Awareness Maps

Influence Maps and Clean Slate use a similar way of growing our awareness by mapping it visually on a piece of paper.

We call this kind of visualised reflection with the intent of sharing a story an Awareness Map.

Christine and Olaf creating a Temenos Container
Awareness Map: Christine and Olaf creating a Temenos Container

How and Why does this work?

Creating the map focuses our attention. We take time for ourselves, to reflect and think. Visualisation taps into the right hemisphere of our brain, making unconscious knowledge available and connecting it to structured thought in our left hemisphere.

The canvas helps us organise our thoughts. Having to somehow spatially arrange things leads us to think about relations, connections, correlations between things in our mind. That creates new perspectives and integrates our knowledge into a greater whole.

The awareness map later functions as a memory device. Not only when we share our story, also when we later look back and remember our thought processes and reflect on that learning moment. We might even get new insights when looking at it later, as the different situation then might let us become aware of information we drew, but did not really see the first time. Context changes perception.

The process invites playfulness and fun, our inner child may come out. We access emotions which may have been hidden from view. It’s like accessing a second subconscious, in a way. Drawing elicits metaphor, which are doors to different levels of understanding.

The sharing process in a group adds to and amplifies all of this. They may allow us to see what we did not see ourselves. They may create a safe space to look at things we would not look at on our own.

What is the overall effect?

From a neurobiology point of view, awareness maps foster neural integration in many ways: between the hemispheres of your brain, of your relationships, your memory and personal narrative, and temporal integration. This increases your sense of identity, your mental and physical well-being. Your sense of responsibility and authority will increase.

With the group you share with, you will create and grow a sense of belonging – identity in human tribes is created and nurtured with stories, and these have been supported by drawing since before language emerged. Awareness maps sharing allows for integration as part of a greater whole. It expands your sense of self, grows your abilities and capabilities, makes you more aware of who you are, what you want and what you can achieve. It grows your confidence.

Instructions

  • Take a sheet of paper, like a flip chart, and colourful markers and pens, crayons, …
  • Pick a question / topic you want to reflect upon.
    Example: “How do I show up when I approach the people I want to lead?”
  • If you want, start with some time to reflect, maybe journal some initial thoughts. If you prefer thinking while you draw, that is ok too.
  • Start drawing, and enjoy what emerges. Treat your drawing like a Temenos: acknowledge, appreciate, admire what you draw.
  • Share. Take and give feedback, focusing on allowing the storyteller understand their own story better.