My journey with the Enneagram began in 2010 when a friend encountered it during his PhD  program as a counselor educator.

As a clinician, the Enneagram’s vertical and horizontal nature amazed me. I was awed by the  precision with which it describes 9 personality typologies and predicts the behaviors of those personality types under stress and in growth. The Enneagram offers a comprehensive  understanding of our personality structures and a map for our psycho-spiritual growth.

I was captured by the accuracy of this system and felt a bit “seen” and “exposed” when learning  about my own type. I also discovered the incredible benefits of expanding my understanding beyond my own type and seeing the interconnected relationships of all the types.

The Enneagram has had a profound impact in my healing journey. The Enneagram is complex  like humans and yet it offers simple and precise insights into the human condition. It has increased my compassion towards myself and others, particularly given the struggles we all go through. It has helped me see the varied “lens” others see through when experiencing the world, and this has given me a greater understanding when it appears others don’t value what I  do.

As a teacher, facilitator, and creator of transformative spaces, the Enneagram deeply informs  me.

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What is the  Enneagram?

The Enneagram is a powerful tool that describes 9 fundamentally distinct patterns of behaving,  feeling, and thinking. These nine “lenses” focus on how people see themselves and the world.

The late Dr. David Daniels, MD, a psychiatrist at Stanford University and world-renowned Enneagram teacher, stated that “our brains are pattern-making machines and our personality pattern is one of the most fundamental patterns within our brain. These evolutionary and intelligent patterns describe the human condition from the inside out.”  

The defensive structures within these patterns serve to protect us from the overwhelm humans experience during childhood – even with the best of parents and environmental conditions. In adulthood, however, the defensive structures can keep us feeling insecure, unseen, afraid,  distrustful, frustrated, empty, rejected, and they can trap us within our false self stories.  

My teacher, world renowned Enneagram expert Russ Hudson, is often quoted as saying, “The Enneagram does not put us into a box, our personality patterns do.” 

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How can the Enneagram Help?

While the Enneagram names the core fear beliefs that drive our patterns of behavior, it also  points us to our gifts and strengths. It gives us insight so we can find greater freedom and  presence from those core fears, triggers, and reactive behaviors. It points us out of our “personality boxes,” and  we are more than our patterns of behavior and feelings. It points  us to our gifts. The levels of development as described by Riso and Hudson helps us to see how  present we are based on our behaviors or how fixated we are in our personality structures.

Hudson states, “the Enneagram is a map to our soul’s flowering and it invites us to look deeply  into the mystery of our true identity.”

The Enneagram also offers us deeper understanding into the three centers of intelligence: the body (or instinctive center), the heart, and the mind. It explains how humans behave when we’re out of alignment with these centers and how our experiences improve when these centers  are in balance. I have found this teaching to be very practical and useful in cultivating my own practices for growth and well being.

The Enneagram helps us understand ourselves and others. It gives us a map towards  growth. Jesus stated, “We need new wine skins to contain the new wine.” Priest and author Cynthia Bourgeault said Jesus’s statement in today’s language may be, “We need to upgrade our operating system.” Perennial wisdom points us to a need in our human development to cultivate a different level of being in the world that ushers us into the wisdom of our higher heart and mind. 

The Enneagram’s power is its ability to support our consistent practices of “waking up.” Paired with support from others during our growth journey, its wisdom is a valuable catalyzer.

How does the Enneagram Promote Growth?

In essence, the Enneagram shows us what patterns of behaviors come from the limited, but  habitual, ego defensive structures within us. Growth happens as we begin to catch  ourselves relying on those structures and with it, the freedom to make a choice of our response. The invitation becomes to let go of our judgement and bring a greater presence to our experience, facilitated by our breath, and bringing our larger awareness to our senses, feelings, and thoughts.

Learning to notice creates possibility. The Enneagram is fantastic at increasing our  awareness of ourselves and others. The awareness increases our ability to create space and the  chance to break free from habitual, reactive behaviors. It gives us the potential for freedom to  choose how we respond. As we practice shifting our behavior, our brains rewire and new ways  of being emerge! As we begin to compassionately bring our larger awareness to our bodies  when triggered, pause with our breath, we can work with our body’s nervous system and switch  out of our fight, flight, or freeze mode.

I believe good Enneagram teaching and helpful spiritual practices do not make the ego bad or  intend to get rid of it. Having an understanding of our human development, seeing our wounds and ego formation compassionately, and realizing that the ego has a place in being human is important.This, combined with a firm understanding of the problem—that our unawareness is what drives our ignorance—when our ego is running the show. The Enneagram does  invite ego deconstruction, but not destruction!

The Enneagram with the practice of inquiry is designed to help us see what is real and underlying the ego structures. In seeing what is  real and thereby exposing what is not, we are able to meet ourselves in a deeply intimate way. It's an experience of coming “home” to our true selves.

Tapping into the wisdom of the Enneagram, we can begin our journey towards inner wholeness and an outward limitless expression of that wholeness with our families, communities, and the world. The world is waiting for our greater expression of being!

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