As a young adult who has studied the Enneagram for seven years, I believed myself to have an in-depth understanding of its nine personality types. Then a chance encounter led me to learn Reiki, a form of healing in which practitioners transfer energy to a recipient, who absorbs as much as is subconsciously wanted or needed. Reiki addresses imbalances at the root level and works holistically, so emotional or psychological issues may be healed along with physical ones.
Through Reiki, I started learning to discern injuries and imbalances in the human body. What I found surprised me. People’s imbalances differed wildly yet in predictable ways–some Three clients had palpable pain in the Heart area, a Seven’s energy felt hardened in the Head Center, a Nine had back pain from stooping and felt ungrounded. I had discovered a complementary tool to the Enneagram, one that brought a physical dimension to its teachings just as the Enneagram types and Instincts explained the embodied patterns of pain and unease I was learning to recognize. I found Reiki to bring some Gut Center grounding to the Enneagram’s theoretical basis in the Head Center and emotional impact in the Heart Center. Together, these two tools had great power.
Below I’ll suggest ways that the Enneagram can be applied to enhance Reiki practice, and offer ideas for customizing Reiki treatment to the Enneagram types of clients and practitioners. I’ll outline some correlations between the two systems (informed by the Enneagram Institute, where I am a longtime student), and offer a window into the benefits of Reiki as a complementary tool to the Enneagram. It is my hope that more practitioners will use these two systems in tandem to bring about deeper healing in those they work with.
The Three Centers
The Enneagram acknowledges three Centers in the human body–Belly, Heart, and Head–which correlate directly with the Japanese “Three Diamonds” that early Reiki Masters acknowledged in their practice–Earth (or hara, located just below the navel), Oneness or Heart (located in the middle of the chest), and Heaven (located in the head) (Stiene and Stiene, 2010, 145). Russ Hudson’s explanation of these three Centers further cements this direct correlation. The Japanese hara or Earth center is our original source of energy, strength, and stability; Hudson identifies the Gut Center as primary and correlates it with the Earth, nature, autonomy, and grounding. Both Reiki practitioners and Hudson have described the Heart Center as the seat of humanity, and the place where Heaven and Earth meet. Hudson connects the Head Center with “now as eternity,” “the infinite,” and “spaciousness,” all similar to the idea of the Heaven “Diamond” (Hudson and Scott, 2008; Stiene and Stiene, 2010).
Like the Enneagram, traditional Reiki teachings offer tools for working on all three of a person’s energetic Centers and are thus consonant with Gurdjieff’s definition of the Fourth Way. Like Gurdjieff’s “Sly Man,” most Reiki practitioners live their day-to-day life as engaged civilians rather than renouncing the public sphere to pursue monastic devotion, meditation, or asceticism. Their clients, too, mostly live lives engaged in the world, so a Fourth Way approach is useful on both sides of the Reiki table.
In Understanding the Enneagram, Riso and Hudson propose that the secondary types (One, Two, Four, Five, Seven, and Eight) have a least developed Center, while the primary types (Three, Six, and Nine) scramble their two less dominant Centers as they move into the Average Levels of Health, section off their dominant Center, and alternate between two-Center and one-Center modes of functioning. The authors suggest that for personal growth, secondary types adopt a day-to-day practice that works on their least developed Center and that primary types adopt a day-to-day practice that addresses their dominant Center in order to achieve balance (2000, 251-256).
Reiki treatment, too, could focus healing by devoting extra treatment time to the least developed Center in secondary types. For instance, taking time to strengthen the Gut Center or hara can be extremely grounding for a typically ungrounded Five. Ending with extra treatment in this Center has a balancing effect on the client. Contrary to my initial expectations, secondary types seem to self-heal most quickly in their dominant Centers; these areas may have a lot of activity, but they also have the strength to recover quickly from imbalance when addressed. With primary types, Reiki practitioners might address the dominant Center directly, since it is both least balanced and least scrambled. I have found that primary types inevitably draw a lot of energy to this Center, and have the most chaotic activity there. These insights also apply to self-treatment. Anyone knowledgeable about their Enneagram type who chooses to learn Reiki can benefit from focusing judicious self-healing to strengthen the least developed Center.
Practitioners may be interested to learn that traditional Reiki practice honors all three Centers. The use of hands-on healing, generally with the aid of physical techniques, provides grounding to both recipient and practitioner and fosters a solid Gut Center. Reiki’s founder Mikao Usui taught his students five precepts to guide their practice, and many contemporary Reiki teachers still encourage daily contemplation of these principles:
“For today only:
Do not anger
Do not worry
Be honest in your work
Be compassionate to yourself and others”
(Stiene and Stiene, 2010, 67; translation supplied by Chris Marsh).
Work with the five precepts can connect practitioners with both their Head and Heart Centers, since these principles are rooted in both understanding and compassion. Usui also taught his students to recite poetry written by the Meiji Emperor, considered a spiritual authority, until they became one with its meaning (79). Rooted in a very specific cultural tradition and seldom recited today, this poetry encapsulates a keen awareness of impermanence (part of a healthy Head Center’s wisdom) and emotional nuance (part of a healthy Heart Center’s wisdom).
Modern Reiki practitioners might benefit from adopting personal practices that support their least developed Center, such as a regimen of physical activity to ground the Gut Center, a focusing meditation to clear the Head Center (Reiki teachings offer some traditional and non-traditional variations), or a Buddhist loving-kindness meditation to strengthen the Heart Center. In targeting their underdeveloped Centers, as well as in observing their type fixations and choosing to act differently moment-by-moment, Reiki practitioners can use the Enneagram’s individualized insights to cultivate the self-development Reiki aims for.
All three Instincts are at play in Reiki treatment. The Self-Preservation Instinct works to conserve energy, the Sexual Instinct to activate it, and the Social Instinct to stabilize energy with others (Hudson & Scott, 2013). A Reiki practitioner must be rested and grounded in his own energy, through self-healing and self-care, in order to provide clients with physical healing and relaxation. When beginning a treatment, he activates Reiki energy in order for healing to take place; such activation can be felt in the heat that often emanates from practitioners’ hands. The practitioner must also attune to his client, a Social Instinct skill, and stabilize the energy between them during the session.
Given the role the Instincts play in Reiki, practitioners of different Instinctual stackings bring different strengths and weaknesses to treatment. A Sexual-dominant practitioner with a Self-Preservation blind spot may excel at activating profound energetic shifts and attune adequately to the client’s energy, but find it challenging to establish the comfortable, tranquil environment that some clients need, facilitate relaxation, or attend to necessary self-care. For this reason, Reiki practitioners could bring about a more balanced healing practice by attending to their own Instinctual blind spots. One way to achieve this that is particularly suitable to energy work is to practice a meditation associated with the practitioner’s blind spot before beginning Reiki treatment. For a Self-Preservation blind spot, practitioners could meditate on their physical sensations; for a Sexual blind spot, on the energy infusing themselves and the room; and for a Social blind spot, on the permeability of boundaries between self and others (Hudson and Scott, 2013). Attuning to the visceral, energetic sensations that come least easily to them could help practitioners begin treatment with more balanced access to Reiki energy.
While the original Reiki teachings focused on the Three Diamonds, later practitioners initiated the now-ubiquitous use of the Indian seven-chakra system for hand positions. From a Gurdjieffian perspective, the chakras correlate to the Law of Seven–one of three spiritual laws said to govern the universe, which posits that all things undergo constant change in lawful, predictable ways. Similarly, the Three Diamonds (like the Centers) correspond to the Law of Three, which suggests that everything results from the interaction of three forces; the Law of One, which refers to the unity of all things, is found in the idea of Reiki as universal energy.
Like the Three Diamonds, the chakra system has direct utility for Enneagram-informed Reiki practice. Russ Hudson correlates the three Instincts with the first three chakras–Self-Preservation with the root chakra, Sexual with the sacral chakra, and Social with the solar plexus chakra (2013). I have found the chakra correlations consistent, with overactivity and unrest frequently present at the locus of the Dominant Instinct. These correlations allow for direct treatment of Instinctual imbalances when Reiki practitioners are aware of their clients’ Instincts. Naturally, this applies to self-treatment as well.
The Enneagram acknowledges the need to recognize and quiet our passions in order to grow, and provides a map to do so. Reiki provides a healing and balancing method, grounded in practices linked to all three Centers, which can support this growth. Used together as Fourth Way practices, the Enneagram and Reiki can build healthier living habits to replace habitual, detrimental ones, and address imbalances in the Enneagram’s three Centers and Instincts. With presence and awareness, Reiki and Enneagram practitioners can use these tools to become more flexible, balanced healers and guide clients towards greater well-being.
Hudson, Russ, & Gayle Scott. (2008). The Riso-Hudson Enneagram Professional Training Program: Part I Training. Atlanta, GA, February.
Hudson, Russ, & Gayle Scott. (2013). The Riso-Hudson Enneagram Professional Training Program: Part III Training. Stone Ridge, NY, March.
Riso, Don Richard, & Russ Hudson. (2000). Understanding the Enneagram. New York: Houghton-Mifflin.
Stiene, Bronwen, & Frans Stiene. (2010). The Reiki Sourcebook. Winchester, UK: O-Books.
Melanie Bell, MA, offers Enneagram classes, consultations, and coaching through Berghoef & Bell Innovations. She and Kacie Berghoef are past presenters at the Global IEA Conference. More information at https://www.facebook.com/BerghoefandBell.