An Intro Into Social Presencing Exercises: Preparatory

This is part of a series on Social Presencing. Find other posts here:

June 11, 2019 post, Social Presencing – A Practice for Tapping into Collective Wisdom
June 18, 2019 post Why Social Presencing?
July 3, 2019 post The Principles Applied in SPT

The following eight exercises comprise the main Social Presencing or SPT toolkit as of May 2018.  Variations of these exercises exist and a core SPT team at the Presencing Institute is prototyping new exercises and tools.

While each exercise is useful for gaining new insights, they do not all serve the same purpose. The first four exercises are primarily preparatory and serve to prepare a team. They are generally practiced without specific organizational input. These are then used to guide decisions and actions. In this post, I outline only the first four.

The last four are applied, as they are framed with organizational inputs and can be used to guide decisions and actions.

The table below gives an overview of all eight exercises.

Preparatory Exercises Applied Exercises
1. 20 Minute Dance 5. Stuck
2. Duet 6. 4D Mapping
3. Village 7. Case Clinic
4. Field Dance 8. Seed Dance

The four preparatory exercises enable the practice of more complex exercises, emphasize major SPT principles, and allow a group to arrive in their bodies.

Social Presencing

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SPT exercises are practiced in rooms with floors clean enough to lie down on and large enough to accommodate all participants lying down. Any chairs in the room should have no wheels and remain at the outside edge of the space. A participant may use a chair if there is discomfort in sitting on the floor or lying down. Participants wear comfortable clothes enabling ease of movement. Each person has a journal.

Preparatory Social Presencing Exercises

An experienced SPT facilitator can guide groups through these exercises.  Experienced groups can also facilitate themselves.

20 Minute Dance

This is a silent mindful movement and sensing exercise, practiced together, for ten, fifteen or twenty minutes. Participants pay attention to physical sensations in the body and avoid language and goals.  Eyes can be closed or open, gaze down. Participants alternate between stillness and movement in three positions – lying down, sitting, and finally standing. Time is divided about equally between the three positions.

Participants attend to sensations in the body, allowing thoughts of past or future to float by without judgement. At the end, participants hold the ending shape of the social body. Participants can journal in silence and/or reflect in pairs/trios using first person voice to share 1) “I noticed……” 2) “I learned about myself………” (Hayashi, Presencing Institute, 2018)

Duet in Social Presencing

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The Duet is a silent mindful movement and sensing exercise, practiced in pairs, for five to seven minutes. Participants feel and sense the social field and trust the process of allowing something to emerge.  Duet teaches empathic listening with the whole body, whereby participants engage in a co-created conversation in a new way, without words or goals. Participants cultivate authentic openness through their own vulnerability of “not knowing” what movement is coming next.

In the Duet, pairs alternate between still gestures and movement, using a “MA” (time-space interval between gestures) to emphasize the shared space. Person 1 starts by allowing a gesture to arise in the body (without thinking) and holds the shape. MA is collectively held, and Person 2, who has seen and felt Person 1’s offer, allows his/her movement to arise from the MA (without planning), and holds the shape.  The body’s shapes form phrases and may begin to overlap. This is repeated until the time bell rings.

After both the 20 minute dance and the Duet, participants reflect by journaling in silence and/or speaking in pairs using the first person voice to complete the following verbal statements 1) “I noticed about myself……” 2) “I learned about myself………” 3) “I saw patterns of……” 4) I noticed about the MA that….” 5) “The essence of the duet is….”  (Hayashi, Presencing Institute, 2018)

The Village exercise

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Village is a silent mindful movement and sensing exercise, practiced in groups of 5 people or more, (ideal with larger groups of 15, 20, 30+ people), for 10-20 minutes.  Participants practice using the body as a 360° sensor to expand awareness to the social body. They begin to notice the individual body as an integral part of the collective and develop an ability to redirect attention out towards others, with the wellbeing of others in mind.  Participants also notice inclusion, exclusion and relationships with others. They co-create a village. They cultivate curiosity and having a sense of comfort with uncertainty. They notice and release three voices of fear, judgement and cynicism.

During Village, participants pay attention to three things: 1) the level of the body, 2) the spatial proximity of their own body to other bodies and 3) direction faced.   They hold their attention on the whole space, using peripheral vision. One way to practice Village is in two parts: Part 1) engage in some or all of the following six gestures without eye contact: stand, sit, lie down, walk, run, turn; Part 2) add a greeting whenever eye contact is made with another villager.  Greetings have 3 distinct parts a) acknowledge eye contact b) respectfully bow to the other person 3) acknowledge eye contact again…. then continue with the other six gestures.

At the end of the Village, participants journal in silence and/or speak from their body and the space, using the first person voice to share events that occurred (what you saw) and feelings (what you felt).  They can complete some or all of the following verbal statements: 1) “I noticed about myself……” 2) “I learned about myself………” 3) “I saw patterns of……” 4) “Regarding intimacy, distance, connection, I noticed….” 5)  “Thinking, pre-planning, judgement, cynicism got in the way of fresh engagement when…..” 6) “The experience of agenda-less connection felt……” 7) I experienced/did not experience freedom. This sensation affected the whole in that…….”  (Hayashi, Presencing Institute 2018).

Field Dance

Photo credit Rob Laughter on

Field Dance

The Field Dance is a silent mindful movement and sensing exercise involving a presenter and an audience, practiced in groups of about fifteen people. Timing is one hour and fifteen minutes.

Participants explore what it means to attend to and be present with a social field, i.e. the audience, allowing the expression of the field to become visible and motivate the presenter to make a “true move”.  Participants practice letting go of performance, separateness from the audience. They focus on paying attention to the whole.

Participants sit in a semi-circle facing a stage area.  Everyone assumes the role of audience and presenter during the exercise. Each person, one by one, walks in front of the audience as a presenter and faces the audience upon reaching the center, then turns away and walks to the other side of the stage.

Audience and presenter pay attention to feeling the vertical, the back body, the horizontal 360° awareness field, staying present, balancing groundedness and openness.  Presenters have the courage to be seen. In a second round, each person repeats the steps but adds bowing to the audience.  In a third round, each person makes a spontaneous gesture or shape that emerges from the field. They let go, let come, and act in an instant.

At the end of the exercise, participants share their experiences as both audience and presenter.  They answers the questions, “What did we notice?” and “Seeing with the heart, not the eyes, what was the feeling quality of each person?”  (Hayashi, Presencing Institute, 2018)

The applied SPT exercises will be discussed in another article on MindEQuity Insights.

Reference: Hayashi, A. (2018). Resources page.

The Business Caring Formula Podcast: Michelle N. Moore on Social Presencing

You are invited to listen to part 2 of a conversation about Theory U via my interview on The Business Caring Formula podcast.

Podcast host, Emma Arakelyan, asks me questions about Social Presencing, a tool to notice, recognize, feel, see the true potential goodness in the situation or challenge a team, organization, or system is facing.

We discuss the following questions:

  • What is Social Presencing? Where did it come from?
  • What is embodiment?
  • How does this practice help train vulnerability?
  • What is a “true move”?
  • How can we access different types of knowing?
  • Case Study #1:  “Improving Board Engagement, Peel Art Gallery, Museum & Archives, Ontario, Canada”
  • Case Study #2: “Developing Potential for Refugees, Immigrants & Citizens Umbria Region, Italy.”
  • Word of the day – wisdom

Listen to the Business Caring Formula podcast

The Business Caring Formula podcast is about building a leadership lifestyle. It fosters inclusivity and action-driven leadership while taking others on the journey. In her podcast episodes Emma Arakelyan shares stories of inspirational and caring leaders who are catalysts for positive change in the world.

Listen by pressing play above or by clicking on any of the links below:

Photo by Jordan Cormack on Unsplash