Embodying the Prosocial Matrix: An Exploration
by Jennifer Dhyana Nucci, r3.0 Facilitator & Prosocial certified facilitator
The Prosocial Matrix is a simple, easy-to-use tool for supporting psychological flexibility. The effect of using it often feels something like becoming clearer and more relaxed around making choices that are more fully informed, and being able to change, explore, deepen, and even contradict our own strongly held views, with ourselves, and sometimes with others, because we begin to see things a bit differently. It can be used for individuals and for groups. It’s usually done with a visual on a screen or in a large room on a white board or chalkboard, or on a piece of paper. On a flat surface. The efficiency of this flat surface Matrix can be helpful when tackling simple time-bound problems, and for organizing more complex or large group processing.
I’d like to suggest it may be a more insightful process for us if we add a component that supports embodying the process, mindfully, explicitly. As a way to honor our complex, multidimensional nature, our interconnectedness, and our deep, body-wise intentionality.
Embodying tends to be a patient, spacious experience. I’m using the gerund verb form, embodying, instead of embodiment, in order to key us into the ever-changing and responsive reality of being alive. It’s similar to thinking of Earth as a verb, as ever-responsive, a living, breathing planet creature; we could think of body as a verb too, always in a state of change and flow, less solid or stagnant in its concept as a noun might indicate. Taking the time to feel embodying can bring us more clearly and authentically, and thus more efficiently if efficiency is part of the need, toward goals, feelings, actions, and understandings that are truly, robustly, helpful.
Embodying is full of personal signals of willingness and unwillingness; this is just one reason why it’s so important. How often do we betray ourselves because we agree to things outwardly, consciously and unconsciously, that we actually don’t agree with inwardly, in part because we become used to ignoring our body signals? How often do we overshoot our personal boundaries and capacity? How often do we ignore essential messages that are felt in the body?
The format of what follows is an exploration of aspects to consider when bringing embodying elements into the Prosocial Matrix process. We’ll lightly explore (I say“lightly” because all of the topics offered here could be full essays in and of themselves) these headings: Tuning In, Emotion, Agency, Self-Care, Trauma, Boundaries as Liberation, Unequal Costs, Embodying for Facilitators: Ethics, and then, an Embodying Design Framework.
So, if you feel willing… let’s spiral our way through some exploration of embodying. Embodying as a nonlinear type of knowledge.
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…
Here we are. This complex moment, alive, to this moment, and ever changing…
Nature is constantly in a state of change and humans are nature; naturing..humaning.. We are fluidity, variability, instability, expansion, contraction… And the basis of our existence in our cells and processes, and our energetics of all sorts, are made of the essential sustenance and relationships that exist with the plants and animals, and elements, of this natural world we live with, this one earth. This reality in our bodies is something we sense and live with every day, but perhaps rarely pay attention to or include in our self-identifying awareness.
People are also each other. The life of our ideas, beliefs, perceptions is encultured in us from each other, from the act of living, and from the living pulse of our environments. We are made of the past, present and future; we are made of relationships. We are of the stuff of touch and atmosphere, of shared gesture and response, uplifted by kindness and injured by neglect and violence. The socialized limits that shape the edges of what we perceive as possible, the limits of our realities and of our imaginal realms are visibly and invisibly influencing us. Our hearts, our bodies, carry a depth and breadth of intelligence and wisdom, prejudice and projection that is of our shared nature. It actually… takes time… to feel… and be… with the complexity of ourselves in order to understand ourselves deeply and sensitively, and listen to each other with some kind of freedom from our habitual selves in order to really hear… one moment… at a time.
This deep breath
Oscillating as a process of becoming more in tune… Engage, and then disengage. Engage fully with a particular thought, feeling, stimulus. Disengage and feel, sense, enter into breath awareness, openness without direction, sense the heart and body experience of the moment, give space and time for the patterned brain to disengage into inner space less well defined. Re-engage fully with the original stimulus, or some addition or variation, focused, absorbed… Disengage and feel, rest, be, breathe, live, notice..what’s showing up? Re-engage again. Playing. Honoring emergence, the way full understanding takes shape, the way our bodies hold information about the content we are engaging with and knowledge broadens and breathes. Honoring this being alive, the layers, the ebb and flow, transformed by inner stillness and movement combined. We are the fluid nature of Nature.
There is a kindness to this.
Instead of clinging to solidness, we work with discomfort and comfort, confusion and recentering, without needing to hold onto either, nor shrink nor explode. There is a kindness to this recognition, this participation with our natural states of how we grow and arrive again and again… relax… change… chaos… love… let go… grow… relax… change…chaos…love…let go…grow… we energize some pieces and then reflect again.. Scope in and then out…again. Patiently, forgivingly…
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.
And with all of this, we are also tied into the systems that run our worlds. These systems cause harm. Tied to them, I am causing harm, and I am harmed by this. My heart prayers and actions go out more fully informed by the brokenness of this life. Empathy and pain become companions in me, interwoven, and activating. Living paradoxes, poignant entanglements, that we all know exist in us, are important. The temptation is to oversimplify, to shut down, to make decisions from just an intellectual space, to make no decisions at all, to distract and escape, to disregard emotion and minimize even further our quiet inner knowing voices. I know I’m tempted sometimes, when my heart is less alive, when I’m tired, when I’m overworked, when I’m feeling fragile, or less mature patterns of being are louder in me than other more loving, informed parts of my being.
All of this intricacy of humanness is such a small piece of the fullness and richness of embodying and the complexity of being a person. And we haven’t touched even a bit on embodying ancestral knowledge and guidance, spirituality, and the ways animals and plants are in profound relationship with us, and so much more.
If we’re seeking to build capacity for being present to ourselves, each other, and the task at hand, then to include the feeling body means we are including essential information. Especially if we are wanting to increase our capacity to stay fully present, to not shut down, avoid, or distract from some of the most difficult parts of the conversation and of Life. If I am wanting to uncover my unconscious bias, my embedded fears, and the way avoidance of grief and loss and habits of self-protection unconsciously drive thoughts and actions, or the way heart connections are central to wellness for those around me and for self, those ways of being and thinking and feeling are in my muscles, my posture, my breath, and the way my body feels comfort and discomfort. Muscular tension is intrinsic to crying and laughing. Depressed or heart-full moments change the lift and fall of the spine. Distressed or trusting moments change the way our eyes dilate. Emotion is in our fascia, our digestion, our heartbeat.
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.
Patterns and signals that are felt in our bodies are the stuff decisions are made from — subtle, subtle, subtle, and gross- the stuff that knocks us over. What kinds of body signals do I listen to that help me make decisions? What kind of body signals do I habitually ignore?
How do we see and sense the body language signals that draw us together? Are we willing to re-examine our assumptions about what we’re sensing? Can we, together, create moments that reveal to us our interbeing, instead of reinforcing our separation? How can we release the pull of wanting to be ‘right’ and fear of being ‘wrong,’ in favor of being with… with what’s showing up, with what’s alive in this moment, with needs, with shared purpose, with each other?
Embodying is a listening state, in movement and stillness. A state of reflection and sense awareness that is lived by every culture that has ever been, and is available to all people. There is no particular education or language that is required. Words are not even necessary, though they can be helpful.
Sometimes words can be limiting…
One of my dear friends, when he was in his late 80s, asked me to teach him some somatic practices. He was a brilliant intellectual, an engineer who became a Jungian psychologist. Our sessions together were forms of inquiry and practice…and what I finally found out was that what he really wanted was to feel more emotion, to be more in touch with his emotions. One day he went into the hospital and as his body began to fail, he lost his ability to speak. For the last month of his life, he could only communicate through his eyes and touch. I know this seems tragic, but he didn’t seem to approach it that way. He seemed to put his energy into whatever channels of connection were left for him. And I saw him engage with others like I had not seen before. With his eyes, his facial expression, and with touch he expressed love and gratitude, sadness and presence, deep emotion expressed with his body. He was finally receiving and engaging with the emotional life that was in him. His need to communicate and be connected came out through his body expression in ways he couldn’t quite get to when he was so elegantly, masterfully reliant on words.
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.
There are dangers to disembodying (lacking a tuned-in feeling to the real and present experience in the body)… My experience so far, for myself and in hearing others, is that when humans do not take time to listen more deeply to themselves, these things can happen with more frequency and less awareness: transgressing personal boundaries; abandoning sense of self; unconsciously negating needs; leaning into what the group wants without having a groundedness and centeredness with which to question it and without truly checking in with self; overshooting personal capacity/over committing; feeling less engaged; having less to contribute and missing the essence; getting hooked by doubts and fears… Any of these at different times with subtle degrees of connect and disconnect, are likely, when not listening deeply to one’s body voice. … I wonder how many others feel this way at times and what cumulative effect this has in groups and the quality of the decision making, or lack of direction, satisfaction, and robust work toward solutions people are experiencing. I wonder how habitual patterns of (non)interaction and of our publicly ‘acceptable’ selves in our spaces actually deaden us to what’s really going on, affirm ignorance, make life less inspired, and contribute to injustice. How many people simply feel unseen even within groups they spend a lot of time with?
Our bodies give us signals. Feeling restful in spaces together is one signal the body uses to indicate peace and self-possession, and can lead to an ability to breathe more freely and feel more clearly, increasing our capacity to sense ourselves and engage with others. Resting into presence, in a body sense, can mean that we are not disassociated from our bodies; we can perhaps feel the way feet meet the earth, skin senses the air, the heart reaches for some lightness, some meaning, some warmth. And we feel capable of feeling the information in us embedded in our discomfort as well, in our resistances. We begin to feel clearer about what is ours and what is projection, or what we are taking on that really belongs to someone else, what is encultured in us and what the edges of our unconscious is made of. We can welcome discomfort as part of our sensing-toward-becoming, as part of our relationship with a world of so many varied realities. It becomes ok to not know what to say as we’re processing deeply, welcoming silence, until the words begin to emerge again, more authentically, more accurately reflecting our wholeness. It can become deeply beautiful to just be, and to let others just be, in the moment, and let the experience of being, touch us in a state of togetherness.
When we take time to tune into embodying, we can feel more peaceful. We can feel the guidance of pain; the guidance of love. We can feel the energizing effect of gratitude and of true connection with others. Our language changes. Our pace changes. More space and awareness grows in us as individuals and in togetherness. We give ourselves a chance to be a little more than we thought we were.
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.
For many of us though, we may be encultured to think without emotion, or to ignore our body messages, or habitually shut down. Perhaps our grief has not been validated, our heart life has not been valued, our feeling body conversation has been deprived of education. Some of this may make embodying a painful relief. Sometimes there is pain within embodying that is part of learning what health and connection feel like. Often this pain is accompanied with a sense of relief, that even though we are hurting or uncomfortable, we’re relieved to be truly connected with our lived reality. Sometimes, it’s natural to choose a familiar shut-down state of nonconnection, over and ultimately more satisfying moment that we really want and need, because the more satisfying moment is also packed with uncertainty, which feels truly uncomfortable or scary. Sometimes our embodying can feel dangerous and triggering, bringing us into contact with our trauma.
Some of us, maybe all of us, have past and present trauma living in our body experience, as well as fear of future trauma.
Trauma, personal and cultural, political and societal, can enmesh our body sense. The awareness and sensitivity necessary to facilitate spaces where varying traumatic realities exist in people’s bodies is something we have to learn to navigate with care. Trauma carries intense pain sometimes, and can lead to sensitivities that can become a fierce strength. The personal experience and processing of trauma is infinitely varied. As I am learning about the care that is needed, I feel grateful for all that I learn, and regretful for my many mistakes in this learning curve. And I think this is a long learning curve because people have such differing needs at different times. Trust is part of this and it usually takes time to build. Trust can come from taking time to invite open expression and for validating our humanness. Trust is tied to our caring and to our ability to honor each other even amidst strong disagreement. Trust is a huge, powerful conversation. In groups it is affected by the many projections and judgments human minds consciously and unconsciously inflict on each other based on appearances and facial expressions. Toward building trust, and creating gentler embodying spaces, we could work together to keep our minds open and respectful to what we do not and cannot know about each other. Leaning away from stereotypes and judgements and into curiosity and inquiry with respect and care.
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.
Paradoxical as it may seem, boundaries that define space can actually elicit expansive experiences, when the space is bounded by our own agency and self-empowerment. Spaces that welcome everyone, and seek to really see and hear everyone, end up validating a beautifully broad range of being and wisdom.
For many of us, embodying is hard won. Once we have (re)discovered our intimacy and ‘at homeness’ with our embodying, we won’t let anyone take it away again. That is one reason why, for some of us, ‘business’ etiquette, non-feeling, non-connective meetings are such a drudge and drain, exhausting. It’s no longer ok to just be in the head, or give away selfhood, or have too much just-surface-communication. Practices of embodying help us to (re-)affirm the value of staying in touch with the sea of self, continue to gain confidence, skill, and capacity in feeling and sensing, and teach us the worth of being uninterested in a deadening experience. Wishing to engage in the dynamic tension between a passion for freedom from the traumas that restrict our expression and presence, AND the deep respect and appreciation for the boundaries that show up as protection and wisdom inside of us, is an opportunity to grow in trust with one’s inner knowing.
To bring ourselves more fully into a space, we need a sense of safety or trust, a feeling sense that signals to us that we can really be bodily present and not largely or partially shut down. Sometimes we sense that our gathering spaces cannot hold the essence of what it really means to be connected, and so having the skills and confidence to listen to our personal boundaries about how much of ourselves we are willing and wanting to bring into a space is essential for personal peace and self care. Generally speaking, in our cultures today, there’s so much lack of awareness and sensitivity that safer or braver spaces can take a long while to create together; this has the potential to be a patient, rewarding process if everyone gathered and impacted is consenting and honored.
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.
Though I have a great deal of trauma from my own childhood and adulthood as a woman, and from the isolation of single parenting on a low income, I am from the Global North, which means I live in a state of extreme privilege compared to many. I find that even with self education and activism about racism and the systemic illnesses we’re all encountering that make us live in fear, I still have many blindspots that cause me to be in a state of separation and ignorance. In this, I think we need each other; I can’t do it alone. The sharing of our difference of experiences is what frees us from our singular limited experience, into the fellowship of empathy. When someone sheds light into my blindness, I feel graced by the resulting awareness. The deep regret for any negative impact I have had, for any way that I have contributed to others feeling unappreciated, undignified, or unempowered, painfully carves out my insides and makes room for sensing others and what they are sharing. And the resolve to move forward, staying open and continuing to work toward just equity, more informed, more aware, means I can hopefully be part of work that is healing and helpful. The pain of growth is the kind of pain we can readily welcome if we’re clear about our intentions and the just world that we hope for.
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.
The ‘right’ way to do embodying practices with any group or individual is simply the way that truly serves and honors participants. There are so many creative ways to engage the body sense and welcome presence together. There are so many mistakes to be made, understood, apologized for, and learned from. This is a humbling practice, hopefully full of gentleness and forgiveness.
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…
With deepening self connection, may you make this loose design your own and may it be ever responding to those you are with.
my way of being
The process is less about control, and more about cultivating presence for what emerges and what is alive. And perhaps trusting that what comes/is alive in us in this process can lead us to what is most meaningful with ourselves and others.
The graphic below is, as you can see, a flat surface representation. I’m putting this in just for ease of understanding for anyone who hasn’t seen this kind of representation of the Prosocial Matrix before. When I’ve been facilitating the Prosocial Matrix in an embodying way, we chose not to use the graphic at all, in favor of staying body centered and speaking from a feeling place rather than engaging too much linear mind. For some people however, a combination of the two formats might be very helpful.
An Embodying Design: (italics are what could be spoken out loud to a person or group. This design was developed during a global pandemic, thus a digital format. In-person prompts could be different and could even invite some fun creative body movement opportunities when the time frame is expansive enough.) Finding your own words in the process of playing with this will be key, as well as adding or removing explanations as they serve those who are present.
Speak slowly enough that people have time to respond and feel. As a facilitator, stay in tune with your own body too, and breathe into your own discomfort with going slower if you tend to want to move more quickly. When we go too fast, we may be negating the opportunity for body intelligence to emerge. If you can, notice when participation is strong and what you’re doing is really being felt, and when the timing just needs to be different. Maybe you notice that a lighter or stronger touch could be helpful. Give permission to do things differently, often.
As we begin this process, please honor, right away, whatever feels comfortable for you, or uncomfortable for you. Please honor your own boundaries and ways of interacting with my prompts that feel, for you, connective to yourself, honoring of yourself, even renewing and peaceful for yourself. Feel free to reject my prompts altogether if that is what you want, and create your own reflection or feeling space that nourishes you at this time.
Please sit back, or sit upright.
Relaxation comes from resting into support, or resting into upright alignment if you’re on a stool or standing for instance and you begin to bring some equilibrium into your body effort.
I welcome you to close your eyes, or gaze downward perhaps. You can turn off your video if you wish whenever we do this kind of pausing. This limiting of your field of vision serves to decrease the amount of visual input that you’re dealing with and helps to bring your outward sensing energies inward, into your body, into a feeling/sensing place, within your experience of this moment.
(The massive majority of the amount of sensing we do is directed outward for most of us. And the amount of energy that goes into sensing and then interpreting what we’re sensing, and sense-making of it in relation to ourselves and others is tremendous. Much of the outward sensing in a digital culture of distraction and over stimulation, and then also being indoors and sitting a lot, is processed in our heads and not really integrated into our conscious body sense. So we’re welcoming a different kind of moment that honors inward sensing, honors body awareness, and calms our visual stimulation.)
If you wish, please turn your attention to your breath. Perhaps allow a breath to flow through you. Feel the way your breath expands parts of your body, enlivens and fills you up on the inhale. Feel the movement of air through your nose or your mouth; the coolness of the air stream coming in, the warmth of the air leaving your body. There’s a beautiful channel of air, a stream of air moving through your open throat and deep into the lowest lobes of your lungs so that your diaphragm drops and it can feel like you’re breathing into your belly. Releasing tension from your belly, relaxing more deeply into your own body, breath after breath…
If you like, place your hands on your body, at your chest, your heart center and at your belly. Feel your heart beating, feel your body breathing. Sense the warmth of your body that is of the sun and of the deep earth. Sense the water in your body that is of the rivers, the rain, the ocean. Feel that your heart life is made of connections, to the places you love, the humans and creatures you love… that the wellness of your body is connected to the creatures and plants and trees who are intimately tied to the health of your land and water and the air you breathe.
Please feel your feet below you, your deep belly breath that brings you groundedness, perhaps inviting some stability in your body experience. And if you wish, please open up to your feeling body, your emotional body. You can begin to think of yourself as spacious on the inside. Lots of room to breathe and feel on the inside. Just noticing how you feel today, not trying to change anything. Simply being.
As you do this, you may discover resistance to breathing or find you don’t want to participate in this moment in this way. Perhaps you could explore the resistance, invite breath into the resistance. Or you could reject this invitation entirely and use the moment in a way that serves you better. Thank you for taking care of yourself in whatever way you choose.
The Prosocial Matrix is a way of exploring the forces that move us forward and pull us backward, both within ourselves and outside of ourselves. With eyes still closed perhaps, please see if you can open your awareness spherically.
Imagine a spherical awareness by becoming aware of the space
all around you:
the space in front of you
and behind you,
to the right
and left of you,
the space above
and below you.
Perhaps feel yourself connecting to the space all around you, relationally, energetically. Now let’s allow this spherical space all around you, that includes YOU, to be filled with the energies of your inquiry. A deep breath might help your imagination, and your feeling body to come alive a little more. Please don’t worry if this is too weird at first, or difficult somehow. We can stay with the exercise of it bit-by-bit if you feel willing.
We do a matrix in order to learn and inquire more deeply about something…explore a conflict or define a purpose..whatever it is that is the focus of your matrix. As facilitator, you can now bring up the topic of focus in however way you choose. And then invite your participants to: Please let those energies (or issues, or topics, or dynamics…) become what you think about and feel into, in this sphere of awareness. Breath into what you are sensing as you think about the topic at hand. If you wish, you can listen to the voice of your body through signals of tension or release of tension, breath freedom or constriction, thoughts and emotions that show up around this topic. Take your time to listen deeply to yourself while breathing into the realm of inquiry of this particular 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.
Now let’s gaze into the upper half of your body, and let’s include your belly sense, your solar plexus, your heart wisdom, your head space. Let’s allow this forward moving, upper zone, to be filled with the INNER life of you around your question or topic of inquiry. What are your motivations, your values, your deep driving forces, that live INSIDE you, made of? You can answer from a place within yourself and at your own pace. You can articulate from what your belly is feeling/saying, what your heart is feeling/saying, and what your reasoning brain is wanting to express.
Your expression can be slow and you can keep your eyes closed, speaking from a feeling place. You can open your eyes if you wish. However your expression wants to come out, whatever is coming alive in you, is welcome. Feelings are welcome. Exploration is welcome.
From here, invite any kind of conversation that participants are wanting to have. According to the needs of the group and the time frame, try to feel into a pace that serves your group. See if you can find a balance that honors a feeling of spaciousness, a release from time pressures, while also honoring the practical time needs of those who are present. A balance of discovering what’s coming alive in people and their connectedness to themselves and the group, while also keeping in mind if there are specific goals that participants are wanting to address.
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?
And then again allow the conversation to flow as participants want it to flow, encouraging various ways of expressing…eyes open or closed, slow or fast paced, deep emotional expression or linear intellectual thought processes. Whatever emerges, emerges, while also giving permission and value to silence and to the various expressions.
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.
Feel yourself again in a spherical awareness, the earth beneath you, the sky above… And then move your attention to your back body: the space behind you. We’re focusing again on your INNER life, and now on the stuff that pulls you backward, holds you back, stops you from moving forward. You’re invited to feel this space in the upper area, behind you, behind your back and your head, as awareness of the forces that hold you back, on the INSIDE, your INNER life. The stuff that lives inside of you that keeps you from living your values, motivations and visions. You might become aware of fears, of inner coping strategies, frustrations, self talk that distracts or destroys.. This could be full of the feeling of being stopped in your tracks on the inside, or entangled. These could be forces that make you pause and think again and thus create something that is more informed, or forces that completely confound you. And when you are ready, if there’s anything you wish to express out loud of this backward pulling inner force, you’re welcome to speak it.
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.
And finally: The more I facilitate the Prosocial Matrix as an embodying practice, the more the experience and feedback affirms the infinite variety of humanity, the falsehood of stereotypes, the extraordinariness of each person, the relevance of context and needs, the imperative of personal and historical and contemporary socio-political considerations, and the opportunity to connect with the liberation that greater awareness can bring for participants and for myself.
For me, this is a living document. Thoughts and feelings about this process, and the process itself, I believe, will continue to be enriched by experiences that I have, and the experiences, critiques, and wisdom from others. Thank you so much for your time and energy in reading this!