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Enneagram Prison Project

Enneagram Prison Project

I can't say enough about the amazing work Susan Olesek is doing inside the California Penal System and with the Enneagram Prison Project (EPP) at large.

Personally, I was fortunate enough to teach the Enneagram ‘Inside’ the San Mateo County Department of Corrections Jail Complex Facility to drug addicted female felons in 1995. It was a truly life changing event for me. It was in that training that I learned more about the Enneagram, human nature, and what was possible than I could have ever imagined. I was so deeply touched by the experience that I was forever changed. It was then that I knew I wanted to teach the Enneagram to as many people as possible and in every field possible.

Last week, I had the privilege of working alongside Susan in the men's area of the Santa Clara County Department of Corrections Jail Complex. The inroads she has made in EPP are unsurpassed. She is hope in a bottle...hope for the inmates and their futures, hope for their families, hope for the future of rehabilitation and hope for our communities. She is truly, truly making a difference.

Susan is focused and instructive when she teaches and at the same time both tough and then tender. She holds back to allow the inmates to come forward and claim their types and inner experiences but is always open, honest and self revealing in return..... Just my style, for sure...  More importantly, she is sensitive and validating... and always so compassionate to the amazing men who wish to reclaim their lives and support their families both while still ‘inside’ (incarcerated) and when they return to their families and communities ‘outside’.

I am all in! And so are the inmates I have met...the beautiful souls that took a wrong turn and found themselves in over there heads.... and now need to reenter the work force ‘outside’. Part of EPP is mentoring former felons and I have begun mentoring a fellow 8 during his transition.

In summary, these inmates just need a chance to learn what we all have learned about the gifts of the Enneagam. We can give them that chance. To make that possible, the Enneagram Prison Project (EPP) needs all the support it can get. So, if you can make a donation to continue these trainings to inmates, I know your funds will go directly to where they are needed most.

To learn more about how you can contribute to this heartfelt work go to:

--------About Susan and EPP------------
Susan Olesek, founder of the Enneagram Prison Project, has been teaching the Enneagram “inside” for six years. After witnessing the courageous inner work taking place in prison, she became convinced that the Enneagram is a critical and missing piece for real criminal reform. 
In April of 2012, she founded The Enneagram Prison Project (EPP), determined to bring the transformation she witnessed working with hundreds of inmates to the hundreds of thousands of newly incarcerated every year in the United States by teaching the Enneagram along with mindfulness meditation and sensate-awareness practices.
"We are all in a prison of our own making, in the way that we suffer our personalities."
— Susan Olesek

The First EPP Teachers Training-for-Prison Program

The Women of Elmwood Correctional Facility
and Katherine Chernick Fauvre


Ten participants from Denmark, Ireland, Finland and all across the United States came to the EPP Pilot Enneagram Teachers Training-for-Prison Program at Vallombrosa Retreat Center in Menlo Park last month. Inspired by people like Clay Tumey, Elam Chance and Victor Soto, EPP’s first Ambassadors (who also participated all week in the training) their intentions (now shared online with everyone)reflected the ways in which they have each been moved to take this work into the world alongside EPP.

We had a packed schedule of learning, including visits to three EPP Programs inside Santa Clara and San Mateo County jails, for both men and women. Each of the participants brought with them the utmost respect for EPP students, who truly demonstrated what humility looks like. I don’t know whom I was more tickled to introduce to the other — the incarcerated men and women who have been studying the Enneagram so diligently and with such self-revelations? Or,  the EPP training participants who were so eager to love on EPP students and learn from them. I felt like Yenta, each night before taken the group to jail, match-making the folks awaiting us inside the gates and carefully pairing them with the trainees.

The visits were too short. Many folks were in tears while they shared together. Many of these same incarcerated EPP students will be released and be with us at this summer’s IEA Conference, some will surely go on to certify to teach the Enneagram with EPP.

Our last group visit was to the women’s program at Elmwood Correctional Facility, where I had invited Enneagram Teacher and EPP training participant, Katherine Chernick-Fauvre, to come and teach with me this spring. Katherine’s take on these women’s vulnerability included a thoughtful musing about her own reluctance to lead with her own:

KATHERINE CHERNICK FAUVRE:  What I discovered is that these women want what all the men and women that I have previously taught want: to be happier and more self-aware. Whether I am teaching in executive boardrooms or inside county jails, the results are always the same; participants feel a profound sense of freedom from the tyranny of their ego and their automatic defense strategies. For most, it is a life-changing experience. Those that choose to learn about themselves through the Enneagram want to understand why they do what they do and how to lead more fulfilling lives. These women want the same thing. In addition, they want to succeed when they return home and to life outside. They want to develop the self-esteem and skills necessary to avoid the pitfalls that led to their incarceration. They want to know how to make sure that they never return to Elmwood Correctional Facility.

These women were very real, their sharing, heartfelt, and I found their stories painful to hear. My heart was breaking as these women shared the traumas they experienced as children and what they did not have growing up. And, although they didn’t say it, I could see that they were victims long before they ever victimized others. I felt a desire to be as truthful with them as they were with us. My Type 8 stance of toughness melted away and I wanted to protect the young and innocent girls these women once were. But more importantly, I wanted to give them every opportunity to learn about themselves the way I learned about myself when I found the Enneagram 30 years ago.

I realized that it was rare that I am ever as open and honest as these women were. I would have said I was always upfront and truthful but this — in no way — compares to how easily these women talked about their weaknesses and what led to their incarceration. I knew that my defenses had built a wall around showing such vulnerability. My heart opened in a new way and I was reminded of what touched me so very long ago. I felt I was more because of this experience and felt that they were teaching me about myself as much as I was teaching them.

Both men and women that are incarcerated have demonstrated this raw truthfulness and a desire to know themselves. I am in awe of their transparency and respect their willingness to be so vulnerable. I know more than ever that I want to be a part of the Enneagram Prison Project. In essence, at a core level, I am again forever changed and I want others to have the same experience. I look forward to the lessons these women have for me, and the opportunity to help them discover who they truly are and create the lives they long to have.

Thank you Katherine, so much. 

SUSAN OLESEK AND THE EPP TEAM: And a big thank you to each and every EPP training participant for the week and experiences shared as we piloted our way through this first training. As we did our best together on this first attempt to prepare Enneagram teachers to take this life-changing tool into jails and prisons, to the so many of us that just might need this tool more than anyone. To the so many now incarcerated who deserve the best chance possible to be set free.