Don't Teach Too Much Too Fast

Image from charpike's flickr page

Image from charpike's flickr page

I'm teaching someone the Enneagram, and I'm trying to remember not to go too fast.  The first year you discover your type, you're just noticing your primary mood.  Like a Type One will probably just spend their entire first year noticing their anger hidden boiling under the surface of their sense of duty and striving for perfection.  I spent the whole first year noticing that I was giving the worst possible interpretation to events, and as a result, I was sad all the time.  It's one thing to know you have depression; another thing to be able to attribute the overall rumbling river to its trickling tributaries. 

The next year after that, I noticed my five wing, and all the ways in which I wanted to preserve my short reserves of energy.  I had a telephone coaching session with someone I regarded very highly in the field (and still do), but she talked non-stop with hardly any breaths or pauses between her sentences-- probably to give me the best value for my money--  and it was information overload to the point that my brain blew its breakers.  I was super angry that she was giving me all this valuable information and I couldn't keep up, and I asked for a five-minute break to process everything mentally before I took in anything else.  I put down the phone and went to another room to unwind, and at that moment, lying on the bed, I had a dawning realization that I had a five wing.  I went back and joyfully told her my new discovery.  From then on I noticed how I tried to keep conversations and situations out that would "steal" that energy, and how I would read or otherwise process information to re-ground myself.

The year after that, I think, is when I discovered my instinct stack.  I thought it was the worst possible instinct stack compared to everyone else's and I remember being really down about how I didn't have the Social instinct in the top two (there are three instincts, and three places that they can occupy.  The top two are the best two places to have an instinct).  If there had been an Enneagram god, I would have complained bitterly at her/his shrine, pointing out why my instinct stack was the worst possible one for the work I felt called to do and how there must be some mistake.   I learned a lot about how I shrivel up around groups of people, but find incredible joy in the intensity of one-to-one interactions, especially with someone of my own instinct stack.  I remember trying to come up with a mental image for my need for intensity, and if I really exaggerated the feeling in my imagination, it looked like I was becoming a flame, or trying to become one.  It was only when I was a flame that I could experience true flow, but as long as I was with socials who were always trying to spread out my intensity, I felt like an absolute, miserable social failure.  Or if I was really bored, or my life was flatlining, I'd look around for some loose thread I could pull or something I could rupture.

Image from charpike's flickr page

Image from charpike's flickr page

In the fourth year, I started paying attention to my body while I was stressed.  I read one of the biographies of Gurdjieff (the grandfather of the modern Enneagram) and learned about how he would teach his students to always be aware of their bodies and keep them relaxed, especially under stress.  During lessons, he would have his students become aware of all the muscles that held tension in their bodies, and would send a child around to palpate everyone's faces to make sure they were as relaxed as possible.  Of course, the idea isn't to be a floppy, boneless body, but to notice that when we're clenching our muscles, it impedes a more intangible kind of flow- the flow of our "essence", let's say.  For example, when you're trying to remember a word, and it's just on the tip of your tongue, it helps to notice your body's tensions, and when the tension is "noticed", the body relaxes, and the word comes to you at that point (ie. think of getting nervous and forgetting your name while flirting with someone of the opposite gender).  Also, in dangerous physical conditions, like in times of war like Gurdjieff's students experienced, having a relaxed body was the prime state for being aware of noises in the night and dangerous trekking conditions underfoot. 

As my fifth year approaches, I have a good idea of what's coming around the bend for my next "layer" of unfolding, but I'm going to let it stay unspoken for now and I'll see if I'm right.  I'm pretty excited about it because my life needs it really bad.

Of course, I learned other things about myself during those years, those were just the big themes, and no one is going to have the exact same unfolding process.  Those were just really broad brush strokes, but within those strokes were lots of individual nuances, so I wouldn't use anyone's personal experience as a template.