Calm is a SuperPower

Last Thursday, on Election Day morning, my daughter commented on how so many people she knew were so anxious and distraught on that day. She looked at me and said “But not you, mom.” It is in moments like this that I am grateful for the wisdom that comes from 68 years of life. I reminded her that for decades, we have lived through political storms and changing administrations. Daily life goes on and it is that precious rhythm of raising children, going to work, and running a household that provides the ballast. We laughed because this whole year has been nothing but uncertainty and we are making it work. We can do hard things. We just don’t have to make them harder by over-stressing about things we have no control over.

One day I was showing my young grandchildren an Inspiring Land and Sea video on my Headspace app and when they saw the manatee floating so peacefully above the ocean floor, they laughed and said “That’s you, Gigi — so calm!” I sometimes tease them that one of my superpowers is staying calm, so their sweet reaction felt like an affirmation.

Cultivating a genuine calmness that I could rely upon didn’t happen overnight. I had to get to the bottom of what was getting in my way — like old triggers and racing thoughts. Patience is definitely a big component of calmness and while I once perceived my natural tendency to be patient as a gift, I came to realize my patience had a few snags. One was that I was prone to stuffing my emotions. And thanks to the Enneagram, I discovered that I was far too often focused on others and ignoring my own needs. So I had an overdeveloped level of patience with others and a pressure cooker of stuffed emotions simmering inside of me. A surefire recipe for disaster when it came to unwavering calm.

Self-discovery and awareness have freed me from those old pitfalls. Unfortunately there are no short-cuts or magic wands. Like most things worth pursuing, it takes commitment and a lot of practice. But I could feel those changes becoming easier over time and eventually I had a newfound core of calm — a reliable and trustworthy resource for myself.

My daughter recently shared with me that she is a benefactor of my calmness, my patience and my insights.. When she told me this, I recalled Pema Chodrun teaches that when we do the work to develop better responses to life, we not only help ourselves but we also have a positive impact on those around us. These confirmations are a testament to her teachings.

Five years ago, I began to pursue some meaningful personal changes so that I would be better prepared to handle whatever life had in store. I could never have imagined a year like 2020 has been. All I know is I am incredibly grateful for doing the work and reaping its many benefits in a year that doled out uncertainty with abandon.

Check out these dynamic resources for more inspiration:

This is Why We Practice — Mindfulness Magazine http://resources.magappzine.com/feeds/production/comboapp/451/media/99677/b494b6d3-c716-43f8-b57b-29da7f2ceeba.html

Give Them What They Want – Dr. Rick Hanson – Facebook Post https://www.facebook.com/rickhansonphd/posts/1795305393965469

The Common Thread

Sometimes I discover a rich nugget of wisdom that seems to keep finding its way to me — a common thread that weaves itself in books, movies, songs and even the news.   The nugget of wisdom that keeps appearing recently is “paradox”.  

The wisdom of paradox — the ability to hold two seemingly opposite positions at the same time  –– first landed on me as I read Richard Rohr’s book, Falling Upward.  It resonated with me so deeply because of the current combination of complex, competing issues facing our country.   It seems as if we are facing multiple paradoxes and we could use a lot of help with the tension.  

Richard Rohr encourages us to experience the paradox in our lives as a way of “holding creative tension.”   He offers this observation:     “We are better at rushing to judgment and demanding a complete resolution to things before we have learned what they have to teach us.”  

Just sit with that for a moment.  It is a real life recognition of  knee jerk reactions and falling into habitual responses and behavioral patterns that simply aren’t working anymore.  This is incredibly evident in the constant stream of instant responses to current events that land on social media even as the news is still breaking.  Long before we even have all the facts. Long before we give ourselves time to examine it from all sides free from bias and automatic judgments.  

I used to ask my kids as teenagers and young adults, “What have you learned from this experience? ”  They were not big fans of this question, preferring a minor reprimand or loss of privilege to the harder task of actually thinking about the consequences of an action or decision.  While that may be a reasonable preference as a young adult, it is what Richard Rohr calls to our attention as we mature.  Our paradox as older and hopefully wiser adults is to be able to sit with the reality of a current situation and process it in a responsible, respectful, more reflective way.

Richard Rohr is also a big proponent of the Enneagram as a tool for self-discovery and greater self awareness.  Although he does not reference the Enneagram directly in his book Falling Upward, he does stress the value of being self-aware.  He stresses that as we mature and gain wisdom from our fallings and our failings, we may realize that behavioral patterns that served us well when we were younger are no longer effective.   In fact, they may be roadblocks in our lives.  It’s ironic that we expect our young children to move out of their emotional stages as they grow, but rarely as adults do we measure our own progress with emotional intelligence.

The paradox that seems to reveal itself is one of both “self-awareness” and “other awareness”.  Both Richard Rohr and Brene Brown teach that this is where we find compassion and empathy — for ourselves and for others.  The creative tension is recognizing that (a) there is a legitimate problem or an issue that needs to be addressed and (b) that we bring differing perspectives, opinions and emotions to the discussion and (c) that we will gain traction in problem resolution when we let go of blaming and denial, of playing the role of victim or demoting others and (d) we will move toward finding solutions when we listen to each other with respect and without judgment.

I found Richard’s assessment of those who have grown in wisdom, age and grace to be one of the most beautiful examples of paradox:  “Mature people are not “either or thinkers”, but they bathe in the ocean of “both-and.”

In late August, Brene Brown posted on her Facebook page about the paradox of “straddling the tension and trying not to tap out.  Forever convincing ourselves that we can hold so many contradictory pieces and feelings.”   Wow – that really struck a chord as I reflected on the many struggles that friends and family are juggling as this pandemic stretches into a new school year.  There are so many changes that young families must deal with and each member of the family has a range of emotions and insecurities that ebb and flow throughout the day.  The paradox of parenting in the current environment takes creative tension to a whole new level.  More than ever we need to be kind and patient with each other.  

Brene reminds us that “not only are tension and contradictory pieces OK and normal, they are the magic sauce.”   It may not feel that way in a stress filled moment, but I think this accompanying quote from her describes the paradox of parenthood perfectly.  

Now that I have been paying closer attention to the word paradox,  I am discovering that paradoxes appear everywhere. In fact, in my book club we actively discuss them in the best possible way — with a keen interest in learning more by sharing different perspectives and keeping an open mind.  My base of knowledge on complex subjects has expanded exponentially.  We are sparking creative conversations and motivating each other to read more, research more and to ask compelling questions.  

Life is full of many paradoxes and we would be doing the world a great service to become aware of them — and to hold those opposing ideas with grace, maturity, and integrity. 

My Suggestions if you want to explore further:

Brene Brown’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/brenebrown)

Daniel Goleman: Emotional Intelligence (Supersoul Conversation podcast) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cLWzrlMSch8&feature=youtu.be)

Owner’s Manual

Every now and again, I come across something that just blows my curious mind in the best possible way. That is exactly how I’m feeling about the Enneagram. What a dynamic tool for lifelong self discovery and enriching personal relationships with others.

In a recent post I shared Beatrice Chestnut’s book, The Complete Enneagram and how it truly was a personal owner’s manual for each of us. Since then I have also read Ian Morgan Cron’s incredible book, The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery.

 

I found his book so fascinating that I sent copies to a few friends with a note telling them that I laughed out loud at some insights and cried at others. I was sure they’d have a similar experience as they read more about their own Enneagram type.

Ian Morgan Cron has a popular podcast called Typology https://www.typologypodcast.com featuring a broad diversity of guests who help “explore the mysteries of the human personality” and help us re-discover our most authentic selves.

At the onset of the quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ian did a whole series on each Enneagram Type and Stress. The podcasts were short in duration and long in helpful personalized advice for navigating anxiety during this time of great uncertainty.

In a subsequent series, he dedicated his teachings to the Enneagram and Parenting. I found the series to be so enlightening that I posted it on Facebook and shared links with my family. Who doesn’t benefit from solid parenting advice especially in the midst of COVID when so much about our daily routines have changed significantly?

I’ll often scroll through Ian’s podcast library to find topics and guests that might have answers to current questions I am pondering, or to gain deeper wisdom about my own type or that of a friend or family member. To my delight, I recently found one featuring Beatrice Chestnut, who is one of the foremost authorities on the Enneagram — and she just happens to be a Type 2 like me. Her knowledge and personal experience was revelational for me.

Father Richard Rohr is often credited with bringing the Enneagram to the general population decades ago when he offered 10 cassette tapes about the Enneagram. As he tells it, it was the first time people were hearing a voice explaining the value and wisdom of the Enneagram. I have listened to many of Father Rohr’s own podcasts about the Enneagram. His soothing voice and grounded genuine approach shed a lot of light on human nature, learned behavioral patterns and our blind spots (those places where we get in our own way and stunt our personal growth).

The Enneagram is often used in counseling sessions and with good reason. It is an objective, non-judgmental way to look at all the parts of ourselves and see clearly where we have room for growth. Admittedly, this isn’t always fun or easy, but the truth is we usually know we’ve got blind spots but its often hard to acknowledge it. It is those blind spots that inevitably are the cause of most of our self-created roadblocks. And as Brene Brown teaches us, when we armor up in an effort to protect our vulnerabilities, we lose our connection with our authentic selves.

It’s not hard to see how the Enneagram is such an invaluable tool for couples counseling also. Imagine the shift in relationship dynamics when each partner can have such clarity about the other — what motivates them, what their driving need truly is, their strengths and weaknesses — all without judgment, just pure awareness. I recently shared with a family member that I got answers to questions my former partner was never able to answer once I learned the complexities of his Enneagram type.

My enthusiasm for the Enneagram has been spilling over into my family and into my friendships. I have found some of my friends to be very experienced with the Enneagram and our conversations shed light on the many ways it can help deepen relationships and resolve familiar patterns of conflict.

There is nothing I enjoy more than helping others (that’s a classic Type 2), and now I feel I have a resource that helps me customize the best way to do that — for them! This is such a win-win because in the past, I would often help too much (the blind spot of a Type 2) and in the end I was tired and my friend was resentful of my overbearing help. Who knew?

During this quarantine time, I have been so fortunate to have reconnected with old friends, gotten to know my newer friends on a deeper level, and been participating in lively discussions with dynamic women on an “Untamed” Zoom book club. The compelling common denominator is that all of us are striving for personal growth to enrich this chapter of our lives. We’ve come to realize that the learning never ends and there is always room for improvement — that’s life. We also recognize that it is our friends who support us through this journey. The more we know and understand our unique authentic selves, the better we are for all those whose lives we touch.

 

Here are some of my favorite resources regarding the Enneagram:

The Enneagram Institute https://www.enneagraminstitute.com/

Ian Morgan Cron Website https://ianmorgancron.com

The Complete Enneagram: 27 Paths to Greater Self Knowledge – Author Beatrice Chestnut

The Chestnut Group – Empowering Change through the Enneagram https://beatricechestnut.com

The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery – Authors Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile

Finding a Treasure Map

Imagine my surprise when I stumbled across the most incredible tool for self-awareness and discovering our true potential in Brene Brown’s recent podcast. Brene’s dynamic interview with Chris Heuertz opened my mind to the encompassing transformational value of the Enneagram. His tender and compassionate way of describing what each of the 9 type’s biggest struggles are just tugged at my heartstrings.

The Enneagram is one of the most powerful and insightful tools for understanding ourselves and others. At its core, the Enneagram helps us to see ourselves at a deeper, more objective level and can be of invaluable assistance on our path to self-knowledge. —– The Enneagram Institute (www.enneagraminstitute.com)

I had once taken the Enneagram test online and was familiar with the attributes of my Type. At that time, I viewed it mostly as an affirmation of my personality much like a Zodiac sign or Myers-Briggs assessment.

What I did not know however was that basic summary only scratched the surface of what I could learn from the Enneagram.

As Chris Heuretz points out, most of us look at our Enneagram Type and happily confirm those attributes we view as positive and sideline those traits that make us uncomfortable. As a result, we end up fragmented by trying to hide or protect our vulnerabilities. Brene Brown has been teaching us for years , it is those very vulnerabilities that hold the key to our richest treasures — love, creativity, connection.

With his latest book, The Enneagram of Belonging, Chris skillfully guides us through the process of personal discovery to bravely face those traits we hide or protect. He gracefully coaches us to embrace our full human self with compassion and self-acceptance. You may ask why this is so important. Chris says “the truth is the way we treat ourselves is the way we also treat others.”

Chris believes that the way we make the world a better place is to start with ourselves and then let it flow out to our relationships, our communities and the world. As Maya Angelou taught “when we know better, we do better.”

Chris Heuretz is a longtime Enneagram teacher in addition to being the author of The Sacred Enneagram and The Enneagram of Belonging. His website offers blog posts, podcasts and other resources to broaden our knowledge. (http://www.chrisheuretz.com) I listened to a podcast he did with his friend and author, Beatrice Chestnut. Immediately captivated by her personal and professional experiences with the Enneagram, I just had to read her book too.

Beatrice Chestnut’s book, The Complete Enneagram is a compelling instructional book that was hard to put down. I quickly realized how her dynamic handbook would have expedited my own discovery process a few years ago. I had taken a more circuitous way to unearth my patterned roadblocks through mindfulness, meditation and lots of self exploration. As Beatrice writes about the Enneagram — “it’s like having your own personal owner’s manual.”

I began to view the Enneagram as a treasure map with a personalized Key for each Type that pinpoints the coping strategies and learned behavioral patterns we commonly use. It also provides the trail back to the origin of those patterns. We move through decades of our life leaning heavily on those familiar patterns, but unconsciously aware that they are making our lives more complex. The hidden treasure lies in growing into the most healthy potential of our Type once we understand what has been holding us back and learning to live more consciously.

As I began to absorb and process all that I was learning about myself, I could readily look back at various times in my life where my conditioned patterns showed up and see very clearly how they played out. Instead of chastising myself, I was now able to own it and even laugh about it in some cases. Perhaps the most impactful transformation for me was gaining insight about early life experiences that conditioned me to repress my feelings, to rush in as a soothing helper and avoid conflict at all costs. This knowledge is a powerful catalyst for conscious living today.

As Chris talked about all of the 9 types in the Enneagram with Brene Brown, my heart really opened up to what each and every one of us deals with through our own personalities, the life experiences that shape us and the way that we navigate our lives. Once we understand what our own Type wrestles with, our compassion for all the other Types just naturally seems to expand. Another bonus is when we learn to stop getting caught in a reactive response pattern and lean in more to another — to proactively listen and to be fully present. Both Chris and Beatrice provide many reminders that this work is on-going and part of the continual growth process. We get chances to practice every day if we are just paying attention.

Growth spurts can happen at any stage of life. It’s fun and rewarding to notice the positive changes in yourself and how it supports those around you. Mindfulness, mediation and contemplative practice enhance all that we learn about ourselves and others through the Enneagram. The changes we hope to facilitate for the greater good of all start with us.

Chris’s work has change how I understand myself and the people around me. It has brought me closer to myself and my true essence. I’m grateful for Chris’s willingness to clear a path and walk alongside us in love and compassion.” — Brene Brown