converting vice to virtue on the path of personal transformation
Have you ever felt like you were a prisoner to your own habitual way of reacting to the world? Have you ever longed for freedom and wondered if a lightness of being is even possible? The enneagram personality system (EPS) says, “Yes, there is a way out! You don’t have to live in the prison of your conditioning.” There is abundant hope as you recognize your prison cell and engage in those practices that facilitate your liberation.
As a typology system geared toward personal transformation, the EPS does not tell you who are; it shows you who you are not and the delusions under which you have been operating. Knowing your enneagram type reveals to you who you think you are—the collection of thought, feeling, and behavioral habits with which you have identified. The power of knowing your enneagram type lies in understanding your conditioning so that you can step out of it through awareness and choosing new ways of responding to life.
The EPS is based on the idea that humans either mindlessly act out of their conditioning or mindfully behave from a place of freedom. There is no in-between. The state of freedom is experienced as a state of Flow or transpersonal Essence, representing a higher state of consciousness and facilitating skillful action and the transcendence of type. Correspondingly, Essence is masked by one’s persona or ego-driven self, which feels insecure, defensive, and self-absorbed. When operating from one’s insecure persona, one manifests a lower state of consciousness, which generates unskillful behavior. From this perspective, Essence is a process of becoming and ego/personality is a conditioned, habitual pattern of response.
The ego may be correlated with one’s personality structure and is necessary to function in the world. When surrendered to love, the ego is a magnificent tool. This personality structure has three basic needs: security, esteem/approval, and control. When a person is focused on meeting these needs to the exclusion of all else, they are acting out of their conditioning and suffering is usually the result. When a person is operating from a quiet, curious mind, a relaxed body, and an open heart, they have joined with Essence and peace is certain to follow.
Intimacy with Essence brings peace. Cultivating this intimacy is the work of utilizing the EPS for personal growth. This cultivation is a process of letting go, rather than striving. It is the letting go of your conditioning to step into the light of freedom.
From this perspective, then, a person’s most important task every day is to cultivate a calm mind, a relaxed body, and an open heart—in a word, intimacy with Essence. When a person is living from Essence or Flow, they do not have to force an issue or make things happen. Security, esteem, and empowerment come to them. Creative ideas and the best next step arise as intuitive insights and motivation. These are the consequences of living into the highest version of oneself. In contrast, a person acting out of their conditioned ego sees life as hard, feels stressed, and often experiences the physical symptoms of the chronic activation of the fight, flight, or freeze response.
Intimacy with Essence is developed through practices that address the mind, heart, and body: silence, gratitude, breath.
· A calm mind is cultivated through the practice of silence. Start by setting aside 30 minutes a day to have no stimulation from artificial sounds, such as the television, radio, or other devices, and to abstain from talking. Gradually expand this time to an hour or more a day and add the practice of meditation. The ego will rebel at first by producing an endless commentary, but be patient.
Additionally, embrace the habit of releasing judgment when it arises — putting people and events in either the good box or the bad box — and instead see everything as an opportunity to show up as the highest version of yourself. You may be surprised at how much noise judgment creates in your thinking. Trust in the process of investing in a quiet mind-space. With time, silence will generate its benefits.
· An open heart is cultivated through the practices of gratitude, forgiveness, and compassion, including self-compassion. Upon awakening, begin your day by expressing appreciation for the many blessings that are in your life. When someone acts unskillfully, practice not taking their behavior personally and instead, offering mercy and compassion. When you behave in a self-centered way, cut yourself some slack by offering mercy to yourself and self-compassion. Make the commitment to live with an open heart.
· A relaxed body is cultivated through the practice of eliciting the relaxation response. The most immediate way to connect with embodied presence and to consciously elicit the relaxation response is to connect with your breath. In each moment, pausing to breathe deeply, allowing your inhale to drop into your belly, will facilitate a sense of centered presence. A relaxed body is also encouraged through engaging in various types of physical activity that cause you to exert yourself and your body to release endorphins. The most benefit is gained by doing these practices every day. Also, invest in activities such as yoga, tai chi, spending time in nature, gardening, etc. that help your body to become calm. Consistency will yield amazing results.
Here are some practices that are beneficial in cultivating intimacy with Essence specific to each type:
· Focus your mind on the idea that there is an inherent perfection to life.
· Allow your heart to open to the serenity of knowing that you are, and all is, perfectly unfolding.
· Relax your body by letting go of the need to fix things.
· Focus your mind on the idea that there is an inherent will to life, so there is freedom to live and let live.
· Allow your heart to open to the humility of knowing that you do not need to seek love because Love is your true nature.
· Relax your body by letting go of the need to provide for others and attending to your own needs.
· Focus your mind on the idea that there is inherent harmony and hope in life.
· Allow your heart to open to the authenticity of knowing that you are valued as you are.
· Relax your body by letting go of striving and the need to perform.
· Focus your mind on the idea that there is inherent belonging in life.
· Allow your heart to open to the equanimity of knowing that you are whole and complete.
· Relax your body by letting go of the need to be unique or pleasing in the eyes of others.
· Focus your mind on the idea that there is an inherent omniscience in being a part of the greater whole of life.
· Allow your heart to open to the awareness that it is safe to fully engage.
· Relax your body by letting go of the need to know.
· Focus your mind on the idea that there is inherent strength in your fundamental existence.
· Allow your heart to open to the courage of knowing that your existence is secure.
· Relax your body by letting go of the need to prepare for the worst-case scenario.
· Focus your mind on the idea that there is an inherent design to life and inherent wisdom in the present moment.
· Allow your heart to open to the contentment of knowing that your future is secure.
· Relax your body by letting go of the need to avoid the pain of fully experiencing life in this moment.
· Focus your mind on the idea that the inherent truth of life is that all is one (non-duality).
· Allow your heart to open to the mercy of embracing your own innocence.
· Relax your body by letting go of the need to be strong.
· Focus your mind on the idea that everything and everyone is inherently lovable and precious.
· Allow your heart to open to a self-love that takes decisive action on behalf of yourself.
· Relax your body by letting go of the need to resist stress and avoid conflict.