Matrix Groupwork Has Rocked My World

Holy cow, Batman. What do you say when your world changes overnight?

I took an Intro to Matrix workshop from the Matrix Leadership Institute this weekend. It is exactly what I’ve been searching for for the past two years (and my whole life).

Matrix is a way of forming groups where you end up knowing and being known by every other person in the group. The main practice is to sit in a circle (6-12 is ideal) and talk to each other, always one person to one person but “in the eyes and ears of the whole”. This (along with other parts of the model) has a profound effect on how the group develops. Over the three days of the workshop, a group energy field formed which was palpable to me. This is what words like “cohesion”, “synergy”, etc are trying to describe, but I’ve never felt it this clearly or completely.

In every workshop I’ve taken I’ve gone home with incompletes: someone I had a weird interaction with that wasn’t resolved, someone I’m going to avoid the next time I see them, someone I have judgements about, someone I’m convinced is judging me. And always, a sense that I wasn’t truly seen or known completely–I was partly in a role, or hiding in my habitual ways of behaving.

In this workshop, for the first time I experienced a fullness of being seen and known as just myself, I was able to see and know others, everything was completed, and there was no weirdness. It was incredible. And incredibly healing for me, just to affirm that such a thing is possible.

One of the biggest learnings for me was that I am incredibly interpersonally sensitive. I isolate myself not because I am “afraid of people”, but because I am avoiding of all the different painful ways that interactions can go wrong. Misunderstandings that can’t get cleared up. Incomplete communications. Conflicts or differences that are unexpressed. Not being fully seen or understood. Not being able to show up the way I want to. Knowing I didn’t fully understand the other person but not being able to articulate why or get resolution. These kinds of interactions affect me in a profound way that I never understood before.

The flip side of this sensitivity is the incredible gift of being tuned into interpersonal dynamics on an energetic level. Seeing this as a gift and not something “broken”, i.e. “too sensitive” is a revelation, and changes so much of how I see myself and the things I’ve struggled most to understand in my life. It also gives me a whole new understanding of the kind of self-care I need.

There was a Rumi quote on our altar at the workshop, which you may be familiar with; “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there.” I’ve always loved this quote, but what I got this weekend is that this isn’t a “field” in the sense of a metaphorical pasture, geographically located elsewhere. It’s actually an energetic field.

For many years I’ve been able to feel myself as part of the Universe in a visceral way, as my atoms being part of this great soup of atoms, and all the forces acting on the Cosmos acting on me as well. I felt an indelible part of Creation. And this was comforting to me. But when it came to people, that connection was missing. I felt a fundamental uncertainty, fear, and confusion, and I was numb to this field of connection that I feel now. I am guessing I blocked my sensitivity to it because the painfulness I experienced in early connections was overwhelming. Being able to feel it again, I feel a profound relaxation and groundedness. Even while alone, in my house as I am writing this, I can feel my connection to other people as I have felt my connection to the inanimate world. It’s the same feeling of indelibility: the question of belonging isn’t even relevant, because to question that would suggest it’s even possible to be removed from that field.

This changes everything in regards to my isolation; my “stranger danger” is now overwhelmed by my awareness of our shared connection. Walking around in the world is completely different experience.

Remarkable as well is that this healing was not a dramatic experience of painful wounding being dredged up and untangled. Quite the opposite: in Matrix, it’s the field of love that forms in the group that gradually dissolves anything unlike love. This feels far subtler even than Hakomi, which is the most subtle form of work I’ve experienced (along with Ortho-bionomy). It’s also far more accessible: there were average people there, not all therapists and workshop junkies. 🙂

This validates my dissatisfaction with the limits of therapy. It stops short of complete healing because it is still an island-of-Me form of work (Island-of-Me is a Matrix term to describe our culture of disconnection). Therapy is an artificial, isolated relationship, which by its very nature is one-sided and transactional. Matrix work is organic, natural–the way we are meant to heal. It’s also spiritual healing; humans need to feel we are part of a larger whole to be complete. Lastly, it heals our culture itself, which is the ultimate source of most of the wounds we experience. To see our individual wounds as individual problems misses how they arose in the first place–from having a broken culture. This is something I first learned from Starhawk, but had forgotten over the years in pursuing my own healing.

Which is not to say therapy isn’t useful or helpful, because it has definitely been so for me. This isn’t about not doing therapy, it’s about adding the completeness of healing that is possible in that field of connection.

This experience has re-oriented my mission, and gotten me much closer to understanding what I want to do with EggSpace. It’s bigger than helping more people heal or have access to healing; it’s about creating a culture of connection, which is in itself the vehicle of healing. I want to bring in NVC as well as what I am learning of the spiritual tradition of Malidoma from a friend who does ritual work. And of course the somatic/playful/creative stuff like ecstatic dance and artmaking.

So to summarize: I have re-understood what felt like my biggest “wounded/broken”-ness as not a wound at all, but a gift –  I have repaired the biggest disconnect in my life and regained an indelible visceral feeling of being connected to all living beings in a field of love – and I’ve expanded and clarified my mission and life’s work. Pretty good for $300. 🙂

There is another Intro weekend in March if you are interested–I’ll be there!

Read more about my experience, Matrix, and other connection modalities on my other blog Joy Ninja.


  1. This!! “the question of belonging isn’t even relevant, because to question that would suggest it’s even possible to be removed from that field.”

    You have no idea how amazing it is for me to hear you say the above with such quiet conviction. Really beautiful.

    What I’m coming to know more and more (in an embodied, in-my-bones, type of way) is that while there are many, many paths to healing and wholeness, they all have, at their essence, an experience of deep connection (to others, to nature, to spirit, to self, to love – hmm… perhaps love *is* the connector).

  2. It feels that way. The field that I feel isn’t neutral, it has the flavor of love.

    I’m thinking a lot about culture, and the role of culture in a healthy group of people (however large) — it would be to sustain and maintain that field of connection. Or rather, maintain everyone’s felt connection to/within it, because it doesn’t go anywhere even if we don’t feel it. But we need to know it, acknowledge it, name it, and tend to everyone’s connection with it.

  3. I am awed by your articulation of the essence of your experience and of Matrix Leadership. I am jumping-up-and-down excited by the power of your awareness and the wisdom contained in your understanding: the intersection of creating functional inter-personal connection ~with~ connection with “the Whole” group ~with~ connection with the “Field of Connection and Love” itself. Wow! I feel so blessed by your light and your learning. Can’t wait for more!

  4. I am honored to have been with you during this experience with Matrix Leadership. You have such a gift for expressing what your experiences of Matrix have been for you. I long for more words for my own. I always feel held, and eventually seen, once I allow myself to connect with others. That moment, in my connection with another, when I felt the riverbanks present, to the oncoming river of my grief. I knew/felt that my grief did not have to be experienced always alone. The channel that connected the 2 of us was palpable to me. I will be tending to these channels in my relationships more carefully. So glad to get to know you.

  5. Hi Amina and Toni — thanks for stopping by and commenting! I’ve felt very affirmed and supported by both of your seeing and knowing of me during the weekend and after. I can’t wait for more too!

    Toni — sounds like you have some words to me. 🙂 I have a regular journalling practice, which I find helps words flow more easily. To use a Matrix metaphor, it’s like building and maintaining a pipe for words to come through you.

  6. Graham Giles says:

    This is amazing! Thanks for this post Emma.

    I’m going to have to look into this Matrix Groupwork, because what you said about where you were at with regard to other people definitely strikes a chord with me regarding where I am now (if that makes sense), and I’d like to change it.

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