Embodying the Prosocial Matrix: An Exploration

Tuning In

The experiential gestalt that our bodies, at any one moment, encode and decode, with environments both internal and external, is the complexity of life itself: sound waves, pressure waves, hormonal cascades, the electromagnetic spectrum, neurotransmissions, thermal fluctuations, touch, proprioception, sense experience, momentum, thought streams, memories…interpreted as emotion, meaning, knowledge, belief…moving us into action, nonaction, priorities…

Emotion

Emotion is layered. And emotion is a driving force that lives in the body, whether acknowledged or not, it drives us. So becoming aware and adept at recognizing emotional forces within us is key to liberating our whole selves in a process or a space. Emotional intelligence, alive and honored, is essential to the loving maturation of our communities. Grief, for instance, is often passed over, interrupted, diminished in importance and misunderstood, squashed by social pressure and fast-paced living. Without community honoring, and open expressive spaces for our grieving, we close off aspects of our heart life, deadening ourselves to our full feeling capacity, and thus cripple our inner strength and ability to respond to real-life imperatives. When the heart shuts down, it shuts down not only to the emotions that scare us, but also to degrees of the emotions that we are more comfortable welcoming. How big is your love? How empowered is your dignity? If our love and dignity are strong, and our grieving is given time and care, if we can learn to breathe into our fears and honor the messages of pain and deep feeling, then we can become more and more fully aware and alive, individually and communally. Emotion is essential knowledge for living, for making decisions, and for meaningful collaboration. Embodying spaces welcome emotion. They help build the intelligence and skills of emotional awareness and care, personally and in community, and they can help us to become more skillful and intuitive about emotional balance in shared spaces. This takes time and attention, as emotions are easily misattributed, projected, misread and misunderstood. They’re complicated.

Agency

Embodying is the pulse of the present moment: the moment of breath, the moment of sensation. Conscious choice resides in the present moment. Agency is activated in the present moment. It can be both grounding and energizing, even if in my agency I choose to recognize my own ignorance. To recognize that my expressions display my ignorance, for instance, in such a vast world of experience, because there’s always someone who knows, from their perspective, something more clearly than I do, and yet to still act in the world toward some good, to still affirm self expression, is one form of beautiful, strong, humble, self agency.

Self-Care

One gentle and fundamentally important aspect of exploring our body connections for ourselves and within facilitation is to help us find and live strategies of self-care and community care that nurture us for living our days outside of meetings and into our personal lives. Within our workplaces, and in the struggles of this time, caring can feel good, especially when we do it together; connection instead of isolation. This goodness feeds us and gives us more energy to care more and to be cared for. When introducing embodying practices, we can keep this in mind. For self-care to be meaningful, it has to come from willingness within one’s own sense of personal boundaries. So lots of importance placed on self agency and freedom to interact with prompts however one feels comfortable doing so is essential.

Trauma

I would like to acknowledge that there are so many different lives and ways of seeing. Perhaps there are many deeply integrated people who live a fullness of body-mind unity that the idea of paying specific attention to embodying just seems redundant. This might make an embodying practice seem like a waste of time for some. So I’d like to respect this reality.

Boundaries as Liberation

When offering a moment of embodying, as a facilitator, we can offer an opportunity to notice one’s personal boundaries in the space we are sharing together. Space and time to be curious about what those boundaries feel like and are made of, and time to explore whether or how much one wants to challenge the edges they are experiencing, is part of liberating ourselves with ourselves, and within groups. Validate personal boundaries often. Give space to engage in the exercise or not engage at all. Encourage everyone to tune into their own practices or ways of taking care of themselves during the whole time together. Whatever power we carry as facilitators can be used to empower others, remembering that the group dynamic and desire for belonging can short circuit individual agency. Thus, it’s important to continually affirm the primacy of willingness, consent, and personal boundaries, in the life of the container we are offering.

Unequal Costs

The cost of showing up to embodying is unequal in many of our spaces, because of personal or cultural, historical and contemporary, economic and political trauma. The systemic traumas that live in our bodies are unequal and unjust between groups of people and individuals who have lived oppression vs. privilege. Bringing this uneven cost to light, and bringing groups into a deep understanding of this together, making the invisible visible to the container, matters. The consciousness that can be brought out together can come from the facilitator, but also very deeply from all those who are gathered, expressing our willingness together to understand, acknowledge and honor the disparate dynamics. This can help the container to welcome more of everyone for deeper, more connective conversations. This profoundly important dynamic, amongst others, was brought to light for me in a conversation of generosity, richness, and openness with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Facilitator Malaika Aaron-Bishop. For whom I am deeply grateful.

Embodying for Facilitators: Ethics

As facilitators, if we’re interested in spaces that offer embodying for others, and we want to do this with integrity, we need to tend to our own embodying awareness, practicing a keen and honest self-knowledge. Finding embodying practices and reflections that work for you is what is most helpful here. There are so many. At the most basic level, we can breathe into our responsibility to enter the space with as much self clarity as possible. Perfection is not an element of this. It’s about being in touch with ourselves to the best degree that we can, honest and transparent about our state of mind and emotions with ourselves, and finding ways to bring that clarity of self into the container with others. When we’re not at our best: we’re injured or not feeling well, or emotionally hurting, it’s about finding ways to make sure others aren’t taking that on, consciously or unconsciously, in personal ways as it bleeds through the facilitation. (This, and many topics represented in this article, are seeds for long conversations about facilitation.) How much of yourself do you bring into the space without taking over the space is an interesting question. As a facilitator, rootedness in heart strength and clarity of deepest intentions are vital elements.

Embodying the Prosocial Matrix: One Design

The Prosocial Matrix is a prime tool for intellectual exploration that could richly invite embodying elements. Let’s move to one example of a Design of Embodying the Prosocial Matrix…

Zone 1 — Moving TOWARD — INNER World.

Now, please move your attention to the front of your body. Let’s say this space in front of you is full of your moving forward energy. The energy of you that moves toward your desires, needs, and goals; the feeling of moving toward.

Zone 2 — Moving TOWARD — OUTER World.

Again, if you feel willing, please take a moment to close your eyes or limit your visual field. This is another opportunity to turn off your video and be surrounded by your own space. You can welcome your awareness of your breath again, the feeling of breathing. Even allow your breath to grow deeper with a feeling of reclaiming your body sense to your conscious attention. Let’s stay with the space in front of you and the feeling of forward momentum toward your desired outcomes. This time let’s highlight your belly and your feet, a kind of groundedness, an earth engagement. In this moving-toward space, in relation to your topic of inquiry, what do you do, that I could see from the OUTSIDE, that is an action expression of your values and motivations when you feel you are moving toward your desired outcomes?

Zone 3 — Moving AWAY — INNER World.

I invite you to sit back, or be upright in posture in a fresh way, even stretch a little or completely change your body position. You’re welcome to close your eyes or gaze downward perhaps. Here is a new moment. Breathing into the new moment, feel again the way your breath moves, and in this movement of breath notice what your body is feeling and sensing. Please remember all of this is an invitation and the degree to which you wish to participate is your choice and is deeply honored as part of this process.

Zone 4 — Moving AWAY — OUTER World.

With awareness of your body and breath, please continue on with what pulls you back, and feel into your back body again into the space behind you at your lower back and down toward your feet. Let your breath be slow and deep and even, if you wish, place a hand to your belly and heart again if you wish. Giving yourself time to feel your body sensations and emotions… What are the things that you do, the things that someone could see from the outside if you were being recorded, for instance, for a movie… the actions and real world dynamics, that hold you back, or that create non-doing, or block you from your desired forward movement, (as regards your topic of inquiry)?

Zone 5 — Centered Awareness — Interbeing

In this last zone, if you wish, please connect yourself again, with yourself. You’re welcome to tune into your body sense, your breath, your feeling body. Please see if you can imagine sitting in the seat of your centered self, maybe with a deep breath. From your sense of center, to the degree that it’s available to you in this moment, please be with your awareness of the whole picture; of what moves you toward what is meaningful and of great value to you, both inwardly and outwardly, and what holds you back or blocks your forward movement, both inwardly and outwardly. This is an emergent space. You’re welcome to sit quietly with this, and wait, and feel, and see what comes alive in you… From this centered seat of awareness, what do you see as helpful ways of being, ways of knowing, and actions to take or directions to go, (as regards your topic of inquiry)?

Final thoughts for now…

A small note: In-person somatic awareness practices and games can be designed to purposefully and highly effectively short-circuit habitual ways of thinking for groups and individuals, if they consent to them. In their simplicity and kindness, these practices rewire the brain and make new thought patterns available to us, and help us access interconnection when it seems elusive. These practices are not explored here, but it’s helpful to mention their existence for in-person groups or groups who are willing to play, as part of facilitating embodying spaces.

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r3.0 is a pre-competitive & market-making non-profit delivering groundbreaking Blueprints, Transformation Journeys and Conferences for system value creation.