Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Nine Points Magazine: A Must Read For Enneagram Enthusiasts

Dear Readers,
I am rarely posting here on the blog site since I am now writing for Nine Points Magazine, the magazine for the International Enneagram Association. Here's my latest contribution on Authentic Communication and the Enneagram.  And if you have not yet checked out this magazine, do so. Some of the best Enneagram authors and teachers share insights to help us in all areas of life.

Occasionally, there will be shorter content that I will post here. As always, if you have questions or topics that you wish to have addressed, send me a note to I will get back to you as soon as I can.

All my best,

PS. FYI:  The Everyday Enneagram is now available as an ebook on all major ebook retailers, including Amazon.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Experiencing the Holy Ideas: A Five Looks at Omniscience

The most intriguing aspect of the Enneagram for me these days is its value as a map for spiritual growth and presence. Each of us experiences moments of Essence in our own unique and type specific ways. The Higher Virtues and Holy Ideas resonate in type specific ways.

Reader Ray contacted me recently with the following thoughtful missive - I'm sharing it with his permission.

"I am trying to understand what omniscience as a "holy idea" is.  Isn't that kind of abstract by itself?  And once you mentally understand what are you suppose to do to practice, experience it, getting to know what this important thing is not just with the head but with the heart. I've read some of the same things in other enneagram sites but think a going beyond repetition, citing examples, explaining in other words, and furnishing applications would be in good order and very helpful.

I have done things as a five that seem to really work but do take time.  That is write a phrase, bible verse, quote, favorite idea on 3 by 6 card.  Then practice bringing your attention to it like a meditation.  I involve breathing, walking, paying attention to my body along with it, tuning into any tension as it arises, and subsequently releasing it.  And that also means releasing thoughts and feelings as well and returning to the idea (card) again.  The goal: to tap into the essence that makes knowledge full of life.  From bible school I learned that through repetition of a phrase, meditation, it can be taken to a higher level, from greek, logos, written word, to rhema, living word."

He captured my attention with his questioning as well as his practices - I wrote this back to him:

"Dear Ray,
I really like your practice and how you view "Omniscience". I'd like to mention it on the blog and see if any other Fives have ways they approach the Holy Idea or understand it. Of course, I am not a Five so I can only understand it from my own Seven perspective, so other Fives would be most able to express more about it. My thought is that any of the Holy Ideas are somewhat abstract (hence ideas as the descriptor) until your small self suddenly drops away (through meditation, other practice, or spontaneously) and the Self is present. At those moments, the Holy Idea is no longer a concept but an experience - for the Five as I have heard, Omniscience is the sense that you already know everything you ever needed to know - something like that. (Which may actually be what you were saying...) This would be a great discussion point and I'd love to post it on the blog and to get input from other Fives.
Thanks for writing and for such a thought provoking question."

So I invite Five friends and readers to illuminate Omniscience from your perspective and how you integrate head and heart in inviting the Essence experience. And those Enneagram explorers of other types? I'd love to know your thoughts on how you experience the Holy Idea of your own Enneagram point. We learn from one another through self revealing as well as through solitary practice. Comment here or you may also email me at if you wish to remain anonymous.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Enneagram Explorer Don Richard Riso Passed Away

The Enneagram community has lost one of its greatest. Don Richard Riso, Enneagram pioneer, author, and teacher, passed away on August 30, 2012.

The very first book I ever read on the Enneagram was Don's original paperback - as I recall, it was the only book out at the time. I blushed down to my toes the first time I read his description of Type Seven - and was never the same since.

I made a pact with myself to learn as much as I could about this amazing personality map with a focus on breaking free of the constraints of habit. While the work has turned out to be a lifetime of noticing, I am forever grateful for the Enneagram in my life.

Although I did not undergo my professional training with Don (I certified with Helen Palmer and David Daniels in 1993), I was privileged to attend many of his offerings at the International Enneagram Association meetings over the years, and to enjoy informal gatherings and discussions as well.

He co-founded the Enneagram Institute with Russ Hudson, which continues to be a mainstay in Enneagram research, training, and development.

Don has returned to Essence, and the greater Enneagram community grieves the loss of his presence. We are grateful for the gifts he shared and has left behind. Aloha, Don. We'll miss you.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Top 7 Reasons People Don’t Use The Enneagram

My friend Steve (he and his lovely life partner provided the photo for this post) asked me “Why doesn’t everyone use the Enneagram? It’s so useful.”

So I’ve been musing on that question for awhile. And here are the top 7 reasons that I’ve found over my years of teaching and consulting. I don’t doubt that there are quite a few more.

Reason Number One
They never heard of it.  This is not as prevalent a reason as it once was. Years ago (years and years), when I’d board a plane my seatmate would inevitably ask “What do you do?” When I’d say I was an Enneagram teacher, they’d look confused. “Any - uh-what?” I distilled my work to a one sentence explanation:  that I taught a personality map that helps us understand ourselves and others.

Things changed about 15 years ago and suddenly people would answer “Oh I’ve heard of that.” These days, half the time my seatmate will tell me his/her type and what they’ve learned. Many of them have learned it in the workplace and that is gratifying.

Reason Number Two
The diagram looks weird to them or they think it has to do with the occult. Once they realize that the diagram is not a pentagram, that Enneagram is just Greek for “picture of nine”, this one falls away pretty quickly. Luckily.

Reason Number Three
Some one bludgeoned them with the Enneagram or “told them” their type. Another dear friend of mine was frightened away from the Enneagram when his ex wife continually used it to tell him what was “wrong” with him. Sadly, those kinds of scars run deep. I wish I could say that this was an isolated incident but I’ve heard this tale of woe all too often. Some people just don’t get the point of the Enneagram. (That would be compassion - hello!)

“Telling” someone their type or pushing the Enneagram on them can cause them to run, not walk, away from anything or anyone associated with it. I have to agree that excess enthusiasm can be a total turnoff. Also, believe me when I tell you that even if you believe that you know someone very well, you may not really know their type. The journey of self discovery is important to the work - why would we want to deprive anyone of that?  Want to share the Enneagram with friends and family? Offer them a book, tell them your type and that it may help them understand you better. Believe me, they will be interested in finding their own type - on their own.

Reason Number Four
Some one trivialized it and made it a parlor game. That can happen with anything. Counter it by offering resources and information. Self disclosure on how it helped you might also be valid.

Reason Number Five

The Enneagram is complicated. That is actually true. It’s not a quick hit, but a deep, rich system of understanding and growth. As such, it may not be for everybody. It takes attention and real Work. Ah but the rewards are so worth it. To me. And you. But maybe not everyone.

Reason Number Six
“I’m not sure I want to know that much about myself.” Over the years, I’ve met people who quite clearly were anxious about what might be unearthed should they begin to delve more deeply into their drives and motivations. You and I might think it the most worthy of excavations, but I respect the honesty of those who weren’t ready to go there. Yet.

Reason Number Seven
There are many paths to the top of the mountain. And many maps to personal and spiritual growth. The Enneagram is only one. This may be the most important reason of all. The Enneagram is not necessarily for everyone. Offering the Enneagram without attachment as to whether or not it is received may be some of the best work we do as Enneagram enthusiasts. Just sayin’...

What reasons have you encountered for people not knowing or wishing to know the Enneagram?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Oh Canada! Can We Change A Country’s Type?

Countries have an overlay of Enneagram type; a cultural bias that informs the worldview of its citizens. The United States is a Three culture (although lately we seem solidly stuck in the low side of Six: us vs them, analysis paralysis so that nothing gets done, suspicion and paranoia, etc.)

In a Three culture, image is important and doing is highly valued. The first question a new acquaintance will ask is “What do you do?” Americans are big on success, productivity, and looking good. This is fine unless, like an unconscious Three, we lose sight of our authentic self in the quest for success.

Threes do well in a Three culture. As do other high energy types. Some types, however, can feel like strangers in a strange land. Fives can feel overwhelmed and unsafe. Nines can feel undervalued for their significant gifts. Twos, particularly male twos, may overdevelop a wing point to keep from being seen as weak when exercising their gifts of empathy and helping. (We’re pretty much okay with women being empathetic givers.)

We recently visited friends in Canada. My Eight girlfriend asked me what I thought Canada was as a country and I replied Five. “Absolutely!” she declared.

“And if you think it is hard being a female Eight - try being a female Eight in a Five culture. It’s a relief to me to travel to the US to work because I can let more of my energy out. Particularly working in a male dominated world.”

Stories like this illustrate why it is important to look at type within countries and professions, as well as on an individual level. As self-observing leads to more conscious behavior and choice on and individual level, so might knowing the pitfalls and gifts of a country or workplace worldview lead to similar awakening and possible change.

When we break the trance of habitual perceiving, acting, and being, only then is transformation possible. Small sacred steps might be the answer. When we open ourselves to other types, other worldviews, we have the possibility of true understanding.

When we further allow the instincts of self-preservation, one-to-one connection, and social to be illuminated and thereby loosened in their grip upon us, we open a space for another way of being in the world.

How do we do this? Change the worldview of a country? A profession or workplace? Maybe what we really wish to do is simply increase awareness; the same thing the Enneagram teaches each of us. I sure would welcome a little more awareness here in the U.S.A.

A dear friend of mine, musician Christine Covington, wrote these song lyrics:
“I can’t change the world
Until I first change me.
I can't change the world til I change me.”

Self-observation and self-disclosure along with a huge helping of compassion might just be a good recipe to start. The ripples might move outward in ways we can only imagine. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how we might dream this big.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Dancing with the Enneagram Part 2

As a hula dancer, it has been my privilege to learn from a number of amazing Kumu Hula or hula masters. As I mentioned in Part I, I recounted how knowing the Enneagram literally saved me when learning hula from different instructors. When I had an understanding of my teacher’s worldview or inner cosmology, I was less vulnerable to misunderstanding or hurt feelings. In my last post, I shared about a Six and an Eight. Here in Part 2, you’ll meet a Five, a Three, and a Nine.

When my first hula teacher passed away unexpectedly, our group was “inherited” by a Five kumu hula - I’ll call her R. Knowing her to be a gifted but demanding teacher, we were quite literally quaking in our pa`u (hula skirts).

She didn’t disappoint us. Right out of the box, she pushed and prodded us to moves more difficult than we thought we could ever perform. R never raised her voice, but to be the recipient of “the look” of icy disapproval spurred us all to become better dancers. The party was over. And we would do anything to avoid that look. (A hula halau is really a small family. I’ve heard a number of Fives on panels remark that they can be quite bossy and controlling in the comfort of their own families.)

As we became more proficient, more shy smiles and laughter were bestowed upon us. Rarely, we got a “that was beautiful.” Our group began winning the annual competition for our age group. We were not just enjoying hula, we were becoming better dancers.

My most illustrative Five story of her is this one. We were attending Merrie Monarch, the annual hula olympics held in Hilo, Hawaii. The young girls were entered in the competition. At the conclusion of the 4 day festival, all the Kumu Hula were invited up on stage to be introduced and feted.

R runs our hula halau with her Kumu Hula sister, M, who is a Three. M does fundraising and is the front person for the group while R choreographs and trains us. When the announcer called for them to come up on stage together, up comes M... and A! A is another Kumu Hula from Molokai, who pitches in during Merrie Monarch. R would not come out nor be seen.

We dubbed her “The Invisible Kumu”, even though virtually none of my hula sisters know the Enneagram. Every year that our group participates in this festival, A comes up on stage as R. Most of the other Kumu Hula know, as do we, who R really is. No one lets the kitten out of the bag. We all respect her need for privacy and space. I’ve grown to love her dearly, although she is still reserved with all of us.

H, one of my hula teachers, is a Three. At 83 years of age, she can outbend, outsway, and outlast any of her younger students. She yells at us to “Ai ha`a. Bend lower. You look like a bunch of sticks out there dancing.”

How we look is all important to H, as it is a direct reflection on her. I have to say that she is far and away the best hula fashionista. (K, our beloved Six, used to say “Ladies, ladies. Wear anything. It’s not about what you’re wearing. It’s about the dance.) The Three would never say that.

Now hula clothes by definition are not your normal apparel. Bright colors with huge flower prints are a mainstay. Color combos range from unusual to downright startling. Often, the halau gets to help choose fabric for outfits. (Although democracy in this case can be a bad idea.)

H simply told us what we would wear after carefully choosing colors that looked good on all of us. I have to say it, we looked great. And our hour long practices often stretched into two or three hours if we were to perform. She never expects more from us than she’ll give herself. Even now.

Finally, I’ve been blessed to learn most recently from a lovely Nine. G is kind and gentle in the extreme, yet corrects us by demonstrating how the dance should appear. We learn from her by emulating. She dances with us. She may be the most graceful hula dancer I’ve seen. And I’ve seen a lot.

As for conflicts? Regarding just about anything: scheduling, clothes, you name it? “Oh,” she laughs. “I’m not good with that. Talk to S.” [our bossy hula sister who does all the scut work. Loudly.] “She’ll take care of it.”

She seems to have no favorites, loving and embracing each of us equally. She gives feedback via her iPad, videoing us and letting us watch ourselves to see what works and what doesn’t. (She’s a high tech Kumu, but it allows her to help us without criticizing.)

And speaking of favorites, which is my favorite Kumu? All of them! The Enneagram illuminates the gifts of each and helps me understand each Kumu’s point of view. Somehow, knowing the Enneagram makes me appreciate them more deeply. And I don’t take it personally when they teach me coming from their own perspectives rather than mine or one I might expect. I’d love to learn from all Nine types if I could. For now, I’ll just revel in being part of a greater dance.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Dancing with the Enneagram Part I

The Enneagram is such a powerful map that it can help us in nearly every aspect of our daily lives. It helps us to understand ourselves (and grow ourselves.) And it helps us understand others’ internal landscapes enough to open a space for mutual connection and compassion. In other words, we don’t take everything another says or does personally when it is simply a reflection of a different, equally valid worldview.

I’ve been dancing hula for 12 years. In that space of time, I’ve had a total of five kumu hula or hula masters teach me. The Enneagram was invaluable in honoring each of them. And it saved me from confusion, hurt, and misunderstandings that inevitably develop when we believe everyone see the world in the same way.

My first hula teacher we’ll call him “N”, was a sweet, warm Six. He coaxed and coddled us. He never yelled. He reassured us that we would not die if we performed in public by foreseeing the worst that could happen, naming it, and letting us know we’d still survive. He was the perfect teacher for a tentative beginner.

However N would not appear on video because he believed that people might get hold of it and misuse it. He was never clear quite how or why. Knowing he was a Six made it easy for me to understand how scary this might be and to just let it go, even though so many other Kumu Hula were allowing students to use new technology to reinforce learning with the understanding that they were not to share it.

Some of my hula sisters had no map for understanding and were irritable, challenging him on his rule. Which only reinforced that nothing good could come of this. Already it was causing problems.

My favorite Six story about N is this: we were invited to the opening of a sacred site that had been restored as a hula platform high on a hill overlooking our whole island. Another hula master’s halau (school) had initiated the restoration and invited a few halaus and many elders to this ceremony.

Each hula master was to chant or oli a prayer. When it came N’s turn, he blanched and said, “I can’t. I can’t chant in front of him, he’s a hula master.”

“You can do it,” I whispered. “Remember, you’re a hula master, too.” He looked startled, then walked up and delivered his chant. I think he actually “forgot” that he was an equal to the other Kumu Hula there.

I’d heard about Kumu F long before I met him. “It’s all about him,” claimed a friend. “He’s got to be the center of attention.”

The more I heard, the more I fashioned him in my mind as a Three. I was prepared.

The first evening of a week long intensive, he gathered us together. “You need to know a couple of things about me,” he said. “#1, It’s my way or the highway. #2 I tend to be blunt and to the point. Deal with it. #3 There’s no crying in hula.”

I still dance with this wonderful, strong Eight Kumu once a year. Some say he is arrogant. Perhaps, but I’d say he’s accomplished. As a historian, singer-songwriter, educator and cultural resource, even elders defer to him. (Elders in Hawai`i are the top of the food chain, just the opposite of our mainland American culture.)

Dealing with him, I didn’t take it personally when he corrected us strongly. In comparison to N, it might have seemed harsh. But he was merely being blunt and clear. Most important, I would meet his energy. There’s no crying in hula, after all.

As I knew him longer, I began to see the move to Two as a large part of him. As an Eight, he hated anyone to call attention to his loving care and attention. So I learned acceptance of his gifts without too much thank you or gushing.

My favorite Eight to Two story? He had written a poignant good-bye song for a dear friend’s death. We were to learn and perform it for the first time that week. As we practiced over and over, the energy in the room became sad and heavy. We were lost in grief as we danced.

“Okay,” he snapped. “That’s it. Go change clothes. We need a mood change - time for chocolate, coffee, and shopping. Get moving, we leave in 10 minutes.”

After our antioxidant and retail therapy, we were able to continue dancing and expressing the emotion of the song without being overwhelmed by it. Gut knowing and caretaking. Eight meets Two.

There is a Hawaii`ian proverb about hula: A`ohe pau ka `ike i ka halau ho`okahi which translates as “not all knowledge is taught in one school.” And as we Enneagram enthusiasts know: not all reality is contained in one type or worldview. When we open to other ways of perceiving and being in the world, we are expanding our experience, of ourselves and one another.

Stay tuned for Part 2 where I am lucky enough to learn hula from a Five, a Three, and a Nine.