The Zen of Transformation

When I first discovered my Enneagram Type upon the prompting of my teacher to read Personality Types by Hudson and Riso and check out the Type 4, well, besides being shocked and horrified in that what I thought was unique about me was what was precisely causing me repetitious suffering (and this at year 14 of my recovery), came this thought: “I should be able to make these changes in about two weeks. My inner life has been clearly described, so I’m on my way. Presto, Chango!” Little did I realize that the personality structures that were laid out to me in living color, were not so easy to transform. This quote by A.H. Almass was to become my solace as I began this new phase of my transformation journey:

“The personality will do anything in its power to preserve its identity and uphold its domain. This tendency – or, let’s say, this need – is so deep, so entrenched, so completely the fabric of our identity, that only the person who has gone a long way toward establishing the essential life will be able to apprehend and appreciate this. This need is in our flesh, blood, bones even our atoms. The power of the personality is so great, so immense, so deep, so subtle that the person who contends with it for a long time will have to give it its due respect. Its power is awesome. Its subtlety is unimaginable. Its intelligence is limitless.” Giving the Personality Its Due Respect (from A.H. Almaas)

Meaning what? That real transformation takes time, patience, tolerance, and humble wisdom. Realizing that when we go through a growth expansion, that it is easy to fall prey to this thought: Finally, I’ve arrived at where I want to be. I’m open, generous, forgiving, kind, appreciative of people in my life, feeling at-one with myself. All of my work has finally paid off.” And then there’s this joke often spoken at the end of workshops. “See if you can keep your new found awakeness in tact thru the first stop light.” Meaning it can and will disappear quickly, perhaps not into oblivion, but your old habits have a gravitational force to pull you back to normal. Try not to be disappointed in yourself. It’s lawful action on the part of the personality and you can’t control it, not yet anyway. 

Here the principal “Four steps forward, three steps back” applied. I discovered through lots of observations that whenever I experienced expansion I could count on a recoil. It’s as if my personality patterns would reassert, saying “Hell no, we won’t go.” As I begin to understand this dynamic I was able to learn not to react so violently towards myself when the pendulum swung back to my default. It appeared that the less my reaction to this backward swing, the less I’d fall back. Instead of going back four steps, it was three and three-quarters steps. Slowly, very slowly, while patiently observing this very normal process, I began to make progress. It was just a lot slower than I imagined. It was Gurdjieff teacher who helped me with this. He said, “All real change is very slow. It’s a bit like crawling on your hands and knees up the mountain. It’s like this for everyone. So relax, easy does it, keep practicing not looking for results. Change has it’s own timing.” 

It Periodically Gets Harder Than Ever

Another mystery that I unhappily encountered was this: that after wonderful expansions I would be met with a deeper quality of suffering, or inner difficultly. I kept on thinking that spiritual, psychological, and emotional growth was linear, an even flow towards the endpoint: sustainable joy, love, connection, happiness, and clarity. But as mentors and teachers taught me, the path was anything but linear. And, the further one gets on the path, the more difficult the challenges. And they were not kidding. In reading the work of Gurdjieff, Bennett, Bill Wilson, Riso/Hudson, A.H Almass, a number of quotes elucidated this for me. 

John G. Bennett, from his book, The Way To Be Free, wrote: “If I look back I have to say that without Gurdjieff I would be very small indeed and it was largely through having the benefit of his most extraordinary search and sacrifice that I and others have had possibilities. Not everything came from him, but the possibility of making use of what I found, I owe very much to him. This isn”t to say that he didn’t make mistakes, or that he found the best way of helping people in this day and age. But he was a pioneer of extraordinary courage–daring one might say–he tried things that people had not tried before and under different conditions of like than we have here. Thanks to his having been willing to expose himself to extreme dangers and a kind of suffering that is not easy to understand, things were opened for us. But it is totally foolish to think of him as infallable. Even the perfected man is not free from mistakes. The further one goes, the more pitfalls…” (p. 18)

Gurdieff, in Views From the Real World, gives this warning regarding the spiritual path: “Before all these worlds ask yourself what are your aims and hopes, your intentions and means of fulfilling them, the demands that may be made upon you and your preparedness to meet them. A long and difficult journey is before you; you are preparing for a strange and unknown land. The way is infinitely long. You do not know if rest will be possible on the way nor where it will be possible. You should be prepared for the worst. Take all the necessities for the journey with you. Try to forget nothing, for afterwards it will be too late and there will be no time to go back for what has been forgotten, to rectify the mistake. Weigh up your strength. Is it sufficient for the whole journey? How soon can you start? Remember that if you spend longer on the way you will need to carry proportionately more supplies, and this will delay you further both on the way and in your preparations for it. Yet every minute is precious. Once having decided to go, there is no use wasting time. Do not reckon on trying to come back. This experiment may cost you very dear. The guide undertakes only to take you there and, if you wish to turn back, he is not obliged to return with you. You will be left to yourself, and woe to you if you weaken or forget the way—you will never get back. And even if you remember the way, the question still remains—will you return safe and sound? For many unpleasantnesses await the lonely traveler who is not familiar with the way and the customs that prevail there. Bear in mind that your sight has the property of presenting distant objects as though they were near. Beguiled by the nearness of the aim toward which you strive, blinded by its beauty and ignorant of the measure of your own strength, you will not notice the obstacles on the way; you will not see the numerous ditches across the path. In a green meadow covered with luxuriant flowers, in the thick grass, a deep precipice is hidden. It is very easy to stumble and fall over it if your eyes are not concentrated on the step you are taking.

Do not forget to concentrate all your attention on the nearest sector of the way—do not concern yourself about far aims if you do not wish to fall over the precipice. Yet do not forget your aim. Remember it the whole time and keep up in yourself an active endeavor toward it, so as not to lose the right direction. And once you have started, be observant; what you have passed through remains behind and will not appear again; so if you fail to notice it at the time, you
never will notice it. 

Do not be over-curious nor waste time on things that attract your attention but are not worth it. Time is precious and should not be wasted on things which have no direct relation to your aim. Remember where you are and why you are here. Do not protect yourselves and remember that no effort is made in vain. And now you can set out on the way.” (P. 58-59) 

Bill Wilson, in As Bill Sees It, wrote in a section named: All or Nothing?: “Acceptance and Faith are capable of producing 100 per cent sobriety. In fact, they usually do and they must, else we culd have no life at all. But the moent we carry these attitudes into our emotional problems, we find that only relative resutslare possible. Nobody can, for example, be completely free from fear, anger, and pride. Hence, in this life we shall attain nothing like perfect humility and love. So we shall have to settle, respecting most of our problems, for a very gradual progress, punctuated sometimes by heavy setbacks. Our oldtime attitue of all or nothing’ will have to be abandoned.” (p. 6)

And Don Riso/Russ Hudson from The Wisdom of the Enneagram, wrote: “The process of growth entails an ongoing cycling among letting go of old blockages, opening up to new possibilities in ourselves, and then encountering deeper levels of blockage. Although we might wish that spiritual growth would be more linear and that it could be accomplished in one or two major breakthroughs, the reality is that it is a process that we must go through many times on many different fronts until our whole psyche is reorganized.” (p.45)

A.H. Almass, wrote in Diamond Heart, Book One, about the mystery, challenge and difficulty of spiritual growth and journeying: “Indulgence is what permits the weak part of you to run the strong part of you. Indulgence is allowing what is unhealthy in you to control your life even when you know it is unhealthy. Indulgence is being lazy about what you know you need to do, allowing the usual automatic tendencies to dominate and run your life. What do you do…Indulge in the habits and tendencies that you know are detrimental to your freedom, to your development, to your expansion, even to your health. You know the problem but you continue the old ways. Five minutes after your sixty-fifth insight, you’re doing the same thing. Busy, wasting time, fooling around. What happened to the sixty-five insights? You’re waiting for the sixty-sixth!”

“”You go along with your habitual patterns; it’s indulgence. You might even be indulging in something you know is actually harmful. That is one of the qualities of personality: to keep on indulging. Even when you know it really is just your personality, even when you know it’s something you picked up along the way and serves no good purpose, you continue doing it. So indulgence is going along with a tendency or an attitude that you know is detrimental to your freedom, your health, or your development. The result is you don’t take responsibility for yourself. You don’t take your life in your own hands. Implied in this is that you are waiting for a savior, which could be an insight, a blessing, a person, or the attitude that things will change in time.” 

“Time becomes a Savior…Indulgence is you not taking responsibility for the regulation of your own system. You expect somebody else, time, God, or whatever to do it…When your indulging yourself it’s a way of trying to be close to mother…something about her is near to you; some kind of sweetness is in the air. You’re opting for that little murky sweetness, that little obscure pleasure of somebody regulating you, like wiping your ass!” 
“The work of freedom needs your best effort. If you’re not doing your best, you’re indulging. And if you’re indulging, your personality has the upper hand!!!”
(p. 193-197)

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