A Fallow Year

This coming year of 2019, I am letting my garden have a rest – letting the ground be fallow. It gives space for the soil to replenish and to have its nutrients restored.

 

I am personally trying to allow much more space this year for contemplation, silence, reflection and the deeper work of stillness. I’ve sown a lot of seed over the last few years and now I need to take stock and see what is emerging, what is growing, what has life. There will probably be fewer blogs, though not necessarily, as I may use it to journal. There will definitely be less social media (starting with a complete 6 week hike from it form January 1st). I am so aware how often we focus on the activity, but do not do the deeper work needed in our lives.

 

As a Type 7 on the Enneagram, I know I can easily run away from pain – I am learning much more to sit with it. I know I can easily return to gluttony – not just for food, but for anything – new ideas, an idealised future, dreams, experiences……. I know that my natural defence mechanism is to rationalise everything, so that I don’t have to deal with the complexity of ‘feeling’ it! I know that I can so easily fill my time with so many fun and exciting adventures, always looking to the next possibility rather than sitting in the present and just being. Although, in many ways I feel more healed and more whole than ever, I am painfully aware how easily, I trap myself back in my ‘7 prison of escapist behaviours’ rather than living out my life more fully and freely, in the deep knowledge of being unconditionally loved.

 

I have personally found the enneagram such a useful tool, not to box me in, but to help me understand the box I am already living in and how to be free of it to become the best version of Andrew James Knox that I can be. I would say, in my clinics and in my leadership work in the NHS, that my greatest sadness is seeing people who never really do their ‘deep work’. They never really get to grips with their root issues, never really face up to their deep needs and resultant behaviours which leads to all kinds dis-ease. In fact, the world is run by such people and the effects for all of us and the planet, are devastating. If we are to embrace a kinder future, in which empathy, love and compassion can really come to the fore, then we have to be willing to do our deep work ourselves (from which no one is exempt), letting go of our anger, pride, deceit, envy, greed, fear, gluttony, lust or sloth in the process.

 

So.……what’s the deep work you need to do in 2019?

 

This year, my deep work is to embrace contemplation, to pause and reflect, to listen and to be present. I hope I learn more the secret of doing nothing. The Christopher Robbin Movie has given me much cause for thought (not least about inverted pyramids!).

 

After all, as one of my all time favourites, Winnie-the Pooh, reminds us:

“Doing Nothing Often Leads to The Very Best Something.”

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Narcissus and the Narrow Path

Narcissus – The Ego Image of Ourselves

Do you know the story of Narcissus? Such a tragedy of a young man, who looked into a pool of water, seeing his image for the first time and found it so mesmerisingly beautiful that he could never bear to look away and died looking at his own reflection. Needless to say, in the world of selfies, it provides a stark warning to us! Its real meaning though is deeper and profoundly challenging.

I have written on this blog a few times about the enneagram and the power it holds in causing us to confront our root issues. In truth, each of us has an ego that we protect and project to the world around us. It is the image of ourselves that we want others to see, the things we would like others to believe of us. But it is only a narcissistic projection, a fake image that we portray, perhaps the image of ourselves that we are in love with or would, perhaps, like others to love. Our life’s work is to own up to the ego we have created and instead become our true selves, which enables us to become a gift to others. This is our deepest, spiritual healing.
My ego projection is that of a Type 7. I project to those around me that I am an enthusiast, an activator, a visionary, full of fresh and new thinking. I am fun and fun loving, I am an activator, a leader and generous. I so easily love this image of myself and what others think and say about me. But truthfully, I am and do those things because I am, for the most part, avoiding pain. There is, if you like, an inner child or shadow, I am trying to protect. A child who didn’t feel content and did not like pain I encountered early in life. So, in order not to feel that pain, I bury my true emotions and project to the world that “I am ok”. I may not be, but I want you to think that I am. And truthfully, I most likely think that I am ok, because I am a “head type” and so I process things very rationally. In any given moment it is often hard for me to know what I actually feel, because I bury my true emotions so that they do not overwhelm me and I do not have to feel any pain. And if you don’t ask me what I’m feeling I don’t have the language to tell you and even if you do, it will take me an enormous amount of energy and courage to really feel whatever it is that I am feeling. And so, in order to bury that pain further I encounter my root sin, which for a Type 7 is gluttony.

This gluttony does not have to be for food, though in my case it often is – I do love food! But it is also a gluttony for fresh or exciting or stimulating experiences – living life to the max. It can lead to such a rushing and business, so that life is never boring and I do not have to be still too long enough to encounter anything particularly negative. This can easily lead to addictive tendencies e.g. to social media, to creating a fantasy world or to always moving onto the next new thing, leaving those around me feeling caught up in the whirlwind or a bit used, abused and taken for granted, whilst the ‘Andy Show’ rolls on through town.

So, what do I do about my narcissistic ego projection that I want the world to believe of me and that I rather love? Well, I can stay as I am. I can continue to let everyone know that “I’m ok”; or I can fall over The Stumbling Stone and receive the invitation to accept just how overwhelmed I feel sometimes; that there is a deep dissatisfaction within me that drives my gluttonous behaviour to cover over my pain. And as difficult as it may be, there is no other salvation for me, no other way to find the simplicity and contentment I long for and to become the gift I can be. Does it mean if I accept that invitation that all my struggles stop, that my ego will die and that my sin will no longer trouble me? Well….yes and no!

There is a death of the ego, but it keeps rearing it’s ugly head and so needs a daily death and some days it dies more than others. And when I’m running from pain and feeling overwhelmed, gluttony of one sort or another will too easily take hold. But always in my path is The Stumbling Stone, inviting me, instead, to walk the narrow path, the path less trodden, the path less looked for because it means walking through a narrow gate in which the ego, I love too much is stripped off me. What I so easily forget is just how heavy and tiring that old ego is. To have it removed with surgical precision and find a way to walk that is so much lighter and less burdensome is pure joy. No more pretence, no more projection, just me, as I am, loved at the very core of my being.

No matter who you are, you too have an ego that you are projecting to the world. Your life’s work is to recognise that ego and choose which path you will walk. For a Type 2 you project that you are loving and helpful. For a Type 3 you project that you are successful and outstanding. For a Type 4 you project that you are sensitive and special. For a Type 5 you project that you are perceptive. For a Type 6 you project that you are reliable, a loyal skeptic. For a Type 7, like me you project that you are enthusiastic. For a Type 8 you project that you are strong. For a Type 9 you project that you are peaceful. For a Type 1, you project that you are honest, hardworking and orderly. The invitation to each of us to fall out of love with our ego and become our true self. Then we can say, like God, I am who I am.

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Creating a Great Culture – Part 1

Tweet I’ve recently finished reading the extraordinary book, “Legacy”, by James Kerr. It is a book about the culture of The All Blacks, the most “successful” sports team in the world. If you are involved in leadership, at any level, especially if you are passionate about developing the culture of your team, I would heartily [Continue Reading …]

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Continuously Learning Health Systems

Tweet Learning requires humility. It requires us to accept that we don’t know everything, that we get it wrong sometimes, make mistakes and need to own up to them so that we don’t do the same thing again. Learning is a vital part of all we do in health and social care, if we are [Continue Reading …]

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Understanding Brexit (and Trump)

Tweet I’ve been doing a bit of thinking about how the Brexit and Trump campaigns were so successful. (I owe most of ths thought process to a very inspiring session about our shadow selves from Paul and Angie Woods, during a weekend focussed on the Enneagram). What was it, apart from the arguments made and [Continue Reading …]

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Personality Health

Tweet We often talk about physical, mental, social and even systemic health, but we don’t often think or talk about the health of our personalities. Our personalities are shaped by our self-esteem, our values, our truths, our needs, our struggles, our instincts and our gifts. They impact every part of our lives, relationships and interactions [Continue Reading …]

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Embracing Weakness

Tweet Last weekend, I spent the weekend with my wife and a bunch of close friends, immersing ourselves in the enneagram. It’s something I’ve done a bit of before and highly recommend it! The enneagram is an ancient way of understanding the human personality, our instincts, gifts, struggles and strengths. There are several different perspectives [Continue Reading …]

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Well Cities and How They Can Flourish

Tweet I am someone who has many dreams – I mean the night kind of dreams….very seldom would they be a night mare, but they come with incredible detail! Maybe this is because my mind is processing, maybe it’s because I’m a bit weird or maybe it’s because I’m finally quiet and the Spirit of [Continue Reading …]

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