by Amina Knowlan | October 2007
I BELIEVE THAT THE CONSTANTLY differentiating web (or Matrix) of our connections forms an energetic chalice that receives the intelligence of the Whole (or Holy One). It is the web-or the degree of connectedness and communication in the group itself--that opens us to an intelligence that is beyond the vision or capacity of any one person. Peter Senge, et. al., in their book, Presence, adopt the concept of Source to describe this collective intelligence.(i) They go on to describe "presence" as this capacity to open to the Source. They believe that it leads to the ability to collectively open to the "highest future possibility"-the future that will serve the good of the whole.
My favorite question to ask at this time is, "What does Love intend here?"(ii) Connecting with the intelligence of our hearts (as well as our minds and our bodies) and developing the web of our connections within the eyes and ears of the group, opens us to our collective consciousness. We are in-formed by a Source of Love that innately has the best interest of the Whole (group) at heart. In other words, with enough communication between the parts we access a synergy that is highly creative and inclusive. Mystically speaking, it is akin to receiving the Light of the Sun, or of the Divine, that will shape the destiny of our becoming. What does Love intend here-for this Whole (this group)-in this present moment and beyond? It is one thing to open to this kind of guidance or presence individually. It requires quite another level of alchemy to create and function as this chalice-forged of the web of connections between individuals-in a group. In order to begin to function as this web or chalice, we must also become conscious of a necessary shift in perception. It is a shift that moves us from seeing through the lens of separate individuals to sensing ourselves as interconnected parts of a larger whole.
This shift to sensing from within the whole can be enormously challenging. We live in a world that pays homage to the cult of the individual: (iii) the island of me. We measure each other and ourselves by individual achievement and stardom. Many individuals live each day struggling to pay their mortgage or rent while others amass fortunes. Professional sports teams exist to make millions of dollars each year for individual players. Reality TV extols the heroes and heroines who can outlast and cast out the other contestants. We are all grown in the soil of subject-object thinking and feeling. They raised my rent. She got my promotion. You are not listening to me. You do not care about my needs. I don't belong in this group.
In Matrix work we are attempting to differentiate from this paradigm of separateness-or individualism. It requires that we differentiate from our need to know what to do or how to proceed. It requires that we stay in communication about all of our differing experiences and needs long enough to develop a compassionate sensing of the needs and responsiveness of the Whole that includes each and every individual, and yet is more than the collection of our separate selves.
Eleanor Rosch, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Berkley, sheds light on the shift in perception that is required to sense from within the whole. She contrasts subject-object or analytical knowing which resides in the realm of memory and decision-making, with what she calls 'primary knowing,' which comes from the Source.(iv)
...primary knowing is possible because mind and world are aspects of the same underlying field. When we begin to connect to the source, perception arises 'from the whole field.'
'Think of everything happening as moment-by-moment presentations from this deep heart source that has a knowing dimension to it. Tibetan Buddhism talks about emptiness, luminosity and the knowing capacity as inseparable. That knowing capacity actually is the field knowing itself, ...or this larger context knowing itself.'
When we interact with a living system from the analytic stance, problems inevitably arise because the living field 'doesn't know itself.' 'A field that doesn't know itself collapses into this little unidimensional subject-object consciousness, which is how we go galloping about the world.' The consequence is action uninformed by the whole. ...Lacking that connection to the source, 'or being ignorant of it, we just make terrible messes, as individuals, and as nations and cultures.'
As a living field...comes to 'know itself,' our identification with the 'localized self' diminishes and a broader and more generative sense of self begins to arise.
How does this field come to know itself? At this point in our exploration of Matrix work, I would say that it is through continually returning to the practice of getting as many voices or as many perspectives in the discussion as possible. It is through filling in the Matrix. It is through returning to all of the practices in the Matrix tool kit. It is through our capacity to suspend individual knowing or individual resolution. It is through tracking the fields or territories that are surfacing in the biography of the work of this group as a whole. Somewhere in this alchemical weaving, if we keep supporting and opening the channels of communication between us, we find ourselves being choreographed by a larger knowing. We find ourselves both essential actors and brilliant receptor sites for that which we (individually and collectively) need now. We find ourselves shifting from control and management to a community of practice. We begin to know ourselves as parts of a resilient whole that is flexible enough to emerge and evolve through the challenges of many complex variables interacting.
In essence, we get to this non-dual consciousness-this "we"-by the paradoxical practice of creating more connection, communication and dialogue between all of the different individual parts. The Matrix model offers an understanding of how we get to the non-dual state (or Source or emergent voice of the Whole). Other approaches attempt to reach this non-dual state of consciousness by, "smoothing off the corners of the differences"(v) to form a crystal with all of the edges smoothed off. Matrix works with differentiating to clarify or sharpen the edges (differences) so that each facet of the crystal is clearly delineated and can shine even more brilliantly. It is by staying in connection through the differences that the organism (group) sloughs off what is no longer useful to the individuals or the whole. When the separate individuals stay in connection while holding the creative tension of their differences, a mutual, co-arising intelligence emerges. It feels a lot like Love.
(i)Senge, Peter, Schwarmer, C. Otto, Jaworski, Joseph, and
Flowers, Betty, Presence, An Exploration of Profound Change in People,
Organizations, and Society, Doubleday, New York, NY, 2005
(ii) Schiapaccasse, Robert, from a lecture given on Sophia and Christ forces in the mid 1990s.
(iii) Regan, Max in personal conversations, June, 2007
(iv) Senge, et. al., Ibid., (98-99) quoting Eleanor Rosch, "Sit Straight Up--Learn Something!" Can Tibetan Buddhism Inform the Cognitive Sciences?" in Meeting at the Roots: Essays on Tibetan Buddhism and the Natural Sciences, B. A. Wallace, ed. (Berkley, Calif.: University of California Press) ( forthcoming).
(v) Smith, Elizabeth, PhD., Department of Social Work, Catholic University, in a personal conversation comparing Matrix Leadership with Ken Wilbur's "we" quadrant, July 1, 2007.
(1) © Knowlan, Amina, excerpted from the forthcoming book on Matrix Leadership, August, 2007
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
Menlo Park, CA