Book Review: ‘Falling Upward’ by Richard Rohr

Do you ever walk into a book store or a library and are immediately overwhelmed by the vast amount of literature and information collected there? Does it make it difficult to pick out something to read? Or if you are anything like me you will want to grab them all. I live by a philosophy, “No Cover Goes Uncracked.” However, because of the vast amount of reading to be done, I often get overwhelmed and don’t know where to start.

I have always been an avid reader, however, as life has gotten busier that has been one spiritual practice I have continually let slide. Throughout my process of deconstruction/reconstruction, especially this last year, I have made reading a priority again. I have read some amazing, life-changing books and I want to share them with you.

I will be starting a new ‘Book Review’ series on my blog where I give reviews of the books that I have recently read. Hopefully this will help you sift through the vast amounts of reading material and help you narrow down that search for the next book you will read. Or perhaps I will save you some time reading a book that isn’t very helpful (But so far I have read some amazing works that I will be fully recommending). I will start with the book that I most recently finished, Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward.


Falling Upward: A Spirituality of the Two Halves of Life
By: Richard Rohr

Falling Upward

Many people are mistaken in thinking that Rohr’s book, Falling Upward, is a book for those entering the later half of life, meaning that is for those “Over the Hill” on the back end of life.  This book really has nothing to do with age. It does not mean your first half of life is from age 0-40 and your second half of life is from 41-80+.

This book is about the two spiritual halves of life.

There is the first half of your spiritual life where we work so hard to build up our ‘false selves’ and we are so worried about power, structure, and institutions. This half is far more concerned with ‘Me, Myself, and I’ than it is about God or serving the other. This half is about the building up of yourself, your individuality – it is about creating your identity.

Then there is the second half of life, where you find your true self and are able to finally and fully live into who you were created to be. It is only in this ‘second half’ that you are able to let go of the illusion that we have built up in the first half and begin to swim in the deep waters of spirituality. According to Rohr, this is where the mystics of every faith tradition find themselves. It is the path of contemplation.

Rohr is a Franciscan monk and has practiced deep contemplation and taught it for many years.  Falling Upward is Rohr imparting his lifetime of knowledge, but it is also his encouragement for our own spiritual journeys.

Interestingly, Rohr emphasizes again and again that we need the first half in order to get to the second half. So we shouldn’t beat ourselves up for all the work we did building up our false selves. In fact, he talks about the first half as ‘building up our container’ that will hold our second half.

Rohr also makes very clear that almost universally, if one finds their way into the second half of their spiritual life, people must undergo great challenges, struggles, and suffering to reach the second half. One cannot simply read Rohr’s book and will themselves into the second half. It can help guide their journey, but each individual must walk their own journey.  The struggle of climbing the mountain and journeying the depths of the valley is actually the very thing that will allow one to let go of their illusions and allow themselves to live into their true self. If an individual finds themselves in the comfort of dwelling on the beach by a lake, well, what reason do they have to question or wonder if there is something more or deeper.  They don’t. And they won’t want to let the comfort and security go. Finding our way into the second half is difficult work.

It should be made clear that not everyone actually makes it through the valley and into the second half of their spiritual journey. Some people choose to be stuck in the first half forever. This can be for many reasons, but mostly it seems to be that the individual chooses to hold onto the reality of perceived power, wealth, and security that they have created for themselves in the first half. They cannot let it go. Much like the rich man that Jesus told to go sell all of his possessions and give it away to the poor before he could follow him, the man was unwilling to let it all go. (Luke 18:18-23)

Regardless of where you might feel you are at in your journey, I recommend Falling Upward. It might help you gain clarity and insight into your own journey and where you have been. It might jump-start some questioning and pondering for you. It is not an answer book or an easy fix or a handbook towards finding God. It is a gentle prodding to those on the beach of their first half telling them that there is far more to be found if they just start walking. It is also a word of encouragement to let you know that you are not alone if you find yourself on that journey now. The transition can be incredibly difficult from the first half to the second. To know that there are others who have gone before us is helpful.

You can purchase Falling Upward HERE


Let me know in the comments if you have read Falling Upward and what your thoughts are. Also please share with me what you currently reading and if you recommend it.

Wherever you are in your journey, may the peace which surpasses all understanding be with you all.

©Derek Harkins 2018

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I Am Moved

The Universe moves me.

Whether I am looking at the clouds
flying across the blue canvas that drapes our planet,
or I am looking at those specks of light
scattered across the darkness, billions of light years away,
day or night
I am moved.

I stand still,
completely still.

As I stand and reflect on existence and the Cosmos,
I am moved.
Still, yet moving.
Another of life’s mysterious paradoxes that brings me such joy…
that I can be as still as can be,
and, at the very same time, I am moving at speeds and rates unfathomable.

Literally moving.
1,000 miles per hour, the Earth spins on its axis.
67,000 miles per hour, our planet soars around the Sun.
515,000 miles per hour, our neighborhood – eight planets (or nine if you count Pluto) and our star – meanders through our galaxy.
1.3 million miles per hour, The Milky Way makes its way through space.

And lest you still might be under the illusion that we are actually able to stand still…
The entire Universe is expanding,
moving outward at a rate of 68 kilometers per second per megaparsec.
In order to help your mind grasp the ungraspable,
A megaparsec is roughly 3 million light years.

Yes, I am moved.

Literally
Emotionally
Figuratively
Spiritually

Moved.

I am moved by the divine reflected in and through all of creation,
from the mystery of subatomic particles that appear and disappear at whim,
to the supernovas that while being the death of a star,
are actually a rebirth of matter and energy into something new…
a resurrection of colossal scale.

Oh, sisters and brothers, are we moving!

Nothing unifies us more than this.
We are moving together.
Brown, black, white,
regardless of sexuality,
regardless of gender identity,
Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Atheist,
American, Mexican, Russian, Iranian, Palestinian, Chinese,
human, mammal, reptile, amphibian, birds, and sea creatures
trees, flowers, forests, oceans, lakes, rivers…

We are moving.

On this rock we lovingly call our planet,
we are ALL hurtling through space together.
We are on this journey together.

The Universe is the great equalizer.
It cares not about perceived divisions.
It is unity.
It cares not about perceived power.
It is power.
It cares not about perceived constructs.
It is beauty.

It is.

So, fellow residents of the Universe,
stand still with me.
Stand still and know that you are moving…
moving at incomprehensible rates without even taking a step.

We are moving forward.
Continually called forward together by the divine movement.
Together.

Yes, in my stillness…

I am moved.

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©Derek Harkins 2018

The Enneagram. The what?!

Some of you may know what the Enneagram is, but I would guess that many of you might not. This certainly isn’t a comprehensive review, but more of a teaser that might encourage you to delve deeper into learning more about it. A large disclaimer – I am not an expert. I am still most definitely a novice with lots to learn and will continue to share as I learn. I will be sharing several resources that I find helpful in a following post (which you can find HERE.)

The Enneagram, at its very basic understanding, is an ancient personality typing system – a sort of compass that helps you find yourself.  Enneagram literally means in Greek “The drawing of Nine.” It asserts that human beings are drawn to one of nine distinct personality types. These personalities are thought to be a bit of both nature and nurture. Something in us is predisposed to a personality, but we also take on a personality type very early on in response to our experiences. Our personality is a way that we human beings learn to interact with the outer world and still keep our inner-self safe. It is argued then, that our personality is not truly who we are, but it is a defense strategy we put up to protect our true self. We learn very early in life that our true self isn’t safe in the world. Our personality is who we are, but then again it isn’t. It is the walls around the castle, but it isn’t the castle itself. Our personality, our type, helps us navigate through the world. It is how we interact with others. It is how we make decisions. It is how we handle and deal with conflict. It is our subconscious habits and routines.

By understanding our type, our predispositions, and reflecting on our self, we are able to gain some self-awareness and begin to move beyond our personality and into our true-self. I will now give you a brief run down of the nine types, and will provide a link for each type for further description. I will include a picture of each numbers ‘Totem Animal’/ ‘Spirit Animal’ as well for something fun.

  1. The Perfectionist

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The One is known as The Perfectionist or The Reformer. These names fit the One well. Ones are able to see what’s wrong in the world almost immediately. They can determine what needs fixing in a situation, in a relationship, at a job, in an organization, in others, but mostly in themselves. Ones get a bad rap, because who wants to be criticized all the time, but Ones are actually incredible people to have close to you, as long as you are willing to be open to self-reflection and growth. Ones demand an integrity that holds the people around them accountable. They are honest and forthright. Every One will tell you that they have a literal voice in their head that they name ‘The Inner Critic.’ Learning how to navigate and relate with their ‘Inner Critic’ is probably the most difficult, yet the most important task the One has. An integrated healthy One will have figured out how to use the ‘Inner Critic’ as a tool to better themselves and the world, but they will not allow it to hold them captive. A disintegrated One allows the ‘Inner Critic’ to run the show. It becomes the loudest voice in their life. Nothing and no one is good enough, especially themselves. Ones tend to be hardest on themselves. This leads them to live their life in resentment and anger. Ones move to a Four in Stress/Disintegration and move to a Seven in Health/Integration. Find out more about Ones HERE.

  1. The Helper

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Twos have a deep-seeded belief that in order to be loved they have to earn it. Because of this belief, Twos then feel driven to help, care for, and support others whom they want to love them back. Twos will always care for others before themselves. They are extremely intuitive emotionally and are able to tell what others might need, and then they work tirelessly to provide that need for them. Many of us love Twos for this, because they give us love and attention and are willing to do almost anything for us. However, Twos also have the ability, especially in disintegration, to come off as intrusive and manipulative. They can insert themselves into relationships and/or situations that they haven’t been invited into. The greatest challenge for Twos is focusing so much on helping others in order to be loved that they never help themselves. An integrated Two will have learned how important self-care and self-love are. Twos move towards an Eight when they are in Stress/Disintegration and move towards a Four in Health/Integration. Find out more about Twos HERE.

  1. The Performer

 

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Threes believes that the path toward being loved is paved through success and accomplishments. Image is incredibly important to Threes. They literally believe that if they perform well enough then they can make themselves lovable. They are extremely driven and can be quite charismatic. They are able to assess a situation or a room of people and figure out what/who they need to be in order to be seen in the greatest light. Because of this, Threes are known to be able to put on many different masks depending on the situation or context that they are in, which makes it difficult to actually know who the real Three is. They have a competitive drive that makes them want to win at all costs. An integrated, healthy Three has the power to do an incredible amount of good in the world. Threes move towards Nine in Stress/Disintegration and move to Six in Health/Integration. Find out more about Threes HERE.

  1. The Romantic

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Authenticity is what Fours crave. They need something real and meaningful. They are always seeking and searching for something more, something deeper, something more momentous. They want their life to have meaning and their relationships to have meaning. In their need for more, they can have a tendency to be jealous, seeing what others have and being upset or disappointed that they don’t have it too. “The grass is greener on the other side of the fence” can often be their mentality. In disintegration they can come off as self-absorbed and dramatic, but in health they can be incredibly empathetic, creative, and real. Fours are deeply in touch with their feelings. In Stress/Disintegration Fours move toward the Two and in Health/Integration they move towards the One. Find out more about Fours HERE.

  1. The Observer

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Fives have a tendency to live their lives inside their head. They are detail oriented and information driven. In many ways they fear the experience of the world and the pain that it can cause, so they build walls of protection by withdrawing into their mind. The more information, statistics, and details they have, the more they feel that they are in control. Others might feel that Fives are disconnected from the world, over-analytical, and overly private, especially when in stress. If Fives let you into their lives and into their world, it is a great honor and privilege. In Stress/Disintegration Fives move towards the Seven and in Health/Integration they move towards the Eight. Find out more about Fives HERE.

  1. The Loyalist

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A little bit like the Five, the Sixes find safety living in their head. Sixes, who are also called Skeptics, have a deep distrust of the world and find the world to be dangerous. They question everything and seek certainty. Safety and security are their number one concern. Because of their distrust, they tend to question authority. Even though the Six might doubt and distrust you, they are people you can trust and develop deep friendships with. They are great problem solvers, but can be perceived as controlling and challenging. In Stress/Disintegration Sixes move toward the Three and in Health/Integration they move towards the Nine. Find out more about Sixes HERE.

  1. The Enthusiast

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The Seven is all about living life to the fullest. They believe that life should be lived and experienced through positivity and with as little pain and drama as possible. They have an extreme FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and are constantly looking forward to the next adventure or experience. The problem is, this often causes them to miss out on the present, because they are so worried about the future. The idea of being bored might be their biggest fear. Sevens, especially in stress, can come off as self-serving and unable to commit to anything. Yet having a healthy Seven as a friend or loved one is a gift, because they will take you on adventures you never dreamed of. The Stressed/Disintegrated Seven moves toward the One, while in Health/Integration they move towards Five. Find out more about Sevens HERE.

  1. The Challenger

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Eights find protection and safety in power and strength. They exude confidence and use conflict as a way of communicating their thoughts, ideas, and opinions. Conflict is not a negative experience for Eights, but simply a form of expression. They have strong feelings and beliefs and have no problems pushing those who they disagree with. They are direct and focused on action. They do not like to be controlled and will fight for others if they are being unjustly controlled. Eights can come off as being impulsive, stubborn, and difficult to work with. However, Eights also are able to advocate and get things done in ways that the other could only imagine. If an Eight is on your side, you will have an advocate and friend who will work tirelessly for you. If an Eight is against you…look out! Eights move towards Five in Stress/Disintegration and towards Two in Health/Integration. Find out more about Eights HERE.

  1. The Peacemaker (my number)

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Harmony is the goal of every Nine. Mostly inner harmony, but in order to have inner harmony they need outer harmony. Conflict is the Nines’ greatest fear, because of this Nines avoid conflict at all costs. This usually leads to Nines being agreeable, easy-going, go-with-the-flow type of people, because they don’t want to rock the boat. If someone else has a strong opinion Nines will generally defer to them. Nines have the gift of seeing all sides and can empathize with everyone. They are inclusive and want everyone to feel welcome and comfortable. A healthy Nine holds great power, in that they are able to relate to everyone yet they also have a great understanding of themselves. A disintegrated Nine will most likely be unable to tell you who they are or what they believe. They are so busy appeasing others they have no idea who they are themselves. Nines move towards Six in Stress/Disintegration and move towards Three in Health/Integration. Find out more about Nines HERE.

 

There is my very brief overview of the nine numbers of the Enneagram. What number resonates with you?

©Derek Harkins 2018

Stepping Forward – Part 1 of 3 on Fear

I am learning to step into my fear – to move forward through it.

My initial instinct when I begin to feel fear is to stop whatever is causing the fear – to move backward away from it.

Maybe if I bury it deep enough, it will just go away and disappear. This is what I hope anyways…that the fear will dissipate into nothingness, and I will be free to go about my business. I just need to ignore it and wait it out – wait for it to subside.

This is how fear paralyzes.

We won’t allow ourselves to engage it – to step forward into the fear. Instead we retreat and hope that it will just go away. Retreating gives us the desired result. The fear does subside. It is the quick, easy fix.

Ahhh…but it isn’t a fix, is it, sisters and brothers?

No.

When we retreat from our fear or bury it, we actually become imprisoned by it. By trying to control it and manage it, we actually are the ones who are being controlled and managed by the fear. It prevents us from moving forward where we feel we are called to go. It holds us bound where we are, or worse yet, it drives us backwards where we came from.

I am convinced that we are called forward in life.

The movement of life should always be forward – it should always be growth. Life is a movement forward…forward in personal growth and development, forward in faith, forward in questions and knowledge, forward in our relationships, forward in maturity and depth, forward continually. Each day should be a day of growth and learning.

Fear prohibits growth and questioning. Fear constricts. It builds walls. Fear chokes life and makes us small. It makes our minds small. It makes our hearts small. It makes our spirits small. It makes our very being small. When we shrink from our fear and retreat, we retreat inside of a box – a fortification that we think might keep us safe. In order to keep the fear out and at bay, we build our walls higher. We reinforce the gate so that it might not be breached. We may even dig a moat around our box, entrenching ourselves even more. When we really allow fear to take over we not only build defenses, but we start building offenses – tools to attack with. Tools we use to attack our fears. Tools we use to attack those whom we fear. Anything that will help keep our fear at bay.

“What is my greatest fear?” you might ask.

Nothingness.

I don’t know when I first started having the thoughts…I must have been 5 or 6 years old, maybe younger. I remember lying in bed trying to go to sleep as a child. I remember the thoughts would creep slowly into my consciousness.  I would begin to wonder what would happen if I went to sleep and never woke up. What would happen if I died in my sleep? I would feel the fear begin to creep into my stomach. And then my mind would imagine what death would be like. My mind would start to race and doubts would creep in – doubts that would not go away. What if I don’t go to heaven? What if I am not worthy to be in heaven? What if there is no heaven? And then the big question would drop upon my being like an anchor pulling me down into the depths of the ocean struggling for oxygen…

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What if God is not real? 

What if there is no God? This question would fall upon me and suffocate me. I could feel the panic start to rise into my chest as I lay there thinking about dying, and how all that I am would in an instant be…

Nothing.

Writing this, I can feel that familiar fear creep into my being as I allow myself to confront this fear…to step into it. A fear that I kept buried deep inside for years. A fear that I have kept secret for my entire life. I grew up going to church. Faith and believing in God was important to not only my family, but to my community, the society and culture I was raised in. It is still a societal expectation to not only believe in God, but to be a Christian. 30 years ago, it was simply a given. I sensed from a very young age that such questions or thoughts would not be welcome in the community, or at the very least they would be brushed off and not allowed to have space. And honestly, I was lucky. I grew up with some amazing pastors and a church that loved me and cared for me deeply. This is not a knock on them. The reality was that you are to believe what the pastor says at face value. You are to believe what your Sunday School teachers teach you at face value.

Why?

Just because.

No matter how old you are, whether you are 5 or 95, we all know that “Just because…” is not a sufficient answer. “I don’t know,” is a far more satisfying answer than “Just because…” or “Because the Bible says so.”  At least being honest and stating, “I don’t know, that’s a great question,” keeps the conversation open and allows for more seeking and greater depth to be found.

Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I love scripture and have grown to love the compilation of books, stories, letters, songs, and poetry that we call The Holy Bible. At times it has been a love/hate, hate/love relationship. It has been a struggle and a journey for me and continues to be so. Honestly, I think that is a healthy relationship with scripture…

Scripture is something to be wrestled with.

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That is my problem with the argument, “Because the Bible says so.” It ends the conversation and discussion. Just like answering a question with “Just because…” ends the conversation. There is no engagement. No conversation. No learning. No creativity. No relationship or dialogue.

And so, I wouldn’t engage. I would not step forward into my fear, but I would retreat within myself. Yes, I feared the conflict that would arise if I openly confessed my doubts and fears. There is no doubt about that. But even more than that fear of being judged or condemned by my community, honestly, I feared engaging my fear, because…

It might be true.

So, I began to build my box. I built and fortified it by saying and doing the right things. By pushing my doubts down – by trying my hardest to bury them.

There have been moments where I stepped into those doubts and fears. Looking back on my life I can see them. Subconsciously, I think following my calling into ministry may have been a way I was trying to ease the fear, or perhaps God was calling me into my fear. I sought answers. I wanted certainty and truth. What better way to find the truth than to immerse yourself in the study of God? (This is incredibly funny to me now, in a sick sort of way, as my experience has taught me that the more I seek the more questions I have.) I went against some advice I received while discerning my call, that if I wanted to be a pastor, maybe I shouldn’t major in religion for my undergraduate studies, because I would get enough religious education at seminary. Instead, I moved forward majoring in religion, mostly because I needed to continue to engage my questions, and to know whether I could fully step into my calling as a pastor or not. Is there a place in the church for me as a leader? What in the world do I actually believe?

It was the best decision of my life, simply because of one book that I was assigned to read in a Christian Theology class. I mean there were other amazing things about my undergraduate experience. It changed and shaped me in ways I am still finding out and I am incredibly grateful for that experience. But all of it would have been worth it just for this one book…the rest was a bonus! (An expensive bonus! Ha!) I remember vividly, sitting in the basement of Luther College’s Preus Library, at a cubicle reading through a book for an assignment.  The book was Paul Tillich’s Dynamics of Faith. In that book, I remember reading the section where Tillich explains that doubt is not only good, but that it is necessary for faith. That doubt is a necessary component to our faith being able to grow. As I read that, something unlocked deep within my being…a sigh of relief. I could breath. Perhaps there was a place for me.

I found some peace within myself at that point. However, I still would not allow myself to fully engage my fear. I still kept my deepest questions buried and secret. I tried not to engage them with all of my being. And now I felt the added pressure of being on the path towards becoming a pastor, and a few years later I was now a pastor. A pastor should not have these questions or doubts? And if they do, they certainly shouldn’t be open about them, right?! As a result, the moment I would feel that old feeling creep up into my heart and throat I would shove it back down, and move in another direction.

You see, that’s the thing with fear…It never goes away.

Unless you step into it. You have to face it. Engage it. Dwell in it. Burying our fear, or ignoring it keeps us stuck. It imprisons us, and holds us back.

So, even while I feel the fear clenching at my heart and choking my breath, I will step forward. I will engage it. And that means being open about it. Being honest about it with myself and with others.

And while that scares me – actually terrifies me – it also gives me life. I am energized and excited about the journey. It is liberating, quite literally, to unbury the fear and not let it control me anymore. Honestly, I feel healthier spiritually and stronger in my relationship with God, now more than ever before. God can handle my questions and my doubts.

So, I step forward.

What is the fear that imprisons you and keeps you from living the life you desire? Can you take a step forward into your fear, no matter how small of a step it may be? Step forward, sisters and brothers. Step forward into life.

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(This is the first of a three-part series on Fear. You can find part 2 HERE)

© 2018 Derek Harkins

How do you feel?

Jessica, my spouse, asked me Friday night after I published my first blog post, “Well Derek, how does it feel? How does it feel to finally get your blog started – to put yourself out there?”

Pretty sure my first reaction to that question was panic and horror. That’s always my first reaction to the question, “How do you feel?” Feeling usually leads to having opinions, which usually leads to action of some kind, and…well…you should know from just one post now that action can disrupt a 9’s harmony. Having opinions and feelings and then voicing them is a risky venture for a 9. The probability of conflict skyrockets. I suppose doing anything at all will cause the probability of conflict to rise, as opposed to doing, feeling, and voicing nothing. Which is why I often opt for the safer path – keep my mouth shut and my head down.

But I am trying not to do that.

I breathed deep and let out a nervous laugh as I tried to allow myself to ponder her question and engage it.

“I feel nervous and scared,” I finally responded.

I don’t know why I felt so bad for feeling that way either. In reflection, of course it is normal to feel nervous and scared when putting oneself out there for the world to see. I am trying to be open and honest, trying to find my true self and communicate that to others. I believe that this is an important part of my waking up. I am finding myself, who I really am. I need to be honest about that and sharing with others is a way that I can own and truly embody where I am at in my journey. So, yeah, that’s terrifying for me.

Ugh…I wish I had stayed asleep! Ha!

That was my first thought after creating my blog. Why am I doing this?! Why am I putting myself through this?!

It is necessary though. As much as my being cries out against doing the hard work of inner reflection and dealing with things in a healthy manner (as opposed to doing nothing which is my inclination), I know it is exactly that hard work that I must do – that I need to do.

So, after an hour or so of further inward turmoil, I decided to be vulnerable and share further with Jess.

“You know…I was pretty surprised by the amount of shame I felt rise up within me after hitting that ‘publish’ button. I sat there looking at my post thinking, ‘What are people going to think?’ I have been here before. I felt the shame from my past failures.”

I have tried to start blogs before…twice. I got them kicked off and then instead of engaging in the difficult work, I went back to sleep. To be fair, I had a different purpose in mind for my other blog. I was not at the place I am now. I was not ready to wake up, because I didn’t even realize at that point that I was asleep. While I recognize that  I am different now and this time feels very different to me, I still have a fear that this will end like the others…4-5 posts and then back into hibernation. And the shame I feel thinking about that sucks. But at least I know what I’m dealing with. I can name it and own it. Thanks to Brené Brown, especially her book Daring Greatly, I am able to understand what I am feeling and going through and begin to move past it.

Taking steps forward instead of backwards, no matter how small they may be, is the name of the game.

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As with anything in life, when making a change or transition we as human beings need support and accountability from others. Accountability is huge for 9’s. It helps us sustain momentum. It is hard for 9’s to get started and it’s incredibly easy for us to stop. Sustaining any sort of movement and momentum will be important for me. And that is probably the number one reason I will be writing about my journey and sharing it here.

As part of my own accountability I am going to post some ideas I have for future posts, in order to encourage myself to make future posts! So, in the future you might be seeing posts on:

  • A general overview of the Enneagram and what it is. A very brief description of each number.
  • A more in depth post on what it means to be an Enneagram 9, to not only help you know me better, but so that I can know myself better. Each time I write I find out something new about myself.
  • You will continue to find posts about my everyday life experiences when I feel moved to share them and reflect on them.
  • Posts about how my faith is changing, going through a deconstruction and renewal. Along these lines I will probably write a series of posts about the Bible and how scripture informs my journey and how changing how I read and approach scripture has caused my relationship with God to deepen.
  • Posts about my love for Science and the Universe and how it all works. Also, you will read plenty about how I think Science and Faith compliment one another.
  • Posts on spiritual practices, especially meditation, that I am finding incredibly useful.
  • I will probably be writing some book reviews. I have been reading a great deal and want to share the wonderful books I am reading with others.
  • At times I will also share some poetry, prayers, and liturgies. I probably won’t share my sermons here as they get posted elsewhere and are intended for the specific context that I serve.

Until next time, may the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, be with you all.

© Derek Harkins 2018

Waking Up

Waking up is hard.

Waking up is painful and difficult. At least, if you are me it is. I know that for a lot of you blessed ‘morning people’ out there, you don’t have any problems waking up and getting out of bed. My middle child is one of your kind.  Let me just say this:

I don’t get you! 

How do you do it? Ha! I have had several jobs now that have forced me to get out of bed well before I wanted to. I can do it. I can. I can even come to enjoy it…

But only after I have actually swung my legs out of bed and wiped the sleep out of my eyes.  Those moments when my alarm clock is going off, and I snooze 5 times, is pure torture.  It is the war of all wars raging inside of me trying to get out of bed every morning.  My body and mind fighting with all of their might against their arch nemesis – Responsibility.

Yet, once I am up, coffee in hand, I do quite enjoy the morning.  There is a peace that can be found in waking up early that cannot be found at any other time.  I only have to conquer myself each and every morning to find that peace.

That is life though, isn’t it? And not just life, but a life of depth, purpose, and meaning.  A spiritual life of any kind, I am finding, will be conquering myself each and every day to find that peace. A certain someone said something along the lines of, “If you lose your life you will find it.” Oh, that’s right…Jesus! We must die to self in order to have life.

Wake up!

These are words that have not only been emblazoned on my heart and my very being the last couple of months, but they are a mantra – a way of life for me now.  I am currently in a state of waking up.  My eyes are opening.  It is painful and everything in my being is fighting against this awakening.

Why?

Because change awaits.  I am a human being. If there is one thing that human beings have in common, it is the engrained resistance to change.

I believe we all need and experience awakenings in our lives, no matter what your number is. However, as an Enneagram 9, my resistance towards waking up is a little more complicated. 9’s are often called Peacemakers.  We are called peacemakers because everything in our being cries out against conflict. Conflict makes us uncomfortable and pained. 9’s are all about keeping and restoring our inner and outer harmony.  If the outer harmony is thrown out of whack, our first instinct as 9’s isn’t to resolve that conflict, but to retreat within what other 9’s call our Inner Sanctum. The sanctuary that we have built inside ourselves to hold our own inner harmony together. It is this harmony that 9’s try to sustain at all costs, and change is the number one way to throw harmony into dissonance. So what is our primary defense against the dissonance created by conflict?

SLEEP.

Figurative and literal sleep. 9’s in times of deep conflict and change can just fall asleep.  Not only can they, but they actually do just fall asleep.  Sometimes in the middle of the conversation or disagreement. Our body literally shuts down trying to sustain the harmony we hold so dear.  We will also figuratively fall asleep to keep the harmony.  Our being will actually appear to leave our bodies, but in reality we just go inside of ourselves to our Inner Sanctum.  9’s are very good at continuing conversations without actually being present.  I don’t say this to brag.  I believe it is a downfall of 9’s.  It is a survival mechanism. We will hold entire conversations without actually being present. If you are married to a 9 or have a 9 child or friend, you will know exactly what I am talking about, because you have probably seen this happen in the middle of an argument or conversation. Knowing this now grieves me in many ways, because it not only happens in conversations or conflict, but we can be asleep for life itself.

This is my reality I find myself in now. I am just now waking up. I have been stirred. My alarm is going off. The beams of the morning light are breaking through my eyelids.  My Inner Sanctum has been disturbed.

My being is awakening. 

My instinct is to pull the covers over my head and try my hardest to go back to sleep, but something inside of me cries out and will not allow it. Not this time. Not anymore.  I have been asleep for far too long. Something is different this time. I can’t just retreat. I am being stirred and shaken.  It is both exciting and terrifying at the same time. Perhaps that is why I am being drawn to write, to document my journey of waking up…because I don’t want to go back to sleep.  Writing and speaking the reality – the pain, joys, progress, and failures – will give me accountability, something I know I need in order to not fall back asleep.

This is my journey of waking up.

© Derek Harkins 2018