April – 2020
Greetings and welcome to the second edition of our website newsletter! This one is going to be a bit of a two-parter. There is the recent news, part of the COVID19 influenced world we are in now, and there is also what was going on right before we all had to hunker down in our homes. I will fill you in on the current news first.
On March 15, I packed some bags and left my home in NYC. I was reluctant to do so but sensed that going it alone in my apartment during this pandemic was not the best plan. Loved ones and colleagues agreed. So since then, I have been staying with my sister, Joey Jacob, and her husband Steven in Connecticut. You may know that Joey is the Director of RussHudson.com and runs my business affairs. So, we are temporarily consolidated in one office! It has been peaceful and easy being here, and like you, we are waiting to see what comes next, and I am wondering when I will go home.
The impact of the virus on all of us has been huge. Probably many of us know someone directly affected by the illness, and most, if not all of us, have been impacted economically. All my live appearances and workshops have been canceled for the next few months. The first cancelation was of a major trip to China and Thailand and occurred when the virus was only thought to be occurring in Asia. Of course, much has changed since then, and I am looking at when we might be able to reschedule this trip as well as others that have needed to be canceled.
So, in the next weeks I will continue to provide teaching through the internet. We are currently in the early stages of a long course on the Enneagram and Love with the Shift Network. I am teaching that one with my friends and colleagues Robert Holden and Jessica Dibb. There will be other offerings and we will announce them here on the site as we get them set up. Thus far, most of the workshops and programs in July and after are still on the books with the exception of the International Enneagram Association Conference in Sweden. For example, we are planning to go ahead with the Enneagram Fundamentals Course Parts I and II at the end of July and early August. But keep checking in with us. We are in a very fluid situation, and this applies to the entire world economy at this point.
If you have studied with me, then you have learned some practices that can support you in these uncertain times. I have always told my students that if we practice when it is easy, the inner resources we need will be there for us when it is hard. AND it is never too late to renew our practice in presence—in getting grounded in our breath and sensation, in being kinder and more patient with ourselves and others, and in keeping our mind clear and receptive. We can do this in morning sittings, but also throughout the day. I personally find that having to develop different habits and rhythms for my new lifestyle offers many opportunities to get out of my habitual patterns and reconnect with the deeper layers of my humanity—where I connect with Spirit. So, I invite us all—me too—to use some of this time to reinvigorate my inner work practice, and to look freshly at my life, my heart connections, and my purpose.
Before this shutdown, the year brought several rich and interesting experiences of another sort. In January and February, I spent over four weeks in Egypt. As many of you may know, I have been showing students the connections between the ideas and teachings of ancient Egypt and some of the root ideas in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic theology, not to mention the Enneagram! I first started exploring this topic years ago with my longtime friend John Anthony West, who sadly passed away some months ago. Now, along with my colleague Denise Hoke, I take a group of my students around the country for three weeks every year to experience these ideas firsthand. We had an extraordinary trip this year, and an extraordinary group. I intend to post some photos of the trips here with some explanations for those who wish to know more. I plan to teach more about the history of the Enneagram on this site, and the Egypt piece and a fascinating part of the story.
After the three-week trip through much of the country, I returned to Cairo, and was the keynote speaker at the first ever Middle East International Enneagram Conference, held at Le Meridian Hotel in Giza, a short distance from the great pyramids. My talk was on the role of Egypt’s heritage in the development of the Enneagram, and I called the session “The Enneagram Comes Home.” It was very moving for me when many of the Egyptian participants tearfully shared with me how meaningful my talk was for them. Such moments inspire me to keep learning and to keep growing.
Prior to the conference, I led about 100 participants from Europe, North America, Egypt, and other Middle Eastern countries on a day-long exploration of some of the key sites in the greater Cairo area. We spent the morning examining the great pyramids and the sphinx, and I showed the participants some of the mysteries and anomalies found there. Unbeknownst to me, it was a national holiday, so there were dozens of Egyptian tour groups at the site. I had to use my music training in voice projection to be heard by the participants in a noisy environment! Nonetheless, people seemed thrilled to be there, and to learn some new perspectives on these world-famous monuments.
After this, we took three buses into downtown Cairo to visit Fustat, one of the oldest parts of the city, and home to the ancient Christian and Jewish quarters. We visited some of earliest Christian churches in Egypt, including one reported to be built over a grotto where Joseph, Mary, and the infant Jesus took shelter after their flight from Bethlehem and Herod’s decree to kill all of the first-borns in the Holy Lands. Many people reported how powerful it was for them to go between the ancient Egyptian sites and these humble, but powerful places in Cairo. When you understand the huge scales of time involved—for example, the pyramids were older to Jesus during his life, than he is to us now—you start to have a greater respect for the mysteries involved in our greater human journey, and how much we do not know about our origins. We concluded the day with a wonderful outdoor lunch in Al Azar Park, followed by a gathering outside the enormous and historically important Sultan Hassan Mosque. It was quite a day!
My time in Egypt concluded with an Inner Work retreat I co-led with Gurdjieff Movements teacher Jason Stern. The retreat was on the Heart Center, and not surprisingly, to paraphrase the title of a retreat Richard Rohr and I gave a few years back, there was a great deal of “laughing and weeping.” I was touched an inspired by the sincerity and readiness of the international group, and particularly moved by the way that the many women in the group shared their experience generously and powerfully supported fellow group members. Leading these deeper retreats has become a favorite part of my work life.
In the beginning of March, I co-facilitated another retreat with Jason Stern, this time at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California. The sold-out event was co-sponsored with the Enneagram Prison Project—one of my favorite Enneagram initiatives, and we spent a week doing deep work around the challenges and possibilities of the Belly or Instinctive Center. It was a marvelous week, and it is hard to believe we were in such a different place so recently.
I went immediately from the Esalen retreat to the Wisdom 2.0 Conference in San Francisco where I taught on the Main Stage to over 2000 people, and with the likes of Byron Katie, Marianne Williamson, Richard Schwartz, Dan Siegel and many others. It was a high-point, and I was delighted to bring the sense of the real purpose of the Enneagram to this large group. The attendees of this conference tend to focus on bringing mindfulness into practical applications, and my colleague Patricia Burbank and I explained how the Enneagram actually is a tool for mindfulness in helping us see the patterns and tendencies of our self-forgetting, as well as efficient ways back to ourselves. The conference had to close a day early as coronavirus levels rose around the country. So, I flew home and had a couple days before coming up here to Connecticut.
Who knows what the rest of the year will bring? We can be certain that things will be different. I see this event as a “Shock Point” in the development of the world. Enneagram teachings describe shocks as shifts that occur at key points in any process. When these shock points come, they undo “business as usual.” Things can go up, and things can go down. The direction that emerges has much to do with the level of awareness that we are able to bring when a shock occurs. This is true for communities and societies as much as it is for the individual. May our inner work with the Enneagram support the presence and consciousness needed to meet this shock in a way that supports human evolution, development, and true community.
Thank you for being part of our Enneagram family!
Wishing you and your loved ones a safe and peaceful journey through these times of change.