Enneagram Contemplation Amid the Groves

By Steven Libowitz   |   January 11, 2018

Richard Groves, the co-founder and executive director of the Sacred Art of Living Center, in Bend, Oregon, has been leading workshops and retreats in the Enneagram for nearly 30 years, including up to three times a year at La Casa de Maria in Montecito. An ordained Catholic priest, Groves conducted research for his doctoral thesis on diagnosing and addressing spiritual pain from a variety of cultural and psycho-spiritual perspectives. He also speaks nine languages, which happens to be the same as the number of points on the Enneagram, a tool for self-awareness and spiritual development that goes beyond personality typology. In Groves’s hands, the Enneagram serves as a sacred psychology drawing from its ancient roots in many spiritual traditions.

Groves returns to La Casa de Maria next weekend, January 18-21, for The Enneagram Contemplative Retreat, a four-day immersion that represents a deeper exploration of the tool. He talked about the Enneagram and the retreat over the phone last week. (Visit www.lacasademaria.org/events/the-enneagram-contemplative-retreat-2).

Q. There are many self-help tools and tests that analyze personality. What’s makes the Enneagram different?

A. It’s less interested in our behaviors than our motivation: what’s deeply underneath those patterns that can be both gifts and challenges? We all have them. This tool names nine different patterns that seem to be universal archetypes. For most people, even if they’re resistant to being “typed,” when they study it and see the diversity, how the range spectrum accommodates everybody, they see it’s a wisdom that’s not limiting. By naming my core motivations, it gives me a North Star in my life. It reminds me when I fall into habitual patterns or ways of thinking that I don’t have to be addicted to that way of doing things. It’s language people can easily relate to.

There are concrete ways of working with my inner strength and weaknesses. It’s ultimately very practical. It’s not just a coffee-table conversation of identifying types, but a lens and way to work with personality inclinations that’s very valuable for ourselves and our interactions. And it’s comprehensive. The business aspects are fascinating, because it can help avoid a lopsided outcome. Using the Enneagram to make sure that every point of view is included helps not only build community but a better, more universal product or decision.

You come at this work differently from many other teachers of the Enneargram, from a more spiritual point of view.

The majority of people in my workshops are no longer formerly associated with any religion. But deep down, we’re the generation evolving that distinction between religion and personality/psychology. I like to speak to people about what gives meaning to your life. Where is forgiveness operative? Where do you find hope? For many, those questions are hardwired but unanswered.

We have the time and space this weekend to walk through each of the nine styles through the lens of two great mentors – a male and female – who come from every cultural and spiritual background in the history of the planet, from Native American, to Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, Muslim. They are chosen because they were considered mystics, involved in the transcendent dimensions. You have a way to walk in the shoes of all nine styles. The retreat gives that universal soul. So, people leave the retreat feeling like they got a tour of the world’s great spiritual wisdom, which is where the tools come from.

I understand that time spent alone in silence is an essential part of the retreat. Can you explain?

Some people groove on silent mediation while others are terrified. We have lots of exercises over the weekend that take us out into nature. The silence is a container to help you listen to yourself, access and get creatively engaged, and perhaps even more in touch with inner inspiration of your life. The retreat opens up a dialog with the deeper parts of ourselves.

I know from taking the introductory day with you in November that examining the avoidances/traps/objects of attention (ATO) for each type is particularly challenging for some of us. Why is that?

That’s the core of the work. We have compulsive, habitual ways of reacting to situations and people. The Enneagram gives me a lens of insight where I can see what the motivation is, the core wound that causes my response. It’s a defensive mechanism, a survival strategy. When I can catch that, and not operate mechanically, there’s a freedom from my addiction. The ATOs still show up – they’re deeply embedded – but I can sit on the edge of a situation, consider alternatives, and find freedom out of habitual behaviors.

Can I ask what might seem like a stupid question: if I know I’m a certain type, why do I want to spend the other 8/9ths of the time working in the others?

Because I really do have all aspects of these “other” selves within myself. They’re just latent. They’re not as developed. The antidote to some of my compulsion is to draw from the wisdom the energies that are very different than mine. You get to experience the other types and gain insight into those aspects. The point is that the tools that solve our problems are not found in our own type. It’s outside of it. So, it becomes an elegant network. In learning about the very different types, I discover tools I never would have naturally gone to myself. At the retreat, we get to experience them. And you might leave being attracted with a new and more powerfully way to habitually handle life.

If the Enneagram is so powerful and such a valuable tool of creating acceptance, why is it not much more universally known and practiced?

That one is simple. In 1492, with the Spanish Inquisition, anything that was interfaith or inter-spiritual was outlawed. It was a watershed moment. The groups went into their own caves and no longer dialogued. And sadly, the Enneagram also went underground. It was kept alive by esoteric groups but it lost its mainstream connection. We’re trying to get back to that time where we can be less paranoid of each other. The world needs that. The Enneagram is like world work. We’re taking a step toward healing that divisiveness that could blow us up.

La Casa Comes Clean

Saved from Thomas by heroic efforts from firefighters, La Casa de Maria Retreat Center stayed closed longer than expected into the new year to fully remove all the ash and smoke debris, both inside and out. So – assuming this weeks rainstorm spared the lovely grounds just below San Ysidro Ranch from flooding and mudslides – the space is even more welcoming than ever. This week’s events include Lark Batteau‘s one-day Yoga for Pure Joy, Tibetan Buddhist Meditation & Tea gathering on Monday, January 15. The 9 am to 3:30 pm event begins with a joy-filled yoga class, followed by Tibetan study and a meditation which cultivates Loving Kindness, Compassion, Empathetic Joy, and Equanimity. A Japanese-inspired lunch leads to a brief Japanese Tea Ceremony with sweet-cake and Matcha, focusing on cultivating the ability to appreciate the beauty that exists in our temporal and ephemeral world. The afternoon brings more Tibetan study and a “Giving and Receiving” meditation, a practice designed to diminish both craving and aversion, with the aim of moving toward a more bright and brave healing presence. The workshop ends with another joy-filled yoga class. Admission is $85 and limited to 20 people.

Cantor Mark E. Childs leads January’s Wednesday Retreat Day – Piercing the Armor of Indifference from Sacred Chant to Opera. Childs, who holds a Master of Sacred Music and has served as cantor of Congregation B’nai B’rith in Santa Barbara since 1991, offers participants the chance to experience a lively, engaging, and enriching journey exploring how music can bring us together in ways that ordinary speech cannot, highlighting our connection rather than our differences. The 9:30 am to 3:30 pm event on Wednesday, January 17, is offered by donation.

La Casa de Maria is located at 800 El Bosque Road in Montecito. Call 969-5031 or visit www.lacasademarial.org.

A Passion for Compassion

Radhule Weininger‘s new book, Heartwork: The Path of Self-Compassion, published late last year, is the culmination not only of her career, but also her own journey as a seeker of spiritual connection and peace within and for others. Weininger, who holds both M.D. and Ph.D. degrees, is a practicing clinical psychologist/psychotherapist who also runs One Dharma Sangha and has led ongoing meditation groups in Santa Barbara, Isla Vista, and Montecito on a weekly basis for nearly 15 years. Indeed, it’s the combination of the scholarly, practical, and contemplative approaches that define “Heartwork”, which has its basis in so-called Modern Buddhism, the concept that we have to listen, comprehend, and empathize with our contemporary concerns to translate ancient Buddhist wisdom into a language that can be utilized to address the suffering and confusion that is specific to our time and place.

The book, which features a foreword by her longtime mentor Jack Kornfield, is filled in its first section with stories drawn from her own life – she first stumbled into a Buddhist monastery in Sri Lanka as a young German student back in 1980 – as well as those of her clients and meditation students. Each chapter concludes with short journaling exercises based on the themes uncovered. In the second section, Weininger offers “Nine Practices for Cultivating Compassion”, exercises anyone can use to generate compassion wherever it’s needed, including toward oneself or others, or the community or world at large. A dedicated practice is meant to lead to the ability to live from that place of intelligent kindness in the face of life’s difficulties.

Each hands-on offering is clearly explained and illustrated by example, followed by step-by-step instructions. These range from basis “Mindful Meditation” to “Heart’s Intention Practice”, and “Mindful Pause” and “Compassionate Choice Practice” – both of which offer relief from the trigger-action automatic response. The “Spiral of Compassion and Forgiveness Practice” aims to offering healing and assuage the lingering imbalance from conflict suffered in the past. There’s even an on-the-go version when time is short.

My personal experience with Weininger includes irregular visits to the meditation groups, as well as a previous participation in one of her extended seminars at La Casa de Maria Retreat Center a couple of years ago, when she was in the process of firming up the exercises and writing the book. I found them to be valuable when I put them to use.

Weininger’s largest local undertaking to date, “HEART WORK: Mindfulness and Compassion Practitioner Training”, which takes place January 20-February 11 at La Casa de Maria, has already been fully booked for its first module (the second and third, slated for spring, still have some space). But you can get a solid taste of her work at her monthly Mindfulness Practice Retreat at the Montecito retreat center, held 2:30 to 6 pm on Sunday afternoon, January 14. Admission is by donation. Weininger has also scheduled two author appearances, including this Saturday, January 13, at Yoga Soup, 28 Parker Way, where she’ll be reading from Heartwork at 2 pm, and the following Friday, January 19, at Paradise Found, 19 E. Anapamu St, from 7 to 9 pm.

For more information, visit Weininger’s website, www.radhuleweiningerphd.com, which has details about the book, her work, and her ongoing gatherings.

Queue up for the Q

The Q Process is a workshop with the intriguingly colloquial subtitle of “The Art & Practice of Living with Nothing and No One Against You”. The transformational 21-day practice weaves together the latest research emerging from neurobiology, developmental psychology, and quantum science with the wisdom of the world’s mystical traditions to offer a powerful path to personal evolution. The work is designed to combat the way that early experiences may continue to haunt us, even after years of conventional therapy, because the unconscious limiting beliefs we picked up early on actually create associated neural architecture that, when triggered, inhibits the ability to make the conscious choices that align with spiritual principle. The process helps participants understand and reflect on their biology (how the brain and perception works) and their psychology (how they create meaning) to uncover unconscious, limiting patterns of thought and behavior set in motion in childhood still operating by default. The result is more fully integrating the conscious intention of re-awakening to our greatest purpose and more fully experiencing joy and freedom.

The Q Process is taught around the world, including locally here in Santa Barbara, where the reverend Denese Schellink (a Certified Q coach who is married to Unity’s much beloved Reverend Larry) periodically conducts the course, as well as intermittent booster sessions. A sizeable number of local followers who have taken the course and continue to practice swear by the insights and changes achieved through the process.

Given that the New Year often brings an attendant commitment to change, Schellink is offering the full 21-day seminar again beginning this Saturday, January 13, from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm. Follow-up group coaching sessions take place 5:30 to 7 pm over the next three Thursday evenings, January 18, 25, and February 1. Get more info by calling Reverend Schellink at 708-7345, emailing deneseds@gmail.com, or visiting www.santabarbaraunity.org/q-process-workshop. The Q Effect’s website is www.theqeffect.com.

Invoking Intuition

Wendy Cooper‘s The Intuitive Life Meetup, which generally holds events up in the Santa Ynez Valley, embraces a new space for the New Year. Developing Your Intuitive, Psychic and/or Mediumship Abilities will meet at Unity Church in Santa Barbara on Saturday, January 13, for a 90-minute workshop during which Cooper will use her experience to show how to develop and manage your intuition. Included is a discussion of the various types of intuitive and psychic abilities and how to develop and manage them. Intended for beginners to intermediates, the course will discuss how to clear your energy, raise your vibration, and how to maintain a positive flow of energy in your body, which helps to heighten your intuitive abilities. Cooper will discuss the difference between using psychic versus mediumship abilities when providing intuitive readings for others, plus demonstrate and review how to give a reading. Admission is $20. Visit www.meetup.com/The-Intuitive-Life.


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