With a diverse and mysterious history, the image of the Enneagram (ennea-nine, gram-image) dates back at least 3500 years and represents within it an entire universe of dynamic rhythms, patterns, and laws that can be applied to virtually any aspect of reality.
The Enneagram (of Personality, as it is sometimes called too) is a complex psycho-spiritual map that points to nine distinct personality types often called “fixations” which, when properly understood, can illuminate a myriad of unconscious behaviours and motivations operating within us that are keeping us stuck in repeating patterns and habits. While in the past, each of the 9 types had a word associated with it (Helper, Loyalist, Individualist, etc), most current teachers move away from the words, and simply use numbers from 1 to 9. When we can see these fixations for what they are, we can begin to de-identify from these predictable, unhealthy patterns of personality and ultimately connect with something far more real, essential and expansive within us. The history of the Enneagram is quite ancient, and involves George Ivanovich Gurdjieff, Oscar Ichazo, Claudio Naranjo, and quite a few more recent teachers and authors. There is a good description of it here.
“The Enneagram model suggests that each individual views 360 degrees of reality through a narrow slice of perception based on early coping strategies that were used to adapt to the environment in childhood. These coping strategies grow into patterns of perceiving the world and shape what we pay attention to and what we don’t pay attention to.” – Beatrice Chestnut
As somewhat of an aside to this post, the Enneagram has been expanding its presence and impact in my personal and professional life. I am using it more and more in my Executive Coaching practice. I am nearing the completion of a 10-months Deep Coaching Certificate program through the Deep Coaching Institute, which is about presence-based coaching through the Enneagram lens. And we (my beloved, a dear friend and a professional collaborator, and myself) use it as the foundation in our Awakened Living Program, a yearlong journey of awakening. This program is where the relevance to the Reflection becomes stronger.
When I (co)-facilitate a program – any program/course/workshop – I hold a very particular perspective, whereby I am not separate from the participants and am a part of everything that happens in that space. I am not a neutral and detached observer, expertly conducting a deep transformative process while sitting in my high director’s chair, observing them do their (often) deep inner work while sipping a nice almond milk latte. When I started my teaching and facilitation work, about two decades ago, I tried this approach. My ego liked it. There were the illusory moments of feeling like “I got this” and am done with my healing journey. “I am here to bestow my wisdom upon you mortals.” When that pedestal crumbled, painfully, I realized that a whole new level of my own healing and growing journey just began. Simply the next iteration of the spiral.
This perspective I hold, whereby I am not separate from the participants or the program that is happening, also means something very interesting. Or annoying, depending on the day and what is happening. Specifically, it means that every time I facilitate something, I too go through the process – just like the participants. Again and again. For instance, I have been facilitating the Right Livelihood Quest journeys for over 8 years; several times a year on some of the years of this transformative process. Have gone through it myself every single time. Every time it ends up being quite the ride.
“Awareness is conscious and it is deliberate. It is the watching of information and energy within us, and, of what is being stirred up within, in response. Awareness is neutral. It has no opinion and has no preference, it just observes, ‘What is.’ … We cannot possibly change or grow what we cannot ‘see’. And ‘seeing’ begins with awareness. Our entire personal development journey really does begin here, with the practice of this single yet profound capacity.” – David Daniels, “The Enneagram, Relationships and Intimacy”
With this perspective, I get to experience a juicy combination of beauty, magic, frustration, and grace with every program. Just like a particular day (or two) a couple of weeks ago, when quite a few small things around me decided to misbehave. A lock on a door, wifi (both the router and the signal extenders), a property gate that decided to develop a mind of its own, and several other small things. While each of them individually is really not a big deal, when combined together, they really pushed against my desire for control and the willpower to make it all work. “Why can’t I force it all into existence?” It is very fitting to someone who feels at the “Enneagram home” as a Type 8. Me. Frustration and annoyance with “misbehaving reality” is a hallmark Type 8 reaction. It was also very aligned to the phase of our currently-in-progress Awakened Living Program that the participants were engaged with.
As I was going through these annoying days, I noticed how my world started shrinking, zooming in on these little things that were not behaving the way I wanted them to. Especially the ones related to technology, where I consider myself having enough experience to be able to fix things and make them work. It felt as though I am looking at the world through a keyhole that is getting smaller and smaller, while simultaneously pulling me in, closer and closer.
This time, luckily, I caught myself before descending too deep into this rabbit hole. A day or two is not a lot, really – for me. This time, I was able to pause, pull myself back, notice my own reactions to the reality around me, and accept my humanness and the fact that I am, after all, not that omnipotent. It is a big and important step for a Type 8.
“Acceptance is allowing, without judgment or censorship or sedation, whatever arises in the moment, within ourselves as well as with what we subjectively perceive in others. Acceptance in the personal-development world is neutral. It’s the art of being ‘with’ something and letting it be, as is. Acceptance does not mean we ‘like’ something, it just means, ‘it is.’ Acceptance has no conditions.” – David Daniels, “The Enneagram, Relationships and Intimacy”
The gentle yet persistent power of awareness and acceptance are not to be underestimated. At first glance, they might feel like “soft” and “gentle” words that don’t have much to do with the “real” world – a world of goals, actions, focus, and power. Yet, they have EVERYTHING to do with growing, evolving, and becoming freer from our past patterns of thinking and behaving.
“You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.” – Bruce Lee