I mentioned a couple weeks ago in this Sunday letter that my recent exploration of the Enneagram has been challenging me to grow in a couple concrete ways:
1. Finishing things
2. Moving toward people
In that letter, I talked about the “finishing things” part of it — how being a 5 on the Enneagram means being tempted toward endless tinkering and a lack of forthright action. And so I’ve been practicing finishing. I launched the Jesus course (finally!), and I’m moving forward with the idea of the discernment sessions that I’ve shared with you in these letters (more on that below).
Today I’d like to share with you about the “moving toward people” aspect of all this, and then I’d love to hear how you’re being invited to grow in your own journey.
So, moving toward people.
Something I’ve learned about being a 5 on the Enneagram is that a 5’s natural propensity is withdrawal. We like our protected spaces, and we like our quiet time. We need a lot of space to think and reflect.
This natural inclination brings with it a lot of gifts. A 5 offers the gift of contemplation to the world. There’s a need for the still, reflective life a 5 brings to the world.
It can be good … except when it’s not.
Through the exploration of my 5-ness lately, I’ve been challenged to look at the ways this tendency toward isolation isn’t actually a gift. And one of the places I’ve been invited to pay attention to this is in the way I offer spiritual direction.
For the last year and a half or so, I’ve been offering spiritual direction primarily through correspondence — the sending of email letters. This began by way of noticing. A kind of discernment, actually. I noticed digital letters coming my way a lot because of the space I host at Still Forming. Somehow, people would find their way there, discover a bit of resonance, and then reach out.
I loved this.
It was always such a marvel and delight when it happened. The chance to hold someone’s story, written out with such care, inspired such a sense of holy awe in me every single time it happened.
Along about this same time, I took a business course that helped me think about my approach to my work in terms of my most natural and preferred working style. This bolstered my movement toward offering spiritual direction in a formal way through correspondence. As a writer and contemplative, wading into the depths with others through written letters seemed like a natural fit.
In many ways, it has been. And I plan to continue meeting others in this way if that’s their preference.
But I’ve also noticed its shortcomings. How instead of invitation, it can feel like one more email for a person to attend to, and how that can create resistance and stall movement for them. How writing isn’t a natural or preferred outlet for all.
And even in my own self, how this approach to “letters only” in my spiritual direction approach can become a kind of hiding. A way of keeping things safe and tidy and comfortable for myself, since it’s my preferred way of operating. An avoidance of risking full engagement in the world.
Like I said, a 5’s tendency toward reflection and seclusion can be a great gift … except when it’s not.
So I’ve decided to risk.
I reached out to each of my directees this last month and asked if they’d be interested in transitioning to a monthly one-on-one video call with me instead. And do you know what? Every single one of them, save one, said yes!
And so these monthly video calls have begun. And do you know what else? It’s been such a beautiful gift. Such a gift to see these beloved souls face to face. Such a gift to learn their personalities. To laugh together. To let them cry. To hold sacred space for them in a lived moment.
Engaging in this way is so good for my 5 self. I sincerely can’t wait to keep doing it.
How do you continue to be invited to grow in your own self right now? What is the journey of formation like for you these days?