March 19th, 2020 by Dave No comments »

A Message from Richard Rohr about COVID-19

Love Alone Overcomes Fear 
Thursday, March 19, 2020

It is shocking to think how much the world has changed in such a brief time. Each of us has had our lives and communities disrupted. Of course, I am here in this with you. I feel that I’m in no position to tell you how to feel or how to think, but there are a few things that come to mind I will share. 

A few days ago I was encouraged by the Franciscans and by the leadership team here at the CAC to self-quarantine, so I’ve been in my little hermitage now for three or four days. I’ve had years of practice, literally, how to do what we are calling “social distancing.” I have a nice, large yard behind me where there are four huge, beautiful cottonwood trees, and so I walk my dog Opie every few hours.

Right now I’m trying to take in psychologically, spiritually, and personally, what is God trying to say? When I use that phrase, I’m not saying that God causes suffering to teach us good things. But God does use everything, and if God wanted us to experience global solidarity, I can’t think of a better way. We all have access to this suffering, and it bypasses race, gender, religion, and nation. 

We are in the midst of a highly teachable moment. There’s no doubt that this period will be referred to for the rest of our lifetimes. We have a chance to go deep, and to go broad. Globally, we’re in this together. Depth is being forced on us by great suffering, which as I like to say, always leads to great love. 

But for God to reach us, we have to allow suffering to wound us. Now is no time for an academic solidarity with the world. Real solidarity needs to be felt and suffered. That’s the real meaning of the word “suffer” – to allow someone else’s pain to influence us in a real way. We need to move beyond our own personal feelings and take in the whole. This, I must say, is one of the gifts of television: we can turn it on and see how people in countries other than our own are hurting. What is going to happen to those living in isolated places or for those who don’t have health care? Imagine the fragility of the most marginalized, of people in prisons, the homeless, or even the people performing necessary services, such as ambulance drivers, nurses, and doctors, risking their lives to keep society together? Our feelings of urgency and devastation are not exaggeration: they are responding to the real human situation. We’re not pushing the panic button; we are the panic button. And we have to allow these feelings, and invite God’s presence to hold and sustain us in a time of collective prayer and lament. 

I hope this experience will force our attention outwards to the suffering of the most vulnerable. Love always means going beyond yourself to otherness. It takes two. There has to be the lover and the beloved. We must be stretched to an encounter with otherness, and only then do we know it’s love. This is what we call the subject-subject relationship. Love alone overcomes fear and is the true foundation that lasts (1 Corinthians 13:13). 
 

Inner Experience

March 18th, 2020 by JDVaughn No comments »

Disciples, Prophets, and Mystics

Inner Experience
Wednesday, March 18, 2020

While most Christians consider themselves disciples of Jesus and try to follow his teachings, a much smaller number move toward practical acts of service or solidarity. But I’m afraid even fewer Christians have the courage to go on the much deeper mystical path. Both Catholics and Protestants have failed our people by mystifying the very notion of mysticism. The word itself has become relegated to a “misty” and distant realm that implies it is only available to very few and something not to be trusted, much less attractive or desirable. For me, the word “mysticism” simply means experiential knowledge of spiritual things, as opposed to book knowledge, secondhand knowledge, or even church knowledge.
Most of organized religion, without meaning to, has actually discouraged us from taking the mystical path by telling us almost exclusively to trust outer authority—in the form of Scripture, tradition, or various kinds of experts—instead of telling us the value and importance of inner experience. (I call that trusting the “containers” instead of the “contents.”) In fact, most of us were strongly warned against ever trusting ourselves, told that our personal experiences of the divine were unnecessary and possibly even dangerous.
Discouraging or denying people’s actual experiences of God often created passive people and, more sadly, a lot of people who concluded that there was no God to be experienced! We were taught to mistrust our own souls—and thus the Holy Spirit within us. We can contrast that with Jesus’ common phrase, “Go in peace, your faith has made you whole!” (as in Mark 5:34 and Luke 17:19). He said this to people who had made no dogmatic affirmations, did not think he was “God,” did not pass any moral checklist, and often did not belong to the “correct” group. They were simply people who trustfully affirmed, with open hearts, the grace of their own hungry experience—in that moment—and that God could care about it.
The irony in all of these attempts to over-rely on externals is that people end up relying upon their own experience anyway! Most of us—by necessity—see everything, mystical and otherwise, through the lens of our own temperament, early conditioning, brain function, role and place in society, education, our personal needs, and cultural biases and assumptions. Admittedly, personal experiences are easy to misinterpret, and we shouldn’t universalize from our “moment” to an expectation that everybody must have the same kind of “moment.” We also can’t assume that any experience is 100 percent from God. We must develop filters to clear away our own agenda and ego. Nothing beats a solid understanding of some theology, psychology, and sociology, along with good and wise counsel. We cannot forget Paul’s reminder which was meant to keep us humble: “We know imperfectly and we prophesy imperfectly” (1 Corinthians 13:9).

Disciples, Prophets, and Mystics

March 17th, 2020 by Dave No comments »

Reading the Signs of The Times 
Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Author and Dominican priest Albert Nolan has written many prophetic works that bring attention to systems of oppression throughout the world. His writings were influential in ending apartheid in his own nation of South Africa. Today he explains the spirals of violence that Jesus would have witnessed and encountered firsthand. 

Prophets are typically people who can foretell the future, not as fortune-tellers, but as people who have learned to read the signs of their times. It is by focusing their attention on, and becoming fully aware of, the political, social, economic, military, and religious tendencies of their time that prophets are able to see where it is all heading. 

Reading the signs of his times would have been an integral part of Jesus’ spirituality. 

In the first place, like many of the Hebrew prophets, Jesus must have seen the threatening armies of a powerful empire on the horizon—in this case the Roman Empire. Imperial power was well known to the prophets. At one time or another the people of Israel had been oppressed by the Egyptians, the Canaanites, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, and the Greeks. The prophets warned against collaborating with these power structures and promised that each of them would one day decline and fall—which they did. In this the prophets saw the finger of God. 

In Jesus’ view, it would only be a matter of time before the Roman armies felt sufficiently provoked to attack and destroy Jerusalem. . . .   

For most Jews, the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem would mean the destruction of their worship, their culture, and their nation. Jesus’ concern was not for the future of the temple but for the people of Jerusalem, especially the women and children who would suffer so much at the hands of the Romans (Luke 19:44; 21:21-24). 

What Jesus must also have seen was the spiral of violence in which the Galilean peasants were caught up…Jesus himself would have been a peasant…Peasants were not only poor, they were exploited and oppressed—and not only by the Romans, but also by the Herods and the rich landowners.  

Jesus, reading the signs of the times from the perspective of a Galilean peasant, would have seen that this spiral of violence held no hope for the poor and the oppressed. The people were powerless and helpless [and the victims of huge structural violence which is largely invisible except to those who are suffering from it. –RR] 

Two thousand years later, prophets still raise their voices against the spirals of violence that continue to rob the poor and the oppressed of hope. Do we even hear them? Are we any more likely to act on their wisdom than our biblical ancestors or do we also dismiss them and their message? I’m afraid it’s the latter, but it is only by choosing the former that we play our part as disciples of Jesus.  

Reading the Sign of the Times

March 17th, 2020 by JDVaughn No comments »

Disciples, Prophets, and Mystics

Reading the Signs of The Times 
Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Author and Dominican priest Albert Nolan has written many prophetic works that bring attention to systems of oppression throughout the world. His writings were influential in ending apartheid in his own nation of South Africa. Today he explains the spirals of violence that Jesus would have witnessed and encountered firsthand. 

Prophets are typically people who can foretell the future, not as fortune-tellers, but as people who have learned to read the signs of their times. It is by focusing their attention on, and becoming fully aware of, the political, social, economic, military, and religious tendencies of their time that prophets are able to see where it is all heading. 

Reading the signs of his times would have been an integral part of Jesus’ spirituality. 

In the first place, like many of the Hebrew prophets, Jesus must have seen the threatening armies of a powerful empire on the horizon—in this case the Roman Empire. Imperial power was well known to the prophets. At one time or another the people of Israel had been oppressed by the Egyptians, the Canaanites, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, and the Greeks. The prophets warned against collaborating with these power structures and promised that each of them would one day decline and fall—which they did. In this the prophets saw the finger of God. 

In Jesus’ view, it would only be a matter of time before the Roman armies felt sufficiently provoked to attack and destroy Jerusalem. . . .   

For most Jews, the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem would mean the destruction of their worship, their culture, and their nation. Jesus’ concern was not for the future of the temple but for the people of Jerusalem, especially the women and children who would suffer so much at the hands of the Romans (Luke 19:44; 21:21-24). 

What Jesus must also have seen was the spiral of violence in which the Galilean peasants were caught up…Jesus himself would have been a peasant…Peasants were not only poor, they were exploited and oppressed—and not only by the Romans, but also by the Herods and the rich landowners.  

Jesus, reading the signs of the times from the perspective of a Galilean peasant, would have seen that this spiral of violence held no hope for the poor and the oppressed. The people were powerless and helpless [and the victims of huge structural violence which is largely invisible except to those who are suffering from it. –RR] 

Two thousand years later, prophets still raise their voices against the spirals of violence that continue to rob the poor and the oppressed of hope. Do we even hear them? Are we any more likely to act on their wisdom than our biblical ancestors or do we also dismiss them and their message? I’m afraid it’s the latter, but it is only by choosing the former that we play our part as disciples of Jesus.  

Disciples, Prophets, and Mystics

March 16th, 2020 by Dave No comments »

Always Listening
Sunday, March 15, 2020

Paul writes, “May the mind that is in Christ Jesus also be in you” (Philippians 2:5). This is the truest depth of our Christian tradition, what it truly means to be a disciple of Jesus. We are called to recognize, surrender to, and ultimately be identified with the mystery of God utterly beyond all concepts, all words, and all designations. This is our destiny. —James Finley [1]

We have to remember that Jesus says nothing to us that he hasn’t somehow heard from God. Jesus is totally faithful to his relationship with God, whom he called “Abba.” It was because of the familial nature of their relationship that he was able to teach, heal, bless, and create the spiritual family we call the church. To be disciples of Jesus, we have to let ourselves be loved as he did. It is in receiving that love that we find our strength and power.

For Jesus, “discipleship” is about being in an intimate, loving, and challenging relationship, much like that between parent and child. There is a unique nature to the healthy parent-child relationship, and each person has a role to play. Ideally, the parent employs the gifts of experience and knowledge to care for, nurture, and protect the child. In turn, the child can depend on and trust the parent for sustenance, well-being, and guidance in a world of unknowing. Discipleship follows that sequence. First, we must learn how to be God’s children, allowing ourselves to receive love, to be loved, to be cared for, and believed in, so that we can be entrusted to go about our “Father’s business” as Jesus did (see Luke 2:49).

In the beginning, Jesus steps into his ministry as a child of God, not as the parent or authority figure. Rather, he lets himself be the recipient, and he trusts God to lead him. Because Jesus is always listening to God and experiencing God’s presence, God is able to continually teach him. Jesus doesn’t begin his life full of power and authority. He is born helpless and vulnerable like all of us, but throughout his life, he continues to grow in love and wisdom (see Luke 2:52). Like every true disciple, Jesus comes into the fullness of his being by faithfully following and listening to his Great Teacher, the unspeakable YHWH.

At the end of prayer in Jesus’ Judaism there is a beautiful and powerful expression of affirmation, “Amen,” which Christians adopted. Yet Jesus, a devout Jew, puts it at the beginning of everything important he says. Why would he do that? When Jesus says “Amen, Amen,” [there are numerous examples in John’s gospel] I believe he is seconding the motion: “Amen” to what he has first heard from God and a second “Amen” to the authority with which he holds and passes on that same message to us. Like good disciples, in loving relationship with God and companions with Jesus, we must pray for the confidence to also say, as it were, “Amen, Amen.” What I have heard from God is now mine to pass on to you—on the level of inner experience more than the level of knowledge.

Speaking Out 
Monday, March 16, 2020

Prophets must first be true disciples of their faith. In fact, it is their deep love for their tradition that allows them to criticize it at the same time. This is almost always the hallmark of a prophet. Their deepest motivation is not negative but profoundly positive. The dualistic mind presumes that if you criticize something, you don’t love it, but I would say just the opposite. There is a major difference between negative criticism and positive critique. The first stems from the need for power; the second flows from love. 

Institutions prefer loyalists and “company men” to prophets, even if they are mature institutions. We’re uncomfortable with people who point out our shortcomings or imperfections, but human consciousness does not emerge at any depth except through struggling with our shadow and contradictions. It is in the struggle with our shadow self, with failure, or with wounding that we are transformed and break into higher levels of consciousness. People who learn to expose, name, and still thrive inside of a world filled with contradictions are what I would call prophets. They are both faithful and critical. 

Albert Nolan is a Dominican priest from South Africa and the author of several books that challenge us to consider what it means to be a disciple and follower of Jesus. Today, he describes the role of a prophet and how Jesus fulfilled it.   

Prophets are people who speak out when others remain silent. They criticize their own society, their own country, or their own religious institutions. . . . This leads inevitably to tension and even some measure of conflict between the prophet and the establishment. In the Hebrew Scriptures we see how the prophets clashed with kings and sometimes priests too. Jesus was painfully aware of this tension or conflict in the traditions of the prophets. “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you . . . for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets” (Luke 6:22-23). Jesus saw those who killed the prophets in the past as the ancestors or predecessors of the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 23:29-35). 

The tension or conflict is between authority and experience. True prophets are not part of the authority structure of their society or their religious institution. Unlike priests and kings, prophets are never appointed, ordained, or anointed by the religious establishment. They experience a special calling that comes directly from God, and their message comes from their experience of God: “Thus says the Lord God.” 

We have seen how boldly and radically Jesus spoke out against the assumptions and practices of the social and religious establishment of his time. He turned their world upside down. The conflict that this created became so intense that in the end they killed him to keep him quiet. 

Any attempt to practice the same spirituality as Jesus would entail learning to speak truth to power as he did—and facing the consequences. [1] 

Type Seven: The Need to Avoid Pain

March 13th, 2020 by JDVaughn No comments »

Type Seven: The Need to Avoid Pain 
Friday, March 13, 2020 

Holy Idea: Holy Wisdom, Holy Work, Holy Plan 

Virtue: Sobriety 

Passion: Gluttony [1] 

Sevens have been called the “Peter Pans” of the world, yet many Sevens, including our own Director of the Center for Action and Contemplation, are completely dedicated to the hard work of healing and transforming the world. Their own inner hope and optimism reveal what’s possible and they want to share it with the world. On a soul level they share Julian of Norwich’s vision that “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” [2] CAC faculty member Cynthia Bourgeault resonates with many aspects of the Seven typology, seeing in this type a freedom and fullness of being. [3] Chris Heuertz, author of The Sacred Enneagram, shares a description of the often delightful and complex Sevens. 

Sevens, the most energetic of all Enneagram types, are a source of imagination and freedom in the world. Due to their charming and winsome energy, Sevens are often mistaken as feeling types. Because they come across as very heart-forward, they are frequently assumed to be in their hearts, but Sevens are actually rooted in the Head Center.  

[Richard here: It can be hard to recognize how Sevens operate out of the Head Center; they are always “doing” and “emoting” positive feelings, but if you scratch beneath the surface, you find a deep-seated fear, present in all the head types.]  

Their fundamental need is to avoid pain, so Sevens are perpetually looking for distractions and opportunities to stay as far away as possible from their inner aches. [It largely works for them for much of their life. . . but not always! And that is often their undoing. So they must watch for their gluttonous attitude very carefully.

The Childhood Wound of a Seven was experienced in relationship to the nurturing energy of their caregiver; they felt frustrated because they weren’t nurtured enough, always needing more. And so Sevens take on a self-nurturing posture as a means of coping with their residual pain and frustration.  

The Basic Fear of the Seven is of dispossession and deprivation. Scarcity of options and opportunity creates tremendous anxiety for Sevens. They are terrified of being stuck with their own pain, so they stay overly active to stave off the inner ache they desperately and frenetically avoid facing. . . .  

The traditional Passion of the Seven is gluttony . . . their determination to overdo everything that brings them gratification—feasting on options and opportunities until they are overwhelmed by their indulgences and sickened by their excessive addiction to pleasure [that sometimes appears as fun, travel, and distraction]. 

Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson write about how Essence emerges in Sevens: 

Sevens realize on the most profound level of their consciousness that life really is a gift. One of the big lessons that the Seven offers is that there is nothing wrong with life, nothing wrong with the material world. It is the gift of the Creator. If we were not to take anything for granted, we would be flooded with joy and gratitude all the time. [4]  

Enneagram Part Three: Head Center

March 12th, 2020 by Dave No comments »

Type Six: The Need for Security  
Thursday, March 12, 2020 

Holy Idea: Holy Strength, Holy Faith 

Virtue: Courage 

Passion: Fear [1]  

People who are predominantly type Six have tremendous gifts: they are cooperative, team players, reliable, and loyal. In relationships, one can count on their fidelity. Their friendships are marked by warmhearted and deep feelings. They do their utmost—give body and soul—for the people they love. They are often highly original and witty with a dry sense of humor. Sometimes it takes those around them a moment to catch on to the joke! 

Because of their childhood experience, which was often marked by trauma, Sixes have a deep sense of anxiety. They continually sense danger, which makes them fearful and mistrustful. They easily succumb to self-doubt. While most of us experience the aftereffects of a stressful or traumatic event, Sixes feel that kind of anxiety on an almost daily basis. It isn’t the event that has already happened, but the one that could happen at any time that keeps them in a state of high alert.  

The lack of genuine self-confidence leads Sixes to look around for authority figures and structures that offer them the security and certainty they crave. At their worst, Sixes can become authoritarians, people who want truth in totalitarian, self-righteous fashion and are loyal to a fault, making choices that are not aligned with their deepest values or wisdom. They often give themselves dangerously to strongmen, hierarchical figures, and absolutely certain groups (fundamentalists) to take away their anxiety. 

Sixes used to be categorized into two types: phobic and contraphobic—those who obeyed their fear and those who rebelled against it by taking great risks. But it appears that most Sixes are a combination of both, “playing it safe” or facing their fear head on, depending on the situation. This makes perfect sense according to this description of Sixes from Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson:  

No matter what we say about Sixes, the opposite is often also as true. They are both strong and weak, fearful and courageous, trusting and distrusting, defenders and provokers, . . . aggressive and passive, bullies and weaklings, . . . thinkers and doers, group people and soloists, believers and doubters, cooperative and obstructionistic, . . . —and on and on. It is the contradictory picture that is the characteristic “fingerprint” of Sixes, the fact that they are a bundle of opposites. [2] 

Riso and Hudson write this about the emergence of Essence in Sixes: 

When their minds become quiet, Sixes experience an inner spaciousness that is the Ground of Being. They realize that Essence is real and is not simply an idea; in fact, it is the thing that is most real in existence, the very foundation of existence itself. People have associated this inner peace with the presence of God, which is manifesting itself at every moment, and which is available at every moment. When Sixes experience this truth, they feel solid, steady, and supported. . . . They realize that this ground is the only real security in life, and it is what gives Sixes immense courage.  

This is the real meaning of faith, their particular Essential quality. Faith is not belief, but a real, immediate knowing that comes from experience. . . . Faith with experience brings reliable guidance. [3]  

Enneagram Part Three: Head Center

March 10th, 2020 by Dave No comments »


The Head Center
Tuesday, March 10, 2020

My friend and Enneagram teacher Russ Hudson describes the Head Center, the final Intelligence Center of the Enneagram, in his own unique and “heady” way:  

Some of the Eastern religions, particularly Buddhism, did a very thorough investigation of the nature of the Head Center. That’s one of the reasons I think Thomas Merton was drawn to studying certain things about Buddhist practice. What [Eastern traditions] all agree on is the true nature of Mind is complete stillness, silence, and spaciousness. Boundless stillness, peace, clarity, forever and ever, amen. So I would say that the Head Center gives us the possibility of sensing, recognizing the Eternal Presence that’s right here in the midst of phenomena. . . .  

There is this process of opening to this stillness, the vast freedom, peace, clarity of the soul, of spirit. . . . You could see your thoughts are happening. [But] what surrounds them and is inside them is this tremendous peace and stillness. And . . . this stillness is not inactive. . . . The stillness . . . brings the sense of knowing, of recognition, of clarity and wisdom. Don [Riso] and I have called it the sense of guidance, where you’re kind of clear it’s not you thinking exactly. It’s like a spontaneous recognition of truth/reality that just comes. You don’t have to plan it. It’s like you just relax and suddenly. . . . Pow. There it is. It’s right in your mind. [1] 

Fives, Sixes, and Sevens cannot get their minds to simmer down. This is a problem because the quiet mind allows us to feel profoundly supported: inner knowing and guidance arise from the quiet mind and give us confidence to act in the world. [2] 

When you know this Presence directly, you experience it as the ground of everything and especially the ground of you. And when you know that, you know that what you are is just an expression of that, and the core of what you are cannot be harmed or taken away. . . . That presence is the Divine Presence. And it’s not a rumor! It’s not something you have to believe in. . . . 

Just land where you are, open to the stillness, and know that what you seek is already here, holding everything you do every step of the way, guiding you, supporting you, in you, around you. You can’t lose it! And it is never failing you. 

[The Five, Six, and Seven] in essence are trying to get back to or find this sense of ground, direction, and guidance. That’s what we’re looking for in this triad.  

[The Body types] were the “I don’t want to be messed with” types. [The] Heart types were the “See me the way I want to be seen types.” [The Head types] are the “What can I trust?” types. In other words, I’m looking for something to be that orientation, ground, and guidance, which is utterly trustworthy. [3] None of us are the whole Body of Christ, but we each offer part of the Great Gift of God. 

A Dynamic Symbol

March 9th, 2020 by JDVaughn No comments »

Enneagram Part Three: Head Center

A Dynamic Symbol
Monday, March 9, 2020

One of the most confusing aspects of the Enneagram can be the nine lines and “arrows” that seem to crisscross the Enneagram symbol but are the basis of its foundation and wisdom. In The Sacred Enneagram, Chris Heuertz explains what these lines mean:

One fundamental component of understanding [Enneagram] type involves the lines [and arrows] within the Enneagram’s symbol. These crisscrossing lines show us the movement of our type when operating in a healthy or unhealthy state.

There are several schools of thought about the traversing of lines inside the Enneagram, each with diverging philosophies regarding their implications. For instance, the Enneagram Institute refers to the lines as the directions of integration and disintegration; the Enneagram in the Narrative Tradition refers to them as our Security Types and Stress Types; the Chilean grandfather of the modern Enneagram, Claudio Naranjo, used the language Heart Points and Stress Points; and H. A. Almaas originated the notion of the Soul Child, which Father Richard [Rohr] and Sandra Maitri continued to develop. [1]

These are all different ways of describing the dynamic of each type as it presses into growth or reverts to patterns of self-sabotage. This is where we encounter the uniqueness of the Enneagram as a character-structure construct: it offers both a portrait of healthy and a portrait of unhealthy for each type, and prompts us to identify honestly where we are functioning on that spectrum. This might vary from day to day or even hour to hour, but the gift presented to us is greater awareness that leads to psychological and spiritual growth. . . .

Integration or security allows our dominant type to borrow the positive traits of another type. For example, a healthy person dominant in type One integrates or borrows some of the positive traits of type Seven by relaxing their inner drive for perfection and allowing themselves to become a little playful and spontaneous. . . .

When they lose themselves . . . Ones disintegrate toward the Four . . . [and] believe their own lie that they alone are the only ones who understand and value excellence—that no one else has the capacity to grasp what is required for goodness to be actualized in the world.

A newer theory that I happen to agree with is that our path of disintegration is that innate self-survival reflex that stops our fall by reaching out to the lower-level manipulation techniques of another type as a way of getting our attention—letting us know we are falling and if we don’t catch ourselves we’ll “break our arm” or worse.

While it is helpful to see the full picture of the type from which we borrow in health, the key for all of us is to focus on health and growth in our [own] dominant type. To recognize ourselves in integration requires that we accept the best of ourselves in our dominant type. . . .

Giving ourselves to this path requires a disciplined cultivation of spiritual depth accessible only through faithful contemplative practice that brings us into the transforming presence of a loving God.

Enneagram Part Three: Head Center

Two Sides of the Coin
Sunday, March 8, 2020

If taken seriously and used responsibly, the Enneagram is a tool that can help us move from dualistic thinking to nondual consciousness. It helps us recognize and forgive the paradoxes that we all carry, what we might call our “sins.” The Enneagram shows us how we continually do things we don’t want to do (our fixations, passions, and patterns) and can’t quite seem to do the things we want (see Romans 7:15-20).

But the Enneagram also insists that our virtue and our passion are two sides of one coin. The way to find our unique gift is often through our flaws. And the way to discover our flaws is often through our gift. Who would have thought?

Eventually we have to admit that our mistakes and failures (our “sins”) are our greatest teachers. The Enneagram taught me that like nothing else in my life. It taught me that I’m a living paradox. For the first half of my life, even with my theological training and maybe even because of it, I largely denied that split or avoided it by confessing my sins too quickly—making them something “out there” I could get rid of instead of something “in here” from which I could learn.

Most Christians were trained to think that we would be punished for our sins, but I’ve come to believe we are punished by our sins. The Enneagram helps me to recognize the punishment I’m inflicting on myself when I remain unconscious of the fears and judgments that drive my behavior. When I am not in honest relationship and present to my whole self, I am much further away from the Divine Presence who forgives everything.

The work of spirituality is to make our presence to Presence possible by keeping the heart space open (through love), the mind space right (through contemplation), and the body resting in the present moment. Those who are alert and awake in all these three centers of Intelligence at once can experience Presence. The Enneagram points out nine particular ways we avoid being present in the moment.

If we deny or eliminate the mysterious, problematic, negative, or wounded parts of ourselves or pretend they’re not there, I don’t think we can relate to God very well, because we will also deny and hide from the mysterious and vulnerable nature of God.

For me, the Enneagram is about as good a tool as I can find to reveal that we are living contradictions and we always will be. Don’t try to overcome your contradictions! Learn from them. Amazingly, that is what makes us compassionate, merciful, forgiving, sensitive, open-hearted, bridge-building people.

It’s all about love. It’s not about moral achievements. The goal of the entire spiritual journey is union in love. And love is not achieved by any performance principle, but it is something we “fall into” when we are not in full control.

Enneagram Part Two: Heart Center:

Summary: Sunday, March 1–Friday, March 6, 2020

Through the lens of the Enneagram we have greater self-knowledge and the ability to let go of what only seems good in order to discover what in us is really good. (Sunday)

Something is clearly working here, and the enneagram of personality movement seems to be manifesting the fruits of conscious inner work in ways that are both personally authentic and statistically significant. —Cynthia Bourgeault (Monday)

Being in touch with the heart tells us the quality of our existence, tells us how we recognize the truth. . . . The heart also is the place where we know who we really are. —Russ Hudson (Tuesday)

Twos are healed and redeemed the more they experience God as the Real Lover and realize that true, selfless love only comes by sharing in God’s love. (Wednesday)

At their healthiest, Threes let go of the belief that their value is dependent on the positive regard of others, thus freeing them to discover their true identity and their own heart’s desire. —Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson (Thursday)

At this [healthy] stage, Fours no longer need to feel different or special, seeing that, indeed, the universe has created only one of them, and that they are part of everything else—not isolated and alone. —Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson (Friday)

Practice: The Brain-Based Enneagram

This week’s invitation to contemplative practice is again drawn from Whole-Identity: A Brain-Based Enneagram Model for (W)holistic Human Thriving, by Living School student Dr. Jerome Lubbe. It is certainly a different way of understanding the Enneagram than I was taught so many years ago, but while the symbol is ancient and perennial, the wisdom is continually evolving, just like we should be.

“What is your number?” is the most frequently asked question in regard to the Enneagram. But in the Brain-Based model, we learn to see ourselves as all nine numbers simultaneously, and to consider our efficiency in each. For example, instead of “I am a One” you might say, “I have high efficiency in One,” and then perhaps, “my Seven nature is strong as well.” That means if you tested as a One you would not “be” a One but instead would have high efficiency” in the nature of One. When that is the case, you can further inquire, “. . . and what is my relationship to the rest of the numbers/natures?” All around the circle, you witness the efficiency or inefficiency with which you utilize each number and paint a more (w)holistic picture of your personal neuropsychology.

Efficiency in a number means there is an ease of relationship with the nature of that number. It means you engage often. Efficiency by definition is, “accomplishing a task with the least amount of allocated resources and energy required.” It is important to understand this is not an indication of health, but of ease of use. Someone who enjoys autonomy is going to have a high efficiency in Eight, but that doesn’t mean they are an Eight. They’re multi-faceted. For instance, perhaps they also value clarity and authenticity, so they’re efficient in Five and Four nature(s) as well. The analysis should be applied to all nine numbers for a more integrated perspective of the whole.

Inefficiency in a number means there is less ease in the relationship with the nature of that number. You don’t often engage. . . . Accomplishing tasks related to inefficient number/natures requires increased allocation of resources and utilizes a significant amount of energy. Imagine the same person who is efficient in Eight struggles to see the value of serenity. . . . They are likely inefficient in Six and Nine. Instead of turning Six and Nine away as irrelevant, they can instead expand their capacity. . . .

Every single person has access to all nine numbers. Based on nature, nurture, and discipline, you express the values of each number at varying degrees of intensity based on your lived experience.

You are not one thing; you are complex and multifaceted; you are interconnected. This is a vital paradigm shift. When you consider having access to all nine numbers simultaneously, you increase and expand your capacity for thriving. [1]

Considering what you know of the Enneagram so far, in what numbers do you experience ease, or in Lubbe’s language, sense “efficiency”? Where do you feel less efficient? As a reminder, here are the values Lubbe identifies (as alternatives to “I am” statements):

Eight: I value Autonomy

Nine: I value Serenity

One: I value Justice

Two: I value Appreciation

Three: I value Authenticity

Four: I value Creativity

Five: I value Clarity

Six: I value Guarantees

Seven: I value Experiences [2]

Type Four: The Need to Be Special

March 6th, 2020 by JDVaughn No comments »

Enneagram Part Two:
Heart Center

Type Four: The Need to Be Special
Friday, March 6, 2020

Holy Idea: Holy Origin 

Virtue: Equanimity, Emotional Balance 

Passion: Envy [1]  

Fours once lived serenely as an essential part of a united and beautiful world. But at some point during childhood, the union and beauty were seemingly broken. So, for much of their lives, Fours desperately try to create an outer world of balance and symmetry. They put their gifts to work to awaken a sense of beauty and harmony in their surroundings. They are highly sensitive and almost always artistically gifted. They grasp the moods and feelings of other people and the atmosphere of places and events with uncanny precision.  

Fours reject the division of the world into “sacred” and “profane.” They are more at home in the realm of the unconscious, of symbols and dreams, than in the real world. Symbols help them to be with and express themselves.  

Like others in the Heart center, Fours draw their vital energy from other people. Their life question is: “What do you think of me? Do you notice me? Do I catch your eye?” Fours strive to be attractive in some way, to be exceptional, or, in some cases, to appear eccentric or exotic. Fours avoid ordinariness. They may panic when expected to look or act like everyone else.  

The life of Fours is primarily shaped by longing—for beauty, for love, for something lost. They wish that the world and life would fit together into a harmonic whole. Fours face the temptation to strive frantically for authenticity. Children, nature, and everything that radiates originality awakens in them the longing for the simplicity and naturalness that they lost at some point.  

Their root sin or passion is envy. They see immediately who has more style, talent, and original ideas. They constantly compare themselves with others, although not necessarily in a selfish way. This awareness hones their own giftedness.  

Fours are better than most types at understanding and guiding people in psychic distress. They are not intimidated by the difficult, complicated, or dark feelings of others, since they themselves have lived through it all. They are perhaps the least scandalized by “sin” in others because they have learned so much from disorder, asymmetry, suffering, and failure. 

Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson write: 

In the process of transformation, Fours let go of a particular self-image—that they are more inherently flawed than others, and that they are missing something that others have. They also realize that there is nothing wrong with them; they are as good as anyone else. And if there is nothing wrong with them, then no one needs to rescue them. They are entirely able to show up for themselves and create their own lives. . . . At this stage, Fours no longer need to feel different or special, seeing that, indeed, the universe has created only one of them, and that they are part of everything else—not isolated and alone.  

When Fours abide in their true nature, they are one with the ceaseless creativity and transformation that are a part of the dynamics of Essence. [2]