February 21, 2019

Social Field Research and the Mystery of the Now


I am on my journey back to Italy after the Social Presencing Theatre Research gathering and writing retreat I attended in Norre Snede, Denmark, in January-February 2020. During the retreat, I was "hovering" over my research questions, trying to figure out what they were, drawing diagrams, taking notes, and feeling the buzzing energy of all the deep sense-making and writing processes in the temporary "research village" around me.

From the writing retreat in Norre Snede


We stand at a very particular time in the story of the evolution of human consciousness and social structures. Never before have we had such complex and advanced tools to measure and observe the phenomena of the natural world, with scientific observation giving us "a view" of both the micro and macro aspects of the universe. Still, at the very same time, never before have we encountered such complex challenges, ones that require deep and rapid changes to our behavior patterns. Climate Change and other catalytic risks, such as Nuclear weapons, require us not only to gain new knowledge but rather to change how we frame it, to reinvent our knowing, to reshape our science.

I believe that to respond to the challenges we face, we are called to become more aware on personal, social, and system levels. Iterating our emerging identity as global citizens of this good earth. Collectively invited to shift from "Ego to Eco" and undergo a "Great Turning" towards a sustainable and resilient culture working in cooperation with thriving life.

Social Field Research is about becoming more aware of the complex multi-layered design that shapes our reality at each moment. A design that we might never fully understand, but we could still choose to cooperate with. An "unthinking approach" in which we integrate ancient and modern frameworks to recreate the intelligence of mind-heart-body, of wholeness.

I am interested in how the arts can allow us to connect and make visible this design, articulating and developing new tools to connect our knowledge with our actions. Furthermore, how performing arts and theatre can reveal the deep patterns of the conscious and unconscious as they unfold, in the now. Bringing us insights and the felt experiences of "A Deeper Now."

"The main challenge that I can see is that human beings seem convinced that it is possible to know everything about a thriving life. An ancient culture thinks that, in all probability, we would not know all that there is to know about thriving life. When your science begins with the premise that we can know everything there is to know, you will tend to find conclusions that are very anthropocentric. Finding harmony with thriving life will be a great challenge. When your science begins with the premise that we cannot know everything there is to know about thriving life, it allows for possibilities and functions that are far outside human capability or understanding. This permits the cultivating of awareness and wisdom from non-human sources, in a way that is not considered anecdotal, a myth, or folklore. This allows a decision process that can bring us closer to being in cooperation with thriving life."

— Pat McCabe (Woman Stands Shining) – an extract from the Wisdom Interviews

Walking the labyrnith under the tree

Below, you will find a few links to resources that inspired and relate to the themes of "A Deeper Now."

What thoughts and new insights on Social Field Research and "A Deeper Now" emerge for you? How might we be able to reinvent our science and knowing in cooperation with thriving life?

Looking forward to your feedback and thoughts in the comments,


Deep gratitude to Arawana Hayashi, a senior Shambala teacher and founder of Social Presencing Theatre, and all the other researchers and SPT practitioners who have inspired my writing. I draw from my experience as a facilitator in practice-based research of theatre for personal and social transformation from the last 10 years and from the many teachers, mentors, and friends I've met on this unwinding pathless path.

The Wisdom interviews are made as part of ongoing research towards an economy of wisdom.

Sources and links to explore further:

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