With some Enneagram type suggestions 

I was recently privileged to be part of an Enneagram Community of Practice session (watch it here) hosted by Renate Landman and Ingrid Hurwitz with Rev Nhien Vuong as guest speaker. There was something profound in the wisdom shared around bringing together the Enneagram and Mindfulness, while having it embodied by Nhien in the session, that grounded some very useful ways towards a fuller, richer way of being.

In essence what has landed is: 

  • When we move beyond our unconscious, default patterns or personality, we feel more centered and can tap into many more pathways of possibility, supporting us to navigate situations more skillfully. 
  • We can start moving beyond our default patterns by tracking and befriending our reactions, and experimenting with putting a ‘spoke in the wheel’ (thanks Ingrid) of our default way of being. 
  • Core daily practices can help us. We can’t run a marathon without consistent exercise to get  fit! 

Here’s a bit more context. 

#1 Our personality is like the tail wagging the dog

If you haven’t discovered the Enneagram yet, you’re in for a treat. It’s a centuries old, powerful personality profiling tool being used by global leaders to develop and wake up. 

Nhien says our personality, into which the Enneagram offers a window, is ‘living from the ego’ while individuality is ‘living from essence’. Our personality is a default way of being developed early on in our lives as a survival strategy. This is innately smart and helpful, however, over time our personality becomes hardwired and keeps running us unconsciously, like a tail wagging a dog. Our personalities, who we think we are, can limit us to a well-worn, narrow way of operating, without our even realizing. It obscures our essence or essential nature. 

The Enneagram points to nine main ways (or personalities) of seeing the world and illuminates our patterns. These worldviews are obstacles to presence and keep us asleep to our wholeness.

“We don’t see things as they are. We see them as we are.”

#2 Tracking and befriending reactions helps loosen them

Our personality or default operating system is made up of mostly compulsive reactions to help us cope in the world. A reaction is an activated pattern of thinking, feeling and acting in response to something that is happening in us or to us. It activates the system-wide threat response to fight or flee, or freeze if these aren’t possible. While this may be helpful when there is actual danger, in the here and now it usually results in an unhelpful, even unhealthy, outcome.

We can experience these reactions as pleasant and unpleasant. We tend to embrace the pleasant behaviours and resist the unpleasant ones, which gives the latter more energy and power over us. ‘What we resist persists’, which means the more we resist anything in life, the stronger the feelings we have about it, unconsciously bringing more of it to ourselves. 

For example, a pleasant reaction for me is the high I get from winning a new piece of client work because it makes me feel valued. You might say, ‘that sounds cool’, and it’s still a reaction and unconsciously driving me. An unpleasant reaction is my body bracing and tightening with anxiety when I feel ‘I have to perform’ to get the approval I crave. 

When we’re more conscious of the reactions driving us, we can bring attention and compassion to them, allowing them to move through and have less power over us. This gives us more freedom and choice around our behaviour. 

Between stimulus and response lies a space. In that space there is our power to choose our response. In our response likes our growth and our freedom.
Victor Frankl, Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor

Nhien’s offering was this subtle practice – called the Welcoming Prayer – that we can apply all day, every day, so that life experience moves through us. You might say, ‘I don’t have time for this’. This is an approach you weave into what you’re experiencing. It takes no additional time, rather it requires intention and attention. 

Welcoming Prayer

  • Welcome everything that comes, including the unpleasant reactions.
  • When reactions come, sink into feeling any sensations in your body, rather than going into the mind’s story of why you are feeling this.
  • Welcome in the presence of god / the divine as support and again gently welcome in the experience, going into the sensations in your body. 
  • Intentionally (and you can release all three needs or just the one that feels hooked):
    • Release the need for power or control (Enneagram 8, 9 and 1 motivations)
    • Release the need for approval or esteem (Enneagram 2, 3, and 4) 
    • Release the need for certainty or security (Enneagram 5, 6 and 7)
    • These needs are all fake cures for existential suffering.
  • Express gratitude

#3 Trying new ways helps map new neural pathways

“We are constantly trying to hold it all together. If you really want to see why you do things, then don’t do them and see what happens.”
Michael A. Singer, the Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond YourselfAuthor Name

When we become more aware of our default pattern or personality, we can insert small spokes or wedges that can pause us in our default way of being so we don’t keep doing them, and can see what other pathways are available to us. The more we try out new ways, the more our brains predict more of this, creating new neural pathways and wider ways of being.

If you know the Enneagram type you lead from or resonate with any of the patterns named below, these could be some useful spokes to put in your wheel to disrupt going on automatic. 

  • E1 – wanting to be good / right to avoid being wrong / bad – notice and name your inner critic and start conversing with it
  • E2 – wanting to help others to be liked – pause giving to others and ask yourself what you need
  • E3 – wanting to succeed to avoid failure and a sense of worthlessness – pause incessant doing and lean into how you’re feeling
  • E4 – wanting to be special to avoid losing yourself – feel the feelings, decide it’s time to let them go and move to deliberate action
  • E5 – wanting to be self-sufficient and capable to avoid feeling helpless – instead of going into isolation when you’re needing time out, choose to work through it with someone close
  • E6 – wanting to be safe and to belong to avoid risk – pause analysis and take action more quickly
  • E7 – wanting pleasure to avoid pain – pause talking it up and obtain real data around what’s really happening 
  • E8 – wanting to be strong to avoid being weak – take a breath every few sentences, to slow down the momentum
  • E9 – wanting harmony to avoid conflict – pause looking for threats and tune into what you feel and need

The world needs more conscious humans who are great at being human

The world needs humans with expanded perspectives (that come from being more whole not being on automatic) to solve the systemic challenges facing us. 

With AI moving in, the opportunity for human beings is to simply be great at being human and a significant part of this is expanding our consciousness and, as such, our ability to skillfully and compassionately show up with range in our lives, right where we are.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *