Remembering David Daniels

It is with great sadness that we have learned of the passing of David Daniels, a brilliant teacher and co-founder of Enneagram Studies in the Narrative Tradition.  David was dedicated to the Enneagram.  He did not merely teach it, however – he reflected and embodied its principles of personal growth in both his own earthly life as well as in his interior, spiritual life.  He was a faithful friend to many, a guiding force in the Enneagram field, and a much needed voice for unity.  The Faculty, administration, and staff at The Enneagram Institute express our love and support to David’s wife, Judy, to his fellow teacher, Helen Palmer, and to Terry Saracino and all our friends  at the Narrative Tradition School.  His life, which touched so many, will continue to live on in each of us.  David, thank you for all your many accomplishments.  We are better for having known you.  Godspeed, my friend.

– Brian Taylor and all at The Enneagram Institute®

By now, many of you will have heard of the sad news of the passing of Dr. David Daniels. Many are grieving the loss of his teaching and his presence—he mentored and guided so many people in using the Enneagram for authentic growth and liberation. So I will simply offer here my own recollections of David as a colleague and as a real friend.

What can I tell you about this man? I know many of you have your own experiences, but some do not. People often ask me how to become a truly great Enneagram teachers or facilitators, and I could well say “study David Daniels, and you will see many of the key ingredients.” David, in his own words, worked every day to “walk his talk,” and I saw huge transformations in him during the 23 years I got the privilege of knowing him.

He was, in my experience, absolutely sincere and dedicated in his wish for the world to know more of the potential healing power of the Enneagram, and throughout the entire time I knew him, I saw him really doing the Inner Work—struggling with his own tendencies, but also committing himself to a path of kindness and service. I saw him make amends when he realized he had made an error of judgement, and I saw him support students with such patience and kindness, as well as with a firm but loving manner when they were fooling themselves. You would not have to look far to find stories of students whose lives were changed by his kindness and wisdom.

I think one of the characteristics that most defined him was his natural humility. He was genuinely interested in other people and seldom talked about his own accomplishments. One had to stop and remember that this man was a professor and doctor of Psychiatry at Stanford University, and the co-founder of one of the main Enneagram schools. David took his responsibilities very seriously, yet wore this mantel with lightheartedness and graciousness. At the same time, he could be fierce in defending what he felt was an important principle or when he felt an injustice had been done. He was also funny! I was struck many times by his great sense of humor and subtle mischievous streak which he clearly enjoyed!

David was a true family man, and did his best to balance his workload with quality time with his loved ones. I still tear up when I think of his love and devotion to “his sweety,” his wife Judy, whom I know he loved until his last breath. 

Dr. Daniels also had a vision of the Enneagram field reaching out and helping this suffering world, but that it could not accomplish this mission if the people bringing the message were not walking their talk. In this, we wholeheartedly agreed, and in this, we forged the central theme of our friendship. He was not interested in the Enneagram as an intellectual exercise, or in any notions of false transcendence. His approach was very down-to-earth, yet held always that we were capable of much greater kindness and intelligence if we could see our personality patterns clearly and integrate the elements of ourselves we had rejected.

I believe I first met David at the Stanford Conference in Palo Alto in 1994, but I really got to know him at the first gathering of Enneagram teachers to create a constitution for the new International Enneagram Association. The meeting was held at the home of Kathy Hurley and Theodorre Donson in Colorado, and also included Don Riso, Helen Palmer, Pat O’ Leary, and Maria Beesing. For the sake of efficiency, we split into two groups to work on different projects, and I was put in a group with David Daniels and Maria Beesing. I was struck by how easy it was for us to work together, and David and I seemed to hit it off quite effortlessly. I remember well a twinkle in his eyes—one that I saw many times thereafter—as we came up with ideas and presented them to the rest of the group. I sensed at the time we were both pleasantly surprised at how naturally we worked together, and it made an impression that lasted.

After that first real meeting, we would see each other in passing, and the mood was generally friendly although with some caution—at the time there were still a number of unresolved conflicts in our field, and the different schools were sometimes at odds. This all began to shift at a conference in Maryland in 1996. David saw me and greeted me warmly, and sat next to me during a presentation. He asked what I thought about the speaker’s views, and we were both surprised to discover how much our perspectives were in alignment. I remember his unabashed excitement and enthusiasm as we realized how much we shared. He had a beautiful and genuine smile that lifted the spirits of many friends and students, and it was there as we considered ways we could help heal the fractures in the Enneagram field and create something more cooperative, respectful, nurturing, and honoring of the original intent of the Enneagram Work.

Through this intention, our relationship developed, and we did our best to keep facing whatever we needed to face. I really trusted David. I trusted his goodness and I trusted him as a true friend. I loved him as a person, and I know he loved me. We would often tear up as we parted—it was so beautiful to come to a place where we could really see the journey we were on, and to feel all we wished for our community and the world. I love that my friend was so true and unwavering in this.

One teaching David came to bring out in his final years was the centrality of what he called “receptive consciousness,” which entailed deep listening, kindness, and awareness of our reactivity and judgements. I saw him flower in the light of this awareness, and have taken on his practice as an honoring of him, and because I feel he is absolutely correct in this orientation. May we all come to live more and more from this receptive consciousness—a sign that we are coming from real Presence. 

I have my own grief now, yet when I “tune into” my friend, I sense he is in a beautiful and peaceful place, and this helps my heart. I also know that for those of us still in this world, there is more work to do, and that we receive only a limited time to do it. So today I rededicate myself to the vision that David had for the Enneagram and for the world. My love to his family, to Helen, Terry, Peter, and Marion, to his many friends, and to the EPTP community—we in the EI Community are here for you, and so are many other Enneagram brothers and sisters. Let us carry on, and continue to follow the shining example of our beautiful friend. David, I will so miss you, and I will carry your kindness with me in my heart for the rest of my days.

– Russ Hudson, Taipei, Taiwan, May 30, 2017

(Click to watch a beautiful tribute to David on the Enneagram Studies in the Narrative Tradition YouTube channel.)