Not painting by numbers
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A report on our Enneagram Workshop 'Nine Faces of the Soul'
by Chris Hull
“ I am not a number, I am a free man!”, proclaimed Patrick McGoohan, as the captive MI6 agent in the cult 1960s TV series, 'The Prisoner'.
And if the Enneagram were a cult, maybe we would all be numbers and diminished as human beings as a result. The Enneagram, however, is an ancient piece of wisdom which, when used as intended – with wisdom and contemplation – is about enriching us as human beings and helping us to understand ourselves and how we interact with the world and others around us.
Last weekend 100 or so people packed St.Luke's and were treated to an entertaining, illuminating, at times embarrassing and scary, presentation by Gordon Melvin on the meaning of The Enneagram.
Whilst The Enneagram as popularly understood describes 9 typologies of mental/emotional characteristics, Gordon helped us to understand that these are better seen as energies. And so he presented, with great care,depth, and humour, the 3 'centres of intelligence' – body, heart, and head – each containing 3 enneagram types.
Coming to the event with a tiny amount of knowledge about the enneagram, I was fairly convinced I was in the 'body segment' somewhere, but which number/type? As Gordon guided us around the circle of the enneagram, describing the types as energies, tendencies, deficiencies, virtues, I gradually homed in on one type which seemed to be me. It was not an easy process, as some things about the type made me squirm! But then this suggests to me the authenticity of it – the enneagram faces us with some of the uncomfortable truths about ourselves, whilst supporting our 'beingness' in an affirming and non-judgemental way. Our ego will always want to push this discomfort away, but actually if we can grow to accept the squirming and the discomfort, there is learning and growth.
Gordon further extended the process by explaining the lines of stress and security which connect each type to 2 other types. I found it really helpful that Gordon 're framed' these lines as 'lines of integration'. This made sense. To know that to enable my process of becoming whole, to be able to identify what qualities – perhaps found in other people – I most needed in relation to and accept in myself.
In a large group of people it is challenging for teachers to enable participants to engage with the material. Gordon did this with great skill and generosity, and took the risk on the second day of inviting panels of volunteers, representing the whole range of types in sections, to speak about a question he posed. This was brave stuff for those who volunteered, and, for me, demonstrated the power of the enneagram as a tool for spiritual and personal guidance.
Nicholas Vesey, 26/03/2012