I’m sitting in a room with 50-plus people who are very different, yet have one very important thing in common. We are seekers.
We’ve arranged our calendars, paid our money and traveled great distances to seek a better, freer and more satisfying way of living. And we’re all convinced that the only road leading to those goals is the path of knowing ourselves, and in that knowing, bringing an equal fervor to know others.
To know oneself and to truly behold another requires work. Chiefly and first is the work of suspending judgment. We must believe deeply that it is more important — eminently more important — to understand than to criticize or condemn. We must be willing to see that our judgments against our neighbor eventually reveal our judgments about ourselves, and that our merciless judgments against ourselves feed and fuel judgments against our neighbor.
It is a joy to discover the converse is also true. When I bring understanding and compassion to my neighbor, I have more opportunity to understand and have mercy upon myself. And when I treat myself with understanding and mercy, it seems so natural to extend these same graces to my neighbor. I want to. I enjoy it.
The workshop is called “Your Inner Critic,” and the model for our seeking and inquiry is the enneagram, a living glossary of wise and accurate observations about the diversity of “type/temperament” in the human race.
See, we’re born with “an energy.” That energy is our type/temperament. It’s based not in nurture, but in nature. It’s the way we’re wired from the start. It’s in our neurology. It frames how we see the world, how we move through the world, and how we see ourselves and each other.
Don’t believe me? Ask parents with more than one offspring. They will tell you, every time. As early as 6-12 months of the second child’s life, parents will testify with no little amazement that these two children — same genetic origins, same house, nursing the same breast and eating the same Cheerios in the same environment — are different. Way different.
Perhaps one is studious, serious, reflective and absorbed. The other is climbing the drapes and expressing fragments of emotion like a popcorn popper spewing exploding kernels.
You can’t escape this energy. Or ever truly change it. Your can ignore it, deny it … or embrace it. Learn about it. Find its strengths and inherent genius. Revel in those. Bless the world. Become an expert in your type/temperament vulnerabilities.
Know the shadow side. The patterns that thwart your happiness, not to mention make you a maddening, high-maintenance pain in the keister (and heart) to those who are trying to love you.
A seeker suspends judgment, and decides to awaken to a conscious life. We stop merely acting and reacting. Rather, we decide to be present to ourselves. To pay attention to personal and interpersonal habits of human interaction. Now, awake and conscious, we have choices. Choices! Choices for more meaningful, satisfying, productive and creative living.
Can I tell you how I admire the people in this room? How my heart surges with inspiration and hope as I watch them, one by one, brave the naked vulnerability required to see themselves as they really are, then share that authentic, perfectly flawed and wonderously imperfect self with the room?
Words fail me. I know that because I just tried to look up the word “wonderously” in the Oxford English Dictionary. Apparently I made it up.
I cannot recommend this way of life — awake, conscious, responsible, accountable and growing — more highly. We owe it to ourselves. And to each other. When I make more room in the universe for myself, I naturally have more room in my universe for you.
I return to Las Vegas filled with hope and energy. I have this “you-can-run-but-you-can’t-hide” voice in my head, but this time the voice inspires rather than threatens.
This is the self my Maker made. I’m not a mistake. Neither are you.
Steven Kalas is a behavioral health consultant and counselor at Las Vegas Psychiatry and the author of “Human Matters: Wise and Witty Counsel on Relationships, Parenting, Grief and Doing the Right Thing” (Stephens Press). Contact him at email@example.com.