Personal Relationship Assessment Exercise

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

 

 

Concept of communication and communicating a message between two head shaped trees with birds perched and flying to each other as a metaphor for teamwork and business or personal relationship with 3D illustration elements.

 

 

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!

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.

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!!!

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.
  2. 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.’
  3. 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.

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.

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!

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 afterward 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.