In your last letter you wrote, “Unhealthy eights can only find fleeting satisfaction in the end result that is somewhere in the future.” This is similar to unhealthy sevens, who, for fear of being deprived, are always looking to the future. They are so worried about where the next “meal” is coming from, that they fail to savor the “meal” in front of them—thus missing the very satisfaction that they are so desperately seeking.
A while back you asked if I had a word or theme for the year. Yes, I have chosen a word for the year for over 20 years, as it helps my scattered seven mind to focus. I just realized that my word for 2017 should be “savor.” A healthy seven can live in the moment, deeply enjoying each experience, and thus finding true satisfaction.
But I wouldn’t have been ready or able to “savor” life until recently. My hunger for experiences was so out of control that I wasn’t even paying attention to what I was devouring. I indiscriminately added everything to my plate, never bothering to ask if the portion size was correct or if the diet was balanced. Then, about four years ago, I stumbled upon the monastic practice of creating a Regula, or Rule of Life.
For monastic orders, it was a way defining themselves and holding themselves accountable to who they were and to what God had called them to do. Rather than being seen as strict limitations on life, a Regula was meant to be a “framework for freedom.” That alone was a huge revelation for me—as a glutton I thought frameworks and limits would deprive me of freedoms, now I have learned that they enable freedom.
In his book God in My Everything, Ken Shigamatsu uses the image of a trellis to represent a Rule of Life. The structure doesn’t burden or limit the plant, the structure supports the growth of the plant and enables the plant to bear more fruit than would be possible without the structure. The truth is, we all have structures (habits, routines) in our lives. The question is, are those structures helping or hurting us? As a seven, my unhealthy habits included over-work (lack or rest), over-stimulation (lack of reflection), and over-eating (lack of restraint). For that reason, most of my Rule of Life is about minimizing activity and maximizing reflection and thoughtfulness.
One of the most important parts of my Regula is Silence, which I mentioned in my letter to you about rhythms. In their growth recommendations, the Enneagram Institute offers this advice for sevens, “learn to appreciate silence and solitude: you do not have to distract yourself (and protect yourself from anxiety) with constant noise from the television or the stereo. By learning to live with less external stimulation, you will learn to trust yourself. You will be happier than you expect because you will be satisfied with whatever you do, even if it is less than you have been doing.” This is also the reason I try not to multi-task—multi-tasking is a way of constantly distracting myself. Instead, I need to learn to savor the moment.
Most of my Rules are aimed at helping me learn to be satisfied, and to be satisfied I have to slow down. This is where hobbies like knitting and calligraphy are helpful and part of my Regula. This is why budgeting and paying attention to spending habits is part of my Regula. This is why Sabbath is part of my Regula. And this is why part of my Regula is that I do not allow myself to respond to a ministry invitation without a waiting period.
And I truly believe the next step in learning to be satisfied is learning to savor life. So here’s to 2017, the year I will finally commit to savoring each moment.
Do you have a word for 2017 yet?