Risking to Blossom

by Elizabeth Newcomer in , , , , , , , , ,

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.  -Anais Nin
About two years ago, I was on my way to perform in a play, walking through Central Park on route to the theatre.  At the time, I was reading Debbie Ford’s The Dark Side of the Light Chasers, which is about embracing all of who you are, including the “negative” or “undesirable” aspects and reclaiming your wholeness.  I started to look at the people I was passing and decided to play a game.  I would look at them and utter in my head, “I am you and you are me.”  It started off funny, imagining these people of different shapes and sizes as myself, and me as them.  But then, something amazing happened.  I could see it, I saw myself in the eyes, in the gait, in the expression of men, women, young, old, black, white, short, tall.  And I saw them in my proud walk, the fear behind my gaze, the expectation in my face, and the sound of my laughter.  I felt like I was not alone.  In some ways, I felt a higher aspect of myself emerge.
The Enneagram is a tool to help us understand others and ourselves in our life.  It brings up how we stand in our own way and the challenges each of our personalities may present.  And it’s also about the higher qualities of self that are available to each of us when our ego is not running the show. 
In honor of springtime, and as the buds are starting to emerge and blossom into flowers, what aspects of your higher self can you reclaim?  I’ve put together a list of the Nine Enneagram Types with their higher quality and virtue, followed by some questions and suggestions where your essential self is invited to arise.

1 Perfection / Serenity
In what way is life already perfect?  What is a “should” you can drop from your expectations?  Can you grant yourself a pleasure for pleasure’s sake today?  Is there a feeling or a thought, that you don’t feel safe expressing because it is “unacceptable?”  Can you express it in a way that wouldn’t be harmful to yourself or others?  For example, can you go to a boxing gym or can you express your “ugly” thoughts in the form of a sonnet?
2 Freedom / Humility
Can you spend some time alone today nourishing yourself and replenishing your well?  What is one need you can ask to be met by a loved one? The next time you reach out to help someone, can you check in with yourself beforehand and have a little conference about what you can realistically give without depleting your own resources?
3 Hope / Honesty
Today, can you slow down and be present with one of your tasks on your to-do list?  Are you able to do just enough and no more?  Can you identify one real feeling that arises when you slow down or cut back on your workload?  Can you feel your self-worth through a way of being and not doing?
4 Authenticity / Equanimity (Balance)
In what area of your life, do you feel like you completely belong?  Can you catch yourself when your attention goes towards what is missing and can you gently invite yourself back to the present moment and notice what is real and alive in the here-and-now?  Can you get into your body by going for a run or express your creativity by making a greeting card for a loved one?
5 Omniscience / Non-attachment
Can you participate in a way today that allows for real feelings and desires to emerge without attempting to detach from your experience?  Is there a person or an aspect of your life that you are avoiding for fear of being intruded upon?  How can reveal yourself to them while maintaining your fullness?  For fun, can you go out in the world today and occupy a little more physical space, wear a brighter color that might attract attention, and act as a witness to what emerges?
6 Faith / Courage
Is there a physical practice you can engage in today, like yoga or tai chi, someplace where you can quiet your mind and sense your natural courage in your body?  Can you change your “Yes, but…” to “Yes, and…” while moving into the unknown with the faith that you can face it?  What’s a spontaneous activity you can engage in without assessing the consequences? 
7 Work / Sobriety
Where is one commitment that you can follow through on today?  Instead of multi-tasking, can you choose to do one thing where you can stay the course from the beginning through the middle to the end?  And when it seems to bore you and bring up feelings that aren’t pleasurable, can you still come back to your one task at hand?  Do you feel the satisfaction that arises from completion and follow-through?
8 Truth / Innocence
If you find yourself gearing up for a fight today, can you let in the possibility that your “opponent’s” truth is just as valid as yours, and instead of bulldozing them with your argument, can you open your ear to hear them out?  Can you take your inner child out on a date today, to a park or a museum where you allow your curiosity and innocence to emerge?
9 Love / Right Action
How can you lovingly prioritize your own agenda?  If there is a task you need to complete, can you see it through to the end, without getting distracted by inessential activity?  Can you put yourself on a pedestal today, reigning as the Queen or King you are, making the rules and decisions and asking others to fulfill your own desires, wants or needs?  

Elizabeth Elkins, MFA, Certified Enneagram Consultant with Art of the Enneagram offers individual and group sessions, as well as workshops.  If you’re curious about how the Enneagram functions in your life, schedule a Discover Your Type session today.  Or sign up here to tune into the weekly blog and to hear about upcoming events.

What's in a Name?

by Elizabeth Newcomer in , , ,

What’s in a name?  That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet
-Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet

I’m a sucker for good names.  I actually keep a (long) list of potential baby names on my notes app and update it whenever I hear another one I like.  My current favorites: Liberty and Valentine Xavier.  Concurrently, I’ve been debating about my business name for sometime and Enneagram New York City didn’t seem to fit just right.
Whereas it’s true that I live in New York City, and am currently building a community of Enneagram Enthusiasts here, I offer my services nationally, and ultimately envision the business having a Global Reach.
I also believe it’s important to choose a name that captures what the business is about.  The services I currently offer and intend to provide in the future are geared towards making the Enneagram a part of your daily life, showing how it is applicable to your own personal development, as well as in regards to your relationships, and even in the workplace.
When people ask me: What is the Enneagram?  My go-to playful response is: If yoga and psychotherapy had a love child, it would be the Enneagram.  It’s a process of self-discovery, a practice of mindfulness, and a journey of compassion.  It serves as a map to understanding yourself and others in your life.  It provides a framework to transform your life.  It’s difficult to define because it is both complex and fundamental.
Then it hit me yesterday.  I’m changing the name of my business to: Art of the Enneagram.
Art, as defined in The New Oxford American and the World English Dictionaries means the following.
art (noun)
·      the expression or application of human creative skill
·      the skill at doing a specified thing, typically one acquired through practice
·      method, facility, knack
The Enneagram is not a quick fix; it’s not a magic pill.  It can be, however, the most effective tool to make lasting changes in your life.  As my teachers in the Narrative Tradition taught me, what the Enneagram requires is intention, attention, repetition and guidance.  When you make it a practice, like yoga, you start to peel away the layers of habits that no longer serve you, and blossom into the person you’re meant to become. 
I thought it would be fun to take a look at the names of the nine Enneagram types, as they each have variations.  I say, choose whichever one you think/feel/sense captures you the most.  

Elizabeth Elkins, MFA, Certified Enneagram Consultant with Art of the Enneagram offers individual and group sessions, as well as workshops.  If you’re curious about how the Enneagram functions in your life, schedule a Discover Your Type session today.  Or sign up here to tune into the weekly blog and to hear about upcoming events.

Happy New Year!

by Elizabeth Newcomer in , , , , , ,

The Enneagram

Happy 2014!  I wanted to start the year off by taking a minute to introduce the Enneagram for those of you who don’t know it and as a reminder of the beauty of it to those who do. My hope is that more and more people understand and engage in this system, as I believe it is an awesome tool for developing more compassion towards ourselves and each other, and who doesn’t deserve a little more compassion?!
So, what is the Enneagram? 

The Enneagram is a personality system that describes nine different ways of seeing the world involving fundamental patterns of thinking, feeling, and acting.  The basic idea is that when we were born, we had a closer connection to our essential self.  Then, throughout childhood and growing up, we developed certain patterns in order to survive and seek satisfaction.  In other words, we were once able to see the world from a 360 degree perspective, and in an effort to protect ourselves we sectioned off most of that, ending up with a mere 40 degree outlook on the world.  Tunnel vision, you could also call it.
The Enneagram provides a map of each type’s 40 degree perspective, including:
  • What is the essential truth that they lost sight of
  • What they came to believe instead 
  • Where their focus of attention turned to, as a result of this new belief
  • What is the number one fear they avoid
  • What makes them personally reactive
  • What this costs in their daily lives and relationships
And then, unlike other personality systems, it offers an opportunity for spiritual growth by:
  • Identifying your blind spots
  • Offering practical applications in order to let go of old habits and develop new patterns
  • Reclaiming more of your essential self; or getting out of the box you are already in
What interests me most about the Enneagram, and one of the primary reasons I became certified, is the idea that there is so much more to see, to do, to participate in and the Enneagram provides a way to shrink the blinders and see more of the 360 degree perspective.
The first step in applying the Enneagram to your life is Discovering Your Type.  
This session is a one-on-one process where I will guide you through a series of questions, in order to help you discover your type.  These questions are designed to help you look at the motivations behind your actions: why you do what you do.

At the end of the session, I will give you feedback on your answers and how they match up with the Enneagram, narrowing down your likely type. 

The purpose of this interview is to engage in a process of self-discovery.  To help you continue in this process, at the end of this session you will receive a free copy of TheEssential Enneagram (a $12.99 value) by David Daniels, MD and Virginia Price, PhD to help you further explore your type.

Sign up today

Elizabeth Elkins is a Certified Enneagram Consultant.  She offers individual, partner and group sessions, as well as workshops.  For more information, go to www.enneagramnewyorkcity.com.  

Benefits of the Enneagram, or the Teachings of US Weekly

by Elizabeth Newcomer in , , , , , ,

As I've started my new Enneagram Consulting business, the question I hear a lot is: Why would I need to learn about the Enneagram?  What's the benefit?

On my website, I list the benefits as follows:
  • Greater self-awareness and self-knowledge: understanding why you do what you do
  • Learning how others in your life see the world: leads to healthier, easier relationships
  • Empowering yourself with choice: if you know your patterns, you can make different choices
  • Cultivating compassion and curiosity for yourself and others
  • Acquiring practical tools to manage the feeling of overwhelm and reactivity with others: leads to less friction in daily life
Okay, sounds good, but what does all that really mean anyway?  What does all that look like?

Greater self-awareness and self-knowledge: understanding why you do what you do

It's like this.  Imagine you had a hand mirror and you were holding it behind your head, then you bring it forward in front of your face and voila you see yourself more clearly!  That's how I felt when I began learning about my Enneagram type.  Aspects of myself that I had a deep awareness of, but just wasn't fully conscious of, rose to the surface.  For example, I've always known that I have a tendency to compare myself to others: am I better? Am I worse?  I flip through US Weekly, my guilty pleasure, and what I've come to realize is that I'm looking at it, in order to compare myself, as well as picture an ideal (both aspects of my type).  I look at celebrities' bodies and their dresses mainly and I see how I far off I am from their image of perfection, but it also gives me something to strive toward.  What I didn't realize before the Enneagram, is how much this behavior reinforces a sense of unworthiness and longing, as if I am missing something that others (celebrities, in this case) have.  Huge wake up call for me!  Now, just an added twist on this subject: this habit of comparing myself is pleasurable for me, there is comfort in our patterns, we are safe there, we know what to expect.  But the first step is just to notice, and say Aha!

Learning how others in your life see the world: leads to healthier, easier relationships

I've been with my boyfriend for a little over a year and a half and I couldn't be more happy with our partnership.  I actually am not sure that I would have been able to find Michael and get this far if it weren't for my work with the Enneagram.  During our first year of dating we had about 5-6 fights, but they were big fights, fights where we almost broke up.  What were they about you ask?  We couldn't even tell you!  Honestly, the smallest thing would trigger one of us and then, like a pinball machine we would go back and forth wracking up a tornado-like mess!  What I came to realize is that we weren't talking about the same thing!  We weren't on the same page.  I was speaking from my own place of hurt and assumptions and he was doing the same thing.  So we were getting offended and hurt for no reason.  Once we finally began to understand each other's Enneagram type and point of view, everything shifted.  We could hear and really listen to the other without bringing our own baggage to the conversation.  We learned how not to take things personally.  We began to value our different perspectives and how much they are an asset to our compatibility.  Now, whenever we get close to skating towards a point of possible eruption, we look at each other and laugh.

Empowering yourself with choice: if you know your patterns, you can make different choices.


Let's stay on the former topic of US Weekly, for expediency's sake.  Okay, so I now know that flipping through US Weekly leads me to compare myself with celebrities and inevitably feel that I come up short.  I also know that there is something wickedly delightful at looking at pictures of beautiful people in designer clothes.  So, I have a choice.  Do I want to continue to flip through US Weekly, despite the consequences?  Do I want to go cold turkey and see what else I might do with my time if I wasn't flipping through a magazine?  The point is not really what you choose, it's not about judgment or punishment.  It's about staying open, curious and compassionate with yourself and your habits.  And it's about realizing you do have a choice.  My teacher, Dr. David Daniels, calls the Enneagram "Liberation Psychology."  True Dat.

Cultivating compassion and curiosity for yourself and others

Again, this ties into what I was just saying.  If there is a part of me that still enjoys reading gossip mags, that's fine, that's my choice.  But, if I can continue to be curious and cultivate compassion for myself, new pathways can form right in front of me.  I have this ideal that if I stopped wasting time on US Weekly, I would develop some of my artistic pursuits: drawing, playing the guitar, singing, etc. or I'd spend more time at the gym or cooking for my baby.  Maybe that's true, maybe that isn't.  The point is that the curiosity makes it fun: what would I do?  What could I do?  And the compassion helps you not stay stuck in a cycle of self-flagellation, repenting for defeating patterns.

Acquiring practical tools to manage overwhelm and reactivity with others: leads to less friction in daily life

Can we all agree on something?  Life is hard, and in this day-in-age, incredibly overwhelming!  I think I would be much more content if I lived in the late 1800s where I spent my time on more simple demands: reading, cooking, cleaning, spending time with family, and maybe occasionally delighting onstage like Sarah Bernhardt.  (This fantasy is another quality of my tragic romanticism).  But still, we all have a lot on our plate, a lot that demands of us and drains of us and we need a way to put it all in it's proper place.  I say that if yoga, psychology and astrology had a love child, it would be the Enneagram.  It offers practical tools like those three disciplines/areas of study offer.  There is a component to get in touch with your physical body--through breathing and grounding.  There is an element of communing with your emotions, feeling the sensations and detaching from the story that perpetuates the emotion.  And there is the psychological element of understanding why you do what you do, and offering choice.  In essence, the Enneagram celebrates all three centers of wisdom: our heart, our mind and our body.  And it offers practical tools to deal with the curve balls that life throws at you.

So, these are just a few short examples of how the Enneagram has shown up in my life, just a scratch in the surface.  The Enneagram is deep, it's complex, it's endlessly interesting, and it's a process, a process that begins by discovering your type.  If you want to know how the Enneagram can be of benefit in your life, sign up for a Discover Your Type session today!

Elizabeth Elkins is a Certified Enneagram Consultant.  She offers individual, partner and group sessions, as well as workshops.  For more information, go to www.enneagramnewyorkcity.com. 

How Truth-Telling is Like a Soccer Field

by Elizabeth Newcomer in , , , , , , , ,


A question came up over the Thanksgiving holiday with family that I'd like to explore today.  That question is:  Would you rather be told the truth with love OR be pandered to?  Now, it's not really that black and white.  Of course, there are variations to truth-telling.  But, for the sake of this argument, let's just examine those two possibilities: being told the truth with love and being pandered to.

Allow me to give you an example as to why this question came up.  My boyfriend, Michael, and I celebrated Thanksgiving two days late, as I had to work at my restaurant on the official holiday.  We drove to Pennsylvania to spend the weekend with his dad and his sister, Kim and her family.  I love Kim.  She's like a soul sister to me.  She is incredibly thoughtful and spiritual.  We bond over loving Oprah's Soul Sunday and great written characters, like Katniss in The Hunger Games.

Kim and Michael talk almost daily and one of the thing she picked up on and paid attention to is the fact that I love soy chai lattes from Starbucks.  So, on Saturday morning, Kim prepared chai bread.  Now, one of my weird quirks is that I don't really like pastries.  Growing up, my mom would make cinnamon rolls and french toast and I would never eat them.  I don't like muffins, either, unless they are the Duncan Hines kind.  I never order waffles or pancakes for brunch.  For some reason, I am just not a fan of sweet breakfast breads.

Now, Kim made this chai bread specifically for me, which is incredibly thoughtful and makes me feel good that she had me in mind and wanted to make me something that I would like.  And yet, I didn't like it.  I told Michael and he insisted I tell Kim.  But I didn't want to!  I didn't want to hurt her feelings, and I wanted her to know how appreciative I was of her considerate gesture.

So, the question came up, over breakfast: which would you rather?  Be told the truth with love?  Or be pandered to?  Well, finally, after discussing with Kim and Michael which we would all prefer, we decided that we'd rather be told the truth with love.  I am a firm believer that honesty is the best policy.  So, I came out with it, the truth.  I let Kim know that I was grateful for her kindness of making the chai bread, but that I was not a fan.  I stammered and stuttered and was not very graceful in the telling, but in the end I was honest and she heard me and was fine with it.

Now, this is just a simple example with fairly low stakes.  It's much more difficult to be honest with someone when there is a greater risk involved of hurting their feelings.

How does all of this fit in with the Enneagram?  Well, the Enneagram is about having compassion for ourselves, our own truths and perspectives, as well as each other's.  It is important to take responsibility for your own truth, all the while keeping your heart open to the other.


Imagine communicating truth with others like the landscape of a soccer field.  You are responsible for your half of the field, the other is responsible for their half of the field.  In order to best communicate, you approach that center circle on your side of the halfway line and you speak your truth with compassion and respect.  Now, depending on how hurtful your truth may be to the other, they may stay all the way back to their goal line.  However, as long as you remain solid and grounded from a place of love, the other has space to hear you, to respond and perhaps even to move closer and meet you halfway.

This, of course is all easier said than done, but I believe it is not only possible, it is imperative.  It never feels good to be pandered to, and if we can remain open to each other's truths, as well as our own, I think we will be stronger and closer as a result.

Where do you fall in the spectrum of truth-telling?  Would you rather be told the truth with love or pandered to?  Do you find it easy to be honest with others?  Are you a people pleaser?  Are you a bulldozer?  Chances are, whatever your truth-telling style, your personality type can give you clues as to how to rise to a place of more compassion and integrity.  If you don't know your type, sign up for a Discover Your Type session today!

Elizabeth Elkins is a Certified Enneagram Consultant.  She offers individual, partner and group sessions, as well as workshops.  For more information, go to www.enneagramnewyorkcity.com. 

Counting My Blessings

by Elizabeth Newcomer in , , , , ,

My Official Enneagram Consultant Certificate!
A lot of Enneagram excitement has happened since my last blog.  I attended the EANT Conference in San Francisco in mid-October, where I felt honored to be a part of such a beautiful community of seekers.  At the end of October, I became a Certified Enneagram Consultant in the Narrative Tradition.  And in early November I launched my new business: Enneagram New York City.  Woo hoo!

In the final week of my certification process, I attended the Enneagram Intensive in Montreat, North Carolina.  The second half of that week is about growth: how we can all grow using our types as a guide.  So, the question posed to us as we sat on panels of our type was: What is your next step?  My answer: To focus on what is present rather than what is missing.  As a Four, my natural focus of attention goes toward what is lacking or what is missing.  This leads me to favor feelings of longing and melancholy and is summed up perfectly in one of my favorite quotes.
True joy lies not in the having but in the desiring.  The bliss that is eternal; the delight that never fades, is only yours when what you most desire is just out of reach.
-C.S. Lewis
So, this next step will be a particular challenge for me, as there is juice in longing, in desiring the unattainable, and in being attracted to what is missing.  I have remained comfortable in this pattern, of dreaming about my castle in the clouds rather than taking action towards materializing that dream.

However, that pattern is no longer working for me.  There are many things I want to accomplish in this life and I am aware of how fleeting it can all be.  I am tired of being disappointed by my dreams not coming to fruition...by thinking the deadly phrase: If only...

I am excited about the prospect of growth.  I am looking forward to taking action.  I want to embark on this next step.  And I have a feeling that when I start focusing on what is right in front of me, on the blessings I do have, I will realize how much my life is already dream-like.

As I've mused over what "focusing on the present" really means, I am drawn to the concept of gratitude and counting my blessings.  I bought a Gratitude journal at least two years ago and it is so difficult for me to write in it.  I'm not sure if it's because I think I have to write a long entry or something profound, but it sits on my shelf weighing heavily with bare pages.

My Gratitude Journal

My boyfriend, Michael, pointed out to me that I have a tendency to make grand gestures when I want to effect change.  New Year's Resolutions are a big deal for me...starting things on Mondays...going on juice cleanses when I want to drop a few pounds.  Let's just say I tend to tackle things in extremes.  Go big or go home.  I have more difficulty with taking small, sure, steady steps.

However, in thinking about counting my blessings and expressing my gratitude as a way of staying focused on what is present, I am going to try to start small.  I'll share via Twitter and Facebook three things that I am grateful for as they come to me.  And I'm going to start right now.

Guitar Lessons with John Berenzy

Counting My Blessings

1.  Guitar Lessons
2.  Hot Showers
3.  Walking in the park with an old friend

What are you grateful for?  Can you count three blessings that you currently have in your life?  Please share in the comments below.  I look forward to reading!

Elizabeth Elkins is a Certified Enneagram Consultant.  She offers individual, partner and group sessions, as well as workshops.  For more information, go to www.enneagramnewyorkcity.com. 

Oprah, Brené and The Enneagram

by Elizabeth Newcomer in , , , , , , , , , , ,

I watched Dr. Brené Brown on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday this past weekend.  For those of you who don’t know, Dr. Brené Brown gave an awesome Ted talk that put her on the map about the power of vulnerability.  She has also written two books:  The Gift of Imperfection and Daring Greatly.
Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday is kind of like my church.  Spiritually, it is right on target for what I feel in my heart to be true.  But what also surprised and astounded me was how much I could connect what Brené and Oprah were talking about with the Enneagram.
In the segment, Brené was expounding upon why vulnerability is so important and how it’s the only way to achieve greater intimacy with our loved ones.  Oprah was asking her what that looked like in Brené’s own relationship with her husband.  As she described a scenario, in which case they were both teetering on the edge of a fight, she said that being vulnerable is pausing and being honest about where her mind was going.  She was making up certain “truths” in her head against her husband, putting her into an oppositional stance, that weren’t actually True.  She said her go-to postures are anger and blame.  I immediately thought of the Type 8.  Their go-to stance is very much anger and blame.  And the place they seldom venture is vulnerability. 
Brené and Oprah continued their conversation and they got on the topic of Perfectionism.  They were saying that perfectionism is like a mask, a shield of armor to protect the world from actually seeing you.  There is an inherent fear that underneath you are not good enough, so the strive towards perfectionism is really a race away from that fear of unworthiness.  This is a perfect (no pun intended) way to describe the plight of Type 1.    
The Enneagram is a psychological personality system, but equally, and almost more interesting to me is the spiritual component in the system.  Every type has a vice and a virtue.  Type 8’s Vice is lust and their Virtue is innocence.  Type 1’s Vice is anger (which usually looks more like resentment) and their Virtue is serenity.  What this means is that your strength is your greatest weakness and your weakness is your greatest strength.  They are two sides of the same coin.  In order to access the spiritual gifts of your virtue, you must go through the challenges of your vice.
Other Types Virtue and Vice:
Type 2: Humility and Pride
Type 3: Honesty and Deceit
Type 4: Equanimity and Envy
Type 5: Non-attachment and Avarice
Type 6: Courage and Fear
Type 7: Sobriety and Gluttony
Type 9: Right Action and Sloth
If you’re interested in learning more about the Enneagram’s Vice to Virtue conversion, contact me to set up an Individual Typing Session.
Thanks Brené and Oprah for giving me some awesome material this week!

Follow Up Friday: The Conversation I'm Starting

by Elizabeth Newcomer in , , , , ,

Follow Up Friday is a series where I check in on the questions and issues that I introduced on Tuesday's blog.

Turns out I didn't get any comments on my last blog to follow up on today.  Michael asked me how a Four would usually respond to that.  Great question, I thought!  My default reply was that I, as a Four, would feel rejected.  However, even as I said the word rejected, I knew I wasn't.  It didn't sit right with me.  In truth, I felt fine about it.  I understood.  I certainly am not the type to leave comments on other people's blogs, hey, I don't even read other people's blogs.  Yes, I was hoping I would get some of your thoughts and ideas in the comments, but I wasn't expecting it, and I didn't have an attachment to the outcome.  That non-attachment and release of expectation helped me to not take it personally, nor feel rejected.  Fantastic! 

On Wednesday night, I was serving tables at my job, and one of our beloved customers came in towards the end of the night.  If Woody Allen and Larry David had a love child it would be Harold.  Now, Harold is very particular.  He knows what he likes and what he doesn't like.  He wants butter with his bread, not our organic olive oil, and he wants it brought to his table immediately.  He wants a healthy pour on a wine glass, not a measured-out pour.  He wants the perfect amount of digestive time in between his two courses.  If his entree comes too early, he'll send it back; if too late, he'll demand it's arrival at once.  To some of my co-workers, this is off-putting, and I can understand why.  But to me, it's refreshing.  You always know where you stand with Harold.

We began talking and he told me that he had checked out my website (this blog) that we had spoken about the last time he was in.  I perked up and said, "Great!  What did you think?"  His response was "Meh--it didn't really catch my interest."  Again, typically, I would be personally offended by his very blunt critique of writing.  But, surprisingly, I didn't feel offended.  I checked in with myself, and I felt curious.  I asked him to tell me why, to give me more details.  We got into a great discussion about what it is I'm trying to do and put out there, and how to go about doing that.  At the end of the conversation, I had some genuine pearls of wisdom from Ol' Harold, and I had some questions that I wanted to continue to ask myself.

This blog is a work-in-progress.  The Enneagram is a complex system and it's difficult to convey its depth in soundbites.  It is best discovered through conversation between types.  As, I hope to turn on people who've never heard of the Enneagram, as well as pique the interests of those who are Enneagram devotees, it will be intriguing to discover where the sweet spot lies between authentically expressing myself and resonating with the readers.   

Finally, in the middle of the night, I woke up to go to the bathroom, and I remembered the dream I was having.  There was a young man in it and he was telling me (in regards to my blog), "It didn't resonate with me, but keep going, keep going."  I captured that experience as I groggily went back to bed.  This blog may not resonate with you yet, it may sometime in the future, or it may never.  And that's okay.  But, I'm gonna keep going, keep going.

Hope you have a great weekend!  I'll be back on Tuesday, and if you feel compelled to leave a comment on this blog, I will relish in reading it!

The Conversation I'm Starting

by Elizabeth Newcomer in , , ,

You know that little thing I say at the end of each blog post, something to the effect of "leave a comment?!"  Well, let me tell you a little bit more about the conversation I am hoping to start with you.

First of all, the way I connect is through sharing.  I tell about my experience in hopes that you will tell me about yours.  Share and Tell was always my favorite day in lower school. My boyfriend always jokes with me because he'll say something like "It's hot in here."  And I'll respond, "I'm not hot."  Or he'll say, "I'm tired."  To which I'll say, "I've got a ton of energy!"  And with love and a little bit of poking fun, he'll say, "It's not always about you."  I know it's not always about me, and I'm not trying to make it be.  It's not that I'm not hearing him, or that I don't care about his experience of the world.  It's that, as a Four, I am self-referencing, and oftentimes, I connect through comparison.  And I want to connect most of all.

Whenever I meet someone new, I always try to break the ice by sharing, usually a story.  Again, it's not because I am self-involved, although, I can be guilty of that, as well.  It's that I want to make the other person feel comfortable and that I am trustworthy.  So, if I am revealing, self-disclosing, and honest, maybe you will open up to me, too and together, we can forge a connection.

One of the reasons I was drawn to the Enneagram, was because it was such a helpful and spot-on road map to my patterns.  It was like a light bulb went off, or seeing clearly for the first time.  Everything just seemed to make sense.  Parts of myself that I had inherently known, but could never fully verbalize, came to the surface.  Like the joy that passes over a two-year old's face when he is first able to communicate "I'm hungry."  I was ecstatic that I could finally use words and concepts to describe aspects of myself that I had subconsciously known all along.  Now, I am also a diarist.  I keep fervid journals of my thoughts, discoveries and experiences.  I have been doing so for as long as I can remember, and therefore it's the easiest way I know how to express myself.

My intention for this blog is three-fold.  It's a way for me to express myself and my reflections.  It's a way for me to share with you the Enneagram system and how it shows up in day-to-day life.  And lastly, and most importantly, it's a way for me to connect with you by starting the conversation.

As a soon-to-be Certified Enneagram Consultant, I am trained in the Narrative Tradition.  This means that we learn about type by hearing from people's own experiences.  Through question and response, through stories, we get at what it means to be a specific type.  I am an expert at Type Four, and therefore, I can tell you all about what life is like from the perspective of a Four.  What I don't intrinsically know is what life is like from the other eight perspectives.  This is where you come in.  This is why I invite you to share.  So, please do!

Let's start with some fun beginner getting-to-know-you questions...

  • What is a nickname that people call you?  (Not related to your actual name, but more related to your personality).
  • What is one aspect of your personality that trips you up over and over again?
  • How are you your own worst enemy and how are you your own best friend?
I am very much looking forward to reading your answers in the comments and following them up on Follow Up Friday!

Much love!

Follow Up Friday: To Commit

by Elizabeth Newcomer in , , , , ,

Follow Up Friday is a series where I check in on the questions and issues that I introduced on Tuesday's blog.

To Commit or Not to Commit, that is the question.

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back-- Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.   -Goethe

Well, it's day four of my journey on the Dukan Diet and so far, I haven't given up!  Here's an interesting thing I noticed about my commitment to the diet.  I am accessing my One resource point.  I have been able to accomplish my goal thus far by seeing it objectively.  My feelings don't really matter.

It hasn't been easy.  Temptations are always around the corner.  Last night, I worked an event at my restaurant.  At the end of the night we had several beautiful bottles of Sancerre that we had opened, but had not poured.  My manager decided to do something she never does...let us all take a bottle home!  I, of course, could not take her up on her generous offer, because I'm not drinking.  I expected to be more disappointed, but truthfully, I just felt like: oh well!  And I hurried home to my darling, proud that I hadn't caved. 

Then, tonight, I am meeting six of my best girl friends at a Latin Tapas restaurant on the Lower East Side.  I am sure that there will be margaritas flowing, and my favorite tapas (empanadas!) being passed around the table.  I have taken precaution, however, and already checked out the menu to see what I will be able to order.  And I'm looking forward to my sparkling water with a squeeze of lime.  I have a suspicion that I will be even more engaged with my best friends, able to put my focus fully on them and be completely present!

Now, all types can struggle with commitment, but here are some pros and cons of each type.  You may be able to access the positives of a resource point, like I did with my access to the practical, objective One!  

Ones, as I have laid out, tend to be very practical and objective.  They are also list-makers and doers.  Responsibility and following through on their word is important to them.  For example, my boyfriend, who is a One, after having smoked for 23 years read a book and in one afternoon decided to quit and hasn't touched a cigarette since.

Twos have an easy time committing, if the commitment is in association with another.  When it is a commitment to their own needs and self-care, they tend to shirk from completion.  Committing to one thing inevitably means saying "no" to another thing, so Twos can get caught up by trying to do a lot for others and end up saying "no" to their commitment to themselves.

Threes are doers.  Hands down.  Goals, accomplishments, success is all a part of their daily vernacular.  They are able to achieve almost anything they put their minds to.  However, they can overdo which can result in pushing themselves beyond their physical limits. 

Fours, as I discussed in Tuesday's blog, in general don't like commitment.  Their feelings come first and foremost and they never know how they're going to feel day-to-day.  Also, commitment can bring up associations with ordinary and routine, both of which are allergies for a Four.  If the commitment brings up close connections with loved ones, or deep experiences, the Four can gladly commit.
Fives can be incredibly non-committal to others agendas.  I once heard a Five say that if someone invited her to lunch on Wednesday, she would say "no" for fear that that same friend would want to go to lunch with her every Wednesday.  Fives are very possessive of their time, space and energy.  However, if the commitment is on the Fives agenda, they tend to follow through with ease. 

Sixes value loyalty and duty.  They show up for their commitments.  However, they may procrastinate when it comes to getting started on a project.  This is a result of them over-thinking instead of doing.  They may also get tripped up on their worst-case scenario analyzing.

Sevens are allergic to limitation.  And commitment can often feel limiting.  They also like variety and new experiences.  If the commitment is fun and brings them joy, they are more likely to stick to it.  Getting a Seven at the beginning of a project, when they can brainstorm new ideas and avenues is when they really shine.

Eights have a ton of intensity and energy, both which lend themselves well to commitment.  They also are their own boss and don't answer to anyone.  If something is important to them, they will get it done, no excuses, no question.  Getting an Eight to commit to a project that is out of their leadership may be a more difficult task.

Nines merge with others agendas.  When their loved ones initiate a commitment, they are able to follow through.  When it comes to their own commitments however, they often get distracted by the inessential.  They tend to make themselves less important and therefore, like the Twos, have trouble saying "no" to others and "yes" to their own agendas.

If you know your type, please leave a comment about what commitment means to you!  

Have a great weekend!

To Commit, or Not to Commit?

by Elizabeth Newcomer in , , , , , ,

After a week long of overindulging in The Big Easy, Michael and I have decided to start The Dukan Diet and today is Day One.  I hate diets.  I hate restricting myself and I hate depriving myself.  To me, diets = commitment.  And I have a very complicated relationship to commitment.

Why I am allergic to commitment?  Let's see, as a 4, I prioritize my feelings above all.  And when you make a commitment, feelings don't always get to have their say.  Then there is the element of routine, which I tend to avoid (even though I crave it).  This is not to say I am unable to commit.  If the commitment involves another person, I always follow through.  Be it a date night with Michael, a girls dinner with my besties, a lesson with my guitar teacher, or anything else that involves my loved ones, I am there.  No question.

It's when I need to make a commitment to myself, and the agendas that I deem important, that I tend to fail.  That list includes diets, exercise regimens, meditation, studying the Enneagram, practicing guitar, and any other self-care activity.  If I can enlist another to join me (as in Michael with The Dukan Diet), I know I'll have a fighting chance to keep my promise.

Moving forward, I am hoping that this joint pledge to the diet will open up opportunities for me to follow through with other commitments I've longed to keep to myself, mainly meditation and exercise.  Commitment has a lot to do with trust.  When we make the agreement to commit to something and we follow through with that, we have taught ourselves that we can self-trust.  When we fail to follow through, there is a part of us that doesn't have inner faith.

I am looking forward to self-trust and inner faith, and the sense of accomplishment and self-worth that comes with showing up for my commitments. 

How do you show up for your commitments?  Where are you most committed in your life?  Where are you least committed in your life?  What stops you from committing and what propels you forward?

As always, feel free to comment on the questions I've posed!  I'll follow up on Friday with more thoughts on the relationship other types may have to commitment.

Have a great week!

Follow Up Friday: Awake My Soul

by Elizabeth Newcomer in , , , , , ,

Follow Up Friday is a new series where I check in on the questions and issues that I introduced on Tuesday's blog.

Question:  What awakens your soul?

I go in and out of being present and connected to what awakens my soul.  When I have experiences like I had last Monday night, where I truly felt free to be me, connected to everything and all around me, I wanted to hold onto that feeling as long as possible.  I desired to bottle that feeling up.  Inevitably, I wasn't able to carry over that bliss in the days that succeeded the event, leaving me disappointed and damn near depressed.  I assume this is because I have been trying to hold onto the past.  This refusal to let go of the past and live in the present blinds me to what new soul-awakening experiences I could witness in the here and now.

So in thinking about what awakens my soul, it begs the antithetical question: what puts my soul to sleep?  

As a Four, my soul is asleep when my attention is on:
-Expectations as created through my fantasies and idealism 
-Seeking for what is missing
-Resistance to what is here and now
-Comparing Mind   
These are all elements of my vice: Envy.

If you are one of the other nine types, here is a brief list of where their attention goes, in addition to their vice.
One: Improving, Correcting, The Critical Mind, Anger.
Two: People-Pleasing, Suppressing your Needs, Pride.
Three: Impressing, Doing, Over-achieving, Deceit.
Five: Withholding, Detaching, Intellectualizing, Avarice.
Six: Worrying, Doubting, Over-preparing, Fear.
Seven: Plans, Fear of Limitation, Rationalization, Gluttony.
Eight: Power and Control, Asserting One's Opinions, Lust.
Nine: Numbing Out, Comfort Seeking, Inertia, Sloth.

So, logic would tell me that if these vices are putting our souls to sleep, perhaps the key to awakening our souls lies in our types' virtues?

One: Serenity- Accepting the presence of all emotions without judgment
Two: Humility- Giving and receiving freely without need for approval
Three: Hope- Grounding in possibility without the compulsion of doing
Four: Equanimity- Balancing emotions out by surrendering to the present
Five: Non-attachment- Letting go of the fear of not enough
Six: Courage- Ability to face fears while having faith in self
Seven: Sobriety- Commitment to a single course of action without diversion
Eight: Innocence- Witnessing without need to control
Nine: Right Action- Valuing worth by embracing one's separate self

Check in the next time you notice your soul is asleep.  Where is your attention?  And get curious about what wakes your soul up, was the key in your virtue?

Share in the comments below or email me.  I look forward to reading!

Have a lovely weekend!

Awake My Soul

by Elizabeth Newcomer in , , , , , , , , ,

In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die
And where you invest your love, you invest your life

Awake my soul
Awake my soul
Awake my soul
For you were made to meet your maker

-Mumford and Sons

Last night, while at home visiting my parents in New Orleans, I had the immense pleasure of attending the Mumford and Sons stopover concert at Mardi Gras World with my boyfriend, my brother and sister-in-law.  It was in a wide open space with about 9,600 attendees right next to the Mississippi River.  And though it was a warm 80 degrees, the breeze coming off of the Mississippi kept us cool for dancing.  

I don't like to fight to get to the front because even though I like seeing the band mates up close and personal, I would rather have an unobstructed view and freedom to loosen my limbs.  So, Michael and I parked ourselves right on the river railings.  The sound was crystal clear.  I could hear Marcus Mumford as if he were whispering into my ear.

They played all of our favorite songs from their first two albums.  Michael and I tend to have these on repeat wherever we are, at home, in the car.  But when they got to "Awake my Soul" I jumped off my river perch, kicked off my flip flops and danced my little heart out on the cement.  (Not a pleasant dance floor texture, but I didn't care).  I was so immersed, so incredibly content, expressing myself in my crazy dance moves and singing at the top of my lungs.  

I was aware that this moment and this experience is what awakens my very soul.  Music has such a beautiful and great capacity to get right into your bones and blood stream and make you feel connected to all and glad to be alive.  Mumford and Sons music certainly does that for me.  As does being in my hometown of Proud New Orleans.  As does connecting eyes with Michael as we listen to our favorite band.

What awakens your soul?  What makes you feel the beauty of being alive?  Where are you fully aware of all the magic that life has to offer?  When are you hyper attuned with all of your senses?

As always, please leave a comment and let me know what awakens your soul.  I look forward to reading!  And tune in to Follow Up Friday where I will revisit this question of soul-awakening as it blossoms throughout the week!

Have a blessed day!

Follow Up Friday: What is your favorite worst feeling?

by Elizabeth Newcomer in , , , , , , , ,

Follow Up Friday is a new series where I check in on the questions and issues that I introduced on Tuesday's blog.
As I continued to examine this question throughout the week, I found myself sort of hating my personality type.  I actually got mad at it, like it was this other outside organism (which it sort of is).  Saying things in my head like: why can’t you be happier with where you are?  What’s wrong with you?   You’re missing out on life, you know.  These kinds of thoughts, I realize, are not helpful.
One of the reasons I love the Enneagram so much is that it is not about changing who you are.  It’s not about being some perfect specimen.  It is about shedding light on your automatic patterns, your default perspective.  When you shed light on these patterns, then you have a choice.  This is the awareness piece in any spiritual practice.  You can either remain a victim of your old methods of existence, or you can choose a new way of seeing things.
What comes before gratitude and after awareness is acceptance.  As my teacher, David Daniels says, when awareness gets too far ahead of acceptance that’s when you have discord.  So casting back on that night where I had a conversation between my Inner Guidance and my Habitual Mind, I was missing the piece of acceptance.  I was trying to force myself to the gratitude step. 
So, what I’m planning on practicing is acceptance with compassion and curiosity.  My therapist has an analogy that I think is very fitting.  It’s like having a new bud planted on your windowsill and urging it to instantaneously blossom into a flower: Grow!  Grow!  Grow!  It’s an absurd idea, so why do we do it to ourselves? 
The next time my mind casts back to yearning for the rose-colored past, or gunning for the idealized future, I hope I can get curious and with compassion discover why it is I am leaving the present moment.
Let’s continue this conversation!  If you have any thoughts or questions, please leave them in the comments below or email me.
Have a lovely weekend!    

What is your Favorite Worst Feeling?

by Elizabeth Newcomer in , , , , , ,

This question was passed down to me by mom through her good friend, the late Teresa Adams. 
The other night, I lay in my bed after a long workday.  My thoughts were begging to climb to heights of new ideals for the future, were scrounging to crawl back to the past to see it with rose-colored glasses.  I caught myself.  My inner observer seemed to be especially attuned that night.  The conversation in my head went like this:
INNER OBSERVER:  Wait, wait, wait, hold on just one minute!  Instead of longing for the sacred past or the idealized future, why don’t you spend a few minutes right HERE, right NOW, giving gratitude for the day?
MY HABITUAL MIND:  Yuck!  How boring?!?  I don’t want to do that!  I want to daydream of a beautiful future, how I’m going to lose weight and have long lustrous locks, how I will wear beautiful clothes, how I am going to make a living doing something that I love.
IO:  Just try it.  See if you can say what you are grateful about today, the present moment. 
MHM:  That does not sound fun AT ALL.  I mean, I’ll try it, but I’m not happy about it.
So, I tried it. 
MHM:  I am grateful for this comfy bed that I am lying in, with these soft sheets.  I am grateful for this cool air-conditioned room.  I am grateful that I babysat two beautiful babies this morning and got to see their smiling faces and spend two hours walking through Central Park.  I am grateful that I had a busy and fun night at work at the restaurant. 
As I started naming all of what I was grateful for, I was amazed at how awesome my life is right HERE and right NOW.
IO:  Good job!  I know it doesn’t feel as fun or as juicy.  But that is because you’ve trained your mind to see what is lacking or what is missing.  It’s habitual.  So, it requires effort to shift it, but the more you practice it, the easier it will be and the more fun you will have in the present moment!
An element that distinguishes the nine different types of personality in the Enneagram system is where your focus of attention (a.k.a. your favorite worst feeling) goes.  Here they are for the nine different types:
Type One:  Right and Wrong/What needs to be improved
Type Two:  Fulfilling other’s needs
Type Three: Approval for tasks
Type Four:  Longing for what is missing
Type Five:  Detaching in order to observe
Type Six:  Worst-case scenarios
Type Seven:  Pleasant options
Type Eight:  Power and control
Type Nine:  Merging with other’s agendas

What is your favorite worst feeling?  Investigate it.  See why it’s juicy for you.  What do you do to counteract it? 
Leave your discoveries in the comments!  I look forward to reading them and engaging in the conversation with you!

Enneagram for Creative Blocks

by Elizabeth Newcomer in , , , ,

My future sister-in-law, Kimberly, is a writer and a budding Enneagram Enthusiast.  She asked me to write a guest post on her collective blog, Obey the Muse.  Obey the Muse is a gathering place for writers, so she wanted me to focus specifically on how the Enneagram can be used to help break past creative blocks.  Below is my post.
The Enneagram is a personality system that describes nine different types, or points of view, from a psychological, somatic and spiritual perspective.  To learn about the Enneagram and your specific type is to engage in a process of self-discovery, which will ultimately garner greater compassion for yourself and for those around you.  It is also especially helpful in uncovering your subconscious patterns, shining light on them so you have the power to choose whether or not to engage in them.  Furthermore, it can be beneficial for artists and their approach to their craft. 
If you know your specific strengths and weaknesses, your particular blind spots, and the subconscious object of your attention, you have more clarity about your own experience.  As artists and creators, we are all seeking to express our unique experience.  When you are in the dark about what inhibits or hinders you, you have no choice but to stay frozen in that which binds you.
Here are the nine different types with a brief glimpse into what their struggle might be in regards to creative blocks.
Type One is The Perfectionist.  True to their name, they strive and seek perfection.  Where they might get stuck creatively is in trying to hard to create perfection.  As we know, creation is only perfect in its imperfection.  In order for the One to get un-stuck, they need to forge ahead.  Put pen to paper, paintbrush to canvas and when the image in front of you is not the same as the ideal one in your head, continue on with curiosity and compassion.
Type Two is The Helper.   Their focus is so much on meeting others desires and needs that they might not prioritize their own need to create.  For the Two, scheduling a specific time in the day or week to focus on their art and fulfill their own needs is extremely important.
Type Three is The Achiever.  Threes are great performers and at times, they can get so caught up in impressing others, that they lose touch with their own truth.  The sense of deception that comes with trying to maintain a superhuman image can block them from sharing their vulnerability through their art.  When the Three allows themselves to be loved for who they are, and not what they do, they are able to express more truthfully.
Type Four is The Tragic Romantic.  Fours are idealists, who are caught in the trance of desiring that which is unavailable.  The following quote by C.S. Lewis sums up their point of view perfectly.  “True joy lies not in the having but in the desiring.  The bliss that is eternal; the delight that never fades, is only yours when what you most desire is just out of reach.”  This perspective inhibits them from taking the necessary steps to make their dream a reality.  It is important Fours get curious about the process of creativity and release the fear of it not living up to their ideal.
Type Five is The Observer.  Thinking about doing can often replace the action of doing.  So, if they have an artistic product to complete, they may spend all their time researching, planning, thinking about doing the project instead of actually doing it. Fives may need to go out of their comfort zone of living in their heads, connect to their heart to find their expression, and connect to their body to engage into action.
Type Six is The Loyal Skeptic.  Sixes can avoid success for fear of being exposed to potential harm or ridicule from others.  This fear of success may also hinder them from taking action.  As they get close to succeeding on an artistic project, they can quickly shrink away and shift gear to something altogether different.  It’s important Sixes allow themselves to feel the fear, but not be frozen by it.
Type Seven is The Enthusiast.  Their zeal for life and exploring many options makes them wary of commitment.  They are also most energized in the planning stage of an artistic process and shy away from the follow-through.  Sobering up to the deep satisfaction that comes from committing to their creative expression will lead Sevens on the path that more closely resembles the adventure they seek.
Type Eight is The Challenger.  Eights like to be in control and in charge.  They may be great leaders in an artistic endeavor, but may also put the emphasis on being strong.  The vulnerability Eights try to conceal is the tenderness of the artist, so by relinquishing control, they are more easily in the zone of creation.
Type Nine is The Peacemaker.  Nines have a hard time knowing what they want, and they often and easily merge with other’s agendas.  Furthermore, when it is necessary for Nines to prioritize their creative process, they are likely to get sidetracked by inessential tasks.  The great news is that once a Nine gets started they can continue with ease, so find a way to get that ball rolling!
This was just a brief overview into the nine different types and how each personality pattern can get in the way of creative expression.  If you are interested in learning more about your type or the Enneagram system as a whole, please get in touch.  I look forward to helping you uncover your creative blocks and let your unique essence express!

Divine Forgiveness

by Elizabeth Newcomer in , , , , ,

"To err is human; to forgive, divine."

 - Alexander Pope

           Wednesday night I was working at my restaurant job, waiting tables.  I had been off for several days, and in those days my boyfriend and I had visited my family in Charlottesville, and I had a belated birthday celebration with eight of my girlfriends.  I was ready to get back to work and I was also ready to be a little more disciplined.  After having spent the majority of the summer, indulging in wine and rich foods, my jeans no longer fitting comfortably, I was also ready to go on a healthy eating regimen.  My boyfriend, Michael, and I decided we would do without alcohol, the beloved sugar in our morning coffee, and eat more whole grains, greens and lean protein. 
            So, Wednesday, we began our new diet, I went to therapy in the morning, I took my first run around Central Park after a long time, and on my subway trips I was reading Helen Palmer’s The Enneagram.  Now, back to my serving shift.  I had focused on so many things that day, trying to change big habits in one fell swoop (I’ve never been good at baby steps), that by the time I got to the restaurant I could barely see what was in front of me. 
            It started as awkwardness, so stuck in my thoughts I was, that when I would try to speak to the guests, it came out fumbling and flustered.  It was a very busy night, with 300 guests on the books, so I told myself, “Liz, you better get your sh*t together!”  I did and I went into turbo speed.  Obsessed with pushing forward out of this unfocused, awkward state, I did my job and others jobs (helping open dozens of wine bottles, running people’s drinks, clearing, and remarking, and taking orders).  This is not to say other people weren’t doing their jobs, they were, but it was a busy night, so we all needed to pitch in.
            In the hurricane of my forced attempts, when I went to put in the order for a table of four as three lobsters and one halibut, I put instead three halibuts and one lobster.  This may not sound like such a big deal, and in the grand scheme of things it isn’t.  But, when the kitchen is trying to churn out over 300 meals, that mistake can set them majorly back.  It’s a domino effect.
            There was a surge of heat that filled up my body.  Burning tears brimmed at my eyes.  I was furious with myself!  How could I have done that?  Where was my head?  (In the clouds, for sure.)  I went to the table and took the blame and apologized profusely.  They were lovely, assured me that it was not a problem, the two couples had not seen each other for eight years and they were enjoying catching up.  I told them, “I don’t know what happened.  I am known as the waitress who doesn’t make mistakes!”  Promptly, the older gentleman said, “I make mistakes all the time, everybody does.” 
Wow.  That stopped me dead in my tracks.  He was right: everybody makes mistakes.  I realized that I had been so hard on myself, pushing myself and pressing myself further, that I had worked myself into a tizzy.  I slowed down, apologized to my manager and chef, and tried to get through the rest of my shift as gracefully as possible.
The next morning, on Thursday, I sat down to meditate.  When I asked my heart for a word, it said “forgiveness.”  It was the perfect word I needed to hear.  In the Enneagram, we all have different foci of attention.  As a four, my Focus is on what is missing or what I lack.  It is incredibly easy for me to see all the ways that I am deficient or not whole.  I can also go to my resource point of One, whose attention is on improvement, and seeing things as right versus wrong.  Under stress, I go to Two, whose attention is on meeting others needs (and as a byproduct neglecting one’s own).  Once you understand your Enneagram type, and where your focus of attention naturally goes, you have a choice whether or not to play out that fixation, or have some distance from it.
It is easy to not forgive yourself if you are in the grips of your personality.  All you see is what is not measuring up.  It’s as if you have the potential to see the world from 360 degrees, but instead all you see is 40 percent of it.  When you are able to take a step back, you can see more clearly the whole picture, and like the glass is both half-full and half-empty, there are more ways than one to see that picture. 
Forgiveness is an incredibly hard concept to grasp and put into practice.  Forgiveness implies grace, self-awareness and self-acceptance.  If we can forgive ourselves first, we can certainly forgive others more easily.  Seems like a worthy pursuit, doesn’t it?
What ways are you hard on yourself?  How do you forgive yourself?  What type are you and where does your focus of attention go?  Please leave a comment so we can get this conversation going!  And feel free to share or like this blog with friends!

Befriending the Shadow

by Elizabeth Newcomer in , , , ,

“Is this not enough?  This blessed sip of life, is it not enough?  Staring down at the ground.  Oh, then complain and pray more from above, you greedy little pig.”
-from the song “Pig” by Dave Matthews Band
This may seem like a very anti-spiritual quote to open with, referring to one as a “greedy little pig.”  And, I certainly am not condoning that kind of disparaging talk.  It reminds me of when Alec Baldwin called his young daughter a pig on that widely publicized raging tantrum he had on her voicemail. 
So, to be perfectly clear, I am not calling you or myself or anyone a greedy little pig.  And yet, I would like to discuss issues that resonate in this very short lyric from one of my favorite Dave Matthews Band songs, “Pig.”  Yes, I still love Dave Matthews. 
This past week I’ve been struggling with a few key issues.  I work at a beautiful award-winning restaurant with delicious organic farm-to-table food in a stunning ethereal atmosphere serving food to all sorts of New York movers and shakers.  Nothing to complain about, really.  Except for the fact that it is a “survival” job.  Therefore, complaints seem to go with the territory. 
There are many other ways that I would prefer to spend my time and energy, and ways that I would prefer to support myself financially.  Honestly, if I could get paid to delve into the depths of my psyche, I would gladly do so and probably be a millionaire by now. 
I worked a lot this week, that coupled with the fact that I was experiencing raging PMS hormones, in addition to not being able to have a night alone with my sweetie, all made way for some serious darkness to emerge from the depths of my soul. 
I don’t like darkness.  I’ve been trying to become friends with my shadow.  I’ve slowly made my approach to that unknown part of myself through reading the brilliant writings of the late Debbie Ford in her book “The Dark Side of the Light Chasers,” in addition to “Owning YourOwn Shadow” by Robert A. Johnson.
But boy, did my shadow side come out with a vengeance this week.  When I was at my job, I was working myself up in to such a frenzy, such a tizzy, that I nearly made myself sick.  My thoughts were the rants of a 4 year old who wasn’t getting what she wanted.  “I don’t want to be here!  I want to be at home!  I want to hang out with my boyfriend!  I want to stay on the couch!  I want to watch T.V.!  I want to eat chocolate!  I don’t want to work!  I want to play!  I want to draw!  I want to do fun stuff!  Leave me alone!  I’m mad!”  Then another part of me, my superego as Freud might call it, chimed in.  “How dare you!  You greedy little pig!  Don’t you realize that you are creating this suffering for yourself?  Suffering is resisting what is.  So, you might as well stop fighting what is.  If you were meant to be anywhere else, you would be there.  But you’re here, so get used to it, accept it and move forward.  And if you do this and are a good little girl, then and only then, maybe the universe will reward you for your good behavior.”
Yep.  That was pretty much the conversation I had with myself.  So, here’s the deal.  Both of those views are valid.  And it’s important to not fight either side, but really to let all the parts of me exist and have their say.  And instead of being judgmental or shaming or calling myself a greedy little pig, I have to invite compassion to the conversation.  I have to let it be okay to want more for myself, to want more from the way I spend my time and energy.  And yet, I have to give myself credit for doing the best I can do, and also to show gratitude for all that I do have and all that I am.
I put so much pressure on myself to be this light-filled being, above the trials and petty concerns that bog us down as human beings.  And yet, if I don’t allow my darkness, my shadow, to co-exist with my all-knowing angelic side I am closing myself off to real, true, deep love and compassion for myself and others, ultimately cutting myself off from the beauty and privilege of existence. 
If any of what I’ve written resonates with you, please share a comment below.  I’d love to hear your thoughts and begin a conversation!

Slow Down, You Move Too Fast

by Elizabeth Newcomer in , , , ,

Well, I finally did it.  I meditated.  For ten minutes.  After wanting, planning and hoping to do so, I did it.  And it was wonderful!  It’s hard to turn off the mind, and I didn’t exactly do that.  But I slowed down.  I could feel the tightness, like a drum, in my belly, the pull of my hip flexors, the spread of muscles shining out of my spine.  I saw images.  I asked for clarity surrounding my pursuits.
I have been pursuing a career as an actress for my entire adult life and I am stuck.  I, who once prided myself on being optimistic and innocent almost to a fault, have become disillusioned.  I don’t know what step to take next or how, or if I am even willing to do so.  As I was meditating, I asked for guidance on this conundrum, and I imagined being at the bottom of a well, with dirt so tightly compacted around me that it felt as if I was suffocating.  Breathing and feeling the stifling grip of the earth, I tried to relax into it.  Slowly, its claws loosened and I had a bit more room to be.  The path before me seemed a little less foggy.
I asked my heart for a word, as I was taught by my Enneagram mentor, Sandra.  She says if you ask your heart for a word, it will only come from a place of love.  If you get an unkind word, you know it’s not really your heart speaking to you.  So, my heart first said “key” and then it said “soften.”  And I knew what that meant.  Compassion.
It means I must soften my heart in order to unlock it.  I could feel the tightness, like vines, covering up my heart, trying to protect it.  For as long as I can remember I have been incredibly hard on myself.  I want too much from myself, I push myself past my boundaries, and limits.  I berate myself for not being good enough, for failing, for being human. 
Yesterday, I felt particularly stressed.  Beginning my morning with immediately trying to put myself out there, getting online, trying to reach for something, giving away my power, by 10am I felt exhausted.  I was frustrated, angry, annoyed, mad, tired, and upset.  Over what?  Nothing in particular.  It was mainly because I was not present.  It felt like someone was behind me, pushing me towards some end goal, some product, and I was clamoring and tripping over myself trying to get there.  I think I was pissed at that bully who was forcing me to be somewhere that I wasn’t.
I didn’t like that feeling, that stress, that overwhelm of the mind, that disconnection from the body.  And that is what led me to start my day a little differently this morning.  When I opened my eyes from my ten-minute meditation, I could see in real time what was in front of me.  The flickering of my Lavender Vanilla candle flame, the blueness of the sky juxtaposed with the rust red of the roof across the street.  My breathing had slowed down and it felt just a little easier to take the next step. 
This, I suppose, is the gift of meditation.  We are so over-stimulated in this uber technological age.  We have more on our plates than ever.  We are constantly feeling behind, or too much, or not good enough.  I hope to be able to give myself this gift every morning. 
If any of what I’ve written resonates with you, please share a comment below.  I’d love to hear your thoughts and begin a conversation!

Struggle between Selves

by Elizabeth Newcomer in , , , , , , , , , ,

“One law of our souls is that if we are present to our here-and-now experience with an open and fresh attitude of curiosity and inquiry into the contents of our consciousness, our experience will rapidly deepen.”
“We cannot make ourselves change, just as we cannot make ourselves feel love for someone we don’t care about.  Change does not happen through our own efforts.  No one has ever made themselves or anyone else change.  But our efforts can orient our consciousness in such a way that transformation is more likely. “
I read a lot of self-help books.  Why?  Because I have a desire to be better, and I guess I hope that by reading these books I will be able to change into this better person.  It’s not that easy.  I have the awareness of what I could do to make myself better, but I don’t always have the willingness to do the necessary actions. 
Let’s take meditation for example.  For several weeks, even months, I have had the idea of starting my mornings with meditation.  In this romantic vision, I wake up with that sense of curiosity and presence possessed by children.  I open the window, sit on a comfortable cushion in a designated meditation spot, light a candle, set my Insight timer for twenty minutes, close my eyes and meditate. 
Have I even once done this?  No.  Why do I want to?  For several reasons...  One, I feel like overall I will be a happier, more peaceful, more enlightened person if I do this.  Two, I think that I will be perceived by others to be a happier, more peaceful, more enlightened person if I do this.  Three, I have an idea that it will give me a sense of purpose.  Four, I believe that if I start my day this way, connecting with “presence” I will have an easier time achieving my goals.  
So, why don’t I?  I don’t have many good answers.  I have some not-so-good excuses.  There is resistance, of course, as Steven Pressfield writes so beautifully about in his book, The War of Art.  The quote above from Sandra Maitri is also somewhat comforting, though I don’t think it fits exactly with this problem.  It is possible to make an effort to do something.
 What is coming to my mind is the struggle between the IDEAL SELF versus the PERCEIVED SELF versus the TRUE SELF.  My ideal self meditates every day.  My perceived self doesn’t have faith that I am capable of committing to meditating every day.  And most importantly, my true self is buried beneath the two, so that she is very difficult to access.
It’s all a process, part of the journey.  One reason I love the Enneagram is that it helps me get a little closer to uncovering the true self. 
What is your experience?  Do you have a sense of the struggle between the ideal, perceived and true selves?  Are you able to make an effort to meditate every day, or do some other activity that you believe will be soul-enhancing?  Please share your comments in the space below.