Module 3: GSW – Basics

GSW Principles of Practice

Global Social Witnessing (GSW) is an embodied practice of witnessing events in the world. It involves paying attention to news/information about an event or issue and, while doing so, noticing your responses, physically, emotionally, and mentally.
GSW can be practiced on your own, by using this website to witness issues related to the Refugee experience, or by regularly setting aside time to “tune in” to other events in the news. It can also be practiced in a group setting which can provide more support for facing challenging issues and highlight a wider array of responses and facets of the issue than may arise in you alone. While this Digital Tool is designed to support you taking this journey as an individual it is also possible to take the journey with a group of friends or colleagues.
There are basic principles about witnessing that can guide you and serve as reminders and supports for your practice as you proceed through the modules. We’ve provided a summary and suggestions about how to incorporate some key principles below. These principles are applicable to GSW whether it is practiced alone or in a group.

GSW Principles to Serve as Guides on Your Digital Journey

Being clear about your intention and consciously articulating it as part of your witnessing process can simplify and deepen your experience. You may find it helpful as you begin each module to pause for a moment, find your inner intention and express it to yourself in your own words. An intention could be, “I set the intention to turn my attention toward (name of the event) and to go beyond receiving information cognitively to noticing and including in my experience what arises in my body and my emotions.” We encourage you to experiment with setting an intention expressed in your own words each time you enter a Module and noticing whether doing so affects your experience.

GSW is fundamentally a practice of being with what arises in us in the moment, not with what we think we should be experiencing. You may have a preconception about what’s appropriate and how you ought to be responding to an event. The response that arises in your body and emotions may not conform to your idea, your sense of “should”. If you stay with what actually arises, it can lead you to an aspect of the event or your response that you might not otherwise discover if you stay in the narrower confines of preconceptions. We encourage you to remind yourself of this as you work through the remaining Modules on the site. As you explore each Module, you are invited to do a brief meditation as a kind of “warm-up”. This will help to bring your attention to your body and emotions as you begin witnessing each Module’s content.

To the extent we are able to slow ourselves down, feel more presence and inner spaciousness, we are able to relate more fully and in a more embodied way to events in the world. More information becomes available to us when we do this, as more facets of the issue and more nuances reveal themselves to us. You can support this process by taking a few moments before starting each Module to focus on your breath and, to the extent possible, consciously slow down and allow your inner experience to become more spacious. As you are proceeding through the Module you can also pause from time to time and notice your pace and the degree to which you are relating to the material from a sense of spaciousness.

It is often challenging to allow ourselves to feel issues/events in the world. Our responses to differ from person to person and from issue to issue. The object of witnessing is not to have a particular response, but to notice and give ourselves permission to respond as we do, in each moment. We may notice parts of our body becoming tense or contracted; emotionally, we may feel numb. We may find ourselves becoming distracted or sleepy. Each of these responses is showing us an edge of our capacity to relate to a particular issue. These edges are important protection mechanisms that help to keep us from being overwhelmed. As you work through the individual modules, we encourage you to notice when you encounter an edge, to welcome it and not try to push through to a different result. We do not need to have any response other than the one we have. As we become more conscious and accepting of our edges, we may find them softening and opening into a new possibility for deeper relatedness to challenging issues.

As we practice global social witnessing, we inevitably encounter events/issues with which we have strong personal resonance. The struggles of people suffering or caught in challenging circumstances touch emotions in us related to our own personal development, or our ancestral or collective histories. This resonance between our own experience and an event in the world creates a bond between us, the event and the people impacted, that did not exist before. People report that when this occurs, they experience the event being present with them in their day to day lives, as if they are carrying a piece of it with them. They feel a new relatedness to the issue/event and often discover new impulses to change behaviors, to take action, and the ability to respond more effectively.

Modern neuroscience and the study of trauma restoration tell us that trauma is healed through relatedness and that absence and polarisation are defences we use to manage our trauma when sufficient opportunities for relatedness are not available to us. Global Social Witnessing provides opportunities to increase our relatedness, and in doing so, to increase the health of our relational ecosystem. Each time we become able to relate more fully to ourselves, to others, and to collective events, humanity gets wiser. We develop a higher capacity to be informed, which expands our ability to respond. Related and wise responses create more unification, more solutions, more creative potential. Through Global Social Witnessing we upgrade, step by step, both our individual competencies and our collective capacity to relate and respond to conflict, scarcity and suffering. As more and more people practise, the impact grows..

Basic Skills Videos

Module 2: GSW - Introduction II
Module 4: GSW – Applications