My journey into using the Enneagram within my life and my professional practice has been circuitous. It has taken me through athletic, artistic, scholastic, social and spiritual exploration and growth.

As a child I was more comfortable splashing in the puddles, playing tag, or learning to slide down banisters, than I was in school. I was curious, and yearned to discover and express myself. I had trouble learning within the confines of the school system. I lived for synchronized swimming and dance. These were forms of self-expression with which I felt vital and relaxed. I chewed my hands and gritted my teeth through school ‘trying hard’ to learn, but never doing well.

Through a minor miracle, or so it seemed to me, I passed my high school, and later my undergrad university exams. I exerted much effort and earned minimal grades. I passed, and I was relieved to be done with school. The idea of ’school’ left me with a dead feeling inside.

Other experiences however, kindled sparks of aliveness. Early on in elementary school, a neighbor showed me a picture of ‘Jesus.’ He looked like a nice, kind man, with soft eyes, someone who might listen to me and not judge me. I heard from this neighbor that Jesus was God, and that God would always love me and care for me. “Well,” I thought, “that’s really neat!” I wanted this kind of caring relationship, so I created an imaginary relationship with ‘Jesus/God’ with whom I could secretly talk every night, and this became a daily practice, along with my dance and swimming.

In later years, I joined Christian Fellowship groups, and although I found that my view on ‘God’ seemed to be less knowledgeable than my more theologically erudite fellows, it felt vibrant for me, with an energy that I experienced as necessary for my survival.

In the 70’s I joined a commune in Montreal: this was the year of the War Measures’ Act, the year of the FLQ kidnappings. We were all in our 20’s, and we sought, in our commune, to bring the world ‘more love.’ I was unskilled and unpracticed in human relationships, and in ‘love.’ In 1970, I had also experienced a pole-vaulting accident that has left me in constant physical pain. My suffering with this pain, accompanied with a disenchantment concerning communal living, led me to leaving the commune, and to breaking off my engagement with a young man, who, I regret, was hurt and confused by my behavior.

Leaving the commune triggered an abrupt change in my focus. My journey in life was now to seek help for myself, to know myself and to attend to my pain. I ‘threw out’ my relationship with ‘God.’ I threw away Christianity, I threw away any ideas of community friendships, I threw out ideas about ‘love,’ and I tried to return to the comfort and joy I had once felt in physical expression – and failed. These routes did not ‘work:’ they just created more pain, more limitations and more inner conflict. I felt marginalized, and I reached a very low place engulfed by sorrow and anger. It didn’t seem that anything mattered.

Despite having sworn never to enter the educational system again, I found myself entering graduate studies as a ‘mature student.’ I chuckled with that title, for I found myself to be far from ‘mature.’ I was frightened, sure I would fail, sure I would be mocked, and sure that I wouldn’t understand anything. What happened was a bursting into growth and confidence, and an eruption of carefree curiosity. At the University of Toronto, I met a man who would become my mentor, Dr. John Weiser. He introduced me to Psychology, and he introduced me to Psychosynthesis; a holistic approach to the human experience that is both psychological and spiritual: it overtly includes mind, body, emotion, and, the spirit. For the first time, I felt at once vibrant, alive and curious – at school! John seemed to recognize in me my fathomless desire to know – to know and explore everything, to know myself and to explore knowing. He and his wife, also taught me about ‘love’ in their sincere and open expression of themselves with one another and with the ‘world.’

I became curious about my own patterns. I explored the difference between pain and suffering and I explored my own pain, my own suffering. My post-doctorate work continued this exploration as I entered the world of Cardiac Health psychology. I began to spontaneously write ‘position papers’ that would help me share my explorations with other people. I observed the cruelty of human beings – within both myself and others. I also observed how we could behave with meanness towards others, and to ourselves. “Why are we so mean to each other?” was a question that burned within me. When I dropped the “why?” aspect of this question and instead explored “how?,” I turned inward, and became aware of my capacity for meanness in my own actions or intentions. I gradually discovered a structural network of who I thought I was – much of this was and remains hidden in my subconscious. I would later term this structure the psychic structure of my personality.

As I followed my curiosity, I recognized that the yearning for spiritual connection was still present. I had thrown Christianity away, and I had thrown away the concept of trusting others. The Psychosynthesis approach helped me profoundly as I included the path of “Self Inquiry” as lived by Ramana Maharshi and Poonjaji, and as taught by Gangaji, Hanuman, Francis Lucille, and Eckhart Tolle. Later I was introduced to Cynthia Bourgeault’s Contemplative approach. Now, I am a student of the Diamond Approach. Always explorations of physical pain and of suffering arose. I inquired into ‘love,’ and I inquired into relationships of all types.

Always I explored the difference between who I take myself to be, and who I am.

My physical health challenges became more complex as I developed a chronic tissue disorder, – my physical limitations increased, as did my experience of pain. The world of movement and of dance and swimming could no longer be an avenue for my self-expression. This was a loss, and in this loss I realized that for me self-expression had also been a way for me to discharge, and in this discharge, it had prevented me from experiencing ‘more’ of who I am.

During a time on sick leave, I paid heed to a pull within to re-introduce myself to the Enneagram. I had read about the Enneagram several years prior to this, and I had not been attracted to it because I saw it as just another way to categorize ourselves and to fool ourselves into believing ourselves to be one certain way, when I knew we are everything. On second reading, however, I began to see the Enneagram as a map that graphically, clearly and succinctly, outlines the process of living, changing and developing, and the process of recognizing who we are, and that for which we yearn. It pointed exactly to my experience.

The creation of The Canadian Institute for Enneagram Studies has been a natural and direct outgrowth of my journey toward being in greater service to the One/ the Unity / to God. It is the result of inquiring into and exploring community, love and relationships everywhere. I am learning that we are community, love and relationship. The CIES is the offspring of the yearning to know more fully the world that we live in, and it provides an opportunity to share this. The CIES is birthed from my curiosity about how we, as human Beings, move about in the world and how we cope, to help us maintain a familiar sense of body, emotions and thought. The Enneagram speaks eloquently of this, so it is a fine and useful tool to point us to the efforts and structures of our personalities, and to point us to the ground, our essential nature. The egocentric systems of our personalities do not have to trap us. We can become more vital and alive within the structures of our personalities. My journey, so far, has shown me that we do not have to be locked in by these structures, and that we can be free, and fulfilled within them. This is what the CIES is all about. It is created for us to further explore our personalities and to further explore the ground from which they develop. In such knowledge and exploration is the freedom, the satisfaction, the security and the peace that we all long for. My hope is that the CIES will be an active, vital growing organism that can introduce and support us in the exploration of the peace of who we are, and in ways that are concretely in service to this peace.

~ Penny


Penny currently lives in a pink and purple house in the downtown of Victoria, British Columbia. She remains surrounded by the nature of her garden, her relationship to ‘God’ is no longer secret, although it is always changing in her awareness. She is slowly and humbly learning about ‘love,’ about community, and about being an active and conscious aspect of community. Her curiosity remains, and she has keen fascination and compassion for the predicament of ourselves as human Beings, with form and formless.