Freeing people - all over the world - from the prisons of our own making

Get to Know EPP – Open to Public (must register) 5

If you are curious about Enneagram Prison Project and our work to free people – all over the world – from the prisons of our own making, then please join us for this 45-minute introductory call to learn more about our transformational work, IEA accredited curriculum, and how you can get involved.

Get to Know EPP – Open to Public (must register) 4

If you are curious about Enneagram Prison Project and our work to free people – all over the world – from the prisons of our own making, then please join us for this 45-minute introductory call to learn more about our transformational work, IEA accredited curriculum, and how you can get involved.

Get to Know EPP – Open to Public (must register) 3

If you are curious about Enneagram Prison Project and our work to free people – all over the world – from the prisons of our own making, then please join us for this 45-minute introductory call to learn more about our transformational work, IEA accredited curriculum, and how you can get involved.

Get to Know EPP – Open to Public (must register) 2

If you are curious about Enneagram Prison Project and our work to free people – all over the world – from the prisons of our own making, then please join us for this 45-minute introductory call to learn more about our transformational work, IEA accredited curriculum, and how you can get involved.

Get to Know EPP – Open to Public (must register) 1

If you are curious about Enneagram Prison Project and our work to free people – all over the world – from the prisons of our own making, then please join us for this 45-minute introductory call to learn more about our transformational work, IEA accredited curriculum, and how you can get involved.

EPP Virtual Town Hall

Virtual Town Hall

EPP Founder, Susan Olesek, will be joined by members of the global EPP community to share how EPP is responding to our evolutionary purpose during the COVID-19 outbreak. This virtual call will introduce guests to EPP’s practices for creating safe spaces to cultivate compassionate community, meaningful connection, and healing in the world.


Enneagram Prison Project Empowers Teens – Los Gatos High

Formerly incarcerated individuals engage in a dialogue with high school students about their shared experience studying the Enneagram

Enneagram Teen ProjectJeff Limon had envisioned a “perfect life,” but those plans were derailed when he began struggling in graduate school. Eventually he dropped out, became deeply depressed, and turned to drugs to numb the pain. His addiction ultimately landed him in Santa Clara County Jail, which is where he first learned about the Enneagram — an incisive psychological tool that teaches people how to identify entrenched patterns of thoughts, feelings and behaviors that underlie our actions.

While in prison, Limon became a student of the Enneagram Prison Project (EPP), a nonprofit dedicated to serving the incarcerated and their potential future. Limon became an Ambassador for EPP upon his release, and on Thursday, January 23, he and other formerly incarcerated individuals who learned the Enneagram in prison spoke at Los Gatos High School (LGHS) alongside students participating in the Enneagram Teen Project (ETP) — a pilot program of EPP. 

“I truly believe that had I discovered the Enneagram in my youth, the ensuing insight I would have gained from it would have better prepared me to navigate the trials and trappings of my life. The wisdom I have gained through studying the Enneagram has allowed me to make sense of and be at peace with my 17 years of addiction and all its associated tragedies,” says Limon. “Imagine being able to appreciate and be proud of the best things you like about yourself, while at the same time accepting and having compassion toward and the ability to work on what you find most challenging. My study of the Enneagram has afforded me this.”

During Thursday’s event, high school students navigating the stresses of youth found common ground with men and women who have served years in prison, ran with gangs, battled decades of addiction, and still found freedom — on the inside — before they even got out of prison.

“The Enneagram has allowed me to see the parts of me that have grown from all the things I have endured. It’s also taught me to accept every part of me and to better understand how I react and behave in situations and to learn to love all of myself as much as I love my strengths. Because once we accept ourselves, we can share that feeling of love with others,” says LGHS student Sara, an ETP participant.

Funded through a grant from Los Gatos High School’s New Millennium Fund, the Enneagram Teen Project is introducing self-awareness education to more than 200 high school juniors and seniors through a modified version of EPP’s program.

For the last decade, EPP Founder Susan Olesek has been on a mission to help people understand why we do what we do through the Enneagram Prison Project. She’s also an LGHS parent, which inspired her to launch the Enneagram Teen Project.

“EPP’s vision has always been to free people — all over the world — from the prisons of our own making. Enneagram Teen Project emerged from this vast vision quite organically,” says Olesek. “Personality is a survival strategy that starts in childhood. Equipping youth with the tools to foster a deeper sense of self-connection, self-compassion and self-awareness is a necessary progression to helping adults who seek to understand what’s been driving them since they were kids. As a pilot project of EPP, ETP is advancing dialogue around social justice issues related to mass incarceration in our country by empowering the next generation with the most important thing there is: self-knowing.”

EPP Group Photo


The Enneagram is a profound psychological tool that acts as a roadmap to our ego-structures and has been gaining pop-culture status in recent years. This tool cuts across cultures and languages, as well as ages.

EPP offers self-awareness training programs to those in jails and prisons from California to Minnesota, Belgium, the United Kingdom, and France with unprecedented success. Learn more about EPP at

Workshop: Freeing Ourselves from the Prisons of Our Own Making

Workshop - October 25th

Why is it that even long after we have found our Enneagram type, we can still find navigating the territory of our personality to be so confounding?

Join us for this one-day workshop with Enneagram Prison Project Founder, Susan Olesek, and New Ventures West Founder, James Flaherty, to discover the key to your own freedom.

This workshop will introduce foundational principles of the Enneagram Prison Project (EPP), a paradigm-shifting approach to how we heal. EPP’s tried-and-true method has been used to guide some of society’s most hurting members out of the confines of their own mind and body, and back to lives of freedom and purpose.

Starting with the premise there is nothing wrong with you, we will use the Enneagram as a system to remember what is right about you. In this first-of-its-kind offering, you will be in the company of those who want to “re-member” the best parts of ourselves.

Together we will…

  • Uncover how we build our own personal prisons by understanding how personality forms;
  • Deepen our ability to listen with reverent stillness – beyond our judgments and aversions; and
  • Be more able to stay warmly compassionate for ourselves and others in the midst of our reactivity

Participants are asked to complete the following pre-requirements:

  • Read the Wisdom of the Enneagram book by Russ Hudson and Don Riso
  • Know your own EnneaType
  • Have previously explored your own Enneagram type either with a coach or through another introductory workshop
  • Possess a genuine openness to learn about self and share in that process with others

Please note: Any exceptions to these requirements must be cleared with one of the course facilitators.

Special Panel Presentation:

This workshop includes a special panel demonstration of “the work” by EPP Ambassadors. EPP Ambassadors are members of our community who have journeyed their own interiors whie incarcerated as EPP in-custody students. Today, these men and women are genuine agents of change, modeling for all of us what liberation is possible when we understand how to unshackle ourselves from self-limiting beliefs of the past.


Since 2016, Susan Olesek and James Flaherty have been enjoying the evolving partnership between two highly aligned organizations: New Ventures West and Enneagram Prison Project. Together these two visionaries have laid the foundation for interested, certified New Ventures West coaches to volunteer their time to coach and support EPP Ambassadors, those once incarcerated who are navigating newfound freedoms “on the outside.”

  • Susan Olesek is a Human Potentialist in pursuit of what is possible for people. She is also the Founder of Enneagram Prison Project, a global, non-profit organization on a mission to help the incarcerated to understand why we do what we do using the Enneagram to inspire transformation – on both sides of the bars – through self-awareness, self-regulation, and self-compassion.
  • James Flaherty, MCC is the founder of New Ventures West and co-founder of Integral Leadership LLC. James is also the author of Coaching: Evoking Excellence in Others, which is widely recognized as a seminal text in the field of coach education. He coaches EPP Ambassadors and has served as an Advisory Board Member for Enneagram Prison Project since 2016.

My Visit to San Quentin by Dorothy Hatic

“It is true that we are called to create a better world. But we are first of all called to a more immediate and exalted task: that of creating our own lives.”

I was invited, and I accepted the invitation of EPP, The Enneagram Prison Project, to attend a symposium inside San Quentin State Prison in California. Prior to entering the prison on the day of the symposium, I had met many of the people involved with EPP, including the Ambassadors, men and women who are former incarcerated students of Susan Olesek, and her trained guides. I had heard their stories and witnessed, through their own words, how the enneagram program taught inside the prisons had changed their lives. Certainly their stories are compelling and life-altering. They are lovely people for whom I cheer and wish the best. They are an inspiring and a wonderful reminder of how we “do the work together.”

My biggest takeaway was that the enneagram study really works! I had the amazing opportunity to talk with many of the incarcerated who were present and told me how much they had learned about themselves. What was even more evidenced was how comfortable they were in the presence of each of us. We shared a common bond: our interest and work with the enneagram tool. We spoke the same language and in their eyes I saw and experienced connection.

There are faces I will never forget. Whatever I expected before I went into the prison, those thoughts and preconceived notions evaporated within seconds, including my experience studying the enneagram. As the chapel filled with the students, they immediately dispersed among the visitors and I found myself gob smacked by the feeling that they were welcoming me. I was in their home and they were making me feel welcomed. I’m not sure what I had expected, but whatever it was, I found myself pleasantly surprised by how comfortable and easy they made our introductions feel. We were simply one, shaking hands and exchanging pleasantries…pleasantries that were authentic and genuine. As a first timer, I was made immediately welcomed. I observed that those who were more familiar…who were guides or had been into the prison before…they were easily recognizable to the students. It was like a family reunion, where everyone was happy to see the other and took up precisely where they had left off. And I observed that they worked the room like the hospitable hosts that they were.

It was a beautiful day on the peninsula. The prison personnel were accommodating. We moved about in the room that was the prison chapel with tremendous freedom to congregate and speak openly. The camaraderie was palpable. I’m not sure I’ve ever attended a more free-flowing event. As the room filled and we took seats, I found myself filling up with love and connection and extreme gratitude to be a part of such an extraordinary event. I wanted to savor every moment.

When the time came to leave and we gathered, as is the custom at EPP, in a circle to share one word to represent our presence there, I could think of many. Love, connection, and friendship came to mind, and I chose gratitude. I felt so grateful to walk among those who were really doing the work to know themselves…to unlock the doors to the “prisons of their own making.” I was struck by how well they were succeeding at it. Helen Palmer, in her remarks to the group, reminded the room over and over again that they “had time” to do the work. While I do not believe any student in that room believed that they did not have time, I do believe that they heard her message with the good intention with which it was delivered. The people, the program, and the work had, without doubt, changed their lives and their understandings of their true selves and their individual gifts and where and how they fixate in type. They brought their humanity and their connectivity to all in the room with them that day. And it hung like an aura amongst us all, shining a light of benevolence and compassion throughout the space.

As I took the long walk down the sidewalk toward the parking lot, away from the chapel, the prison, the courtyard, the guards, the clanging doors, the solemnity and friendship inside, I thought about my own work. The students on the inside had profoundly done more than remind me that the work is never done. They afforded me an opportunity to observe my own reactivity and to even see my own gifts. Always I have been taught that you need a teaching, a teacher, and a community. I believe that now. I see that now. AND, most importantly, as Susan Olesek teaches, “we do the work together.” She taught our hosts that and they taught me that that day in San Quentin.

EPP and the Power of Presence by Gretchen Coleman

One of the EPPeeps, Slam, came to the [International Enneagram Association] conference with a huge roll of stickers, little tan hearts that said “love.” Everyone he met got a little tan heart to wear — I personally brought like five of them home with me. Throughout the next few days, you could tell who Slam had met because they were carrying a little bit of love with them. The stickers were a sweet gesture but also a great visual for one of the themes of the week: presence. Slam’s presence — and love’s presence, and EPP’s presence — were on proud display by everyone he had reached. When Susan talks about presence, she often mentions a kind of gauntlet thrown down by Russ Hudson: how much presence can you tolerate? After a really incredible week with EPP, I think I’m able to tolerate and appreciate a lot more of it.

Throughout the week, people were present in the most refreshing, literal meaning of the word. Instead of retreating behind their phones as we so often do, people were open and ready to connect. And it turns out that people are interesting — every person I spoke with had fascinating stories or wild insights or a heartening curiosity to learn more about everyone around them. The men I talked with in San Quentin were eager to share their presence. The conversations that could have lasted for days were condensed into a meal and a few minutes around the presentations, but we managed to discuss everything from the Enneagram to our families to voting. They asked incredibly perceptive questions, and I struggled to match the depth of their awareness. I was surrounded by the most welcoming community, and they made me strive to be constantly present so I wouldn’t miss a moment of it.

I can’t talk about my experience with EPP without mentioning how proud I felt to be Susan and Rick’s niece the entire time. I spent my week marvelling at Susan’s powerful, heartfelt delivery of EPP’s message and at Rick’s genuine investment in every conversation with everyone around him. It was so cool to see them in their element, and the joy and passion they bring to their work is truly inspiring.

The most powerful expression of presence I experienced was when the EPPeeps found themselves out on the hotel patio late Saturday night. I had already been moved by the strength and authenticity of the community I had just become part of, but our presence that night was completely humbling. We laughed and joked, but we also created a space to share and cry and really talk. It was beautiful and overwhelming and galvanizing. The ability to connect that deeply is a true testament to the community that EPP has fostered, and I’m so grateful to have been there.

My experience with EPP has shown me that this presence is from where the world can start to change. Since I’ve been back home, our country has been bombarded with heartbreaking news on all fronts. Hatred and fear have done some devastating damage, and the nation is splintering and bleeding and crying out for help. I’ve seen enough humanity, however, to still have hope. At the end of the long night on the patio, all I could think was how badly we all need more of this – this communication, this love, this presence. There is no simple solution to the messy tangle of problems that surround us, but finding and cultivating some shared presence might just be the first step.