July – 2020
Greetings from me and the team. I hope your summer is going along with some grace in this time of tremendous change. Hope everyone is hanging in there and discovering new ways to connect with ourselves and others. Certainly, it is a time for appreciating the simple things in our lives, and for seeing our communities and our loved ones with new eyes.
Since the last newsletter I have been home in New York City, and have not even left my neighborhood more than a few times. But It has been a time to get reacquainted with my neighbors and with some of the resources in our community. I will admit, that for the first weeks I was pretty dour about the closing of almost all of my favorite things in our city—the theaters, music venues, great restaurants, museums, cafes, you name it. But NYC is resilient, and people have been finding ways to make things more enjoyable and relaxing while also being polite and mindful around social distance, masks, etc. When I first came back, the city was still reeling from some of the highest infection and death rates in the world. But we now lead the nation in lowering the rates of infection, hospitalizations, and deaths. It comforts me to know the world has gone through big challenges like this before, and people have come through. And we will too.
I feel similar hope that constructive conversations about race in our country (and around the world) can unfold, and I do think the Enneagram work can be a help in this regard. I have been in conversations with Dr Deborah Egerton and other leaders in the field of race relations to look at ways that the inner work we do can be part of the healing of our country, and indeed be a model for such discussions in other countries as well.
Like everyone else, I have been watching these major events unfold, and looking at how I need to adapt my skills and offerings to meet the changes that are upon us. And this has meant more than merely offering online classes, although thank God for that technology! It has been a real lifeline for many and has allowed us to continue doing work in a time when people really need tools.
Although it has taken a few weeks of this crisis to really land, I see that many are starting to see something I have talked about for a long time. When we count totally on externals for our wellbeing, we may indeed hit a period of good luck when our job, our family, our relationships, and our health are all going well. At such times, our ego tends to take the credit, as if we deserve all the credit for our good fortune. As long as things are “going our way” we may see no need to look at our inner life. Why dig up old problems when life is okay? But if we do not know our inner life, if we do not know the paths out of our particular “dark spaces,” when trouble and loss hit—and it is absolutely inevitable that they will—we don’t know what to do, and the crisis can quickly overwhelm us. We may get lost in anxiety, depression, addiction, or political extremism as a way of trying to overcome the feelings that are dominating our experience. We never learned how to navigate our own soul.
I tell my students in all my programs, “if you practice while it is easy, it will be there for you when things are hard.” So those of us who have already been cultivating presence, kindness, and self-awareness, have some ground in them when life tilts this way or that. If we have been giving some of our life to those practices and pursuits, it is likely that we are more able to be a source of stability and ground in our lives—for ourselves and for the people around us. If we have not done so, times like these become the perfect reminder that the inner work part of the Enneagram, the practice by which the theory is able to be manifested in our lives, is essential. It becomes clearer that outer conditions may continue to change, and in ways that we cannot yet foresee. (Take a look at the first half of the 20th Century if you doubt this!) Knowing this, we rededicate ourselves to being a vehicle for presence, loving kindness, and wisdom in our worlds. We start to realign with the original vision of the Enneagram work.
There are usually three benefits we start to see from engaging in the real inner work. First, we have an inner resilience and strength to carry us through the tough times. We have a positivity, a trust in the fundamental fabric of reality, in Grace if you will, that does not shy away from difficulties and suffering, but holds us through them and brings dignity and compassion into the situation. Second, we truly appreciate the gifts that are in our life today, right now. Probably many of us have been rediscovering the beauty and wonder of our homes and our communities. I have had amazing adventures simply walking around the blocks of my immediate neighborhood here in Manhattan. But I am sure it would be the same if I was walking around my neighborhood in Colorado, or North Carolina, or Ontario, or the Midlands or in Cairo, Egypt. We start to take in our world, and as we see it freshly, freed from many of our assumptions and preoccupations, and more relaxed into our bodies and hearts, we feel how amazing it is to be part of this world. Our kitchen table is a wonder! And third, we learn to better discriminate what to give our attention to, in terms of work, and in terms of what we listen to our read. We may even start to notice some of the “echo chambers” we get caught in when our favorite news sources keep feeding us material that triggers our fear, rage, and shame. There is no pre-set here. We pay attention to how we use our attention, and what serves our authentic development and sense of service in the world.
I didn’t really plan to go into all this, but I would imagine that you, like me, are helped by knowing someone else is in this with you. Someone else is aware of your inner struggles. And someone else is also thinking about the bigger picture, and how we might more intelligently and compassionately respond.
As far as personal news, I am wrapping up the course with Robert Holden and Jessica Dibb on the Shift Network, and about to embark on a 10 week course with James Flaherty, the creator of the New Ventures West Coaching School, on exploring the experience of purpose—how we find our vocation, our calling in life. That course will run from the end of July through September. Details can be found on the events part of the website.
At present, ALL the other live events for the year have been postponed or canceled save one. I am still slated to appear at the Esalen Institute from Sept 27 to Oct 2. I have been in communication with Esalen and the plan is to have one event on campus, bringing the total number of people there to about 35 or 40 vs the usual 125 plus. As plans firm up I will let you know, but I think it will be interesting to see how and if we can offer in person events in the coming months. I have been in conversation with my friend and colleague Cynthia Bourgeault about this challenge, and she is offering a retreat with limited live participation in a similar way. We are testing the waters and seeing what can be done AND will of course take every precaution to provide a safe as possible environment. If you are interested in this live event, contact the Esalen Institute. Once it is definite, the workshop will appear on our website here.
It is highly probable that we will have to cancel Enneagram Institute sponsored Inner Critic workshop and Retreat at the Barn in October. The EI team feels they are not ready to offer events in the current situation, but I am in conversations with Brian Taylor to determine how we might get programs running again, and what we might offer online in the coming weeks. I am well aware that many people have been asking for this.
I have a new Audio Book (yes, really!) coming out from Sounds True in January. It is called “The Enneagram: Nine Gateways to Presence.” We focus on some of the classical material—passions and virtues, etc., and as those of you familiar with my work will understand, I presented the Enneagram as nine journeys to liberation, just as the title indicates. I had a lot of fun recording it with the team there in Boulder at the end of last year, and they seemed very happy with the results. It will be the first major product I have put out in many years. So those of you who like to hear my voice and/or enjoy audiobooks can look forward to this one!
I am also working on a new book, but not ready to talk about that much yet! Will update you as it takes shape. Shhhh…
Lastly, my current plan is to continue offering easy-to-access and affordable classes so that many people interested in the Enneagram can get access to my teaching. As some of you may know, I have been doing 90-minute classes each Monday morning on individual topics through Catherine Bell and the Awakened Company. We are currently in a short break with those, but they will resume on August 31. Past classes are available to watch through Awakened Company. I am also brainstorming ways to do a more in-depth mentorship program to develop a cadre of facilitators who can offer the deeper elements of the teaching. This will be more of a long-term higher-commitment program, and again, I am in the early stages of brainstorming such a program and enlisting allies to help me develop it.
On the home front, not much to report. I have been living alone in my NY apartment, and taking each day as it comes. I have had many more requests for classes, interviews, and podcasts, than I could have imagined so there is some work just about every day. (I had held the Five-ish fantasy that I was going to have a lot more time to read and watch movies. Alas, not as much as I thought!) Still, I am learning new rhythms and ways of running my life, probably much as you are. I am happy to report that my health is improving, and I have lost about 28 pounds, (approx. 13 kilo) since February. Joey, my sister who runs our office lost her sweet doggy, Sidney about a week ago, so that has been tender for all of us. Sidney was a very sweet dog, and she had a long and happy life. We celebrate her time with us.
Hope this finds you well, aware of the love in your life, and with some appreciation of who you are, and what a miracle your life and gifts to the rest of us are.
Love and blessings,