact? Do some have their ‘foot on the brake’ while others are pressing the accelerator? How patient are the Speedies with those more Slow? How pushed do the Slow ones feel by the speed of faster pace participants?

Feelings and Needs: How freely are feelings and needs expressed? Which ones seem hard to acknowledge? What do you sense are hidden ‘longings’ in the group members? Who seems to need attention from whom? Where are the natural affinities and allies in the group? Who seems cautious of/ afraid of whom? Is there a sense that nourishment is available for everyone in the Group?

Energy: What is the level of aliveness in participants? Do some seem over-stimulated? Under-stimulated? Is there a quality of play, humor, and delight? Or, is the energetic quality more serious, measured and careful? What metaphor arises for you as you experience the energy of this group? What calls your attention by its lack of presence in the group?

Health and Hidden Potential: What is the great health of each member of the Group? The Group as a Whole? What is their ‘hidden potential’? What is just beneath the surface, waiting for an invitation to emerge as a glorious gift? What is the experience that wants to happen in this moment? How do we, as facilitators, support the Relational Intelligence of this particular group to ‘make magic’ thru human connection that calls forth the hidden potential?

 

Stay tuned to our blog in the next few days to find parts 2, 3 and 4 to this blog series! We’ll be including details about different types of tracking (including tracking relationships, geometry and group spirals).

This is a preview excerpt from Mukara’s upcoming book, MatrixWorks: A Life Affirming Guide to Facilitation Mastery.