Have you ever felt disconnected or “stuck”? Or perhaps you were a part of a group that couldn’t get on the same page or see things from each other’s perspective.
It can make you feel helpless.
A couple of years ago, I discovered something that helped me address these feelings in myself. It is called Social Presencing Theater (SPT) and it is a body-based “social technology” that “fosters a different kind of knowing.”
Co-created by Arawana Hayashi and Otto Scharmer of the Presencing Institute, it’s a set of practices that do not depend on mental processes, but on “a physically integrated and collective understanding.” Today, people all over the world are engaging in the practice in groups, individually, or both.
I remember my first exposure to SPT. It was the Spring of 2020 and I had signed up for a global forum through The Presencing Institute. One of the sessions was led by Arawana Hayashi herself, who gave us an opportunity to practice exercises in small groups.
I was immediately drawn in and felt connected to those in my breakout room, most of whom were calling in from different time zones. I also felt slightly more connected to my body. From that first exposure, I could feel its potential to shift my outlook through this unique art form and social technology and knew I had so much more to discover.
Movement through Sculpture
According to the Presencing Institute, the essence of SPT is that it is a methodology that “uses simple body postures and movements to dissolve limiting concepts, to communicate directly, to access intuition, and to make visible both current reality and the deeper – often invisible – leverage points for creating profound change.”
It is those limiting concepts that can cause us to feel disconnected and “stuck” and SPT provides many different ways to approach getting unstuck. “The stuck practice works for any type of challenge,” Hayashi writes.
Similarly, through the practice, you experience your “sculptures,” or shapes, that allow you to reveal to yourself how you may be feeling in the current situation. For instance, your limbs may extend into opposite directions or your eyes might point in a different direction than where your feet are pointing.
The idea is to allow your body to move from what the practice calls Sculpture 1 to Sculpture 2. But this is not a pre-planned intention or “strategic” move. Your mind is not driving the exercise. Instead, as Hayashi explains in her book, “Sculpture 2 offers a sense of what a next step might be in the journey.”
When Curiosity Leads to Practice
This may seem a little unconventional, but it’s more intuitive than it might seem. In letting your body lead you, you are more likely to step outside of habitual patterns. In this way, you are shifting your mindset.
If this sounds intriguing, a great place to start is with Hayashi’s book, Social Presencing Theater: The Art of Making a True Move. It will introduce you to the practice and guide you through understanding exercises to practice when you are feeling stuck, so that you can shift from the current moment to a new experience of what the future could feel like with a little shifting.
In the book, Hayashi points out that “intellectually, we can recognize patterns of thought, speech, and action that are hurtful to ourselves and others.” She explains that we know these patterns do not represent what we actually want for ourselves. “Yet even when we acknowledge them,” she writes, “they often persist.”
The practice of Social Presencing Theater helps us move past them and get unstuck.
It is not every day that we can feel the potential for transformation that exists within our own bodies – bodies that go through life experiencing both the everyday mundane and the excitement of creative possibility. But transformation isn’t always something that happens in a “big bang.” It can — and often does — occur in a series of small shifts. Social Presencing Theater is one way to foster and create these small transformational shifts.
Hayashi, A. (2021). Social Presencing Theater. Presencing Institute. https://arawanahayashi.com/SPT.html
Scharmer, O. (2022). Presencing Institute. https://www.presencing.org/
Araujo, L. (2021). Are Your Brain and Body Friends? Interoception May Be The Adhesive For Their Relationship – or the Reason Their Partnership Needs Work. The MAPS Institute. https://themapsinstitute.com/are-your-brain-and-body-friends-interoception-may-be-the-adhesive-for-their-relationship-or-the-reason-their-partnership-needs-work/
Hayashi, A. (2022). Social Presencing Theater: The Art of Making a True Move. Presencing Market. https://presencing.market/products/social-presencing-theater-the-art-of-making-a-true-move
Hayashi, A., Goncalves, R. D. (2020). A Pattern Language for Social Field Shifts. Journal of Awareness Based Systems Change. https://jabsc.org/index.php/jabsc/article/view/478/694
Hoffmeier, L. (2021). The Most Powerful Way to Personal Growth is to Embody the Artist’s Mind Through Creativity. The MAPS Institute. https://themapsinstitute.com/the-most-powerful-way-to-personal-growth-is-to-embody-the-artists-mind/