I Get By with a Little Help from my Friends

by Elizabeth Newcomer

            While I was in California in July, visiting two of my best friends from childhood, Stef and Lauren, I had a mini-meltdown in the car ride down from San Francisco to Santa Barbara for Stef’s bachelorette weekend on my 32nd birthday.  The reason for the meltdown?  Well, I did have major PMS, so I can always use that as an excuse, but it’s also because my Type Four vice of Envy was in full effect, leading me to destructive patterns of comparison and leaving me feeling inadequate.  The topic?  Self-care. 
The few days before our car trip, I stayed with Stef and Lauren and got to witness first hand some of their habits.  I became very aware of how well they were taking care of themselves physically, in regards to exercising and eating healthily.  Being far from routine myself, in the past several months, I have not adhered to any specific regimen. 
            What struck me, was how they had made certain healthful practices habitual, and how they made those practices a priority.  Stef had a yoga studio nearby with favorite teachers that she liked to frequent.  Lauren went on runs in Palo Alto before getting her workday started.  They both ate a lot of quinoa and vegetables, said “no” to the mid-week glass of wine, and in general listened to what would make their bodies feel good.
            Boy, my envy began raging.  I, too, want to have a regimen of self-care that I prioritize!  And yet, I feel so far away from that.  In times of stress, when I go to my resource point of Type Two, I match my loved ones.  I do what they do, when they do it.  I eat what they eat, I time how long it takes me to do something with how long they do it.  I guess you could also say, I become co-dependent. 
            I was so envious, and almost mad, that Stef and Lauren were able to hold a space for their own process.  Even though I was in town, Stef opted for a yoga class to clear her anxious head, instead of meeting me for an indulgent shopping trip.  Lauren woke up early to ensure she'd have time to run, while I lazed sleepily in bed.
            (I realize, now that I’m writing this, that I may seem overly hard on myself, perhaps.  That is familiar territory for me, and an aspect I am trying to treat gently.)
            So, back to the car ride melt down.  I wanted to snack on things that are bad for you, like Doritos and Diet Coke and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups!  I wanted to do the whole Road Trip Wasteland Diet (not a real diet, I just made that up).  But, still, in the car, Stef had yummy, but healthy snacks from Trader Joe’s: fruit leather, and flax seed corn chips. 
            I began to take it personally, like their eating and their regimen was a direct reflection on me.  I also thought that it meant that they must be judging my habits of neglect, my choices to lounge on the couch over taking a yoga class, to sip wine with sushi on a Monday night.  Then, my idealistic Four mind chirped in and wanted to be that perfect specimen, who is glowing and thin and beautiful, who adheres to healthy habits, who listens and meets her own needs.  And I just broke.
            What was so awesome, is that Stef and Lauren just let me cry it out, and whine a little bit.  They held a space for me.  They encouraged me.  And they assured me that I was beautiful and perfect just the way I am, and that their only wish is for me to be happy.  They explained that they did what they needed to do to take care of themselves, and that, in no way, means they are judging me and my choices.
            It felt nice to get that all out, to let my perceived “ugly” thoughts and feelings have space to breathe.  It’s nice because now I have compassion for myself through all steps of that process of realization.  In the Enneagram, your type, or ego structure can really take over if you are overly identified with it.  And reactivity, which is what I was experiencing, though conceivably messy and uncomfortable, can also point you to the way of growth.  By acknowledging my feelings of inadequacy and envy, I am able to appreciate Stef and Lauren’s ability to take care of themselves, and know that that’s something I would like for myself.  But I am also, able to cut myself some slack, and come to terms with the perfectly imperfect being that I am. 

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. 

Actions Speak Louder than Words

by Elizabeth Newcomer in , , , ,

It’s hard not to use the Enneagram as a fun party trick.  I’ve done it.  I may, at times, continue to do it.  It can hold the same power as really good gossip.  Being a one-to-one Four, I don’t always thrive in holding court in larger social groups.  I feel much more comfortable getting down to the nitty-gritty with just one person.  And so, as a default, I seek to bring a unifying piece of information to bring together the disparate social crowd.  Afraid that I may miss out of some conversation that is going on elsewhere, or fearful that I may be left out, I often take my place regaling everyone with some entertaining story, trying my best to hold everybody’s undivided attention.  Add to that my newfound love of the Enneagram, and you can see how it can get dicey.
I love the Enneagram.  I think it is endlessly fascinating.  There is still so much for me to learn about it, and I still have trouble explaining the complex system to people who have never heard about it.  I am aware that it can sound like some New Age-y, hokey, Self-Help juju.  So, I try to make it accessible, I try to hook people onto it.  Because, frankly, I believe in this system wholeheartedly, it resonates to my very core.  And when you’re passionate about something, you, of course, want to shout it from the mountaintops.  (In the same regard, I have tried to convince people of the merits of Ben Harper’s music, or the magical performances by Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix in Walk the Line.  Full disclosure, in those last two instances, I almost got in knockdown drag out fights defending the honors of Ben, Reese and Joaquin.)
My therapist said to me yesterday, “Never explain, because your friends don’t need it and your enemies won’t believe it.”  I have always been one to overexplain, especially when I am passionate about said subject.  However, in this case, I am keenly aware that my job with the Enneagram is to do just the opposite.  I have to allow people to come to the Enneagram in their own time, in their own way.  And the most important thing for me is to practice what I preach, not to cheapen the power of the Enneagram by making it a parlor game. 
The Enneagram is more than just a cool identification of different personality types.  It truly can be used towards spiritual growth and self-development.  It is useful in letting go of old patterns to which we’ve long been slaves.  I suppose all we can do when we are enlivened by something is to lead by example, let our actions speak louder than our words.   

Decomposing from the Holidays

by Elizabeth Newcomer in , , , , , ,

My mom, my sister and I were discussing the Enneagram and the types of our loved ones over the Christmas holiday.  My dad, Gary, is a Three and so is my Aunt Janet, my mom’s sister.  Remarking how surprised she was that both her husband and her sister were the same number, my mom said, “Gary can relax from doing, but I don’t see Janet ever really slowing down.”  That is typical of threes, they are constantly doing, gaining their sense of self worth through their tasks, actions and achievements.  The beautiful thing about the Enneagram is that two people of the same type don’t necessarily look alike.  They can have a stronger wing on one side of them than the other; they can more frequently access one of their connection points.  And most importantly, your type is not who you are, your type is an adaptive strategy that you developed at a young age, it is the motivation behind your actions, it is the pair of glasses through which you see the world.  After explaining this all to my mom and my sister, she said, “Actually, now that I think about it, Janet does come home after a long day at work, go to her room, put on ‘Young and the Restless’ and just decompose.”  There was a pause, us girls not sure just what sounded wrong, and then my mom said, “Wait, is that right?  Decompose?”  And I said, “I think you mean decompress!”  Laughter ensued.

I feel a bit like I am decomposing from the holidays, all the sugar breaking down my teeth, the rich foods gathering around my belly, puffiness around my eyes.  I had a wonderful Christmas break, complete with seeing almost all of my family and my beau, Michael’s family.  But for the past two days, since returning to New York, I have been a decomposing lump on a log, not really wanting to get up off the couch or stop watching television.  Overwhelm is setting in, a bit, New Year’s Day looming over my head.  I have so many goals and hopes and dreams for this New Year, wanting it to be the best year yet.  And yet, I am setting myself up for failure before the New Year has even begun, putting expectations on myself that are so high, I am bound to fail. 

I am an avid journalist, and yesterday I was looking back in past journals to see what I wrote as my New Year Resolutions for 2012.  What surprised me as I flipped through the pages of journals from 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, was the circular nature of my musings.  In some senses, I have wanted the same things since I was a little girl.  For me, they have to do with implicit self-care, looking and feeling my best, and with my career, being able to really shine and express myself, to have the opportunity to work on beautiful moving pieces. 

No matter what type we are, we all have patterns and grooves on how we deal with the wonderful, intense, overwhelm of the holidays.  And most likely, in our New Year’s Resolutions, we are reminded of the things we have always wanted for ourselves.  What type are you?  How do you decompress from the holidays and how do you prepare for a New Year?  What are your New Year’s Resolutions?  Do you see any patterns in them?  Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Freeing the Lion

by Elizabeth Newcomer in , , , , , ,

Astrologically speaking, I am a Leo.  A Leo I, to be exact, I was born in the Week of Authority.  I have always loved lions and legitimately try to fashion my hair like a lion’s illustrious mane.  And the idea of authority has always been a puzzle to me.  I am deeply respectful of teachers, healers and mentors who are in positions of authority, often blindly bowing to the answers they seem to provide.  However, I have struggled with finding and respecting the authority within, failing to trust my own internal compass, and sense of knowing.  It is difficult to have faith in oneself when you are in the grips of the roar of the inner critic.  For symbolic purpose, I will hereby refer to my inner critic as a lion.  Its characteristics are similar to that of a lion, being strong, powerful and fierce.  And boy, has its roar been loud lately!  So loud, that it has made my essential self ever smaller, to the size of a little mouse.
As a Four, one of my greatest strengths and alternately my greatest weakness is my romantic idealism.  I have incredibly high hopes, high expectations, high ideals, and high romantic visions.  They are so high that they all live above me, in a Kingdom of my own creation, nestled sweetly and safely on a cloud.  I love that Kingdom on a cloud.  I love to look at it and wistfully dream about the one day that I will live there.
A challenge that I have been experiencing, as of late, is questioning on whether I will ever get to those dreams in the sky.  I try to set goals that would be like stepping stones, or Jack’s beanstalk, carrying me little by little up to that pristine palace of romantic vision.  To set goals is not difficult for me.  In fact, they become their very own little castles. 
Let me be specific, a goal I am currently trying achieve is to create a self-care routine that I can commit to on a consistent basis.  It’s a beautiful goal I have for myself, one that includes treating myself with love and respect.  In this dream of a goal, I would be implicitly healthy.  I would wake up early in the morning, excited to meet my day.  I would have a practice of meditation, and gratitude and prayer, being thankful for all that God and the Universe has given to me.  I would treat my body like a goddess, feeding it only those foods that are most life affirming and nutritious.  I would go for long jogs in the park, able to clear my head of negative thoughts.  I would practice yoga, feeling the strength and length of my beautiful body.  I would go for dance classes, feeling free and having fun while letting my heart beat fast.  Oh, this goal of self-care is so beautiful.  But oh, to get there seems so impossible.
So, I have carefully constructed this goal, this dream.  It is pure and untouched and full of endless hope and possibility.  I stand outside of the castled creation, a little mouse underneath the drawbridge door, waiting for it to lower so I can enter.  The lion stands beside me, berating me with its critiques.  Every step I take, the door recedes, eluding my small efforts.  The lion roars loader, taunting me, tearing me down with its claws.  “You are worthless.  You are nothing.  You have no willpower.  You have no strength or courage.  You’ll never achieve what you want.  You’ll never be who you want to be.  You might as well give up.”  And on and on he growls.  The fire of his roar is singeing my little mouse body and I feel completely and utterly useless and powerless. 
I am reminded of the Aesop’s Fable, The Lion and the Mouse.  It was the mouse that rescued the lion from the hunter’s snare, by slowly nibbling away at the ropes, ultimately freeing the lion.  Inspired by the strength that this tiny creature exhibited, I looked up the symbolism of the mouse, and what I found was quite amazing.  The mouse is a symbol of trust in the Divine, of humility and simplicity and gentleness.  It is the mouse that is able to break a large problem (or goal) into smaller pieces and deal with one part at a time, slowly but surely, achieving its goal.
I know my lion has a purpose.  I know its roar comes from a frustration, of wanting to be free, so that I can be my best self.  It is instructing me on what it is that I really want and long for, on what is important to me and why.  In some way, it is encouraging me not to give up.  And I can use the gentleness of the mouse to assuage the lion’s fear and to free it from its ropes of imprisonment.  Not to be crippled by the lion’s grip, or reduced to a puddle of shame by the lion’s shadow, but to treat my inner critic with compassion, as I go about my merry way, taking my sweet time, of slowly and deliciously nibbling towards my dream.  Maybe it won’t be as fast as I want it to be, maybe it won’t be as grandiose as I imagine it to be, but I know for sure, if I can free that lion from off my back, I’ll get there one way or another.

Be. Still.

by Elizabeth Newcomer in , , , ,

Growing up my dad use to say that when either one of my four siblings or I was being rambunctious…in car rides, on the sofa, at the dinner table, “Be. Still.”  It always annoyed me because it was usually when we were just having a good time, laughing, and being silly. 
Yesterday, I pulled the muscle located on my right side, somewhere midway between my shoulder, and all the way up my neck.  I returned from the Enneagram Intensive last Thursday night and since I’d been back, I’d been go-go-going.  Creating this blog, setting up an accompanying Facebook and Twitter account.  I’d been reconnecting with my beau, with my friends.  I am doing Dallas Travers “Actors Business Breakthrough,” an Eight Week Tele-course designed to help actors break through whatever current blocks they are facing.  I’ve been trying to incorporate all that I learned in my Enneagram Intensive: meditation, staying with myself when I feel reactive, eating healthy, exercising, etc. 
Occasionally, I get stuck in old familiar loop patterns.  I loop back around to the place where I feel anxious about where I am on my path.  I play the “should game.”  I should get another agent.  Should I quit acting?  Should I go back to my restaurant job?  Should I eat this or eat that?  Should I wake up earlier so I can meditate?  Should I?  Should I?  Should I?  It’s gosh-darn crippling!
So…it’s no big surprise that with all my striving, aspiring, trying, that a part of my body just pulled back and insisted.  “No.  Just slow down. “  I recalled my dad’s voice, “Be.  Still.”
Ah!  What a relief it was!  To lie down on the couch yesterday as the Nor’easter tore its way through New York’s still-recovering streets.  To watch “The Good Wife” on television while feeling the warmth of a heating pad on my back...to dismount that hamster wheel of my own creation. 
The ironic thing is, if I learned anything at all from my Enneagram Intensive, it was be still.  Stay with you.  Breathe into your belly.  Receive.  We are a nation of strivers and doers.  We are slaves to our egos.  We praise those in our culture who can multi-task the most, who can make the most money by being workaholics, who put so much of their energy out into the world that they are left as depleted shells of their former selves.
I don’t want that.  I want to be awake and present to my life.  Yes, I want to support myself financially.  I want to make a difference in this world.  I want to give freely with the gifts I’ve received.  But there has to be a balance.  I was taught this past week, that we cannot have a spiritual experience unless we allow ourselves to receive.
I’m not sure what my next move will be.  For today, I am just going to be still.
“Make your ego porous.  Will is of little importance, complaining is nothing, fame is nothing.  Openness, patience, receptivity, solitude is everything.”  -Rainer Maria Rilke

Freedom of Choice

by Elizabeth Newcomer in , , , , , , ,

I thought, with it being Election Day and all, it would be apropos to write about the freedom of choice.  I’ve never been a political person.  I get confused on where politicians really stand, what their policies are and how that would affect my life and the lives of my loved ones.  If I talk to my boyfriend, who is much more informed than I, being an avid news watcher, he can go into detailed explanations on the benefits of Barack Obama’s policies.  If I talk to my father, who is a business owner and a very smart man, he gives an equally persuasive account on why Mitt Romney is the man to elect.  I listen to them, hear their points of view, and get very confused at how they seem to be saying opposite things.  It’s enough to make me want to walk away and never vote again.  That being said, I did indeed, vote this morning at approximately 9:15am and I am proud of my freedom to choose.

It is easy to feel powerless when you feel like you have no options, like you must do things the way you’ve always done them, like you will inevitably be circling back to the same issues that crippled you seven years ago.  History repeats itself and all that. 

Understanding the Enneagram, and my type within that system, helped me gain the freedom to choose my actions.  I will use an example from my mother, because I want to bring awareness to the benefits and detriments of other types beyond Fours.  My mom is a Nine on the Enneagram, the Peacemaker or Mediator.  One thing challenging for Nines is inertia.  They are creatures of comfort.  They don’t like to be disturbed when they are relishing the confines of their comfy cocoon. 

At some level, my mom has always felt this.  She loves to be home alone, the house all quiet, curled up underneath a warm, fuzzy blanket and diving into a alternate universe in one of her beloved novels.  She enjoys all things related to comfort…the delights of a delicious meal in a beautiful atmosphere with my siblings listening to my dad reminisce about their early courting, being surrounded by the pure giggles of her grandchildren, eating popcorn and drinking diet coke sitting next to me in a dark movie theater. 

Alternately, she does not enjoy being pushed out of her comfort zone.  You will never see her skydiving, or competing in a triathlon.  If she is interrupted from some delightful hobby in order to call the air conditioner man to come out and fix the broken A/C in the midst of the sweltering summer heat, she resists being called to such tasks. 
A Type Nine struggles with inertia, meaning if they stop, it is very hard to rev their engines back up, hard to get their momentum going.  That being said, once they can kick the engine into gear, they have an easier time continuing a task.  Once she discovered the characteristics of Type Nine, and how this relationship to inertia played out in her life, she felt she had the power to choose.

A few months after our first Enneagram workshop, she was visiting me in New York.  We had been walking a lot, but had not gotten our hearts racing.  Our bodies felt a little stiff.  We were discussing whether we would spend Sunday morning going to church, or perhaps a museum, or even the Farmer’s Market.  I realized that what I wanted most of all was to get my body moving and sweat a little, so I threw in the option of going to the gym as a curve ball.  

My mom tightened up, resisting this new suggestion.  As she later explained it to me, her thoughts were as follows, “I don’t want to have to get sweaty, and then have to take a shower, what a nuisance!  I thought we were going to do something fun, like go to a museum or the market, not work out!”  I could see her body stiffening to my prospect, and since she and I had both learned about Nines and their issue with inertia, I encouraged her, “Come on, Mom, you’re gonna feel SO much better after we get our bodies moving and blood pumping.  Then, we’ll have the whole day free to do whatever fun stuff we want!”

Sure enough, that’s what happened.  She later reflected on that moment, and described feeling free to choose her actions because she knew her type.  “Do I want to be a slave to the grips of my personality?  Or do I want to feel the power and freedom that comes with choosing my actions?”  What do you choose?

Knowing Your Type

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

There is great freedom that comes from knowing your type.  In the spring of 2011, I took my first Enneagram Workshop in New Orleans with my mom.  She and I love to talk about personal growth.  (Side note: One of our favorite movies is “When Harry Met Sally,” and we love the scene in the bookstore when Marie [played by Carrie Fisher] says to Sally [Meg Ryan] referencing Harry [Billy Crystal]: ‘There’s a man staring at you in Personal Growth.’)  Anyway, we often trade new books we’ve read, articles we’ve perused, and practices we’ve heard about with each other.  The Enneagram Workshop seemed right up our alley!  

Before the workshop began, I had had difficulty determining my type.  I had taken some of the very lengthy quizzes in various books and online, and kept coming up with different possibilities.  At the start of the workshop, I decided I was a Type Two: The Helper or The Giver.  
I was going through a somewhat stressful time in my life in New York City.  I was working as a waitress in a restaurant, I was frustrated with the lack of acting job opportunities, and my days were structure-free.  I was going home whenever I could get a ticket.  I had no stable romantic relationship in my life.  All in all, I was having trouble committing to myself, and my life in New York. 

I was boundary-less.  If a friend wanted to meet me for coffee or lunch, I would go to their destination of choice.  If I had plans to work on an audition, and got invited to see a movie with someone, I would drop my plans.  I would be overly available to my loved ones, putting my needs aside in favor of others.  It even went so far that when I would sit down for a meal with a friend, I would measure my eating with hers, eating the same quantity and at the same pace as her, in an effort to be on the same page and stay connected.  Relationships were (and still are) pivotal to me…they are my life-blood.  But it was at this time of stress when I went towards my Type Two point.
So, at the workshop, I spent the entire time thinking I was a Two.  The workshop I attended is taught in the Narrative Tradition, meaning we learn about Type by hearing panels of people telling stories of what it means to be their type.  As I sat on the Two panel, I felt the urge to take over, wanting to make it about me, “my stories are so interesting!  Listen to how and why I think I am a Two!”  I noticed that the others on the panel didn’t seem to have that same amount of self-absorption or need to stand out.
Then, it was time for the Type Four Panel: The Individualists.  I looked at them and noticed that they were all wearing similar colors: black and cream, chartreuse, and cherry red.  I looked down at what I was wearing, black jeans, and a cream shirt with geometric designs in black and red.  As they started sharing their stories, I could see in their faces and hear in their voices that little bit of self-satisfaction I recognized in my own sharing.  I also felt drawn into them and the way they described suffering and melancholy, and the ease at which they could hold a space for other’s pain.  A little light bulb went off in my head: That’s where I belong!  With the Fours!
This is not to suggest in any way that all Fours are self-satisfied, self-absorbed sadists.  It has more to do with the Fours desire to stand out, to be different and unique, in order to feel that they are worthy and alive.  After the workshop, I did a little more reading about Type Fours, and my synapses were firing.  Everything seemed to fall into place.  I felt seen and understood.  Parts of me that I’ve known at my subconscious level came flying to a conscious surface. 

A few years ago, I was talking to my friend Lisa, who happens to be a Five.  I was saying to her, “You know how right before you go to bed, you daydream about your ideal life,” assuming she’d jump right in with a resounding, “Oh, totally!”  Instead she said, “No, what are you talking about?”  I was shocked and tried to explain it to her more fully, certain that it would resonate with her.  “You know that moment before you fall asleep, and you close your eyes and think about your perfect future.”  I went on to describe the romantic moments I would daydream about, the beautiful romantic handsome man with dark hair and blue eyes, myself looking like a lithe ballerina in a lovely ethereal dress, the way we would come together in an filmic embrace on a faraway exotic land, complete with fresh, succulent food and warm breezes next to picturesque vistas. Again, she didn’t connect.  It was one of the first wake-up calls I had as to how different other peoples inner worlds could be. 

Once I was finally able to determine my type, I felt known.  It allowed me to truly understand the perspective I was operating from, awareness being the first step towards self-acceptance, self-acceptance being the first step to freedom.

The Comparing Mind

by Elizabeth Newcomer in , , , , , ,

As a Four on the Enneagram, my Passion or Vice is Envy.  Each type has a vice, seven of which correspond to the Seven Deadly Sins: Anger (1), Pride (2), Envy (4), Avarice (5), Gluttony (7), Lust (8) and Sloth (9) with the additions of Deceit (3) and Fear (6).  Your Passion or Vice is basically the underbelly of type, where your negative mind may go when you are not present in your life.
Envy does indeed creep up in my life.  It can take on many different forms.  For as long as I can remember, I have had a bit of a fixation on US Weekly.  Without even knowing it, I scan the pages of that magazine comparing myself with the celebrities I see in the photographs.  I see what they wear, how they look, dissect their bodies; covet their relationships or their careers.  It provides some sort of sick pleasure.  It maintains my status quo.  Providing some image, ideal, idol or goal that I strive to achieve, emulate or be helps me know where I am. 
However, this comparing mind is a dangerous place to go.  It makes me hard on myself, never being able to measure up.  It makes me focus on what I am not, what I lack, what I am missing in my life as opposed to what I am, what I have and how I am complete and whole.
I was triggered into my comparing mind yesterday.  By trade, I am an actress.  I have put in my time training for the past 13 years, completing a BFA and MFA in Acting from great Universities. And yet, I am not making my living as an actress.  I was dropped by my manager and agent in 2011 and have yet to re-sign with representation, that makes it more difficult to get auditions, and furthermore difficult to get roles and thereby make a living.
I saw an acquaintance of mine on television.  My head immediately spun into comparing myself with her, on our looks, on our level of training, on our talent.  Before I knew it, I had contracted a tight knot in my stomach.  Walking with my boyfriend, Michael, through Central Park, I was unable to see the trees before me, unable to breathe in the fresh air, unable to admire the first blue sky post-Sandy.
As Michael and I sat down in a warm cozy restaurant, I couldn’t relax my mind enough to take a deep breath and enjoy our meal.  All that was parading in my head were thoughts of how I don’t measure up, how I will never reach my dreams, how I’m a failure.  He so gently reminded me to stay present, to focus on what I do have, to honor my own path.  For the first time that morning I was able to release the briar patch that occupied my diaphragm.  I could see the blueness of his eyes, admire the smooth wood of the table, let the warm chicken chili sooth my overstressed belly.
That is my journey as a Four…to keep coming back to the Present, to breath, to see what is in front of me, to practice Gratitude for all I do have.  Because it is in that place that everything I lack lacks power.  It is in that place that I can be more loving to myself.  It is in that place that I can stay present with my loved ones.  And it is in that place where I have faith that I am exactly where I need to be, on my own path, on my own journey.

Coming Home

by Elizabeth Newcomer in , , , , , ,

I spent last week, while Hurricane Sandy was tearing up my beloved New York City, at the base of the Black Mountain range in North Carolina, attending an Enneagram Intensive taught in the Narrative Tradition.  While people were coming together on the Eastern seaboard in an effort to support each other during the Natural Disaster, nearly 30 others and I were uniting in a spirit of healing and rebirth.

The Enneagram is a powerful system, a system that illuminates the dark edges of one's soul, a system that unites all differences of personality and perspective.  It is a difficult system to describe, due to its depth and complexity.  I am a new student of the Enneagram, having studied it only for the last year and a half.  However, after all of my seeking into self-help, personal growth, therapies, and spirituality practices, I have never found a teaching that is more resonant than the Enneagram. 

Simply put, it is about compassion, for oneself and for others, it is about uniting the three forces of being: heart, mind and body, it is about transformation.  In childhood, we each formed an adaptive strategy to reconcile our inner world with the outer world.  The Enneagram teaches the nine different types of personality, or adaptive strategies.

Before learning about the Enneagram, I was certain that everyone saw the world in more or less the same way.  If my friend hurt me by an action she made, I took it personally, thinking: Why would she do that to me?  If I had done that to her it would be in the spirit of malice.  What I came to discover was that everyone sees the world differently, yet everyone's perspective can be understood through the view of nine different types.

Once I learned about my type (Four- The Tragic Romantic) and the other eight types, I felt seen and understood.  I felt like I could see and understand others.  If my friend hurt me, she was not coming from the same place as I would have, had I executed the same action to her.  I could take things less personally.  I could treat myself kinder.  Before learning the Enneagram, I was constantly trying to change who I was, make myself different, make myself better.  Now I know, the path to peace comes from accepting myself, opening my heart, living inside my body, being awake to myself, others and the world.

I am so grateful to everyone I met this last week, who shared their stories, who listened, who created a safe space for us all to be vulnerable and present.  I look forward to creating this same spirit of unity and sharing my compassion now that I'm home with my friends, family, and fellow New Yorkers.