A Universal Growth Process for Self-Mastery: A Tribute to David Daniels

A Universal Growth Process for Self-Mastery: A Tribute to David Daniels

What is Self-Mastery?

What comes to your mind when I say self-mastery? It’s a strange term, isn’t it? It includes:

  • Being aware of your own thoughts and feelings, and observing them without reacting to them.
  • Accepting all the varied aspects of your personality. You no longer need to deny the undesirable ones and say that “I am not that!”.
  • Managing the beliefs that drive your behavior.
  • Consciously directing your focus of attention.
  • Living a life of inner peace.

Self-control differs from self-mastery. Self-control requires exerting a powerful pressure to suppress or contain your expression of emotions. Self-mastery is seeing your thoughts and feelings as separate from yourself, so there is nothing to try to control.

Self-mastery lets you manage the one thing that you can in any situation: yourself.

How to Pursue Self-Mastery

self-masteryDr. David Daniels recently passed away, and it is impossible to describe the enormous effect that he had on my life and many others’. He was:

Terry Saracino, a member of the core faculty of ESNT, beautifully describes David:

Those of us who have the privilege of knowing David personally also can attest to his loving presence, his wisdom and insight, his positive, optimistic nature, his endless energy and his playful spirit.  His goal was ”To bring the Enneagram to the world.”

David, with input from other Enneagram teachers, developed and taught the Universal Growth Process (UGP) for developing self-mastery which interweaves 5 processes. David called them the “5As”:

1.  Awareness is the result of any practice where you focus your attention inwardly, and non-judgmentally watch what you think, feel, and do. (link to the Inner Observer)

self-masteryDavid said:

“Change, growth, and development depend on awareness. It helps us witness where we are in each moment and create a gap between the observer and the object of upset and reactivity. Embracing a simple breath practice is a useful path to developing awareness.”

Sheryl Sandberg recognized the essence of awareness when she said:We cannot change what we are not aware of, and once we are aware, we cannot help but change.”

2. Acceptance is opening your heart to others and yourself so that you can non-judgmentally accept all.

David further explained:

“Acceptance does not mean agreement, condoning, capitulating, resignation, forgetting, or permission! It means taking a stand from receptivity and non-judgment that increases the likelihood of being heard, of constructive change, and positive resolution of grievances.

“Acceptance is working with judgments of self and others and with the associated feelings and sensations. When we get judgmental of others, they often become defensive and create elaborate rationalizations for what they are doing/feeling, just as we do. When we judge ourselves, our natural reaction is to justify and defend, rather than to be present with an openhearted state of curiosity. Without acceptance, awareness can create endless suffering. So, we need to open our hearts and adopt a kind and caring attitude to accept the awareness that we’ve discovered.”

3.  Appreciation is more than feeling grateful for your own positive experiences. It’s an appreciation for all experiences whether good or bad.

When I first began studying the Enneagram, I struggled with appreciating my own negative experiences. Why would I want to do that? I finally understood, though, that they exposed an opportunity for me to release and heal old wounds.

4. (Conscious) Action has three parts:
        a.  The Pause. Whenever you notice a reaction, pause, breathe, and self-observe. Notice the sensations in your body and relax them. Notice the strong hold that your reactivity and old patterns have on you and how you feel compelled to act out.

        b.  The Inquiry. Be curious about the source of your patterns. Ask yourself questions like:

  • What is the source of this reactivity?
  • Have I felt like this before? If it is an old pattern or story, is there still a valid reason to react?
  • What do all these circumstances have in common?

    c.  The Action of Conscious Conduct. After pausing and inquiring, determine how you want to behave. Is your automatic pattern the best option for this circumstance? Or, is another behavior more helpful now?

5.  Adherence

David explained adherence this way:

“We take time to nourish our bodies with food every day. Can we similarly commit to the intention of caring for our spiritual/emotional well-being on a daily basis?”

We all get many opportunities each day to go on automatic and get reactive, over and over again, in both small and large ways. These times of reactivity and challenge represent great opportunities to do our work of development. This is what I call “enlightenment on the hoof”, by making the upsets and challenges of daily life our meditation, while also realizing and appreciating our type based gifts and strengths.

Intention, the motivation for adherence, becomes easier when we realize that there is the promise of pleasure, relief of pain and greater freedom from the confines of our repetitive and limiting type structure.

Lastly, change is difficult and “going it alone” can be a daunting task. Seek out support systems for your process – working with a partner, a guide or a group is immensely helpful and recommended.”


The Universal Growth Process is a simple, but not easy, process for realizing self-mastery. David summarized its potential well, when he said:

“When woven together, receptive awareness, non-judgmental acceptance, and appreciation constitute the great emulsifier that allows for the integration of our higher essential qualities into in our personality and daily lives to take place.”

I will always remember David. By sharing his Universal Growth Process, I hope to perpetuate his goal of bringing self-mastery, through the Enneagram, to the world. David, I will always remember you and carry you in my heart with every Enneagram teaching and conversation.

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