About the Work
Sandra became involved in spiritual work when she began studying with Dr. Naranjo, a pioneer of the consciousness movement, in 1970 while still in art school. Naranjo was one of the first to incorporate psychology into spiritual practice, relying primarily on the understanding contained within the enneagram system for the psychological portion of his teaching.
The enneagram itself is a nine-pointed figure contained within a circle. It made its first appearance in the West in the work of the Armenian mystic G.I. Gurdjieff, who claimed that it could be used to understand all processes in the universe. Some of the ways that he interpreted the symbol are contained in the writings of his students — P.D. Ouspensky’s "In Search of the Miraculous", and J.G. Bennett’s "Enneagram Studies". Its next appearance was in the work of the Bolivian mystic Oscar Ichazo in the sixties. He used the enneagram to understand human experience both in an egoic and an enlightened state. He presented one set of enneagrams delineating nine enlightened perspectives on reality, referred to as the Enneagram of Holy Ideas; as well as the inner felt-sense of those free of ego, described in the Enneagram of Virtues. Their correlates, the set of enneagrams describing our state when identified with our ego or personality
structure, are collectively — and somewhat misleadingly — called the Enneagram of Personality. It is this set of enneagrams that has become widely used as a system of psychological typology, derived largely from the work of Naranjo.
Naranjo studied with Ichazo in Chile in the late sixties, and when he returned to California, began to teach the system. He filled out its understanding with his depth of psychological and spiritual knowledge, and used it as a tool for transformation in the groups he called SAT, standing for Seekers after Truth. Sandra was a member of the first SAT group, in Berkeley, California. During and after that period, she was exposed to many different forms of psychological and spiritual work, including Tibetan and Theravada Buddhism, Sufism, and Fourth Way teachings, and pursued vipassana meditation in depth.
One of her friends and group mates in the first SAT group was Hameed Ali, who writes under the name of A.H. Almaas. In the years that followed the ending of the group, he began to develop the spiritual path called the Diamond Approach® to Inner Realization. Picking up in many ways where that first SAT group left off, Almaas developed a profound and revolutionary way of engaging the ego or personality structure such that it could be used to reconnect with Being or True Nature. Rather than adhering to the traditional spiritual perspective of the ego as an enemy to be transcended or overcome, Almaas showed that it was possible to move through it. He saw that by experientially contacting its contents and questioning the underlying assumptions behind them, they naturally dissolved, revealing deeper levels of reality. He also saw that Being arises in many different qualities, such as universal love, peacefulness, compassion, and so on, and that each of Its manifestations correlates to a particular set of psychological issues and structures. Using the method of becoming fully present to our experience and experientially inquiring into it, the dimensions of Being associated with each sector of the ego naturally reveal themselves. With its intricate map of Being and the personality and its powerful practice, the Diamond Approach® has proven to be a profoundly transformative path for thousands of people throughout the world.
Sandra began working with the Diamond Approach® in 1981, and is now a prominent teacher of that work. Perceiving the dearth of material being published on the enneagram that presented it as the spiritual tool that it is, she decided to write her first book, "The Spiritual Dimension of the Enneagram: Nine Faces of the Soul". In it, she conveys both the basic information and the spirit of the enneagram that she learned from Naranjo, as well as its further amplifications by Almaas and herself. Her second book, "The Enneagram of Passions and Virtues: Finding the Way Home", explores how the enneagram maps the pitfalls and obstacles we all face on the path of personal transformation. It also provides sound guidance in dealing with them, and shows us how working through them affects us. The Diamond Approach® forms the ground for her approach to the enneagram in both of these books. She is currently working on a memoir, leading Diamond Approach® groups in the U.S. and the U.K., and pursuing her artwork.