When you think, “That’s just the way I am,” know that it is not true.

I had a funny experience today as I coached with a team on Zoom. I share this with permission from that group.

We were discussing the possible return to the workplace and what they had learned about their time working from home.

C shared that she stocks up her fridge to give her an excuse to get out of the house and go to the grocery store. She leaves the house to buy food, for the sole purpose of giving it away. She just wants to be seen by people and she wants to do something for others who will then see her as valuable. Without this activity, she said she feels “bad.”

This is what she “needs” because she is “just that way.”

Her words made my ears perk up.

“Say more,” I said.

She went on to describe that in addition to the grocery store outings, she has worked like a dog lately, even with her toddler. She speaks to her supervisor almost daily and has been out and about, doing whatever parts of her job that she can. She stays active and solves problems as a way of dealing with quarantine and her unmet need for validation.

Competency is her Enneagram type’s way of dealing with life. And then there’s the going to the grocery store so that she can give away food.

Self-Deceit is what separates her Enneagram type from reality. If she can feed her ego by being a really fantastic worker and being of service to her friends and neighbors, then she can deny (for now) the feeling, conscious or not, that she is inadequate.

She was doing what her type does. She identifies with Enneagram type 3w2.

With that, T showed us his stocked pantry closet. Multiple boxes and canisters of many items. No fewer than 10 containers of instant coffee (not shown). He shared that he feels anxious if he doesn’t know he has what he “needs.” He, too, says that he is “just that way.”

Last March, the last meeting I had before I no longer consulted on-site in organizations, was with this man. He was telling me to take all of my money out of the bank; we needed to have cash on hand because we’d lose everything if “Coronavirus really took off.” He had a very clear plan, as if he’d been thinking about this forever. 

Because he had. 

He has been concerned about security and safety his whole life. He really wants to know what’s real, so he sugar-coats nothing. He assumes you want the same. He really wants others to meet him where he is; to respond to him with the same level of emotion that he is putting out there. This is his type’s way of dealing with difficulty. His emotional realness was really pushing my positive outlook’s buttons that day. 

He was very clear on what had to be done and was sharing his “facts” with everyone in the office; even those of us who didn’t want to hear it. 

Angst is what separates his Enneagram type from dealing with reality. If he can feel anxious about something happening in the future, he doesn’t actually have to deal with the present. 

He was doing what his type does. he identifies with Enneagram Type 6.

And then there is me. I am no fan of grocery shopping. But I want what I want when I want it. I want to be happy and I don’t want to feel the pain of not having what I think I need.  I want people around me to be happy, too. If they are happy, I am happy. 

One complaint can throw my whole mood off. My desire is not really altruistic; it is all about me. 

Because my type demands “happiness” as a way to feel safe, I can easily assume everyone else has an intolerance for anything less than “wicked happy,” too, right?

As I shopped in March, I told myself that I had to buy everything they want or need,  and with that, “We’ll all be GREAT!” 

Positive outlook is my type’s way of dealing with difficulty. 

All of my fridges and freezers were STOCKED. Before you go yelling at me, I already know. And don’t forget that I had 7 people quarantined with me. Yes, I am a walking COVID meme. 

Gluttony is what separates my Enneagram type (read: me) from reality. If I have enough love, food, furniture, or office supplies, I can deny the pandemic.

I do what my type does. I identify as an Enneagram Type 7w6. 

So all this time, I’ve had trouble describing why your Enneagram type and the tool of the Enneagram is helpful to have.

It isn’t about WHAT is happening.

It is about WHY it is happening.

In our coaching group today, we had lots of laughs, but we also unpacked how our Enneagram type predicts the issues that will come up for us and cause us to suffer. It also predicts the things that motivate us and bring us closer to Presence. As a spiritual tool, it give us something to pray about, to meditate on, and a North Star to set intentions around. 

More than anything, it identifies the lens that, when not present, exhausts us, upsets us, and keeps us afraid.

Once we see that, we can make choices about our next steps. Until we see that, we are walking around the world, unconscious, telling people

“That’s just the way I am.” 

Shining a Light on the Shadow of My Racism

White Exceptionalism.

There’s a new term for me. 

In Layla Saad’s book, Me and White Supremacy, she uses this term to refer to people who feel like they are finished with their self-examination of racism, have passed the test, and are good to go. As if once they are “woke” they don’t have to continue their awakening. 

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I feel like all the work I have been doing to dismantle areas of my personality, areas I didn’t even know were there, has prepared me to hear from BIPOC in a way I was unable to before.

How do I know?

Because I can’t unsee all the times that I have ignored BIPOC who tried to tell me that I am part of the problem. All the times I said, either to myself or out loud, “You don’t understand me…I’m different.” Or frankly, “You don’t understand racism.” The balls (or ovaries) on me.

I really thought I’d done the work and had conveniently surrounded myself with people who reinforced this belief on my behalf. People who called me to ask me for my thoughts or people who told me “I don’t mean you.” The ego loves to hear, “everyone else but you.” My ego certainly did. I still catch my ego in the act of loving that, despite knowing the truth.

I’ve had this awareness ~ like a big “aha” ~ that the reason I had been led to the Enneagram as a tool and accompanying spiritual work (literally, daily), over the last several years, was to wake me up for this.  Prior to that, I was blind to my own racism. Racism was a shadow that followed me 24/7 and while BIPOC could see it with clarity, my white friends were complicit with my ego; they either did not see it, or did not call me on it. 

{As an aside, the psycho-spiritual work I both participate in and teach to clients, required me to explore some really, really dark places in myself while people I have come to love, acted as my witnesses (which I think, now, is an essential part of this work); they held me accountable and continue to love me through it. I had to be willing to do that work, so that I can now do the work of dismantling my own racism, which, like the Enneagram work, will be a lifelong project for me.}

I must have known, at a subconscious level, that I was being prepared to look at my role in white supremacy because as I reflect, I see that over the last couple of years, I started following the social media accounts of more and more leaders in the BIPOC community. I had always taken an interest in racism and classism, but as an outsider, not as a participant. It was all academic. It was absolutely, as Layla Saad calls it, “white exceptionalism.” This was more of that.

And then Ahmaud Arbery was murdered. 

My heart broke. I felt responsible. Honestly, it was the weirdest thing. I spoke about it with my teacher and my group….it felt egotistical to feel responsible and yet I did. I think I was confused because I was holding on to being a “white savior,” while also holding “white exceptionalism,” along with a deep, subconscious, “inner knowing,” that I am, in fact, part of the problem. I was holding all of those parts of this without the clear awareness or language. These were all shadows and the light was approaching them.

After Ahmaud Arbery was murdered, something felt different. It was not academic. I felt it in my heart. It physically hurt. I felt broken. Where I used to treat racism as something I had to learn about but was apart from me, I actually felt like I had participated somehow. I was no longer an outsider to it.

Something opened up. Everything got clearer. What lived in my shadows was clear now. This is what they mean when they say the light shines through those cracks that made us feel broken. 

Like the work of thinning out my ego, thinning out my racism is not “either/or.” I used to think I was either racist or not. Now I know that I am both/and. The paradox of illuminating my own racism while also being an accomplice and ally to BIPOC is clear. 

Being a good ally is not about not being racist; being a good ally REQUIRES me to see my racism. Over and over again. I have to be willing to hold my racism and my anti-racism, my white supremacy and my ally-ship, my need to understand in my brain and feel in my heart all of the pain that comes with this, while not making it all about me. 

What I have learned is that I will always be part of the problem.

For what it is worth, I feel whole. I feel open ~ a bit broken open, but open, nonetheless. The parallels of looking at the darkest places of my personality and looking at the darkest places of my racism are uncanny. Until I wrote this, I didn’t actually see that they go hand in hand. I think that my own racism is a dark place in my personality. To yield to that means that I have to give up the illusion of “better than.” And as I give that up, I see yet another paradox. When I relinquish “better than,” I embrace, “BETTER OFF,” both individually, and collectively. 

Until my white exceptionalism came out of the shadows, I had no choice in it. Now that I see it, I do. Now that I know better, I’m committed to doing better.


We Can’t Hit a Bullseye if We Can’t Even See the Dartboard.

How avoiding certain parts of myself, keeps me from showing up in the world and having the impact I want.

The dog got me up at 4:00 this morning. While we aimlessly wandered around outside, I was reminded of those early morning, semi-awake times with toddlers. Remember? Barely awake on the couch, one eye open to make sure they weren’t playing with knives, but definitely not totally aware to what was happening in the room.

That’s how I feel about my life sometimes now. I’m connected to some parts of myself and completely disconnected from others. I have these shadows that run the show sometimes, but I can’t actually see them.

After Sparky and I made it back upstairs and he had curled up in a ball by my side, I was acutely aware that the world had been moving for three hours while I slept and I had missed it all.

Cuz this is what I do.

There is a pattern I’m seeing about my experience of reality. I take in the world with my mind and decide that I’ll be ok – in fact, everything will be ok – as soon as I “figure it out.”

“I just need to figure this out and then I’ll be all set.”  Or, like today, it might be:

“I just need to figure out generational racial trauma, and then I can be helpful.” 

So here is the pattern: I stay moving, awake, and occupied in my mind because when I am still, and just sitting in the experience of being on the planet right now, I feel all sorts of pain. To see me in a chair without a phone, computer, book, or music, is to see me in a chair weeping.

So I Do. Not. Sit.

Not only do I not want to feel pain, I want you to be pain-free, too. So sometimes, I won’t even let you have your misery, either. Because frankly, when you are hurting, it messes with the illusion of reality I’ve created about the world.

So I occupy my mind with a to-do list, agendas, plans, and anticipating my next great thing. All so I don’t have to feel those primal emotions of grief, shame, and fear.

What I’m learning, though, is that this is the least effective way to get on the other side. Whether I feel the grief, shame, or fear right now is irrelevant. Awareness of pain is not a requirement for feeling the impact of pain. The pain is here, whether we feel it or not. We act it out on our families, our friends, our coworkers, and ourselves.

Instead of feeling it, we put a shit ton of energy into NOT feeling. In my case, my brain is exhausted, thinking and overthinking. Planning and anticipating. Reading, and watching TV, and learning all I can so that I can “figure it out.”

But the reality is, our world, including me, is experiencing a lot of hurt right now. Welcome to the world of reality.

My spiritual teacher reminds me, time and time again, that my denial of reality makes me MORE inefficient in solving a problem, not less. My denial keeps me working really hard to figure it out. What actually needs to happen is for me to experience it in my body, mind, AND HEART.

When we aren’t working with what is, we are ineffective in our attempts to make things better.

It’s like having a dartboard in the basement but I am upstairs shooting darts at the family room wall.

So we keep missing the bullseye. Not only that, we get really, really tired trying. We feel frustrated. We double-down and keep throwing at an empty wall. We can’t even see that the dartboard isn’t there.

All day, I’ve been throwing darts at the family room wall. I connected with my group of seekers and they pointed out that the dartboard is in the basement. Ugh.

They invited me to experience reality. They shined a light on my shadows ~ those beliefs and ideas that are with me all the time, but that my ego structure won’t allow me to see (and hint: we all have these no matter how enlightened you think you are!).

I wept while I looked clearly at the world. I finally saw it as it is and also FELT IT as it is. I am experiencing the world instead of figuring it out. I’m all in, body, mind, and heart.

Even as I write this, I am dumbfounded by how much clearer I am. When I see things for what they are, without the beliefs about what “should or should not” be, I stop fighting what is and experience my place in it. Having a team of courageous people behind me to lovingly point out what I cannot see, has been essential to my aim.

It is so much less exhausting to shoot darts at the dartboard instead of an empty wall. When I am present to all of my innate wisdom, my gut, mind, and heart, and not just some part of it, I can always see where I want to throw the dart and might even hit a bullseye.