By Constance Washburn
As part of a training in Social Presencing Theatre (SPT), I had the opportunity to use the Work That Reconnects Network as a case study using the SPT four dimension (4D) mapping practice. I have experienced and run this practice before and have found it very helpful for understanding the dynamics in an organization and visualizing the emerging future.
Drawing on the arts and contemplative traditions, SPT brings body-based, experiential learning into individual, organizational and social change efforts. It generates information about patterns and relationships that are “stuck” in a system, and offers methods for identifying emerging futures that promote the wellbeing of all stakeholders in a system.
Social Presencing Theater (SPT) is a methodology, developed under the leadership of Arawana Hayashi, who is a Buddha Dharma teacher and dancer. SPT can be practiced at the individual, group, organization, and larger social systems level. It is one of the most important methods developed by the Presencing Institute, an awareness-based action-research community that creates social technologies, builds capacities, and generates holding spaces for profound societal renewal.
4D Mapping Process
The process for 4D mapping uses the participants present to take on the roles of the primary stakeholders in an organization. They then create two sculptures silently with their bodies. The first sculpture represents the current situation and the second represents the highest future possibility. The group moves from one sculpture to the next in silence, using awareness of body as a guide for where to move.
Here is the process outline and insights that came when we did the 4D mapping with the Work That Reconnects Network as the “case” explored.
The presentation of the case
The case giver, in this case me, describes briefly the situation in the organization. I told a bit about the Work That Reconnects and the issues facing the Network Weavers around creating a strong and supported Network of worldwide Work That Reconnects facilitators. This included the issues of the “root teacher” not being at the center any longer, dealing with how to weave anti-oppression/anti-racism into the Work, and how to fund the work to reach the people who need it most.
The case giver comes up with a list of the major stakeholders and describes roles briefly to the group. The Earth and the Highest Future Self/Possibility are always included as stakeholders in SPT.
This is the list of stakeholders we worked with.;
- The Root Teacher of the Work That Reconnects
- The Body of Work of the Work That Reconnects
- Beneficiaries of the Work
- The Work That Reconnects Network Weavers team
- Marginalized facilitators
- Representative of Business as Usual/Industrial Growth Society (IGS).
- The Earth / Gaia
- Highest Future Self or Possibility
The participants of the group each take on the roles that call to them, and one by one go into the center of the space and create a sculpture of the organization as it currently exists.
What we saw was most stakeholders facing inward and gathered around the Root Teacher and the Body of Work who was lying on the ground. This left the funder, the marginalized facilitators, and the representative of the Industrial Growth Society/Business as Usual disconnected from the group.
The Business as Usual Representative was making faces and noises of disgust as he viewed the central group representing the Work That Reconnects.
After finding stillness, each person says one thing that comes to mind that reflects the current situation. Here is what people said:
- The Root Teacher of the Work That Reconnects: “I have a great concept and want to share it.”
- The Body of Work of the Work That Reconnects: “I am of Service ”
- Past beneficiaries of the Work: “I have learned from the Founder.”
- Funders: “Tell me why?”
- The Work That Reconnects Network Weavers team: “Spread the message of the Work That Reconnects.”
- Marginalized facilitators: “Do I propagate founder’s ideas or create new ones?”
- Facilitators: “I make everything happen.”
- Representative of Industrial Growth Society: “I hate this shit.”
- The Earth/Gaia: “Save me! ”
- Highest Future Self or Possibility: “I wonder.”
Moving from Sculpture One to Sculpture Two
Once everyone had spoken in Sculpture One, participants are asked to sense into their bodies and feel where and how they want to move. This is a slow motion process as people feel into the emergent future possibilities for the organization.
I was in the role of the funder and was definitely moved to reach out to the Business as Usual representative. He was the one who needed the Work the most and I had a strong feeling that I needed to connect the Work to him and to shift the inward focus of the group. I moved toward the Business as Usual representative who by this time was standing up against the wall. I put my hand on his heart and reached out to the central group of the Work That Reconnects stakeholders.
The Earth and the Highest Future Possibility came over and cuddled up to the Business as Usual person who eventually slid down the wall to sit on the floor and he began to get quiet and soften. Then came the person representing beneficiaries of the Work who held my hand; then all the other participants came over and held hands in a line stretching across the room toward the Founder who backed away with hands outstretched in a gesture of giving.
After again finding stillness in Sculpture Two, described above, the participants were asked to come up with one sentence describing where they were in this moment.
- TheRoot Teacher of the Work That Reconnects: “I have watched the journey of this Body of Work that I have actively worked for and let it go.”
- The Body of Work of the Work That Reconnects: ” I am surprised to find myself here on the ground with the representative of Business as Usual.”
- Past beneficiaries of the Work,: ” I am passing on the work.”
- Funders: “I am connecting the Work to the Business as Usual system that needs it.”
- The Work That Reconnects Network Weavers team: “I have respect for all parties.”
- Marginalized facilitators: “From the core comes new horizons.”
- Facilitators: ” I am strong enough to keep moving.”
- Representative of Industrial Growth Society: “I am melting but I am not gone; let them know.”
- The Earth/Gaia: “Thank you for all the loving support.”
- Highest Future Self or Possibility: “I am in love with the Earth.”
Post Sculpture Conversations
The participants gathered after the sculptures to reflect on the experience more deeply and flesh out the learnings.
The takeaways from the SPT 4D mapping process for the Work That Reconnects Network were:
- The Business as Usual/IGS folks need love. To reach them we need to approach with loving hearts and minds. They will respond to warmth with curiosity. Business as Usual/IGS folks need respect and space. They are like a crying toddler who needs attention and love.
The Business as Usual folks are melted by the heart of the Earth and the warmth of the Work That Reconnects people coming together towards their hearts.
- Give those who have benefitted from the Work a voice and ways to tell others what it has meant to them and how it has benefitted them.Those who have benefited from the Work and feel it is so important will pull the Work towards the Business as Usual folks to change the system.
- Funders are interested in how the Work That Reconnects can shift the status quo. They want to shift Business as Usual and need to hear from the beneficiaries of the Work how it has helped them.The funders are the link between the Body of the Work and the Business as Usual Society. Body of Work by itself is resistant to reaching out to the Business as Usual folks. It needs to be linked by funders and beneficiaries.
- Facilitators can find paid work when the Work That Reconnects linked to the Business as Usual folks.
- The Highest Future Possibility for the Work That Reconnects Network comes through a deep connection to Gaia, is moved by love of Earth, and has deep past and deep future connection (Deep Time).
- The Marginalized facilitators find in the core of the Body of the Work what is needed to create new work and new practices.
- TheRoot Teacher can let go when all the stakeholders of the Work That Reconnects have come together.
I am very inspired by this SPT process as a process and am amazed and humbled by the intelligence that comes through to guide each participant.SPT is similar to “constellation” work. I want to share an experience I had with “constellation” work that makes me trust both these processes and the greater intelligence that guides them.
I was doing a family constellation practice with a small group. Like in SPT, the participants self-selected to participate and in this case represent various members of my family. With 3 or 4 people acting out my family, I explored dynamics of our relationships. While we were working the scene, a woman stepped out of the audience and stood at my back for the remainder of the exercise. She felt like a very supportive and beneficial presence.
At the end of the exercise, I asked the woman standing behind me who she was. She said she wasn’t sure but had felt very called to come into the scene and stand at my back. She said she felt that she had thick gray skin and lumpy roots around her feet that went down into the ground. Well, that was amazing! My best friend as a child was the Copper Beech tree in the backyard. He was really big, had thick gray bark and lumpy roots around the base of the trunk. The tree was my haven and refuge. I would play next to the roots and then when I got bigger, I climbed into the branches to find solace and safety. I was so floored that my tree had shown up in my family constellation across species boundaries and right where he belonged at my back. So there you have it: I trust the process!!
Back to the Work That Reconnects and what emerged in the Social Presencing Theater practice: Given the above story, I am excited by the insights that emerged.
The biggest message to me was the need to refocus the Work That Reconnects towards and for people trapped in Business as Usual and to approach them with love and warmth. On a recent Work That Reconnects retreat I led, I noticed that the Work can be rather judgemental of humans caught in Business as Usual. We will effect more change with love than with judgement. Also strengthening our love of the Earth and connection to deep time are essential to be effective facilitators of the Work and participants in the Great Turning.
A a member of the Network Weavers team, I am interested in finding funding for the Work That Reconnects Network and the insights around the role of funders and beneficiaries of the work were very helpful. We need to find people who have benefited from the Work and have them tell their stories so that funders understand the value of the Work. Funders want to change the status quo and we need to show them how the Work That Reconnects can help do that.