(Joint post with Olaf Lewitz – Temenos Series)

In the course of our lives, we all encounter events that shape us, allow us to change and grow, that have made us who we are. We don’t tend to acknowledge or appreciate these events, and we rarely share them. Understanding our own path, reflecting how we became who we are, which influences determined what we value and what we want, is a powerful source of personal growth. We better understand our own unique identity, our relationships with others and the related emotional baggage to the load we carry around in our lives.

Influence Maps is the module in a Temenos lab that allows you to reflect, visualise (map) and articulate your personal history, and share it with the group—as detailed and deep as you choose to. Like every Temenos module, Influence Maps works on its own, too.

Influence Maps

Influence Maps (the key/main part of a Temenos lab) are used in group workshops to:

  1. Create deep personal learning and growth,
  2. Connect with other participants and develop a deep level of trust,
  3. Allow ourselves to be seen and accepted as human beings,
  4. Create the opportunity for participants to heal one another’s emotional wounds.

An influence map is a visual depiction of the influences in our lives that have led to us becoming the person we are.

The diagram below shows the main elements of Influence Maps and how the Tememos container serves as a safe and caring environment.

Influence Map Infographic

Influence Maps help you understand and appreciate your past. This will hurt as you share past trauma, and makes you ready to be healed.

The healing and personal growth results are emergent from the container we collectively create. A high-quality container will lead to a myriad of opportunities.

Don’t mistake the Temenos’ healing effect with therapy. While we all have our unique history and individual and specific things we did and had happen to us, the strategies we use to deal with them tend to show common patterns. Many people who lose a dear person, for example, go through a stage of denial. Through sharing our history we create resonance with others who’ve been employing similar strategies.

“People heal from their pain when they have an authentic connection with another human being.”

Marshall Rosenberg

Example Influence Maps

Before we explain the workshop setup and mechanics, here are some example influence maps.

As influence maps are a creative expression of one’s identity, there is no one “right” way to do them.

Workshop Setup

Trust. Safety. Caring. These are the properties that participants are asked to create and nurture in a Temenos. The role of the facilitator is to work with participants to have these properties rapidly emerge. For example, supporting and encouraging vulnerability so that we can speak about the issues that shame us and hold us from our potential.

From our experience, the group size should not exceed 6-8 voluntary participants who are interested in personal growth.

Workshop Mechanics

The first exercise in a Temenos lab (and the one taking up most of the time) is drawing and sharing of Influence Maps. The process is very simple:

  1. Introspect: Through a guided meditation with music, we ask you to reflect on your life. Use your timeline to guide your memories. Imagine a trusted friend asked you: What do I need to know about you that will help me understand who you really are? Ask yourself: What about me do I not dare to tell anyone? How much of that might I be willing to share to understand myself better?
  2. Visualise: Each participant uses a large flipchart paper and creates their life’s story with an eye towards defining moments and key influences. Many people find it useful to draw a timeline, but any expression of your deepest self will work. It’s not about the drawing, it’s about the story you tell.
  3. Articulate: Participants take turns telling their stories through their influence map. Before any person shares their story, another participant will set the stage for her, to initialise the Temenos: “Sit down, slow down, breathe, and focus on the whole person who will present herself.” Then share your story with the group. The group will help you understand yourself better: You mentioned <…>. Could you slow that down for us? How did that make you feel?
  4. As a member of the group (or a facilitator): Observe for patterns. Participants are able to help each other learn and heal in two ways. When we are similar in a trait, we can see ourselves better through the other person. One person struggling with a loss will be able to help another: “If you can forgive yourself for doing <…>, I can forgive myself for doing <…>”.  An example from a recent Temenos: “If you can forgive yourself for being an average parent and making mistakes, then I can forgive myself for doing the same.” When we are dissimilar, we can see what is missing in ourselves or help others see what they may be missing.

At least two people in the group should know how to ask open (coaching) questions.

The Influence Maps add depth to the Temenos. Without them you will still identify improvement options, and have less probability for moments of true transformation.

Healing Conversations in Buddhism

Thich Nhat Hanh  has this to say:

Deep listening is the kind of listening that can help relieve the suffering of another person. You can call it compassionate listening. You listen with only one purpose: to help him or her to empty his heart. Even if he says things that are full of wrong perceptions, full of bitterness, you are still capable of continuing to listen with compassion. Because you know that listening like that, you give that person a chance to suffer less. If you want to help him to correct his perception, you wait for another time. For now, you don’t interrupt. You don’t argue. If you do, he loses his chance. You just listen with compassion and help him to suffer less. One hour like that can bring transformation and healing.


Inspiring, Healing, Present. Michael’s presence facilitates the creation of a strong container to support making the connection from the heart, not the mind. The influence map is a powerful tool for building connection.” – An Agile Coach

Moving, Revealing, Balancing. I found that deep connections to other human beings can be found and made a lot more often than I expected. A safe space was created and held all the way through it.” – Melanie Meinen

Origins of Temenos

Michael-Siraj-OlafTemenos is a special kind of experiential laboratory (usually delivered as a weekend lab) that Siraj Sirajuddin has created over many years integrating diverse influences such as Buddhist, Islamic, Jesuit and Hindu spirituality, mythology and Jungian psychology. He’s been using these labs to support lean and agile transformations in his practice as an Organisational Transformation Mentor.