(Re)gaining humanity

image credit: alice popkorn

A reader contacted me over the weekend asking for more information about the Enneagram (pronounced any-a-gram), which I mentioned briefly in my last post.

What is the Enneagram?

I explained that the Enneagram (which I teach) is at best a profound tool for personal and spiritual transformation and at worst, a parlour game in which we try to fit ourselves and others into narrow and stereotypical definitions of personality.

Which is probably a rather unhelpful answer! Because what is it?

Ancient roots, modern wisdom

A number of ancient wisdom traditions gave rise in the mid-20th Century to the development of a psychological system which describes nine “personality types” each with a distinct pattern of characteristics and a distinct way of seeing the world.

Put like this it seems both crude and implausible. How can all of humanity be distilled into only nine types. Well how can one brief explanation encompass all the subtleties of this way of exploring our inner worlds which thousands find invaluable? It can’t.

And what I’m writing today doesn’t try to explain the details of the Enneagram itself.

What’s the point?

What really interests me is the seeking itself, this hunger that comes upon as at certain times of our lives to explore our inner worlds and begin to understand the fullness of our humanity.

It doesn’t actually matter what methods we use. Perhaps we use the Enneagram, Myers Briggs, prayer, meditation, counselling, journalling, yoga. There’s a saying:

When the sage points to the moon, the fool looks at the finger

I think the mechanisms by which we gain inner understanding are the finger.

(Re)gaining humanity

Every missing piece of the puzzle that comprises our individual and collective humanity is like a word missing from our vocabulary. Without it we are unable fully to express the concept it describes.

Which is why I believe these fingers pointing, these methods that aid understanding, are so important. Not which method, just that we use one to begin or continue the exploration.

I believe it’s only by doing our inner work of transformation that we regain our humanity.

How do you go about understanding your inner life?

 

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10 Responses to (Re)gaining humanity
  1. Sue
    February 8, 2012 | 2:10 am

    “Not which method, just that we use one to begin or continue the exploration.”

    I agree :) What methods do I use? Yoga, meditation, prayer, art journalling (a new addition), thinking out loud (poor everyone else), writing, dreamwork. Art therapy was the bomb, I did that for several years. I’d like to go into Jungian analysis at some point in my life :)
    Sue recently posted..Song in the Year of CatastropheMy Profile

    • Tess Giles Marshall
      February 8, 2012 | 7:03 pm

      Mmmm, I’d like to do more in art therapy, have only just dabbled, and yes to Jungian analysis also – really want to do that.

  2. Kel
    February 8, 2012 | 7:24 am

    yes, there so many different ways of seeking clues to self-understanding…and the biggest discovery is that once we begin to understand ourselves, it makes understanding others much easier

    I’ve done a few personality/temperament type tests, art therapy, journalling and dreamwork, bodywork …
    Kel recently posted..the all seeing eyeMy Profile

    • Tess Giles Marshall
      February 8, 2012 | 7:03 pm

      Bodywork is something that interests me very much. You’re absolutely right that it’s much easier to understand others when we begin to understand ourselves.

  3. Lynne Scholefield
    February 8, 2012 | 11:03 am

    Just preparing for this weekend’s Enneagram course and came across this idea from Almaas that a person’s real age is measured by how much time they have spent in real time, fully present, fully existing in the ‘now’, since this indicates the maturity of the soul.

    • Tess Giles Marshall
      February 8, 2012 | 7:04 pm

      I really like that notion. A much better way of measuring real age than many I’ve come across!

  4. Alison Wiley
    February 8, 2012 | 9:35 pm

    I love the mere phrase ‘inner life’.

    My trailheads for going there are journalling, running, prayer, singing — including hymns in church. Soulful conversations with friends and my husband. Expressive dance. I was big on the Myers Briggs in the late 80’s when I was doing my Masters in Counseling . . . less so since then. Some other friends I respect a lot love the Enneagram as you do, so I’m holding myself open to its value, too.

    I fully agree there are many paths to Spirit.

    • Tess Giles Marshall
      February 8, 2012 | 10:14 pm

      “Trailheads” – I haven’t heard that expression before and it really speaks to me. Soulful conversations – a great addition which we, perhaps, take for granted.

  5. Jane
    February 9, 2012 | 10:04 pm

    Since I tend to spend a lot of time in my head, I’ve been exploring both bodywork and Centering Prayer lately. Practices to quiet my busy mind and help me reconnect with my body and spirit. I write for a while everyday, too. That seems to be another means of connection.

    And the enneagram has been extremely helpful to me in navigating both my inner and outer life. It helps me recognize patterns and find ways to transform them. I don’t always catch myself in time to do that, but I’m learning.

    • Tess Giles Marshall
      February 9, 2012 | 10:57 pm

      Thanks Jane – catching ourselves in time is really difficult, and a lifelong process I think!