Cultivating a Ground of Health

by Amina Knowlan | October 2006

To discover our potential to live as radiant love and humorous art requires involvement with other people."
Arjuna Ardagh
The Translucent Revolution

IN MATRIX GROUPS, when a group is forming we facilitate toward cultivating a ground of health. This principle tremendously enhances the resiliency of any group over time. It is useful in new groups as well as those that need to revitalize or rebuild.

Speaking in the typical person-to-person Matrix fashion, we take the time to get to know each other first as fellow human beings with ordinary lives. We awaken our curiosity about each other as people who have pets, children, jobs, and gardens. We invite people to discover who likes to read novels or poetry or nonfiction. We search for the extraordinary in the ordinary, learning about those who are artists, engineers, gourmet cooks, or athletes. Some might dismiss this as small talk, quite the contrary. It is the beginning of hearing and feeling the stories and identities that have shaped and textured the person. We delight in finding our similarities and complementary qualities, as well as our differences and uniqueness.

We are setting the stage for knowing each other as fellow human beings who care about our common future on the planet, or who are dedicated to a common purpose. This ground of health then becomes stronger than differences that have the potential to polarize or divide a group into a familiar win-lose system.

I will never forget one of my first moments of being instructed in this potential. I was in my late 20’s and had recently connected with a Sufi teacher. He lived on a farm in the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas. His nearest neighbor and best friend was a Southern Baptist minister. He often relayed stories expressing his delight in conversations and dialogues he had with his friend.

For months I wondered how he could engage in open conversations across the divide of such strong religious differences. During one particular visit, we stood in his kitchen with a cup of tea. The wood and stone walls of his kitchen were glowing with a vivid red and gold light from the glorious fall foliage of the Ozark forests. I remember gathering my courage as I listened to yet another of these wonderful stories. I finally blurted out, “How in the world do you even talk to each other? What can you possibly have in common?” He paused for a moment of true reflection. Then he raised his head to look at me with his blazing blue eyes and said, “I just want to know what his wine is.”

This moment was a true teaching. A teaching that takes a lifetime to truly learn and implement. When we focus on finding each other’s delight, we drink a wine of ordinary connection that can sustain us through the more challenging terrain that inevitably lies ahead.

Knowlan, Amina, Matrix Leadership: The Art and Science of Creating Sustainable Communities and Organizations, 2006. All rights reserved.

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Within a few months, I could see how my participation in the Matrix had already begun to inform my skills for relating and negotiating conflict as applications began to show up in my personal life as well as with my clients. I love being able to witness others respond skillfully and with heart in the group circle. I learn about myself and relationship and myself-in-relationship every meeting. This group is of great value to me. I don't know of another venue where I could engage and work on these skills with such loving and supportive guidance.
— Noëlle Morris
Embodiment Facilitator"
Menlo Park, CA