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A Temenos Event in London

Last weekend in London, we held a one-day Introduction to the Temenos Effect.  For those not familiar, Temenos is our way of helping people create safe, trusting contexts for dialogue, discover personal identity, make clear choices in context, and discover visions of the future. The video linked below provides a further introduction.

We had nine people, including me as facilitator, from diverse backgrounds - technology, public sector, pharmaceuticals, banking - many interested in leadership, many interested in Agile ways of working, many interested in organisational culture, many interested in coaching.

A few people knew each other, but most were meeting for the first time.

As is typical in a Temenos session, we started with personal history.  We sat in a circle with no tables in the middle. Each of us reflected, each made a map - a large visual representation of our history, and presented to the group. There was space for questions to draw out a deeper understanding for the presenter, but we gave no advice, and did not attempt to “fix” anything for the presenter.  

In a second round, we each looked at a current situation, a current “container” in which the speaker is involved - personal, interpersonal or professional. We invited ourselves to reflect on the situation, and then again to portray it visually, and again to present to one another.  

In the third round, in the same way, we each reflected on our vision of the future, visualised and presented.  

The ground rules for these events call for confidentiality and individual control of communication.  There is no pressure to speak at all, or to reveal any particular points or level of depth.

As usual with Temenos, a wonderful, trusting circle was quickly formed. Amazing insights were offered and shared, and a remarkable window was created into human diversity and individuality. People shared things that were clearly deep and authentic. We all clearly enjoyed the experience of being listened to with attention - uninterrupted.

At least one clear decision was made, several people said that they had shared things that they had told nobody else before (in a group of complete strangers). Many people said they had learned much about themselves and others. And we all wondered at the trusting container we had so quickly and so spontaneously formed.

We also had people who were not comfortable with the process at first.  One person decided to leave early. But in each such case, people ended up paying tribute to what they had experienced: either that they had been heard and accepted and welcomed exactly as they were, or that they had learned from the experiences and sharing of others.

It was a lot to do in one day, but we managed it, and the closing checkouts were uniformly warm, appreciative and admiring of the circle, our interactions and the process.

So what is the usefulness of all this?

First of all, Temenos is a remarkable way to create a bond of trust within a group. Our participants were mostly strangers, but even with no introduction to one another beyond a check-in round, they were quickly sharing important aspects of their lives, their current challenges and their hope for the futures.

In a Temenos circle, everyone has a unique but equal voice. This reinforces the key principle that all members of a group are important, each in their own unique way, and gives everyone the luxury of being heard.   When was the last time you were invited to present your story - past, present and future - to an attentive and respectful group, with a block of time allocated to you, to be simply listened to with appreciation and admiration?

Besides creating a certain humility - because most of us are not accomplished artists - the visual aspect of the maps draws on our whole brain, both the cognitive, logical, verbal parts and the metaphorical, imaginal, wholistic parts. This deepens understanding and insight, especially for the presenters, but also for the listeners.

We learn from each other, but we also learn from presenting our own story, especially in a visual, metaphorical way.  Reflecting on what’s important, saying it out loud, with a visual expression in hand, often clarifies and deepens our own appreciation of our own story.

Being given the space to reflect on a particular current situation is a luxury and a blessing.  We can challenge ourselves to consider what is really true about a given situation, and what we really want. Being given space to reflect, time and attention to present, with some generous, curious questions, tends to reveal new patterns, insights and opportunities.

One of the crucial challenges of leadership is to discover and bring to life a vision of the future. The Temenos process elegantly encourages that journey, calling forward visions grounded in history and engaged with current reality and challenges.

If we use Temenos in the context of an intact team, we can revisit history, current challenges, and vision, over and over again, going deeper each time, making the territory more and more familiar, more collectively “owned”.  The symbols from the maps can become an iconography that is the common property of the team, a common form of inspiration and alignment.

We invite you to experience the Temenos Effect with us, to join our growing community of practitioners, and to put Temenos to use in your own context. To this end, we offer workshops like the recent one in London all over the world, as well as short exposures during conferences and more extensive Gatherings where Temenos can be experienced over a several days.  Temenos is at the core of our work with organisational leaders; we can happily arrange a bespoke internal Temenos session for leaders and their teams.

We look forward to welcoming you, and to sharing stories, opportunities, insights and visions together.


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