School for Seekers
Note: School for Seekers is now FULL for the first enrollment in September. I am currently enrolling the January cohort. You can also view my One Month Programs in the meantime.
School for Seekers is a yearlong online course for advanced Enneagram students who are passionately curious about this remarkable system and are seeking a community of fellow seekers. It is designed specifically for students who are seeking a dedicated place to learn, with regular commitment over a period of time, with a teacher, a community and structure to support their ongoing journey.
School for Seekers (SFS) accomplishes that through a format that encourages regular participation and study: a combination of weekly group meetings, office hours, reading assignments, written homework, private sessions, and a structure for group members to meet and support each other in their learning.
Based on the Enneagram Symbol
The Enneagram symbol is an amazing tool that can be used to represent any process that maintains itself by self-renewal. This course is based in the knowledge of the Enneagram personality types, but its structure is also designed on the Enneagram symbol itself. In every process there must be three Components, represented by points Nine, Three, and Six—in this case The Course, The Student, and The Work—and six Steps (points One, Two, Four, Five, Seven, and Eight) which in the course are Knowledge, Practice, Effort, Suffering, Rebirth, and Purpose. The Components and Steps are inspired by J.G. Bennett’s diagram of “The Transformation of Man” in Enneagram Studies.
The entire course is a year long, beginning September 15th, 2020, and divided into three 15-week trimesters. Each trimester, we will travel the entire Enneagram, visiting each of these Components and Steps (spending one week on each component and two weeks on each step), so that by the time you’ve completed the course, you will have journeyed around the Enneagram three times. In this way each trimester is a complete process, which together compose a single, larger process.
Weekly Themes: Components and Steps
Each week there will be readings—often related to the nine types, but not always—that cover the theme (the Component or Step) we are currently exploring. By following a curriculum of themes instead of predetermined readings, I am free to respond to what the group needs week by week. Readings are drawn from a variety of authors: Don Riso & Russ Hudson, G.I. Gurdjieff, J.G. Bennett, Bill Plotkin and Mary Oliver are just a few possibilities. The readings will always have a corresponding homework assignment, usually in the form of an inquiry, exercise, or writing prompt. Also, since the material we are working with is essentially information on “How to Live Well,” there will always be opportunities in your life to put your knowledge to work right away.
Getting to Work: Your Life IS Your Practice
In a way this course will demand your full devotion, but it will not demand that you turn away from the life you already have. On the contrary, it will support you in actually living that life; in showing up for yourself and your loved ones in new ways. That is the devotion this course asks of you—the devotion to show up, with all of your gifts and messiness and complicated baggage that we all carry but that is unique to you. And in return, the course is here to support you in that purpose. Every reading, assignment and call will be based on this central idea: to support you in showing up for your life as it is right now.
Community Support: Weekly Group Meetings and Office Hours
… yet even if we are 100% committed to our practice, we will not get far without a community. It is impossible to do the Work alone. Studying on your own is not enough; if it were, the religious studies departments at universities would churn out enlightened beings by the thousands (clearly, they do not!). We need each other. And this was the issue I ran into when I completed my training at the Enneagram Institute: there was no community support! No groups, no homework, no accountability, and certainly no chance to follow up with the teachers. I loved it there; it felt like Hogwarts and I wanted to stay and devote myself to the Work. But that was impossible. I was on my own. I was lucky to have several guides in my life who helped me on my journey, but many people do not. For most of us the Enneagram is a mere curiosity to our friends and family, if not ignored completely. Or, if you are a coach or therapist, you may use it only with your clients, with no network of peers to support your own journey.
So we need a community, and a community needs a way to meet. In SFS we use Zoom! Every Tuesday from 6:30-8:00pm EDT the entire group will meet together on a Zoom call. These calls are an opportunity to show up for each other on our journey: to check in, practice presence and deep listening, and talk about what we’ve learned or struggled with that week. We will share our impressions of the reading and homework and how we see those ideas and patterns manifesting in our own lives. In this way we make the teaching real, so that we might actually be affected and changed by what we learn.
Once a week on a rotating schedule I will also host 90 minute “Office Hours” calls on Zoom. These are an opportunity to ask questions, to go deeper in areas of particular interest to you, or for me to offer extra teaching on particular subjects as necessary.
There will be an online forum available for us to post breakthroughs, struggles, and support each other throughout the week between calls. I've used Facebook before, but I'm currently searching for an alternative that is less invasive. So the exact nature of the forum is TBD at the moment!
Ongoing Enrollment: “Striking a Do” and “Shocks”
Gurdjieff called the initiation of a process “Striking a Do,” analogous to the first note of the musical scale. It is an initial input of energy that allows a process to begin. This energy is only enough to carry it along to a certain point, however, and at that point it becomes necessary to introduce a new element: he called this a “shock.” These two concepts are represented on the Enneagram by points Nine, Three, and Six. We initiate a new process at point Nine—Striking a Do—which carries us as far as point Three. At this stage, new energy becomes necessary, so we introduce a Shock. This occurs again at point Six, where we need a second Shock, and we can then complete the Enneagram.
In this course, each enrollment serves as a shock. The initial enrollment in September is our Striking a Do: we initiate the yearlong course with an enrollment of eight students. The first shock comes in January, when I will enroll a new group of students. This input of fresh energy allows the group to evolve and continue its journey; from this point, experienced students can help new students and new students offer fresh perspectives and personalities. A third enrollment happens in May, which enables the initial process to continue to its conclusion. Once three cohorts are enrolled, SFS will have realized what Bennett described as “Three Mutually Sustaining Processes,” a concept that is present in any complete Enneagram.
1-1 Private Enneagram Sessions with Ben
Your enrollment in SFS includes one private Enneagram session with me per month for the duration of the course (12 total). Private sessions are an opportunity for you to explore whatever is arising for you as you participate in the course. As we do this work, it is inevitable that we will start to experience our lives in new ways, and it can be disorienting without a teacher to check in with. Private sessions are a chance to find a place to “ground,” to get feedback on your process, to ask questions, and to deepen the integration of the Work with your life.
How to Apply
First, complete the SFS Readiness Assessment Survey. The survey is designed to get you curious about your own journey, and it should take about 15-20 minutes. Give some thought to the questions and you will have a good idea of whether SFS is a good fit for you.
At the end of the survey, you will be asked to schedule a free phone conversation with me, during which we can discuss your responses, answer your questions, and talk about pricing for SFS. If we both decide that SFS is a good fit for you, you will be invited to join the course.
I did all of my Enneagram training at the Enneagram Institute, and I loved every minute of it. The teaching itself was amazing. I felt like I had direct access to the wisdom of the ancients, like I was learning from the nearest thing this world has to wizards. The Institute felt like a school for magic, like Hogwarts, and I wanted nothing more than to stay there as a student and learn this system full time.
Of course, that wasn’t possible, and in any case the whole idea is that you do your inner work in the midst of your own life. But as soon as you leave your five-day workshop, there is no support for doing that, either! To have any semblance of community, my cohorts and I had to come up with our own Facebook groups or text chats or just count on seeing each other at the next one… and that never really worked. There was no incentive to stay connected and we had no shared purpose and no leader.
Other spiritual schools have places you can go if you want to immerse yourself in the teaching. If you want to study as a Zen Buddhist, you can. There are hundreds of Zen temples. Go to Japan. All you have to do is sit outside the main gate for three days and nights, unmoving… and then perhaps they will let you in. If you want to devote yourself to God, there are thousands and thousands of monasteries and churches and universities around the world where you can go. If you look hard enough you can find Tibetan lamas and Sufi masters, and you can even find dedicated Gurdjieff groups that meet for as long as a year straight, living in the same location and cooking and working together and meeting for lectures and movements.
The Enneagram does not have such places. Or if it does, they are few and far between, and anyway most of us who are attracted to this work are attracted to it because we are seeking help with the life we have now; we are not looking to renounce everything and move to a mountain temple (some of us may wish for that but “cannot” for whatever reason).
I spent some time searching for the right fit. I investigated the Diamond Approach, Gurdjieff groups, and even considered religious studies departments at several universities as well as independent spiritual guidance programs… but when the Enneagram of Personality is not taken into direct consideration, something is seriously lacking. It feels as if you are trying to study for the test without the textbook. You can do it, but it’s a lot harder. Perhaps there’s an argument that you learn it better if you struggle for it, but I don’t agree: there is still PLENTY to struggle with, even with the gift of this information. It took the Buddha thousands of lifetimes to reach enlightenment. I’ll take any advantage I can get.
So this course is an experiment. It’s my attempt to create what I felt was lacking. A place and community for people to gather together with a shared purpose and be there to wake each other up, with a framework for learning and practicing in a way that supports that aim. And, as with all of this Work, I cannot do it alone. If you feel called in the same way that I do, I hope you will join me on this adventure.