Inspire Envisioning

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Ayurveda and the Enneagram: From Research to Publication

In 2014, Kacie Berghoef and I were learning about Ayurveda as a personal health practice, and we decided to present on this topic at two Enneagram conferences. Attendees at our first presentation were intrigued by our proposal that there might be connections between Enneagram type and Ayurvedic dosha, or psycho-physical constitution, and they invariably asked one thing: “Has there been any research on this?” There hadn’t, so for our next presentation, we did some.

Drawing on an Ayurvedic dosha assessment from a book we owned, we created an eight-question quiz that addressed psychological and physiological aspects of constitution. The aim was for it to be fun and not too overwhelming. We used SurveyMonkey, put the quiz online, and e-mailed each responder with a description and recipes tailored to their Ayurvedic dosha. We included preliminary results and quiz-taking in our next talk, to participants’ delight.

Over the next several months, we worked on this exploratory pilot study and a statistician, James Farnham, helped us analyze the results. Our survey had 232 usable responses, with some of them tied between two doshas. Suspecting there might be a difference between them, we looked at overall type-dosha correlations as well as each Enneagram type’s correlations with the psychological aspects of dosha.     

I’ve had a lot of questions about our Ayurvedic research over the years, and I’m gratified to share with you that it has finally found a home. This month, the Conscious Living Center has published our complete study on their website. You can read the full write-up of our process and results here.

Why did we embark on this journey in the first place? Here’s what our research article has to say:

“Maintaining a regular, structured practice that fosters mindfulness is helpful for using the Enneagram’s insights effectively. A good practice builds up the capacity to observe oneself, in order to see one’s automatic type habits at play and choose to engage differently. Ayurveda is one such practice that draws on the body center’s intelligence.”

If you’re interested in the intersection of these two systems, check our article out and see what correlations our surveys came up with. While the results are preliminary rather than scientifically rigorous, my takeaway from this process is that systems of learning can intersect in revealing and beautiful ways.

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Engaging All Three of Your Enneagram Centers

img_1905When most of us first learn the Enneagram, we discover that there are three Centers of Intelligence: the Gut Center, Heart Center, and Head Center. All of these centers contain powerful gifts, and it’s important to balance all three for us to remain present in our daily lives. Without doing personal growth work, our centers tend to be out of balance. Similarly to how we use our Instinctual preferences, we typically overdo certain centers while neglecting other ones. These priorities show up in predictable, type-specific patterns.

Here are the centers that tend to be weak or underused in each of the types:

Types Four, Five, and Nine: The Gut Center is underused

These three types, which comprise the withdrawn social style, may often seem like they have their “head in the clouds,” focusing on daydreams, intellectual ideas, or the world of emotions. However, they tend to be ungrounded, and it can be difficult for them to take action and get things done in the physical world.

Types Three, Seven, and Eight: The Heart Center is underused

These types form the assertive social style, and they tend to be people who initiate new projects, get things done, and assert themselves with confidence. But, they have a difficult time slowing down, and getting in touch with their own personal emotions, desires, and thinking before they act.

Types One, Two, and Six: The Head Center is underused

These types come together to become the compliant social style, and they tend to be service-oriented, dutiful, and responsible individuals. Although many people of this style are highly intelligent, they often follow established rules or do what they feel is expected or needed instead of coming up with their own rules.

The Enneagram Institute believes that, much like the Instincts, we can’t stop “doing” our preferred centers, but we can make a conscious effort to actively practice our underused center. By doing this, we’ll automatically use our preferred centers less frequently, allowing us to be more in balance.

Here are some suggestions for balancing your centers:

Types Four, Five, and Nine: Get Moving

Get out of your fantasies, thoughts, and daydreams, and start getting things done in the “real world.” Your body is a powerful instrument, and consciously grounded action will show you its strength and power. Simple ways to get grounded include deep, embodied breathing, doing an exercise routine that challenges you, or simply feeling the soles of your feet touch the ground. When engaging in the physical realm, make sure you’re truly grounded, and not simply “puttering around” or mindlessly running errands. True groundedness requires immediacy and stability with the earth beneath your feet.

Types Three, Seven, and Eight: Unplug

Stop making decisions, taking immediate action, and moving around, and take yourself on a journey to the inside. Connecting with your heart will give you deep intimacy with yourself and reconnect you to your own desires. Taking even a few minutes to pause every day, write in a journal, or share your feelings with someone you trust will help you feel connected to the world around you. This requires true unplugging: no looking at your e-mails or taking “important” phone calls! Really getting in touch with your heart involves slowing down enough to feel the raw emotional weight of what’s happening in your chest.

Types One, Two, and Six: Explore Curiously

Instead of sticking to a mindset of service, take some time to think about what it is you really value and want. Connecting with the mind will help you know yourself and gain clarity about what’s important to you in the world. Think about what interests you, what you want to know about in the world, and engage in research and exploration with no end agenda. This kind of curiosity requires a clear, quiet mind: meditation and mindfulness practices will help dissolve the mental clutter. Really knowing yourself and finding direction requires a clear head to radically accept reality exactly as it is.

Doing these practices will be unfamiliar and even scary at first, but as you get into a routine, you’ll feel better and more confidently engaged in life.

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Using the Instincts as an Accelerator for Growth

photo-mar-30-11-39-08-amThe Enneagram’s three Instincts describe unconscious drives that shape our behavior. Knowing about them is helpful for many reasons, from maintaining healthy relationships to getting your needs met in the workplace. Most importantly, working on the Instincts, even more than working on our type, can act as an accelerator for personal growth.

All of us have three Instincts – Self-Preservation, Sexual, and Social. The Instincts influence how we interact with the world to get our unconscious needs met. We all have a preferred order in which we use the Instincts, called an Instinctual Stacking; we have one Instinct we obsess over and tend to overuse (our Dominant Instinct), one secondary Instinct, and a tertiary Instinct we tend to underuse (our Blind Spot Instinct). When we bring our Instincts closer into balance, our lives follow suit.

“Great,” you might be thinking, “I’ll just stop obsessing over my Dominant Instinct.” That’s a challenging proposition, though, because our Instincts operate unconsciously. We tend to rely on our Dominant, assuming it will provide the solution to our problems. What works better is to work with our Blind Spot Instinct. It’s scary to work on the Blind Spot, because we feel inexperienced and incompetent in that area. However, it’s a game changer. By consciously focusing on Blind Spot activities we normally neglect, we develop new strategies and resources. Our lives become fuller as we realize that our potential is much broader than we’d imagined.    

Below, we describe how each Instinct works as a Blind Spot, and offer growth practices for bringing that Instinct into balance. We also share composite case studies of students we’ve worked with and strategies they’ve found to cultivate the Blind Spot Instinct’s strengths within.

The Self-Preservation Instinct: If the Self-Preservation Instinct is your blind spot, you probably have difficulty focusing on the day-to-day practicalities of life. You may not have a strong inclination toward activities such as establishing a home, taking care of your diet, or saving for retirement. You may frequently feel immature and like you need others to support you through even basic tasks. To balance this Blind Spot, take the time to explore and write down ways you neglect your comfort, well-being, and health, and make time to do one thing every day focused on maintaining your stability. Try to do this independently, without the help of other people!

Consider the case of Becky, who’s 50 and recently divorced. She had relied on her husband to manage household tasks and organization. Now on her own, she’s nervous about being self-reliant, and admits that she feels like “a kid rather than a grown-up.” She’s let her new apartment become cluttered and chaotic. With the help of a group of Enneagram brainstormers, she recognizes that she finds upbeat music to be a good motivator. She decides to set a weekly date for a solo “cleanup party” with rock music in the background. She feels more confident with her favorite songs on, and her cleaning parties become a fun, productive ritual.  

The Sexual Instinct: If the Sexual Instinct is your blind spot, you probably have a difficult time doing things that stimulate and energize you. You may tend to put off doing activities that are exciting to you, displaying your strengths to others, and pursuing your “selfish, impractical” passions. You may frequently feel like you’re stuck in a rut and caught in a boring, humdrum routine that you are unable to get out of. To balance this Blind Spot, take some time to explore and write down what things fuel and inspire you. Make time to do one thing every day that brings the energy back into your life and makes you feel your vibrant and colorful self.

DeMarcus is a 35-year-old accountant who has worked hard to establish a secure career and provide for his young family. Between working long hours, contributing to household chores, and caring for his toddler, DeMarcus feels tired and listless. His Enneagram group suggests reconnecting with an activity that inspires and energizes him. As a student, DeMarcus had enjoyed painting with splashy, colorful acrylics, but he’s let his hobby fall by the wayside in his efforts to be responsible. He decides to fit weekly “painting dates” into his schedule. He begins involving his wife and daughter, and their home is filled with new creativity.  

The Social Instinct: If the Social Instinct is your blind spot, you probably have a difficult time interacting with the world around you. You may tend to put off activities that involve connecting with others, participating in communities, and having fun for its own sake. You may frequently feel like you’re overly serious and can’t talk to others unless you need something from them. To balance this Blind Spot, take some time to write down ways you’d like to contribute to the world around you and support other people. Make time to have a fun interaction with no agenda every day or to do something that makes you feel part of the larger social fabric.

Sonia considered herself an introvert, but the truth went beyond that label. While the 43-year-old freelance writer had a job and home she was comfortable with, she also had a very narrow social circle. She described herself as “not knowing how to make small talk.” Her Enneagram group suggested she connect with other writers, so Sonia found a group that looked interesting. She started reading the books they talked about, and had fun discussing them with like-minded, intelligent peers. Soon she was getting invited to events and meeting more people. Her life was infused with a new sense of fun and freedom.

We all have an Instinctual Blind Spot, and moving toward rather than away from it can bring us a renewed sense of balance. What small, regular strategies can you apply to bring your Blind Spot Instinct’s joys and gifts into your life?

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How Each Enneagram Type Can Build Healthy Habits

habits blogNo matter what our lifestyle is, all of us have habits that help us manage our lives. Sometimes these habits, such as flossing daily and having a regular personal growth practice, sustain and nourish our long-term happiness and health. Other habits, such as skipping lunch to be productive or not getting enough sleep, allow us to meet goals in the short term but aren’t good for our long-term well-being.

Each Enneagram type has a basic motivation or desire, and our habits are ways we unconsciously try to get our needs met. But it’s all too common for us to form self-talk and behaviors that end up hurting instead of helping us. There’s good news, though: with the right structures and support, all of us have the ability to form long-term habits that help us meet our fullest potential.

Here are healthy habits that each of the Enneagram types can work to develop:

Type One: Make time to relax and laugh every day. Your natural self-discipline helps you do the right thing, but can leave little time to unwind. Set aside a time where you practice deep breathing, laugh at silly YouTube videos, or dance along to music you like. Letting yourself let loose, even just a little bit, will provide perspective, fun, and balance.

Type Two: Take yourself on dates. You’re naturally intuitive about others’ needs, but sometimes you spend so much time supporting others, your own self-care gets lost. A little bit of time set aside to do something you love, whether it’s watercolor painting or Netflixing a favorite TV show, will give you self-nourishment and support.

Type Three: Unplug yourself from the external world. Your incredible productivity, and ability to accomplish things that others value and appreciate, can make it hard to make time to discover your own desires. Whether it’s going into nature or taking a mindful daily shower, true solo time- without your phone or social media- will help you look out for number one.

Type Four: Bring organization into your self-expression. You have a remarkable ability to create and imagine, but sometimes lack the self-discipline to bring your visions to life. Accountability to a schedule or calendar will help you finish tasks and share your gifts with the world. Feel free to customize your organizational system with your own personal touches!

Type Five: Use the buddy system to get motivated. Your strength of incredible focus gets lost when you aren’t able to start projects that inspire you. Find a friend or coworker with similar goals for accountability to provide encouragement. A buddy will be a source of connection and support, giving you the kick to put your ideas out there.

Type Six: Do something that stimulates your mind. You’re wonderful at providing leadership from a place of support, but can get mentally “stuck” in certain ways of doing things. Doing reading that interests you, discussing and debating ideas, and even playing strategy computer games will help you stay in touch with the ideas you believe in.

Type Seven: Focus on doing one thing at a time. Your productivity is a huge strength, but when you try to do several things at once, it’s easy to drop or forget projects. Try tying a task that’s boring into something you find fun or interesting (musical cleaning party?). Harness your natural enthusiasm to focus and see tasks through to completion.

Type Eight: Do something regularly to give back to others. You excel at leadership and impact, and can sometimes overlook relationship building. Use your strength to lift up others, even though simple morale-boosters, like complimenting your partner or holding the door at work. Giving genuine love and care will nourish your own heart and make you a better leader.

Type Nine: Make a list of goals, and a plan for accomplishing them. Your gift for creating harmony and unity sometimes causes you to lose a sense of self amongst the greater collective fabric. Set aside time everyday for self-exploration and execution of your own personal desires. Self-accomplishment will give you an ever greater sense of happiness and harmony!

Setting healthy habits takes work- according to the latest research, it takes an average of 66 days for people to change their habits. During those initial few months, stay motivated, and ask for help when you need it. A more balanced life isn’t far away!

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Self-Care Strategies for the Enneagram Types

IMG_1690With Valentine’s Day around the corner, many of us are thinking of the people we care about. Those who are in romantic relationships may have their eyes on special dates and gifts for their partners. Parents with school-age children are picking out paper valentines to be handed out to classmates. Love is in the air, but one frequent omission in this time of romance and connection is love for ourselves.

Whether you’re single or in a relationship, it’s easy to get swept up in the demands and stimulations of the world around us. Most of us forget to take the time to care for our own needs. Even introspective types can find it challenging to care for themselves as kindly as they would for another. Yet self-care is vital for feeling and performing at our best and truly connecting with our loved ones.

The ways in which we neglect self-care vary based on our Enneagram type. Here are some ways for each personality type to care for themselves, for Valentine’s Day and beyond.

Type One: While Ones excel at doing things with care, fun often falls by the wayside. Take yourself out on a date! Find something delightful and zany that you’ve always wanted to try. Now’s the time to try it out. Grant yourself a time for exploration – a judgment-free zone to play. Allow yourself to take in the richness of the new experience, much as you’d enjoy a thrilling first date.  

Type Two: Twos can be so busy focusing on others’ needs that they overlook their own, and “me time” is a phrase that’s used by this type more often than it’s understood. It doesn’t have to mean bubble baths (though they’re great); in your case, a radical form of self-care is a break from helping. Set yourself a day during which you aren’t allowed to help others, and focus on a personal goal.

Type Three: Threes are great at achieving things, but can lose touch with their desires as they craft a public image. Take some time to yourself to reflect and connect with your heart. Creativity and journaling can help with this. When no one’s around, what do you like to do? What makes you happy? Let yourself do it, and let what you’ve learned about yourself spill over into your day-to-day life.

Type Four: Introspective Fours connect well with their emotions, but can miss out on external sources of joy. Paradoxically, connecting with the external world is one of the best ways to show self-care. Find a cause you care about or a person who needs your help. Challenge yourself to be of service beyond your usual sphere of interaction, and enjoy the sense of meaning that results.  

Type Five: Fives care for themselves through alone time, but find it challenging to take needed practical action. You know that thing you’ve thought about over and over again but haven’t started? Maybe it seems impossible, illogical, or terrifying. For self-care, take the first step in doing it. Jump in. Allow yourself to not have a plan, to not have it all worked out. Take the next step and keep going.    

Type Six: Sixes have a gift for dealing with details, but can get caught up in worry and overworking. Give yourself a break and do something relaxing. The aforementioned bubble bath is a good one for you, as are other activities you enjoy that calm mind and body. Don’t allow yourself to think or talk about work while doing this. This is relaxation time. Be in the moment and savor it.

Type Seven: Sevens excel at infusing their lives with adventure, but tend to be distractible. You have a lot on the go, so the perfect self-care step is to focus. Find something that needs to be done that you’ve been putting off or distracting yourself from. Set yourself a time where you do it until it’s complete. Bring play into the task, such as listening to fun music while cleaning.

Type Eight: Eights are great at getting results, but don’t always think to recover from the energy they expend. You’re a busy person, so an ideal self-care move is to schedule some quiet time. Meditate, sit in nature, or spend time with an interesting book. No loud music, TV shows, or “doing” allowed! Spend time taking in the quiet and rest that surrounds you. See what it feels like.     

Type Nine: Nines are gifted at creating relaxation, but find it tough to get out of their comfort zone and be seen. Give yourself an opportunity to shine in a way you’ve always wanted to. Whether it’s performing onstage, scoring goals, or cooking an outstanding meal, do something you’re good at in a setting that invites recognition. Enjoy the feeling of excelling and connecting with your gifts.



Managing Holiday Stress

2014-11-18 22.12.33The late calendar year hums with holiday magic. Families gather to feast. Gifts are exchanged, and lights festoon the windows. The holidays bring great joy to the world! They allow us to take time off work, celebrate with friends and colleagues at special events, and spend quality time with our loved ones.

This busy time of year also brings special challenges. Many of us find ourselves in a flurry of parties, seeing distant relatives, and travel. Our routines get disrupted, and we spend more money looking for the perfect gifts for everyone. Old conflicts with family can resurface. Some of us end up feeling lonely because we feel we don’t have enough events to attend or people to spend the holidays with.

Self-care is of particular importance during the holiday season, and what we need varies based on our Enneagram type. We’ve put together a list of tips for managing stressors and getting the most out of the holiday season, based on your social and communication style. You can learn more about the three communication styles and identify yours by reading our blog post Crafting Successful Communication.

Soloists (Enneagram Types 4, 5, and 9) – As a Soloist, you offer a spirit of creativity and reflection during the holidays. You’re also at risk for being overwhelmed by the additional socialization, travel, and activities. Staying grounded and aware of your body is particularly important. Make sure to take the time to recharge your batteries if your holiday season is busy. Step outside and take a breather during holiday events, and look for individual roles you can take in the events, such as preparing the food or playing the holiday music. If your social circle is smaller and your holidays tend to be solitary, get out of your comfort zone and attend an event! Local nonprofits are always looking for volunteers on holidays, and groups often have holiday celebrations.

Initiators (Enneagram Types 3, 7, and 8) – If you’re an Initiator, you bring natural energy and enthusiasm to this festive season. You likely have a busy schedule all the time, and the holidays get even busier! You may find yourself running from place to place on little sleep. It may be necessary for you to prioritize events and skip some to maintain your self-care practices. Stay present in your heart center at the gatherings you go to by letting yourself be emotionally affected by the people around you. Take the extra effort to appreciate friends and loved ones through verbal acknowledgement, a thoughtful card, or a carefully chosen gift. This is also a great time to prioritize helping the less fortunate, through your time or financially.

Cooperators (Enneagram Types 1, 2, and 6) – As a Cooperator style, your generosity and commitment shine during the holidays. You may feel a strong sense of duty to your family, charity, or religion, and it can be easy for you to get overcommitted trying to support everyone in your life. Take some time to individually reflect on your own values, and make sure to take on only those responsibilities that align with them. Saying “No” to that extra commitment is important sometimes; take care of yourself by scheduling in some time to rest. And have fun at the events you do attend! Supporting others during the holidays can be richly meaningful, but letting your hair down and enjoying yourself is important too.

No matter what type you are, maintaining your daily practice throughout the holidays will help you stay mindful and centered. We wish all of you a wonderful holiday season this year!


Our Journey with the Enneagram and Ayurveda

The Enneagram is an amazing tool for personal growth. But the Enneagram is only one system, and increasingly, we’ve been exploring other tools that complement it.

We’ve found Ayurveda, an ancient Indian system of holistic healing that focuses on maintaining health rather than curing illness, to be especially useful. It’s a tradition that’s been around for over 5000 years, and with its amazing specificity and individualized approach, remains one of the most popular systems of alternative medicine in the world. Ayurveda describes three basic doshas, or constitutions, with distinct lifestyle needs, and prescribes ways to balance the energy of each one. Most people have a dominant dosha, with some having a combination of two or three. In a nutshell: food pic

Vata (air) people are creative, quick-moving, and erratic. They benefit from nourishing and routine.

Pitta (fire) people are sharp, driven, and irritable. They benefit from calming and moderation.

Kapha (earth) people are generous, steady, and possessive. They benefit from stimulation and expression.

We love the agency that Ayurveda fosters–the commonsense ideas that we know our own bodies best, that all aspects of our being (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual…) matter, and that every choice of food or daily routine contributes to our health. Ayurvedic treatments include everything from exercise to nutritional supplements prescribed by a licensed Ayurvedic practitioner to changes in habits. A mainstay is Ayurvedic cooking, which can range from the traditional (yogurt lassis) to the novel (seaweed salad). Ayurveda values harmony with the natural elements, as well as balance in individual energy–this translates into nourishing, natural food which leaves us feeling great!

Many Enneagram teachers (including us!) encourage people to maintain a daily practice, and Ayurveda’s practical approach to lifestyle and eating is both workable and fun. We eat every day, and there’s no need to invest in expensive retreats or equipment to try Ayurveda out. Much like observing our own Enneagram type patterns, folllowing Ayurvedic guidelines requires self-kindness and attention.

In April, we presented about the Enneagram and Ayurveda at the European IEA. We had a wonderful time sharing and learning with Enneagram practitioners from around the world. One thing we learned is that people are interested in connections between the two systems. Which types correlates with which doshas? We decided to find out.

We’ll be presenting our preliminary research on correlations between the Enneagram and Ayurveda at the Global International Enneagram Conference next week! We currently have over 60 survey participants from around the world, and we’d love to have more. You can take our survey here to find out your most likely dosha and get recipes tailored toward it. (Note: the survey was closed in December 2014. Thank you to all our participants!)

We’d love to hear about your experiences using the Enneagram with other systems to develop a daily practice!