Learning Alone and Learning with Others

img man learening alone in desert

The differences between learning from the Virtual and Live Workshops

Over a period of two years between 2005 and 2007 I attended six Enneagram Institute Part One trainings, in my position as a member of the “faculty-in-training”.

Despite being furnished with a generic “transcript” of the Part One Training each six day session was a different experience with unique insights and learnings.

Don Riso and Russ Hudson never followed a script, let alone the transcript I was supposed to follow. Some of the same examples and jokes came up, but at each event Don and Russ would engage in a sort of “dance” where each knew the music, but allowed new moves and added their own improvisations as they arose.

None of the participants received transcripts of the training, nor did they receive recordings. In fact, even the four hundred page manual that includes additional copy excluded from the book “Wisdom of The Enneagram” that each participant receives, is not referred to during the training. The only handout that is given relevance for the duration of the course are the nine single page descriptions of each type.

Compare this with the emergence and popularity of the Webinar. Participants get something like a ten hour teaching session and receives a transcript of the lessons, as well as the ability to “listen again” to the teachings at their leisure. Experienced in the comfort of their own home, all this can be yours for under $300.

Why then would anyone bother to go to a workshop that requires travelling and overnight accommodation?

The Purpose of Learning

Before answering that question, here is one that needs addressing first; what is it people want from learning about the Enneagram or any other personal growth practice?

The Part One training is based on Don’s first book “Personality Types” and that can be purchased for under £20. and read by anyone anywhere. The information of what the Enneagram is, what the types look like, and how to work with the information as mindful-practices-for-staying-present are included in the Riso-Hudson and a myriad of other Enneagram books.

Clearly reading about something does not make for an enlightened being.

The numerous academics who study the most profound ancient scriptures and ancient sacred knowledge are hardly the exemplars of enlightenment!

There is a difference between knowing something intellectually and real Knowing.

Learning something is not just a mental activity, and it is recognised within the NLP field that people have different learning styles. Some people like the visual aspect, they like to see the material on a flip chart or overhead and might need to make their own notes. Others like to hear the words,  theirs is an Audio-logical preference. The one that is often missed in the didactic mode of teaching is the Kinaesthetic mode.  NLP trainers acknowledge the need for learning-through-doing in order to embody the learning.

In what way do the webinars meet these criteria? There is a strong visual and Audio modality, and they are generally more affordable and accessible.  There are many countries without Enneagram teachers and the cost of flights and overnight accommodation can be extortionate.

So better something than nothing.

In these webinars, participants do get to hear the nuance of the teachers vocal expressions. In some cases, when attended at the prescribed “live” time, they can interact  with the teacher.  Thus the teaching in that moment becomes more personalised to the students.

That has got to be an improvement on  just reading the book. However, once that particular course is delivered, future students only get the recorded version, held in perpetuity as if now written in stone. Great in many ways, but lacking in the nuance of the live experience.

I have a recording of the 2005 part one delivered in Wales by Don and Russ. When I listen to it, I can recall some of the experiences, but the impact of the recorded version of that training is not the same as when I was there.

There is not a newness of sharing with others, and the interaction between the group that informed and nurtured my personal growth and insights in the present moment.

On the other hand, many of the workshop we deliver in person are also the same programme as previously presented. Why bother with that when we could record the lessons once and have people listen to it? What then is the distinction that can be made between physically attending a workshop versus participating in a webinar?

What is the meaning of an Experiential workshop?

The Enneagram Institute Authorised Workshop that were designed by Don and Russ were an attempt to disseminate the style, depth and insights that Don and Russ had developed over their years of working together.

Participating certified Riso-Hudson Enneagram Teachers are furnished with a transcript of what teaching and exercises need to be included in the workshop. It was hoped that this would provide a degree of learning and knowledge to participants that would be of a global standard.

I was part of the faculty-in-training when these were rolled out, and the anticipation was that the future Authorised Teachers would be a funnel towards new Enneagram Institute faculty members. Sadly, the event of Don’s death seems to have stalled that endeavour.

I have delivered around forty Enneagram Institute Authorised workshops over the past 10 years, and whilst they follow the intent of the material, each has been very different.

I have always needed to feel that I “own” what it is I am teaching. That was difficult in the early instances of teaching these workshops, given the nature of the teachers manual. A generic transcript is valuable as an example, but a constraint on authenticity and bringing realness to ones delivery.

One of the biggest drawbacks is that it is too compelling to feel you have to include all that is written.  The result is that participants can become overloaded with information, much of which can be accessed through reading the books anyway.

Which brings us back to the question of why attend a real (vs virtual) workshop in the first place?

For many people, a “workshop” implies an experiential learning process. Some years back, I made a analysis of our four Authorised Workshops and reported back the EI’s project director that under 20% of the time allocated in the whole programme was actually given over to group exercises in the form of Inquiry, either as monologues, panels or repeating questions and subsequent discussion time.

I have always felt this is inadequate, and have learnt that “less in more” when it come to the information. I continue to find new ways of making the workshops more experiential, either through movement or ensuring a doubling of time allocated for the inquiries and exercises.

However, with the emergence of the webinar phenomena, and with the added advantage of hearing the teachings from the “horses-mouth” so to say, I think it is time we re-examined  the structure, format and purpose the Enneagram workshop models that have been presented.

One of the most unusual and unique Enneagram workshops I have had the opportunity to attend has been that of Uranio Paes and his “Way of the Arrows” workshop. So unique is the content and style that it is not at all easy to even explain what goes on.  If the one I attended was anything to go by, it is certainly not a beginners introduction to the Enneagram. I would also say, it is not a workshop that everyone in the Enneagram community, either as student or teacher might be comfortable with.

Uranio brings in many aspects of the Enneagram from the Gurdjieff teachings that I thoroughly enjoy and have included in some small part on my own workshops. However, I have experienced a degree of resistance from some people who wish only to “know their type”!

Much of the learning and experience is not only derived from your own inquiry process.

Witnessing another person’s inquiry and process can be a transformative experience for all concerned, inquirer, witness and teacher.  That is the nature of what is often referred to as “The Work”

Getting the balance between a teaching element and an enquiring into that teaching aspect, may not be best served by a strict quota. However, I am of the opinion that current models have too much teaching and not enough engaging! The Workshops need more ways for people to Embody the Learning.
(It is worth noting here, that in my dialogue with the EI Director at that time, I was informed that in the USA, there is no distinction made between a “Course” and a “Workshop”)

The challenge is for those of us as teachers of the Enneagram, to make workshops a more compelling experience than just learning more stuff.

If someone is going to potentially attend one of my workshops in London  incurring a ticket price of £250 plus the cost of a couple of nights stay, dinner and travel, they have to know they will be getting so much more than the online virtual course.

I like to think they do in our Enneagram Workshops and Enneagram Institute Authorised Workshops. But there is more I and other Enneagram teachers need to do to regenerate a compelling reason for physically attending a workshop.

The value of Working-with-Others is paramount, it is where real inner work can become more embedded and embodied.

One of the ways that can inspire new interest is when two teachers from two different schools or disciplines come together to present the material from a different perspective.

I am engaging in this in some small ways through the Enneagram Alive project, working with Helen English and Heather Brown from the Narrative tradition.

This June, Russ Hudson is co-presenting an Enneagram course in London with Robert Holden. Having Russ back in the UK is in itself exciting and something I have been working towards since 2006 when Russ and Don had to return to the USA and the Part One in Wales had to be cancelled. I am pleased to see the fruits of my determination and efforts coming to fruition.

Experiencing first-hand, the nuances of two people who are highly respected in their own fields deliver material anew, is worthy of attendance.  I would encourage anyone who is able to attend, to do so. They will experience the difference that arises from learning-in-the-flesh and the benefits from learning with others.

Meanwhile, I invite those people who have attended both kinds of workshops, virtual and live, to share their experiences. What works for you and what would be compelling for you to attend more live workshops?

Furthermore I invite the Enneagram Institute Teachers and other Enneagram teachers to find ways to collaborate more and explore how we can bring Focus, Discernment, Balance and Regeneration to our Enneagram Workshops. It is time for us to walk the talk!