Shared Implicit: The space of interpersonal connection
What happens in the space where interpersonal connection takes place?
To the untrained eye, it’s an empty space. But, in this ostensibly empty space, there is a lot of meaning. One possible way to describe this space is to use the metaphor of a bridge.
Think about what happens when a mother and an infant are gazing at each other. Imagine that there is some kind of a line between the two eyes as they are gazing at each other. And let’s call that line the “bridge”. It is very present, yet not explicitly visible as a line.
So we could be using the word “bridge”, or the word “field”, as a handle for what happens in the attuned interaction of the mother and infant. We could extend that metaphor of “bridge” to describe other mindful individual interactions, and, by extension, what happens in a group where mindful interaction is being practiced.
Metaphors have their limitations. In this case, the limitation of the word “bridge” is that it seems to only refer to what happens in-between, as if that didn’t include the people who are participating in the interaction (say the mother and the infant).
What is of interest to us is not just the “bridge” itself, but the whole field: the mother, the infant, the space in-between, and the space around it all. Or the whole group and the interaction that takes place in it. In other words, the process itself, including the people who are part of the process.
In a narrow sense, the shared field is just the intersection, i.e. what all participants have in common.
In a broader sense, being mindfully at the intersection allows us to get a glimpse of the field as a whole.
How do we explore this field? We don’t assume we know. We explore mindfully: We take pauses to find, and speak from what is actually happening. But not just ‘inside’: We invite the felt sense of being with each other, of what is between us, of what we are part of. We gently deepen this experience by paying more attention to what is implicitly there.
This is an embodied, experiential exploration of the fluid and shifting boundaries between ‘me’ and ‘group’.
There is a sense of lightness and buoyancy — the intensely satisfying sense of floating in the group like a fish in the water. It feels great to show up in a group where we feel there is totally enough space for ‘me’ as well as for everybody else, and we can all speak from what comes up for us in relation to this common experience.
This is also a setting that challenges us to experience the difficulties of exploring self in interaction, and grow from being present with this experience. This is a dance between being immersed in the field, and standing up for our individuality. Between being exquisitely attuned to the group and expressing our differences. Between the fear that our difference may isolate us, and the hope that they will actually enrich the group.
Of course, for this kind of exploration to happen, it takes a foundation of trust, respect and safety, which allows a partnership of creativity to emerge.
See also: The shared field at Quaker meetings
See also: Demystifying Mindfulness: Active Pause®
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