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  • Writer's pictureRev. Ani

Heaven & Hell in Everyday Life

~getting out of the prison of your enneagram type box

converting vice to virtue on the path of personal transformation

photo by Steve Halama on

For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you. (Luke 17:21, Christian Bible, NKJ version)

Are you in heaven or hell right now? This is a straightforward question, and most of us understand right away what it means. Another way to ask the question is, “Are you feeling relaxed, open-hearted, and connected, or are you feeling tense, defensive, and disconnected?” In enneagram language, heaven is when you are in a state of flow, called Essence, and hell is when you are trapped in the mental, emotional, and behavioral habits of your type box.

Before you can leave hell, you must recognize the prison that you are in. The get-out-of-jail free card is employed when you choose to dis-identify with your thoughts, emotions, and behavior. Yes, it is that simple, but like so many things in life, engaging in this practice is not always easy. Enneagram theory proposes that this is accomplished by integrating the three centers of awareness: head, heart, and body. Let’s begin by looking at the body center.


The Prison Walls of the Body

Open yourself to the Tao, then trust your natural responses; and everything will fall into place. (Tao Te Ching, Stephen Mitchell, trans.)
Conquest breeds hatred, for the conquered live in sorrow. Let us be neither conqueror nor conquered, and live in peace and joy. (The Dhammapada 15:201, Eknath Easwaran, trans.)

It is important to develop a kinesthetic awareness of yourself, to notice how your body responds when you are activated. Do you get flushed and nervous? Do you shut down, hold your breath, and clinch your jaw? Does your heart feel like it’s caving in? Do you act out aggressively, shut down and withdraw, or avoid and placate?

Once you become aware of how your body is responding to what someone said or did or to a circumstance that has arisen, you can do those things that help to bring your body back into balance. Maybe a time out is what you need, deep breathing, a stroll or vigorous walk, or the comfort of a warm bath. Practice non-reactivity, and let it be for awhile. A shaft of light will begin to shine through your prison door when your body starts to relax.


The Prison Walls of the Mind

The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is yoga. Then the Seer abides in His/Her own nature. (Yoga Sutra 1:2–3, Swami Satchidananda, trans.)
The weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood]. Our weapons are divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying sophisticated arguments and every exalted and proud thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought and purpose captive to the obedience of Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:4–6, Christian Bible, Amplified edition)
Use your mind for doing good, not for harm. Train your mind in love. (The Dhammapada 17:233, Eknath Easwaran, trans.)

Once your body is beginning to relax, you can see more clearly that you are in a hell of your own making. It is not the events of life that cause you to suffer, but rather it is the interpretation that you place on these events, the meaning that you assign to them. Circumstances are value-neutral, even though they may be painful.

Just like you did when you detached from your body’s reaction to the current environmental stimulus by doing those things that encourage the return to equilibrium, it is important to notice your mental fixation and distance yourself from it. Meditation is an excellent tool that can help you to cultivate thought awareness and establish the process of dis-identifying with your mental commentary. Introspection and journaling can reveal just where your mental strongholds lie — the bars of your prison cell.


The Prison Walls of the Heart

Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:19–23, Christian Bible, NRSV)

Empathy, compassion, and receptive benevolence cannot arise in your heart until you release the story that you are telling yourself about good guys and bad guys, victims and persecutors. Your own judgment of yourself and others closes your heart. It is easy to know whether you are abiding in the heaven of Essence or trapped in the hell of your type box by noticing the emotional qualities that are present. Your feelings do not lie. Once your body is relaxed and your mind is quiet, choosing to employ the virtue of your type will facilitate your liberation from hell and allow the manifestation of unconditional love.

It all begins with asking yourself the question,

“Am I in heaven or in hell right now?”

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