Saturday, February 10, 2007

I use the Enneagram



When I first read Helen Palmer’s book, I had little difficulty in identifying myself as a Three - and I hated it. I rejected the whole notion, seeing it as just another attempt to put me into a box. It took me some years to realise that this reaction was an atavistic one, referring back to unfinished business from childhood, like so much else in life.

A few years after reading Helen Palmer, I was given some photocopied sheets about the Enneagram by a client working in esoteric studies. I hardly paid any attention, other than to reacquaint myself with some of the terminology.

It happened that a local counsellor, Judy, became a close colleague and friend. She was deeply interested in the spiritual path and had already been on the early Enneagram training at Emmaus House in Clifton, identifying her type as a Four. She found the Enneagram extremely useful in her work with clients and urged us to study it too. This was particularly after I had qualified as an NLP Practitioner, a therapy system that she found unsatisfactory and mechanistic, a "trail of techniques". She was, however, open to discussion in our group supervision sessions. I was at the point where I was needing to find some way of formalising my spiritual path for a time and had joined the congregation of a local Anglican church. Judy, on the other hand, was received into the Catholic church. Our friendship was strengthened by the fact that we shared a Spiritual Director, and a belief in the importance of a dimension to our therapeutic practice that we termed "spirituality" or "connectedness".

In 1998, I went to Emmaus House in Clifton for the first time (1). Over the next 2-3 years, I continued both formal and informal study of the Enneagram, finding within it the promise of the spiritual dimension that I had missed in the T.A., NLP and other therapy training that I had done. Indeed, it appeared to offer a spiritual dimension to my church attendance, which was more of a social than a spiritual communion.

My leaving organised religious practice occurred at the same time as I began seriously to meet the Dharma teachings of Buddhism. Looking back over the past seven years, there seem to be a number of events, adding to each other, which led me away from institutions and deeper into spirituality:

  • Our visit to Rewalsar and Dharamshala in India in 2001, culminating in a 45 minute private meeting with Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, at his home in MacleodGanj.
  • A two-year training course in Spiritual Direction run under the aegis of the diocese of Gloucester.
  • Leading house groups in the study of Saint John’s gospel.
  • My training, assisting and retreat times at Emmaus House.
  • A Week of Guided Prayer in the parish.
  • Reconnecting with Saint Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises and the writings of Teilhard de Chardin, leading to a renewal of the enthusiasm that had led me into the Jesuit noviciate after university.

For the last few years, the Enneagram has receded into the background of consciousness, only coming back into awareness occasionally. It now seems to me that I continued to use insights gained from those studies, without fully acknowledging their source.

(1) Emmaus House