When we first learn the Enneagram and discover our type, it may shatter our worldview even as it illuminates it. With awareness come dramatic insights and aha moments of clarity. It may seem as if we are “awake” or “seeing”for the first time.
Time goes on. We become more facile with understanding our particular bias and the stunning sense of discovery wanes. When our habit rears its head once again, we may wonder whether all that insight has indeed made a difference. Maybe another class, another book, another panel will help us regain that clarity and we can transcend type into Essence. Finally.
That is the signal that the real Work is just beginning.
Each of the nine types has a chief feature, also called the habit, drive, or passion. And like any passion, there is a great deal of energy to our habitual Enneagram way of being. Even when it doesn’t serve us, there is juice to it.
So what happens when we interrupt the habit on a regular basis? What happens when we immerse ourselves in the Work of “becoming” that the Enneagram illuminates for us?
The Work is daily. Self-observation, noticing and interrupting habit, opening to choice and other ways of acting, perceiving, being.
Inevitably, regardless of type, we find ourselves disconnected from habit’s juice. Like mystics wandering the desert, this new world seems bland, featureless, even lonely. There is a flatness to existence. The Enneagram path seems like an endless schlog.
Why, we may ask ourselves? Why did I want to break free of type? Why am I wandering out here, adrift from all I know? Is this all there is now?
And yet, when we roam that desert, that dry open space transmutes after a time. It shifts from empty to spacious, open to contemplative. There is abundant room for our Self to be born. Not the self who plans or gives or produces or knows but the Self that is uncovered when the trappings of personality fall away, however briefly.
Surely we may have moments of weakness, when we wish to go back to before, before when we were hooked into the juice of the drive, the passion. Yes, we were unconscious, but we had energy. The world was colorful and succulent as we were driven by our Enneagram habits.
Annie Dillard once wrote about people blind from birth suddenly able to see by virtue of a simple operation. While some were delighted with the new world that spread before them, others actually wished to go back to being blind. It was just too hard to cope with the changes wrought by vision.
Similarly, once the Enneagram has opened us to new vistas of whom we might be and become, we may wish to go backwards; to reclaim our identity. The ego is strong and willful that way.
Eventually, we find that we have no choice but to move forward, to see with our new expanded vision, to discover who we might be beyond type. We can no more fall back asleep than those newly sighted could retreat to the comfort of the blindness they knew. And ultimately that featureless, flatness reveals itself to be a glorious peace.
How long does the desert trek, the flatness last? I’m not sure as I’m not out of it yet. My best guess would be as long as the Work itself. Still, the desert has become less featureless and is showing more of its intrinsic beauty and stark perfection.