The Invisioning Framework

A White Paper by Yanna Romano and Martin Hall

March 2019

“Invisioning” uses the insight that comes from analysis and reflection to generate a grounded vision for the future self. Our objective is to analyse and understand the complexity of each of our situations, aligning this with the person that we want to be and the emerging opportunities of the world around us.  Our approach is inspired and informed by bringing together Otto Scharmer’s TheoryU and Gagandeep Singh and Raghgu Ananthanarayanan’s Tensegrity Framework for Organizational Design and Analysis.

The Invisioning Framework

We are all affected by change, disruption and uncertainty. This may be from the changing nature of work and the visceral experience of working; from new creative opportunities and accentuated anxieties; because of the freedom to operate and the loss of the certainty of structure; from flexibility of lifestyle and the redundancy of the idea of work-life balance.

In order to explore this proposition we introduce the concept of the Invisioning Framework. This is a representation that expresses the rhythm, harmony and interplay of various forces shaping our lives. In this, the framework makes opportunities, uncertainties and contradictions explicit.  The Invisioning Framework is built on the concept of tensegrity – taken from mechanics, biometrics and architecture, and in our case applied to human circumstances. Tensegrity is the integrity that is achieved when the pull of tension and the push of compression work together to produce delicate strength, self-regulating balance and harmony in a structure or system. It is achieved when opposing forces are harnessed to create something larger than the sum of its parts. To take the examples from the previous paragraph, there would be tensegrity when “new creative opportunities and accentuated anxieties” are in balance, when “the freedom to operate and the loss of the certainty of structure” are aligned.

The concept of tensegrity has been used by Gagandeep Singh and Raghgu Ananthanarayanan to construct their “Tensegrity Framework”, from which we have developed our Invisioning Framework. The Tensegrity Framework works at the organisational level and comprises “voices” and “tensions”.  Voices are clusters of interests that compete for attention. Tensions are the entanglement of relationships that link each voice to the other voices in the organisation.  A organisation’s Tensegrity Framework is a tangible representation of the way in which it functions. Singh and Ananthanarayanan’s Tensegrity Framework, and from this our Invisioning Framework, is inspired by the physical properties of the geodesic dome that have enabled architects to design buildings that defy expectations of gravity – diffusing stress through the harmonising of countervailing forces.

Where Singh and Ananthanarayanan’s model is designed for the analysis of businesses and corporate entities, our Invisioning Framework has been adapted to work for individuals rather than organisations, and for a broader range of circumstances.  

As a basis for this, we have redefined the four Voices that anchor our framework:

  • Resources: the voices of those who own or allocate resources that are essential to us: shareholders, employers, landlords, etc (the “Voice of Wealth” in  Singh and Ananthanarayanan’s Tensegrity Framework);

  • Aspirations: the voices of those whom we serve: customers, students, clients, etc (the “Voice of the Customer and Markets”  in Singh and Ananthanarayanan’s Tensegrity Framework);

  • Infrastructure:  all the structures and systems that enable us to create value, ranging from basic utilities to sophisticated IT systems (the “Voice of Technology” in  Singh and Ananthanarayanan’s Tensegrity Framework);

  • Self: “wishes, fantasies, expectations, feelings, demands, disappointments, anguish, sorrow, anger and grievances” (the “Voice of the Employee”  in Singh and Ananthanarayanan’s Tensegrity Framework).

These four voices are interconnected by six tensions:

  • T1: Investing.  This tension connects Infrastructure with Resources and is expressed as the continuous pull of the need for stability in facilities, structures and systems and as the discontinuous and disruptive push from technological innovation;

  • T2: Strategising. This tension connects Resources with Aspirations, and represents the constant pull and push between having the resources that we need to reproduce ourselves and the urge to create and offer value;

  • T3: Improving.  This tension connects Aspirations with Infrastructure. Here, the “pull” is the need to get the best out of the effort that we put into our creativity.  The erratic push is from the disruptive innovation of new ways of doing things, new possibilities and the frequent need for technological improvements;

  • T4: Valuing.  This tension connects Resources with Self.  In the language of Resources, we are often reduced and dehumanised as, “headcounts”, “patients”.  The push against this comes from our unique consciousness of our personhood, and also from our ability to push back through peer-to-peer communication and increasingly, social media;

  • T5: Serving.  This tension connects Self with Aspirations and is a logical development from the valuing tension (T4); just as we have been empowered by social media, peer-to-peer communication and many-to-one communication and marketing, so have those we serve, creating a continual pull and push;

  • T6: Energising.  This tension connects Self with Infrastructure.  The prevailing characteristics of our contemporary networked society are ever-more complex management systems, proliferating channels of communication, and increasing volumes of demands with expectations of rapid turnaround.  This can result in energy-draining alienation, killing creativity.

When these voices and tensions are in balanced relationships with one another they can be expressed as a symmetrical tetrahedron – the ideal Invisioning Framework:


Moving outside the cage of words

The Invisioning Framework is a verbal expression of the rhythm, harmony and interplay of the various forces that shape their worlds. To build on this foundation, we move into a mode of what Otto Scharmer calls the “realm of emergence”.  This is “presencing”: “a holding space that allows participants and the system to sense and see itself in terms of both the current reality and the future that wants to emerge”.

Words are only one modality of generative listening, emergence and communication; we also create meaning through touch, smell, sound and visualisation.  These tangible and intangible expressions extend and deepen each person’s experience, adding richness and texture to the four voices and tensions of the Invisioning Mandala. Effective presencing, that steps outside the limitations of verbal conventions, requires an appropriate level of trust between participants in a group, the recognition of the right to privacy, and a commitment to confidentiality within the group.

In order to achieve presencing, we use a number of specific mindfulness-based creative and/or embodiment processes, depending on the particular requirements of each group that we work with.  


All of our courses work with mandalas and mindfulness meditation. A mandala is a circular representation of wholeness, which can contain, reveal, or harmonise the polarities and frictions of being human, and mindfulness meditation is a mental training practice that involves bringing moment-to-moment, non-judgemental awareness to your experiences (including emotions, thoughts, and sensations). Some of our courses also include mindful movement (simple yoga and conscious dance) and body mapping. Body mapping uses the body outline as a template for shapes and colours to visualise and express each person’s circumstances in their world and their embodied experiences of, and responses to, these circumstances.

Crystallising the Future

Once each participant has completed this reflective art process stage of the course - using mandalas with or without movement and body mapping - everyone is able to benefit fully from the power of what Scharmer calls “generative listening”.  This provides the basis for the next stages of our process, in which perceptions of the emerging future are re-coded into words and used to prototype future possibilities for each participant’s Invisioning Framework. This is achieved by returning to the Invisioning Framework with the new insights gained from the deep self exploration of presencing, and from working with the idea of “role”.

In Singh and Ananthanarayanan’s Tensegrity Framework, the idea of role is pivotal in connecting individuals to the structure of their organisation  – to their workplace. In our Invisioning Framework, “workplace” is taken as any form of institution or set of requirements that shape our environment.  This could be any place of employment or institution, or any set of institutionalised requirements. For example, the role of an employee in a bank will be shaped by, among other things, a formal job description.  The role of an artist, working alone in a studio, will be shaped by the conventions of commissions, exhibitions, auctions and collectors.

Singh and Ananthanarayanan define role as “a set of behaviours that an individual chooses to assume based on her process of making meaning out of any situation (or the gap) and her basis for making choices”.  And the “gap” is the difference between the “wished-for reality” and actual experience. How every person makes meaning of their situation and aspirations is shaped by the tensions that define their world. Interpreted within the definitions of the TheoryU role, the gap between actual experience and wished-for reality is where perceptions of the future are crystalised following the process of presencing.

A second key element of the concept of role, as it is used in the Tensegrity Framework, is the “shadow”. This is taken from Jungian thought, and is the pathos and dissidence that may be experienced by groups of people within an organisation, but which are consistently repressed or disallowed by the organisation’s conventions of behaviour and communication.  The shadow is often expressed as an intangible but prevalent, persistent and negative set of concerns, that get in the way of, or slow down, meaningful progression.

Bringing this together begins with each participant going back to their Invisioning Framework, and the definitions of the voices and tensions that express their unique circumstances. Now, they set the insights that they have gained through their art process work, represented by their mandala and by their body map, if body mapping was part of their course.  They reconsider their earlier insights. Do they still feel appropriate? Can they be enhanced, deepened, or even replaced by new crystallisations that express essential and urgent insights that have emerged from the presencing exercise?

This exercise in crystallizing provides the basis for the touchstone that each participant will take away with them as the essence of their personal Invisioning Framework.  By now, each participant will have a heightened and focused sense of their role and of its potential for direction and for the realisation of their future selves.  Taking this to the next stage requires the integration of the subjective, reflective and inward phase of presencing, with a wider, more objective and analytical viewpoint.

Invisioning Touchstone.png

The touchstone expresses each person’s role by juxtaposing their wished-for reality with their sense of the shadow that holds them back.  This axis is in turn moderated by the pull and push of their current reality – a composite of the tensions that were identified and dissected through mapping the Invisioning Framework.  A reference to each participant’s mandala, at the heart of the touchstone, asserts the continuing importance of presencing to ensure that this sense of role is continually adapted to changing circumstances.


In the context of the Invisioning Framework, “mapping” is the underlying system of defining and recording that ensures that each participant in a group moves steadily through the curriculum of the course, building on the insights that went before. In developing the prototype for the Invisioning Framework, we have found that flow and concentration are best achieved if the mapping processes remain implicit. Our solution to this is demonstrated in the Use Case in Appendix A, which is an amalgam of anonymised, international cases and a beta workshop conducted in Cape Town in March this year.  In summary:

  • participants first define their four Voices by extracting images from newspapers and magazines, and clustering these as “mood boards”, one for each voice, augmented by words and phrases;

  • Each participant’s mandala is an integral part of the mapping process, drawing inspiration from the mapping process;

  • Participants are introduced to the underlying model of the symmetrical tetrahedron that defines the Invisioning Framework.  They understand that there can be six tensions while being guided to focus on the interrelationships between those pairs of Voices that are relevant to their personal circumstances;

  • From this basis, each participant's role is mapped using a prepared template that juxtaposes “shadow” and “wished-for reality” with elements of the most significant tensions that have emerged for them during the workshop;

  • Finally, the individual gains that have been achieved are reinforced through sharing with the group as a whole through “generative listening”.

Generative Listening

Generative listening is achieved through what Scharmer calls a “circle of presence”. Here, those in the group support one another in pursuing deeper questions and challenges; “collective cultivation practices” that “provide access to the deeper sources of communal awareness and attention in the context of everyday life and work”.

This final stage in developing the Invisioning Framework could take a number of different forms;  we have deliberately left this open to allow for the varying needs of different kinds of groups, for creative experimentation, or for improvisation in the light of what has emerged in the dynamics of prior implementation.

Key Resources

Otto Scharmer, “TheoryU:  Learning from the future as it emerges” (2nd Edition), 2016

Gagandeep Singh and Raghgu Ananthanarayanan, “Organizational Development and Alignment: the Tensegrity Mandala Framework”, 2013

Appendix A:  An Invisioning Use Case

Introducing Jenna

Jenna is in her late 20s, has a degree in Business Studies and works for a financial services company in New York.  She has signed up for the Invisioning workshop with reservations.  She likes the idea of participating in analysis and reflection, but as she tends towards introversion she is suspicious of too much personal sharing.

Jenna moved to the US from Kenya with her parents when she was a child and now identifies as American.  She remains intrigued by her African heritage, and by what this could mean for her. Jenna is skilled in karate and competes in tournaments across the US, and she volunteers at a drug rehabilitation centre in Queens, where she helps runs classes to support people into re-employment.

Jenna has been with her current company for five years.  She finds the work stimulating, and has been successful, regularly earning performance bonuses and assignments to areas of innovation in the financial services sector.  But she is beginning to find the work pressure relentless and she is concerned about her future, particularly given the waves of disruptive innovation over the past few years.  She knows that she must soon decide whether to stay in this area for the long term, or whether to venture into something new. In particular, Jenna wonders whether a new direction could also deepen her connection to her African roots in some way –perhaps if she  moved back to Nairobi for a while. But she must also remain self-supporting, and she must continue to contribute to her family’s wellbeing, particularly her father’s medical costs. She finds these internal debates exhausting, and generally writes them off as “too difficult”, rather taking solace in a challenging karate class.

Session One (30 minutes)

Participants had been asked to bring along a journal, in which they will record personal reflections during the workshop, and a collection of magazines and newspapers, that include images or graphics, showing anybody or anything, from any part of the world.  They had been told that these would be pooled as an Image Bank for use by the group as a whole during the workshop (nothing valuable, because they would be cut up during the workshop). Jenna contributed a stack of National Geographic magazines from the store room.

To start, the facilitator asks everyone to sit in around the table and make themselves comfortable. Each is asked to introduce themselves by giving their name and a word that emerges to best describe the primary feeling/sensation they are sitting with. Following this, the facilitator introduces the concepts of “mindfulness”, tensegrity, process art, and mandalas as key threads that will unite the sessions as they unfold during the day.

The facilitator then invites everyone into a basic guided mindfulness meditation to arrive into deeper presence.  Straight after the meditation, everyone is asked to pull one image from the image bank that resonates with the internal space touched on through cultivating mindfulness. Jenna choses an image of an eagle in flight. The facilitator provides everyone with a mandala template.  Each participant sticks the image that they have chosen in the centre of their mandala template, which is then placed to one side for later.

Session Two (30 Minutes)


The facilitator opens this second session by explaining the concept of “Voices” as they have been adapted from the original Tensegrity Framework.  She defines them as:

Resources: the voices of those who own or allocate resources that are essential to us: shareholders, employers, landlords, etc;

Aspirations: the voices of those whom we serve: customers, students, clients, etc;

Infrastructure:  all the structures and systems that enable us to create value, ranging from basic utilities to sophisticated IT systems;

Self: “wishes, fantasies, expectations, feelings, demands, disappointments, anguish, sorrow, anger and grievances.

Each participant takes some magazines and newspapers from the Image Bank.  They are asked to pull out images that that capture aspects of these Voices for them – creating “mood boards” for each (Jenna hesitates at first, but the facilitator nudges her along – the idea is to be spontaneous). Then, each of them writes down a set of words and phrases that they freely associate which each set of images.  By the end of this exercise, each of Jenna’s four Voices is expressed by a cluster of clipped images and associated phrases.

Jenna’s Voices are:

Resources: must be financially independent; job security. (Jenna must be financially self sufficient and depends on the salary from her financial services job to get by each month.  With the costs of living in the city and unpredictable financial needs, this is a significant consideration for Jenna. Given the volatility of the economy and disruption across all financial services, Jenna has mounting anxieties about her job security – something she did not worry about when she left college.  Others she knows have been laid off – for her, this would be a disaster.)

Aspirations: African heritage; giving back through service. (Jenna can’t remember Kenya, her whole upbringing is American, and she is comfortable in her American identity in cosmopolitan New York City.  But she is drawn to her roots and was inspired by President Obama’s shared Kenyan heritage. She’s never met her Kenyan relatives but has a clear sense of them through her father’s story.  Surely there is something for her here? Also, she has been brought with a strong ethic of giving back through service, a message often reinforced through the congregation of her church. She loves the work that she does through volunteering, which provides a counterbalance to her professional life in financial services, which also excites and stimulates her.)

Infrastructure: work pressure; uncertainty; disruptive change. (Like many of her peers working in the city, the last five years have been characterised by ever-increasing work pressure and uncertainty.  To a large extent, Jenna enjoys this; there is no longer anything boring about working in a bank. However, this comes with the cost of confusion and uncertainty.  There are always new systems to learn and these are often out of synch with each other. Jenna has long abandoned the principle of clearing her email in-box. While she welcomes the increasing responsibilities she is given, the lack of structure in her organisation is often confusion.  And she hates the new hot desk system and that she can never be sure of the same workstation. She takes solace in vigorous karate workouts, losing herself in the flow of physical exertion.)

Self: father’s health; financial security; emotional disruption. (Jenna has always been close to her father – she lost her mother in early childhood.  But he is developing significant health problems and has limited medical insurance cover.  She is an only child and all her father’s family are in Kenya. Jenna is very private about this but, and within the confidentiality of the discussion with her workshop partner, Jenna admits that this is a gnarring concern that often churns her with anxiety.  What would happen if she lost her job? She could get by for herself, but could she still make enough to meet her father’s needs. In this – and in much else about her life – Jenna is a naturally private person, who comes over as reserved and self-confident. She has an instinctive aversion to emotional disruption and to unwanted invasion of her privacy; she initially declined her invitation to this workshop because she feared invasion of her space.)

Break (15 minutes)

Session Three (90 minutes)

The group reassembles around the table, and the facilitator again starts with a short mindfulness session, bringing everyone back into the present. Next, participants are  encouraged to build their mandalas – intuitively integrating cuttings from each of the mood boards (the Voices). They can use pastels to merge imagery in creative, meaningful ways. For her mandala design, Jenna decides to divide the circle into nested segments.  She brings together clusters of images in each segment:

  • a tree in winter, ice hanging from the bare branches, but with the first green shoots beginning to show;

  • a river flowing steadily forward.  Jenna is on a raft, the pressures of the present pushing against the banks, but with a different landscape coming into sight downstream.

  • a bad place, an angry red haze in which disembodied and threatening phrases float about;

  • a dark tunnel but with a straight track towards daylight;

  • a candle, burning steadily and brightly;

  • a crushing downward weight that squeezes and flattens creative possibilities.

Next, everyone is invited to spend three minutes in free writing, spontaneously expressing in words the thoughts and emotions that arise from their mandala. Following this, participants are asked to choose five significant words from their paragraph of free writing.These five words become ingredients for a poem, which they may complete simply with the addition of linking words and punctuation. Finally, they will use the poem to inspire a title for the mandala, writing both the poem and the title into the boxes provided next to the mandala.

Jenna’s free writing, timed to 3 minutes (plus a bit of leeway…):

My mandala is a wheel.  It starts in a stationary position, with the strong tree trunk pointing towards the sky, which is dark with winter.  Then the mandala starts to rotate to the right, in a clockwise direction, and the wintery sky darkens to a weight of rocks pushing down on my shoulders, squeezing the essence out of me.  My mandala-wheel picks up speed and next it’s the candle, but upside down, defying gravity, still burning.  Then the tunnel and the red haze of anger.  But then the wheel slows to a stop, one rotation completed, and the river is in pole position, stretching into the possibility of something new.  I am relaxed, floating downstream.

From this, she writes her poem:

Dark sky, anger.

Relaxed, floating

I defy gravity

And titles her mandala “The Wheel”

Stage 4 (60 minutes)


The facilitator starts this session by re-introducing the idea of “tensegrity”, mentioned at the beginning of the workshop. She has on the table a model of a symmetrical tetrahedron, and she asks everyone to think of each point as one of the set of four Voices. In this ideal model, the four Voices are connected by six equally-balance struts – the sides of the tetrahedron. These can be thought of as connections that constructively harness contradictions and stresses to create harmony.

In real life, it would be rare to have the symmetry of this model. The facilitator uses a simple example to explain:  the nature of each person’s balance between their Voices of Necessity and of Aspirations (the things they have to do to survive versus the things that they really want to do) would be uniquely skewed.

Working in pairs, participants identify and list the pairs of Voices creating each strut or connection, and the nature of the relationship between these pairs, that are important for them. To help with this, each of them is invited to refer to their mandala, if looking for the images and associations in their mandala would illuminate these paired relationships between Voices.  The tetrahedron allows for up to six pairs, although everyone is free to identify fewer; the objective is for each person to identify the pairs and the relationship that link them in ways that are meaningful for them. Each makes a note of these for future reference in their journal.

Jenna’s tensions are:

  • Resources and Infrastructure.  Making this connection, and discussing it with her partner, helps Jenna to crystallise the link between the pressing necessity of working to make enough to get by, and the ways in which accelerating innovation in the systems that shape her job are changing ever more rapidly.  She feels ambivalent about this; sometimes the work is exhausting. But the discovery of new possibilities through innovation is exhilarating, rewarding);

  • Resources and Aspirations. Jenna has long realised that her financial needs – and the need to support her father – limit how much she can live by her values of giving back that are reinforced through her church, and that they make Africa and impossible dream.  But at the same time, they have lived on as spark of possibilities that she thinks about often. Now, as being in this workshop pushes her to pause and reflect, she realizes that the spark springs from an awareness of her father’s mortality and of what she could be when he is gone. She is shamed by the guilt of this realisation – this is not an insight that she is sharing with her partner or anyone else in this workshop;

  • Infrastructure and Aspirations.  This tension – and its push and pull factors – is self evident to Jenna.  For some time now, much of Jenna’s time out of the office has been dedicated to studying, as this is the only way to keep on top of how her industry is changing.  It’s very clear that if she does not build her professional profile she will soon be blocked for promotion. She has enrolled for a part time Masters degree, which entails classes two evenings a week after work and at least one full day each weekend for the next two years.  There is less and less time for anything else. Jenna often discusses this with others at work – many are in the same position;

  • Resources and Self.  By this stage in the mapping exercise, and through the mutual empathy of the partner discussions, Jenna is realising just how much her need for financial security is shaping key aspects of her life.  Her workshop partner has some sharp and interesting observations here; on how the “American Dream” casts everyone as a potential entrepreneur, able to pull themselves up by their bootstraps; on how the “American Reality” can be a struggle for survival in the corporate environment, where one can be “let go” in a flash.  Jenna’s none too sure about this – New York has been good to her – but it’s a provocative and interesting discussion. But what Jenna does realize is that she deeply values the idea of her autonomy in her professional life, in terms of practical necessities, and in her emotional life. Her current circumstances compromise this and – perhaps – she just needs to live with this.

  • Self and Aspirations. By now, Jenna has the hang of the ways in which pushes and pulls can shape key elements in her day-by-day life.  Perhaps, then, she should take a good, introspective look at her retreat into her privacy, her reflex to shut down emotional engagements.  Where does this come from? Back to her early childhood, the hidden memory of a refugee, an outsider looking for acceptance at school? From her father’s natural reserve? Perhaps she needs to learn from her peers who she works alongside in Queens – go to dance classes?  Her workshop partner is enthusiastic and suggests that Jenna joins him at an open Tango meet-up in Central Park on Sunday;

  • Thinking about this tension is a somber bookend to this part of the workshop.  Whichever way she thinks about it, the tension that links Self and Infrastructure is bad news for Jenna.  Just putting these issues into the same discussion deflates her. The combination of work demands, the time that she needs to study and her nagging concerns for her father’s health drains her.  She feels some resentment about the way that this workshop is organised. She thought that the objective was to make her feel better, to revitalize her. Right now, she feels worse and somewhat resentful.

Break (60 minutes)

The group breaks for lunch; an opportunity to relax and reset.

Stage 5 (60 minutes)

The group reconvenes for the second part of the workshop.  To resume, the facilitator asks each participant to share a moment of reflection on the morning’s work.  She then invites everyone to take part in a short walking meditation.

Following this, the facilitator explains the concept of “crystallisation” as it is defined and used within TheoryU: “clarifying vision and intention from our highest future possibility”, “co-creation”. This draws on “the deeper place of knowing and self”.   Here, this is achieved with the new insights gained from the self exploration of the morning’s work, and from working with the idea of enlivening one’s “role”.

Role is the set of behaviours that each of us adopts, based on our process of making meaning of our circumstances. The facilitator explains that, through crystallisation, each participant will be able to see and describe the gap between their current roles and experiences and the selves and futures that they aspire towards. Understood within the definitions of TheoryU, the gap between actual experience and wished-for reality is where perceptions of the future are conceptualised. An additional key element in this concept of role is the “shadow”, experienced as an intangible but prevalent, persistent and negative set of concerns, holding one back in the face of growth opportunities.

Each participant is provided with a template to assist and organise this process.  The facilitator explains that this exercise will result in a personal “touchstone” that each participant will take away from the workshop.  

Each person’s role is defined by, first,  juxtaposing their wished-for reality with their sense of the shadow that holds them back (the horizontal axis of the touchstone).  This is a crystallisation from the personal tensions that they identified before lunch.

This axis is in turn moderated by the crystallisation of   their current reality - again derived from the full set of tensions that each participant identified early in the day.  In order to get to this, the facilitator asks Jenna to think in terms of “pushes” and “pulls”. Pushes will be the constant features that shape her current reality in a consistent and predictable way, and can be positive or negative;  the predictable satisfaction that she gets from her community work in Queens; the demands of her professional life, which can seem never ending. The pushes are unexpected pulses, agin positive or negative; innovations at work that excite and invigorate her; the periodic crises with her father’s health.

A reference to each participant’s mandala, at the heart of the touchstone, asserts the continuing  importance of presencing to ensure that this sense of role is continually adapted to changing circumstances, remaining anchored to the deep self.

To help participants complete this exercise, the workshop facilitator suggests that, for each of the four boxes on the pre-printed touchstone framework, participants use their pastels for shapes, gestures and colours, augmented by words.  The objective is to produce a touchstone that is rich in personal meaning and can, perhaps, be pinned up as a poster as a reference point for the future.

To complete her touchstone, Jenna looks back over her earlier notes in which she defined her Voices and the tensions between them, with all their positives and negatives.  She needs to modify these in the light of the mandala process – the images in her mandala make her think a little differently about some aspects of her circumstances and her assumptions.  Looking at her mandala, she particularly likes the metaphor of the river; the idea of being on a raft connects her with the busy river banks while protecting her with the serenity of the water.  And she can begin to visualise a new landscape downstream, confident that the river will take her there.


Jenna takes several iterations of her touchstone diagram before she’s happy with the result.  Overall, her current reality feels in reasonable balance – more so than she had thought in the earlier stages of the workshop.  The major pulls are the need for financial security – there’s no getting away from this. And the work she must do to maintain this – her professional life in financial services – is all encompassing. For her touchstone, she expresses these pulls by re-purposing the image of the tunnel, dark and claustrophobic but with the constant glimmer of light in the distance.  But now – and thinking in terms of tensegrity – she sees this as balanced by her realisation that the experience and expertise that she’s gaining now will also be her preparation for a different future – the new landscape much further downstream. And she’s also realised that she can get more from her current community work – the rehabilitation centre in Queens – by seizing what it offers rather than fretting that it does not offer enough. Jenna summarises this in her touchstone by again turning to the metaphor of the river, carrying her forward.

Break (15 minutes)

The group takes a short break to stretch, relax, prepare for the final session

Stage 6 (60 minutes)

For this final session, the facilitator requests that participants reflect on what they have learned about themselves through the day with more free writing:  what’s new, what’s the same; how they see their future selves. They are encouraged to use their mandalas and touchstones to inspire and fuel this process. When it is time to share, they are invited to speak to their experience of the workshop, their mandala process, and perhaps to read out their poem. The group is invited to engage “active listening” when someone shares  – not responding with words to what others might choose to express, as even positive judgements can fail to meet others’ expressions, which can perpetuate feelings of not being heard.

Jenna is now much clearer about her wished-for reality.  She is thrilled to notice how she is opening up more to others; coming out of her shell; letting go of some of her emotional carapace.  In particular, she has realised that her wish to step out of the corporate world, to work for different kinds of organisations that bring social and community benefits, are not incompatible with her present reality, or with her fascination with her Kenyan roots.  She is more able to imagine a future self that is a logical unfolding from her present necessities and realities; again, a future that is downstream. To express this, she places the motif of the candle in the centre of a sun, a mnemonic for her sense of self. The blues and greens carry over the assurance she feels from water and from an open and clear landscape – perhaps the savannahs of East Africa.

Jenna has surprised herself by being able to name her shadow without feeling a clench of guilt, leading her to move on quickly.  She feels less ambivalent about her father’s health now that she has mapped this in a context that connects the present with the future.  And by defining and describing the emotional and physical overload that she feels she has to some extent contained it, rather like caging a dangerous animal, or coming to terms with the pain from a chronic injury. She counterbalances the colours of her wished-for reality with the weight of the dark boulders pressing down on her creativity, and the red haze of an angry sky.

The facilitator closes the workshop with a third exercise in mindful self-reflection and gratitude practice.


You may distribute, remix, tweak, and build on our work, as long as you credit us for the original creation, including providing a link to this page