Permission Granted: The Enneagram

Jenn, 

First of all.  I loved your last letter.  So. Good.  

I think that is probably the case for most of us who come to embracing life-giving rhythms, it’s more about stumbling into them than it is about methodically planning them out.  I came to mine, maybe more by intuition, they just made sense to me.  At the time, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you ‘why’, I picked them, they just seemed right.  Now, with hindsight, they make sense. 

As I read your letter something else stood out to me.  Growing up in the church, we had the big three when it came to spiritual disciplines, kind of a, one size fits all.  That package that encased the top three was called, depending on your denomination, “devotions” or the “quiet time”.  This was it.  One simply woke up in the morning, did the quiet time, and went on with your day.  Hear me, I certainly believe in having quiet time.  I wholeheartedly agree with what you wrote about silence in your last letter.  

In the book, Your God is Too Safe, Mark Buchanan said, “Holy habits are that: the disciplines, the routines by which we stay alive and focused…”  What I know, and I’m not sure why this never occurred to me before, but in our regular life, the healthy habits we choose, which assist us in living the life we want to live are often times particular to our own personalities, dispositions, postures, build, goals, and tendencies (sometimes, healthy habits oppose them as well).  If this is the case in our daily life, why are we so eager to buy into a one-size-fits-all set of spiritual disciplines?

Reading your letter, it seemed obvious, that the specific disciplines you participate in, are different than mine.  Yet, both sets are helping each of us become more healthy in our being.  It isn’t lost on me that many of the guiding principles behind the specific “holy habits” we have in our lives, are the same, but how we actualize them varies.  

For me, I needed permission, to break rank, so to speak.  Much of this came with admitting and naming my own disposition and personality.  Not as something I needed to “remedy”, but as part of my unique being as an Imago Dei bearer.  As I’ve said previously, I’m an introvert.  In a world where leadership is assumed to be both charismatic and extroverted, admitting to introversion felt like an admission of guilt.  I even had relatives tell me, “it’s fine to be an introvert, as long as you can get over it at times.”  I had never heard anyone say, “it’s okay you’re an extrovert, as long as you can get over it at times.”  In a world where introversion is often treated as a defect, it seems like we are required to explain ourselves more. 

Anyway, a professor friend told me I should read Quiet by Susan Cain.  This book lit me up.  So freeing and permission giving, but in truth, it was just the door down a hallway of discovery.  Then came personality tests, like Myers Brigs - more permission. I started making sense of myself.   Then an EQi.  This road took me to something called the Enneagram.  I always get weird looks when I mention this one in the protestant world.  

Have you ever heard of it?  

For me, enneagram was the most helpful of all.  It was the interpretive lens that took everything, both dark and light, from my personality and disposition and made sense of it all.  

If you haven’t taken it before, just do it.  Seriously.  Take it.  Go to www.enneagraminstitute.com, pay the $12 bucks and take it.  Knowing you, you’ve probably already done this, and are probably way ahead on this one.  But if you haven’t, after you take it, sign up for the daily email according to your type.  It is the best and shortest daily email I receive every day.  Anyway, one of the best things is that it deals with your shadow side, and that has been the most helpful.  Probably should talk about that more at some point…but...

…once again, I have rambled on for too long.  While we are more than numbers and letters, these are indicators to how our being is made up.  Knowing this, was like someone giving me permission to engage in practices that I had previously seen as either weird or wrong, because they didn’t fall into the “quiet time” case.  Honestly, the typical quiet time worked well for me, because of my personality.  But then one day, it didn’t. Committing to self-discovery allowed me to freely be myself. as well as release other’s to walk the spiritual paths that best fit them.  Ironically.  True self-discovery freed me to more selflessly serve others.  More on this later.  

On one hand, it feels like brand new territory, on the other, it feels like I've come home.  

Anyway, I want to know what you know about the enneagram and how it has served you, that is if you've taken it.this is a holiday week here in the states…so I gotta run…

Talk with you later…

Matthew