Back in the mists of time, probably about 2005, a friend introduced me to the Enneagram*. She lent me a copy of the book “The Enneagram Made Easy”. This was a good move on her part because at first glance the Enneagram looked weird and incomprehensible. But I was swayed by my friend’s promise of greater self-awareness, more understanding about my self-sabotaging habits and ever greater freedom from the pain of the past.
Since then I have become an all out Enneagram enthusiast. I have studied it with the Deep Coaching Institute and other prominent teachers. I’ve taken online courses, done lots of reading about it, discussed it, shared it with friends and lovers and enthused about its potential for deep personal and spiritual transformation with anyone who would listen. Yes, I quite like it! And here’s why..
I have been committed to my personal and spiritual growth since I went into therapy in my early 20s. I’m 50 now so that’s almost 30 years of exploration, attempting to change unhelpful habits and liberate myself from old hurts and the tyranny of the Inner Critic. I’ve worked hard on myself for many years. However, studying the Enneagram unlocked a new dimension of self-understanding for me.
In the midst of my striving and struggling to be free, the Enneagram showed me how to let go into deeper truths about myself. It gave me hope. It gave me a map of my own inner terrain and signposts to help me navigate away from what holds me back from embodying my personal potential and deepest nature. It has allowed my soul to relax and experience ever greater freedom and peace.
That’s not to say of course that I’m all sorted and no longer get caught in the traps of my history. I do. However, I catch them sooner and am less likely to fall down the same holes or find myself crushed by my Inner Critic. Learning about the Enneagram has helped me make sense of why I do the things I do and why I don’t do the things I know are good for me. It has helped me to be kinder to myself in the face of my particular sensitivities, Achilles heels and blind spots. It has helped me see my quirks and self-defeating patterns as part of a wider rationale that does actually make sense.
The Enneagram has also helped me to really know myself. And I mean to really know myself, not as the collection of neurotic adaptations I had taken myself to be but who I really am beneath the adaptations, my true nature as a unique human soul with all the natural qualities and capacities that come pre-loaded in every human child.
Along with developing a mindfulness practice and other spiritual work, the Enneagram has helped me tune in to a deeper inner wisdom. It gave me a road map with which I have been able to navigate away from the personality traps and more fully into the truth of my Being. Riso and Hudson, well-respected Enneagram authors and teachers describe it as a Sacred Psychology, “a tool for transformation that uses the clarity and insight of psychology as a point of entry to a profound and universal spirituality”.
Deep Coaching: Presence-based Coaching using the Enneagram
This is how I use the Enneagram with my coaching clients. In conjunction with mindful awareness and an attitude of kindness and curiosity, we use the Enneagram as a starting point for exploring how we limit ourselves. Then we can target our personal development efforts most effectively towards the practices and enquiries that will support our optimal unfolding. We use what we know about our particular gifts and strengths to support our capacity to open our hearts, to drop down into the wisdom of the belly and allow the truth of our essential nature to be revealed.
It’s like in yoga when you’ve been holding an uncomfortable pose for what seems like an eternity and at last you hear the teacher invite you to let the posture go.. everything relaxes. Working with the Enneagram shows us where our ways of thinking, behaving or relating hold tension, where we are stuck and rigid or chaotic and uncoordinated. Exploring the Enneagram and practicing yoga both invite us to become aware of our structure, the shape we have taken, our mindset and how we hold tension in our body and our breath. Both support us to embody the truth of who we are and might be.. and to let the rest go..
* The Enneagram itself is an ancient symbol that maps the terrain of the human personality. The nine points on the diagram represent nine different patterns and fixations of the personality. Our personality tends to be organised around one of these points and this is known as our dominant type. The Enneagram describes many characteristics associated with each type including their basic desires, fears, blind spots, Achilles heels, sensitivities, relational styles, strengths and gifts.
Understanding the patterns of our dominant type helps us to see how we get caught in unhelpful habitual patterns and how we can release ourselves from this suffering. The Enneagram is not about categorising us or putting us in a box. In fact, it is about finding out what box we are already in and pointing us respectfully in the direction of ever greater freedom and joy.
Enneagram and Yoga Workshop
I will be running a three hour workshop on the Enneagram at Hot Yoga Wimbledon on Sunday 21 October 2018. The workshop is an Enneagram teaching which will include references to how the different types show up at the yoga mat (if it gets you there at all!) and how an understanding of these patterns can support one’s yoga practice. However, having a yoga practice is not a requirement to attend. I will also be offering discounted one-to-one Enneagram Orientation Sessions in Wimbledon, Hitchin and online in August, September and October.
For further information about the Enneagram, check out the following resources: The Enneagram Institute Website www.enneagraminstitute.com or www.enneagramworldwide.com. These represent the two main Enneagram schools who have a very similar understanding of the Enneagram but who teach it in different ways. You may also be interested in the work of Roxanne Howe-Murphy, the founder of the Deep Coaching Institute with whom I did my Enneagram training www.deepcoachinginstitute.com and www.deeplivinginstitute.org. There are many books on the Enneagram. I recommend anything by Riso and Hudson, David Daniels, Helen Palmer or Sandra Maitri. The Enneagram Made Easy by Baron and Wagele is also excellent, as are their other books on the Enneagram.