Most people learn the Enneagram through one primary mode of teaching: words! Lectures use words, as do discussions, type panel questions and answers, reading, and more. Words are important; words are actually symbols for something. Yet, at the same time, words tend to primarily activate the mental center. In addition, many people learn best via multiple modalities, not just words alone.
Enter more learning modalities, ones that support, augment, and in some cases, can replace teaching the Enneagram with a reliance on words. These modes include using our cognition (head center), affect (heart center), and experience (body center). These teaching modalities also involve using our kinesthetic (physical and somatic) and visual functions, not leaning primarily or solely on our auditory way of understanding. They also include using the right brain – the symbolic and intuitive part of our brains – as well as our left brains. Our right brains remember better and put things together into new wholes.
This blog focuses on using all 3 centers of intelligence when teaching the Enneagram, and what follows is a great activity that helps participants engage more of themselves, approaches that use the head, heart, and body centers all at the same time.
Before the actual integrative activity, you can read how this same activity might be done if designed for the head center primarily, or for the heart center or for the body (somatic) center.
Activity topic | aspirations related to our Enneagram type
Objective: to help participants identify an aspiration and how the Enneagram can help them achieve this
Audience: participants who already know their types accurately
A primarily cognitive (mental center) approach
Ask each participant to think of a quality he or she aspires to be more of, to write this quality down on a piece of paper, and then to do two more things: (1) list what makes this important to him or her and (2) consider how this aspiration is related to his or her Enneagram type. After this individual work, ask participants to share what they have learned with others. As an instructor, you can chose for these discussions to occur in pairs, small groups or even type groups.
A primarily affective (heart center) approach
Take participants through a guided instruction regarding an aspiration they have, something like this: “Please take a minute to center yourselves and to relax, bringing your breath into your heart area. I’d like you to imagine something you deeply desire and aspire to be, perhaps it’s something you already are, yet you’d like it more. Perhaps it is something entirely new. Allow the feeling of that quality to resonate in your heart area. How does it feel? What is your heart doing? Allow this quality to fill your heart even more and experience how you feel as you allow this to fill your heart. Very gently, move and find another person to be with. Take a minute and just be with yourself, remaining in the feeling of your deepest aspiration. When you feel ready, share with your partner your aspiration, what you experienced doing the prior exercise, and how your aspiration connects to your Enneagram type – for example, how your aspiration grows from your type, and possibly how your transformation work with your type can assist you in manifesting your aspiration.”
A primarily experiential (body center) approach
Ask everyone to stand if they can and to take three deep breaths, breaths they can feel throughout their bodies. Next ask them to go into their bodies and find an answer to this question: “What is something important to me, a quality to which I deeply aspire?” Once they have their answers, ask them to imagine that quality filling their bodies (guide them through this). Then, ask them to move in the room as this word, filling themselves with breath and moving as the word moves them. And if a sound emerges as well, tell them it is fine to express it. Finally, have them form groups of four and share their experience, including how this aspiration word relates to their Enneagram type. Perhaps it is a development area. Perhaps, it is an underutilized quality. Perhaps, it is something else.
The integrative approach | 3 centers of intelligence
Guide participants in a short somatic focusing, asking them to take several deep breaths, experience the breath throughout their bodies and to feel their feet on the floor, in contact with the ground. Ask each person to go inside themselves and access first their head center by focusing on it, then their heart center, also by focusing on it or breathing into it and, finally, their body center. Next, ask them to take a breath and then ask each center, in turn, the following question: “As my advisor, what should I aspire toward to move forward on my transformation and development path?”
For those who received the same answer from all 3 centers, ask them to sit back and quietly reflect on how they would feel if they manifested that aspiration, what they would be doing in this more transformed way, and what the world would look like to them. For those who received different answers from their 3 centers, suggest they select one of the qualities, the one they most deeply desire, and do the same process as mentioned above. [Note that they can do the above process with the additional qualities that emerged.] Next, ask everyone to stand if they can, keeping the experience of the quality within them, and to move around the room, slowly, keeping that experience within them. If they wish, they can engage with others, but they need to make sure they are still embodying their aspired quality.
Finally, place participants in Enneagram type groups to share: their aspirational qualities, their experience embodying this quality, and the meaning of the quality they selected in terms of their Enneagram type. Then, do a brief type group report, with each group sharing one of the qualities selected that resonated with them and how this quality relates to their type.
Something new for integrative Enneagram learning | The Enneagram Coloring Book
We recently created The Enneagram Coloring Book, with over 30 pages of images to color. Coloring is a trend, but there are reasons coloring is so popular: calming, centering, focusing, being creative, and more.
With the Enneagram as its theme, The Enneagram Coloring Book does even more than the list above; it actually teaches the Enneagram system, Enneagram type, and type-based transformations, using the head, heart, and body (somatic). For example, in approaching a page for a type that contains certain images specifically selected as symbols for that type, the mind automatically goes to this: “Why this symbol? Yes, of course, that symbol.” The symbols make a person think about each type conceptually. And as people are coloring certain images for a type, there is an automatic emotional reaction; some of the images are intentionally provocative (not necessarily in a negative way at all), while some images may provoke some people and not others. It’s as if the images are a foil for one’s own emotional reactions. Finally, the entire coloring experience is essentially a kinesthetic one, and the Enneagram Coloring Book actually serves as a deep somatic dive into the experience of each type. It’s not just your hands doing the coloring, nor just your mind choosing the colors!
If you aren’t already coloring or if you don’t already have The Enneagram Coloring Book, you just might want to give it a try!
Ginger Lapid-Bogda PhD, the author of six best-selling Enneagram-business books, is a speaker, consultant, trainer, and coach. She provides certification programs for professionals around the world who want to bring the Enneagram into organizations with high-impact business applications, and is past-president of the International Enneagram Association. Visit her website: TheEnneagramInBusiness.com. firstname.lastname@example.org