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Perception and Enneagram Styles

We perceive thousands of images and stimuli daily, but how reliable are our perceptions? Deeply personal and subjective, our perceptions create their own reality. We awaken to responsibility for our perceptions when we choose to be present. Only then are we capable of perceiving truly and consistently.

Every movement through life is influenced by our perceptions. Our human reliance on a lens of experience to inform our thoughts, feelings, and sensations distorts what we perceive. Alternately, authentic perceptions surprise rather than reiterate what is familiar. We open to true perceptions when we are grounded and in centered presence in our hearts.

Take a moment and bring the earth’s energy up into the soles of your feet, then up your legs to your tailbone. Now, become aware of your heart and open to this centered place of true receptivity. You may return here any time you question the validity of your perceptions.

When our perceptions are clean, we experience reality as it is. What a simple and profound gift to all!


Gerry’s blog makes the persuasive case of the need for all of us to be Present, and to be Present we must be in the Now. To be in the Now is challenging. What is the Now? As most perceive it, there is the Past, the Present (aka the Now), and the Future. We can say we know what the Past is because it has already occurred. Similarly, we think we know what the Future is; obviously (or is it?), the Future is that which has not yet occurred. So then, what is the Now? By inference, then, the Present or Now is neither the Past nor the Future; it is this very moment, which a second ago was the Future and as soon as it is, instantly becomes the Past. This may sound paradoxical, and it is. Some paradoxes can be resolved; some simply reflect life as it is.

To help each of us live more in the Present, in the Now, so that our perceptions are not merely our selectively chosen biases from the Past or our hopes and fears for the Future, here are some enneatype-based ideas:

Enneagram Ones
Ones live in the Past, Future, and also in the Present, but their Past focus can too often be about past mistakes and recriminations; their Future focus too often revolves around future activity and responsibilities; and their Present is often highly controlled and self-restrained rather than relaxed and spontaneous. Just knowing this pattern can help, but here’s another possibility: Just breathe completely into your body because breath brings you into the Now. Give your critical mind a brief vacation, let you body relax, and open your heart to yourself and experience its unfolding.

Enneagram Twos
Where do Twos live? Are they in the Past, Present or Future? This is a challenging question, but as a Two myself, I would say (from my own experience) that Twos are too much outside themselves and too much focused on others to be in the Past or the Present or the Future (unless we are dreaming about love or helping someone achieve their desires, in which case we are in the Future). Just knowing this can help, but here’s another possibility: Come back fully inside yourself and stay there for longer than a little while. Come back home. That is the only way you will ever fully experience the Now or be able to tell the difference between the Present, the Past, and the Future.

Enneagram Threes
Threes are so Future focused, they can easily compete with Sevens for which enneatype is the most Future oriented. When Threes want something, they set a future goal. When anxious, they substitute a goal and a plan to take them away from feeling. When sad, Threes focus on some plan, any plan, to not feel this way. If that doesn’t work, they are thrown deeply into the Past, but in a painful Past, and the Present is even more suffering. At least with a Past focus, they think they figure out what distresses them so they can create a plan so this won’t happen again. Just knowing this pattern can help, but here’s another possibility: Did you know that in the Now is joy, pleasure, and spontaneity? Did you know that to be in the Now, you have to be who you really are without a façade or in a role? Contemplate that, breathe into your heart, and stay there for a while. You might find the Now.

Enneagram Fours
Fours lives primarily in the Past – the romantic Past, the painful Past, the angry Past – but they also live in the Future – the romantic Future, the potentially painful Future, and the angry Future that hasn’t even happened yet. But in the mind and heart of the Four, the Past and Future are intermingled and feel very much like the Present. But is this really the Present, the Now, or a substitute for the real thing? Ok, it’s a substitute for the real thing, even though it really feels like the real thing. Just knowing this pattern can help, but here’s another possibility: Breathe, go beneath this complexity of Past and Future, and explore the deeper truth that lies beneath. Then you are in the Now.

Enneagram Fives
It’s hard to say where Fives live. Clearly, they live more in their heads than anywhere else (unless they have engaged fully in their self-development work), but are they in the Past, Present (Now), or Future. I think the case could be made that when it comes to most emotions, Fives have emotions that could and should have been felt in the Past, stop them or shut them down, then bring these feelings into the Present and feel them when they are by themselves. The result is that these Past emotions actually occur in Present. Fives also do this to some degree with Future thoughts and feelings. They may think something could occur, then experience it when they are alone so the thought seems very real, and then they act in the Present as if this notion they have about the Future has already occurred. This is pretty interesting except this all keeps Fives from the real Now. Instead, they live in reality distortion of the Past and Future. Just knowing this pattern can help, and for Fives, this may be enough to spur a more concentrated, full engagement with the inner experience that occurs from what is actually occurring inside and out, right Now.

Enneagram Sixes
Sixes spend most of their energy thinking about how to take on future challenges and do so with such energy that what little space is left goes to the Past. Or, is it the other way around? So much angst goes into what has occurred in the past (unless you are so highly counterphobic that you don’t think about this too much because the daredevil in you is way too busy) that the Past and Future feel almost the same. Just knowing this pattern can help, but here’s another possibility (a good one): Your physical body is the best instrument for you to access the Now. So, right now, go for a relaxing walk and just enjoy the view, the sunset, the people, whatever.

Enneagram Sevens
Sevens live so much in the Future that the Future feels like the Present. To avoid pain, discomfort, boredom, restraints, and just about anything, avoiding the Past and Present makes a lot of sense. You can pretty much create your own reality in the Future because you don’t have to rewrite anything (as in the Past) or feel stuck if you don’t like the Present. Just knowing this pattern can help, but here’s another possibility: Maybe the Present is actually much more interesting than the Future! Maybe it is where true freedom lies, where true spontaneity exists, and where you no longer want everything because everything you need is right here.

Enneagram Eights
Enneagram Eights would say they live in the Present, in the Now, because they believe they live in reality as it is. Yes, they don’t focus so intensely on the Past or on the Future as many of the rest of us, but are they really in the Present, in the Now? Not really. Instead, they are in a partial reality, their reality, their truth, their perceptions. Most of the rest of us don’t assume that our reality is always the true reality, but not so with Eights (unless they have really done a great deal of self-work). And being in a very partial reality is not being in Present and in the Now. Being in full reality is being in the Now, but it is actually easier to be in the Now and let full reality show itself. Just knowing this pattern can help, but here’s anther possibility: Breathe into you Heart Center, feel your full self, open your eyes to more of what is in the Now.

Enneagram Nines
Nines live in a defused Past, Present and Future, something like a fog covering all three states. As a result, they are never fully in any state and it is difficult for them to know where they are. Just knowing this pattern can help, but here’s another possibility: Lift the fog, remove the diffusion glasses, come back fully into your body, and…enjoy the Now.

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Patrick Goonan
9 years ago

Great post. I like your blog a lot.

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