by Amina Knowlan | February 2007
"Living systems evolve in variety, resilience, and intelligence;
they do this not by erecting walls of defense and closing off from their environment,
but by opening more widely to the currents of matter-energy and infor-mation.
They integrate and differentiate through constant interaction, spinning more
intricate connections and more flexible strategies. For this they require
not invulnerability, but increasing responsiveness. Such is the direction
The Work That Reconnects
I INVITE YOU TO ENVISION YOURSELF as part of a group, many groups, that recognize themselves as living breathing, interconnected organisms. These groups are alive, they have a body, a consciousness, a biography and a unique evolutionary path. With this awareness, we no longer see just a circle of individuals. We know that our capacity to thrive and evolve absolutely depends on each and every other person. We know from the inside out that we belong to something greater than ourselves that allows us to create and serve in ways that no one of us could possibly do alone.
Envision a world that rewards our collective efforts, our collective intelligence and our collective heart. It is not our capacity for solo heroics and amassing a private fortune that formulates our basic imprint for success. While individuals are supported to shine in their unique magnificence, there is no power without connection. We no longer look to an external authority to instruct us, to depend on, to rebel against or even to save us. With enough matrix of connection, we realize our potential through authoring our own experience and mutually authorizing each other. We are no longer restricted to roles or functions that limit our wholeness and creativity. We gain the freedom to play in the field of our brilliant individual expression while surfing the creative depths and heights of our collective humanness and our emerging inspiration. When this level of self-assertion emerges, a group that can work with the inevitable differences between people can truly collaborate to determine the direction of the group.
Person by person, relationship by relationship we gain the depth of knowing each other to value differences as essential resources. We no longer relate to differences as threats to our identities. Rather they are responded to as inherent to creativity. As we discover that we no longer need to defend our positions, we will dialogue with curiosity and respect. We learn to suspend the need for agreement or resolution or decision. We cherish the dialogue itself, cherish the differences as essential aspects of our wholeness and evolution. We cultivate an attitude of treasuring the creative tension between points that are seemingly oppositional. We expand into other possibilities that are born of the relationship between the two.
It requires a radical differentiation from the paradigm of separateness itself. It is through connection with each other that we can actually differentiate and let go of that which does not serve the whole. When we are willing to speak the voice of our truth while listening for the wisdom of the other, when we can suspend the need for agreement or resolution, we open a creative dynamic born of the tension between the two.
As we listen to one another's deeper stories, we begin to dismantle systems of oppression. We will not tolerate prejudice and injustice. We work in networks of partnerships to address the challenging global issues that we must address collectively. We are no longer struggling to survive in, or protect, our isolated existence. We are jointly supporting each other, sharing resources as well as responsibility. Together, we are birthing a new paradigm and reinventing the world.
In the Matrix understanding of the stage of differentiation, there are fundamental practices that can be implemented sequentially to create a human system capable of realizing interconnected life on earth a reality in which "we can only go forward, together" (Tutu, Desmond).
“I have only completed the first of four weekends and I am already beginning
to integrate the insights and tools into my consulting and training practice.
Without having to open a book to review the content, I feel as though my awareness
of groups has shifted. I can’t wait for the next installment!”
— Simon D'Arcy, San Jose Foundation Training Participant
“I have learned that our separateness
is a culturally imposed illusion, and that reconnecting in full and healthy
ways to others will be the most profound healing work that I could do for
myself, my community, and the planet”
— Tracy Lyons, San Jose Foundation Training Participant
Knowlan, Amina, Matrix Leadership: The Art & Science of Creating Sustainable Groups, Communities and Organizations. February, 2007, forthcoming.
What we really trained in was a language of connection (verbal and nonverbal) so that where we were once limited, we are now expansive, where we were once stuck we are now spacious, where we were once paralyzed by fear, we are now ready to lean into discomfort.
— A. Lessing
High School English Teacher