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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How Your Conflict Resolution Style Can Help You Cope with Change

Enneagram teacher Russ Hudson speaks of a trap that we can fall into: when we set up our lives just the way we like them and everything is flowing along smoothly, we can think we have it made. But whenever we depend on external circumstances for our happiness and stability, we are building on shaky ground, because changes are inevitable. In the long run, the cultivation of inner resources and resilience creates a far more solid foundation.  

We can look at our Enneagram type as a strategy for dealing with life’s ups and downs. Our ego seeks a particular form of familiarity in life, but it also provides hidden strengths that we can bring forward when the going gets rough. It can teach us how to deal with change, and point us to times when change is beneficial or even necessary. One aspect of the Enneagram is particularly useful for understanding and coping with various aspects of change: our conflict resolution strategy, or Harmonic group. Understanding which approach we use can help us draw on our strengths in facing change, and apply new approaches we may not typically use.

The Emotional Realness Triad (Enneagram types 4, 6, and 8) brings emotions to the forefront in times of change. These types naturally use the strategy of digging up truths about where they and others stand and what problems they’re dealing with. Seeking to get to the bottom of things, they may be the first to recognize when a change is needed, and to deal with the messy emotional realities that it involves. Emotional realness types can draw on the strategies of the other two triads to strategize and contextualize changes.  

The Competency Triad (Enneagram types 1, 3, and 5) brings the gift of problem solving. When something changes, these types easily brainstorm ways of coping, bringing in logic and reason. They have the ability to remain impartial and strategic. What’s the best way to handle the changes that arise? Drawing on the strengths of the other triads can help them cut through the brainstorming to identify strategies that are also emotionally resonant and move them toward their best outcome.

The Positive Outlook Triad (Enneagram types 2, 7, and 9) brings in the big picture. Less daunted by change than the other styles, these types have the ability to take a bird’s-eye view of its implications and imagine the positive consequences that can result. What can this change bring me? Why does it matter? Their contextualizing ability often enables them to maintain positivity even when the immediate situation is less than ideal. Bringing in the other two styles can ground their optimism in wise action.   

Recognizing our default way of tackling change is useful for expanding it. When we access the strengths of all three styles, we deal more effectively with the changes life springs on us, and are able to initiate positive changes and solutions for ourselves. One thing’s for sure: change happens. No life can stay static. We can learn to draw on our inner as well as outer resources to handle change constructively.


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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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Video Review: Tapping for Your Type

IMG_2442We have something special to share with you this month. Psychotherapist and leadership coach Rachel Alexandria has released a series of videos that introduce a powerful process to heal our Enneagram types’ wounds. Introducing Tapping for Your Type!

Tapping, or EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), is a kind of acupressure that uses points on the body to access your energy and ability to self-heal. By using your fingers to tap on specific spots such as the top of your head or side of your hand, you stimulate your body to shift stuck energy and clear emotional blocks. Tapping can be used to address many kinds of challenges, from anxiety to chronic pain to trauma. This video series is the first program to pair it with work on, in Alexandria’s words, our Enneagram “type challenges, limiting beliefs, and stuck patterns.”

There’s a video series geared toward each type, with a free demonstration video focusing on core issues (accessible on her site and via YouTube) and a subsequent set of videos focusing on the type’s common challenges with work, social issues, relationships, wellness, and spirituality and life path. Alexandria also encourages viewers to watch videos for their connecting points and wing, giving them a wide array of tools to address the stuck patterns they run into from day to day. If you’re butting heads with your boss, the work video would be a good one to come back to; if you’re grappling with questions of meaning and purpose, the spirituality and life path video will likely offer some gems of guidance.  

We’re both new to tapping, and Rachel Alexandria’s straightforward introduction makes it easy to dive in. Her videos show you a number of pressure points to tap and demonstrate the process. Thanks to their clear visuals and demonstration, any new practitioner can quickly tap along. The process works through a set of statements, repeated aloud and anchored in the body through tapping on a particular acupressure point. Each one follows an acknowledgment of a particular, type-characteristic challenge, such as “Even though I feel like I have to rebel against authority,” with words of self-acceptance or release, such as “I deeply and completely accept myself.” The result is more affecting and grounded than using affirmations, and the videos encourage listeners to look at their pain directly and delve into healing head on.  

Alexandria’s innovative approach has both breadth and depth, touching on a spectrum of challenges that each Enneagram type may encounter and offering validation and insights that can often be emotional. We highly recommend it for anyone who looking for a somatic tool to work on wearing their personality patterns more lightly and easing the chatter of the inner critic. You can check out the whole series here.


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Freedom for Each Enneagram Type

20160618_053232-1-1July marks the national holidays of both our home countries, Canada Day (on July 1st) and Independence Day (on the 4th of July). Our friends and families are coming together to celebrate freedom in a flurry of fireworks and picnics. But the idea of freedom transcends national borders.

Freedom is one of the things that first drew us to the Enneagram, a personality system with the power to shed light on our habitual ways of seeing and doing things, and in illuminating them, guide us to move beyond them. Freedom was what we felt the first time we caught ourselves acting out of habit and realized that we could choose to act differently. In the wise words of Victor Frankl, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

Here are some things that each Enneagram type to notice that show when your personality pattern is running the show, and tip you off to the possibility of greater freedom. Riso and Hudson call them your “wake-up call.” Notice when one of these habits arises in you, take a breath, and allow that space to free up new responses to the situation.

Type One: Something isn’t right, and it bugs you. Maybe there’s litter along the highway, or the spices are out of place on the rack. Notice when you feel that weight of obligation, and your inner voice says, “It’s my job to fix it. I’m the only one who cares.” It’s easier to respond proactively and gracefully once that tug loosens.  

Type Two: You care about someone so much that you want to develop a relationship… so you seek to win them over. Maybe you offer a gesture, a gift, or a complement. Notice when you feel that sense of leaning toward someone, and feel what’s going on with yourself. It’s easier to connect from a place where you are centered.

Type Three: Such a big world, with so many goals to strive for! People around you extoll getting promotions, shining on social media, and dressing just so… so you strive for those successes. Notice when you’re driving towards a goal, seeking a positive response from others. Can you find the freedom to pursue what matters to you deeply?  

Type Four: Speaking of shiny social media, how often do you find yourself looking at the qualities, accomplishments, and possessions of others and imagining how nice it would be to have them? Resenting them? Spinning personal stories of sorrow? Notice the feelings you’re embroidering and holding on to. Letting go brings freedom.

Type Five: You’ve figured out how to make sense of the world, or at least your area of expertise. Notice when you find yourself analyzing, using your favorite system to explain what’s going on, or theorizing and combining ideas – disconnected from reality. Reconnecting creates openness to brighter flashes of insight.  

Type Six: You feel uncertain about which path is right, until you encounter a person or system with a clear answer. When making a decision, you hear the voices of competing advisors in your head. Notice when you’re seeking guidance from something outside yourself. In allowing your inner guidance to emerge, you’ll find greater freedom.

Type Seven: You’re kayaking down the river, the sky clear above you, and all you can think about is how exciting that next trip is going to be. Tune in to the times when you’re anticipating the future, thinking of options that could be better and brighter. There’s freedom to be felt in the experience you’re having right now.

Type Eight: You sense that the world is tough, so you toughen up to deal with it. The boxing gloves come on and the energy you direct into the world amps up. Notice when you feel the need to fight to make things happen. In relaxing and trusting, your real strength can come through as you act freely.

Type Nine: You’re happiest when you feel like things are going smoothly, so it’s easy to go along with others and believe that will bring the harmony you want. Notice when you’re saying “yes” to things – is that the answer that you truly want to give, or would you prefer pizza over Chinese takeout this time?

Freedom isn’t a clear-cut thing, but you’ll know it when you feel it. There’s nothing like the awareness of when we’ve been running on autopilot, coupled with that sudden, shocking realization that now that we see our “programming” at play, we can choose to follow it or not. Options expand, and the horizon grows wider.


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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!