DELUSIONS of DUALITY – I Crack Myself Up…Ward!   Ronna’s Reflections on this SAND-15 Breakout Session Facilitated by Russ Hudson, President of the Enneagram Institute, (&, Well, One of Ronna’s Favorite Teachers!)

Some Truly Reckless Reflections on not Taking Ourselves Too Seriously Throughout the Spiritual, Psychological, Relational Growth Journey  (LOL!….Yeah, seriously, I will probably have to print a retraction piece later in my career.)

By Ronna Phifer-Ritchie, PhD


Hitting its usual cutting-edge quality, the South Bay Area 2015 Conference on Science & Non-Duality–(I know, I know; that conference name is just begging Saturday Night Live to create a mockumentary about us SANDers!…And that would be almost TOO on-the-nose, due to the high concentration of Hollywood types roaming around the hallways of this ONLY-in-California (insert-eyes-rolling, head shake, and single syllable laugh) kind of gathering!  )–

Anyway….the SAND-15 creators had the sparkling idea to ask Russ Hudson, President of the Enneagram Institute (and, more interestingly, Russ Hudson, one of those real NewYorkers; you know, the ones who represent their coast so well because that whole envying LA thing doesn’t even occur to them…..Yeah, it’s weird to know there are people who don’t pine for our West-Coast climate, but kind of cool too, right?  Right.)   So, where was I?  Oh yes, sparkling idea…blah, blah, blah….The topic the SAND-15ers handed Hudson was Polarity Within Unity as it relates to the Enneagram of Personality, which may sound academic and obscure, but actually turned out to be a peak point of that powerful combination of thoughtful and funny exchange of ideas, that can happen during a really great conference.  (Or that can happen at one of those after-conference-hours get-togethers that you somehow got yourself invited to, making you feel like you’re finally having lunch at the cool kids’ table, only this time they really are cool, like in an objective way, not in that vapid high school way, but….Ahem, oh, TMI?)

Covering this workshop, I gained a new appreciation for the endless supply of extremely valuable comedic material provided by giving a kind of intra-psychic open mic, and an observing ego audience, to my own delusions of duality!   What are delusions of duality, you ask?  (If your newsletter brain hasn’t yet glazed over and filed this under “oh, boring school stuff”…)   Yeah, I get it.   I just hit you with that phrase right at the top here, like everyone had been talking about delusions of duality on Facebook for the last month or something.


Simply put…no, wait, that’s not gonna happen.   But an oversimplified-to-the-point-of-being-misleading definition?  That I can do now.    “Delusions of duality” is my phrase that refers to those moments we forget to make contact with that one, big, God reality.   As Russ summarized it so well:  “If you only see the light and the darkness, what you have forgotten is what created those experiences.”   If you really think about it, our opinion-peppered  illusions of light and dark are a way of arguing with God.  (Yes, I was thinking the same thing:  this form of arguing with God is sort of what we think of as human existence.   And not arguing with God is very, VERY hard at times in the growth journey.  However, it merits the question, why do it?)

Whatever is happening, it’s how things are showing up right now. (Yeah, I kind of hate how true that sounds too.)    And we either trust that it is God holding it all together, like it says in the New Testament letter from Paul to the Colossians, or we don’t.  Surrendering our delusions of duality, our own personal set of evaluations about how God is handling eternity, is really a form of faith.  There, while walking in victorious times, and in the unavoidable deserts and wilderness at times, we find we are walking with God.  And out of that direct contact with what God is doing in our life, at any given time, comes perspective that is much more holy than opinion – it is true discernment, the thing that precedes right action.  (Even I don’t really know what I just said there, but I think I might understand it someday.)

I am aware, however, that inspiring as all that can sound, we are fragile creatures, and God knows that we need His grace to grow into real faith, the kind of faith that is outside of our delusions of duality, the kind we really don’t understand yet.   We are not mature discern-ers on this side of eternity.  We’re God-forgetting, self-protective sacks of flesh, who need God to pull us up on His big shoulders for life’s walk through the light and the dark.   He is the only one who gets to have opinions about the light and the dark.   And we need to make direct contact with Him to find our way through this maze of lights and shadows; thus, Jesus…the way, and all that.   (Yes, a Jesus freak is writing about non-duality.  Get over it!  And this piece goes out tomorrow, so you might want to thank Him that I am too tired to proselytize you anymore here tonight….or I would just be creating dualities all over your bad self!)

These patterns of forgetting the single most important law of existence (that is that ALL comes from God) show up in nine human flavors.  (Enneagram of Personality, enter stage left, wait for your cue later in the “We Work On It” section!).  They can be thought of as ways we cosmically check our cell phones instead of being intimate with whatever experience God is offering us in our life at a given moment.  In other words, we say to ourselves “Yes, but this other thing over here is more important than just being present right now!”  And there we have it….the source of every personality struggle in every relationship that ever existed, including Adam and Eve’s.   (But, then again, you have to give those duality delusions props for generating some outstanding romantic comedy screenplay plots too.)


I began taking notes and drawing huge bold lines out to little thought bubbles on ways Russ’s larger inspirational Enneagram polarity themes related to some common relational distress issues that my clients tend to face.  (Of course, later I realized that all of my  I’m-this-very-important-professional-taking-very-important-notes...La-dee-dah energy running through my pen gestures and facial expressions was unnecessary, to say the least.  I mean seriously, he was describing human experience!   I could have put just about anything in those thought bubbles, including more bubbles, and it would have worked conceptually.   But I’d rather not go there right now.)    So, during my own personal bubble-pride parade, I began to notice something really important.  In addition to enlightening some of the familiar interpersonal snag-ups we all get ourselves into, the Enneagram as a journey of returning to a less dualistic relationship with reality, can help us laugh at our personal delusions of duality (that is, delusions that there’s more going on right here, right now than one, connected, complete experience to be had).   And that can help us lighten up on ourselves during the growth journey!   This, I think, is an ESSENtial tool for real forward movement in our relational lives.  (Yes, pun intended, and rather well-used, I might add!  Okay, a little self-congratulatory there, but I feel like I need it now that the bubble-pride parade turned out to be a bust.)

So how do we use the beauty and the humor in our delusions of duality to, well, grow up?

1)We own it, and 2) we work on it. 

And laughing at ourselves while we do those two things makes room for the essentials of breathing, acceptance, & curiosity.


Embodying the work of Presence, as Russ Hudson is so known for in his teaching, during every topical road taken in this 30-minute talk, he invited the audience into truly valuing full contact with the unified reality in some very refreshing ways.

One of my favorite moments came from an audience member’s struggle with the very use of language itself to describe these polarities inherent in existence, the student was bristling at even the mention of the G word on this sacred conference ground of non-dual-ness.    “You are CREATING a duality right there!”  he exclaimed.    Russ’s response, deeply grounded in respect for the process at hand and in years of self-observation, was like a spiritual earthquake to those who were ready to hear it:  “Well, if we’re going to be completely honest with ourselves here, even implying that ‘non-dual’ is better than ‘dual’  IS IN FACT CREATING DUALISM.  See?  We do it all the time.”  At that, you could hear and feel the shifts up and down in the Riso-Hudson Levels of Development around the room, as we all felt our philosophical seats drop beneath us, with that “looking-at-a-mirror-in-another-mirror” sensation.    Minds settling into silent, slowly clarifying, paradox-friendly “Ahas!” alongside agitated personality-driven agendas shoving “yes,-but” hands into the air.

My response?  Let’s just say later I had a good laugh at my own personality’s agenda of being so invested casting one of my favorite teachers as the hero in the situation, as he courageously quoted Jesus and Gurdjieff in the same sentence!  And at the fact that I completely lost track of bubble gate and started on the new ego project of making those “pedestrian” hand-raisers “wrong!”   All of this, of course, immediately after my philosophical-earthquake-induced “Aha!”    (Yes, we DO do it ALL the time!  I sighed… “Just go enjoy one of those amazing French pastries out in front of the main entrance and get a SAND T-shirt already!” I mumbled to myself as I watched all the “difficult” audience members leaving the mental characters I had created for them, and becoming other human beings, just like me,  hanging around the conference.)


Russ led a brief but profoundly clarifying segment on the true version of Enneagram work.    There are nine ways that we humans learn to run from sensitivity experience, nine patterns of getting out of being WITH the one true reality.   However, just as it is foolish to take our identity from the way God decided to “divide the light from the darkness,” and real wisdom comes from keeping ourselves awake to the experience of the One who is doing the dividing; it is also ridiculous to take the Enneagram of Personality and focus on it for some other purpose than growing up and going home spiritually.   Going home means going back to our source, and that is a return to non-duality at its finest.  Exciting to ponder, isn’t it?

Workshops are called “workshops” for a reason: there’s work to do in this human journey into spiritual, relational, psychological health.   Because we were indeed created for a purpose.   And that purpose is found ONLY in the One true experience of God.   Fortunately, because God is kind of like a first-time parent with us (carrying our pictures around in a kind of eternal wallet, for everyone to see), we can’t easily become emancipated youth in the universe, or remove ourselves  completely from that experience without some serious effort.  We have reminders about that experience everywhere.   One of them is the gift of wisdom found in the nine journeys in the Enneagram that teach us about that exciting work in the human journey, in a very useful way:

Russ Hudson’s sent us off with this summary of that very reality about the Enneagram Journeys with us all:

Type 1 – Discovering What’s Important

Type 2 – Discovering What Real Connection, Real Response is…

Type 3 – Discovering Meaning of THIS Existence, and How I am to Use Capacity…

Type 4 – Discovering Who I Am, Really!

Type 5 – Discovering the Truth of this Existence

Type 6 – Discovering ….What IS My Place?

Type 7 – Discovering “Causeless” Positivity….the Light Never Going Out!

Type 8 – Discovering Empowerment

Type 9 – Discovering Being

There was no better way to end this experience we had all had together at SAND that day.   Perfect, as usual.

Look What’s Coming in the Jan 2016 Issue of TYPE TALK:

Growing Up, Being, & COUPLE TEAMING FOR THE New Year!: Learning to Be a Hub of REAL Guidance, Goodness, & Growth for Your Community!  Stay tuned….

2 thoughts on “Ronna’s Reflections on Hudson’s Workshop at the Science and Nonduality Conference 2015

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