Friday, March 21, 2008

Remembering Our Essential Self Through The Enneagram

We have all had glimpses of Essence, when personality falls away and we act or feel from a place that is more than our small self. These are often referred to as peak or mystical experiences. When boundaries blur and awareness expands and we know who we really are. We feel connected with everything, open and expansive. Pure peace and joy exist and we know without knowing how we know, that this is our true nature - our Self. This is our unchanging Essence.

Few of us live in Essence, however. In fact, most of us cannot even return there when we wish. We spend hours on the cushion meditating or alone in nature, hoping those moments or glimpses will grace us again.

These pursuits are worthwhile and increase our chances of experiencing Essence. But what is truly important is how the experiences of Essence inform our everyday lives. How do we make sense or meaning of our “peak” experiences? How do we integrate the large Self we encounter through moments of Essential connection with the small self that must live in the temporal world everyday? How do we wear our personality lightly, so that Essence can shine through in every moment?

In the Everyday Enneagram book, I describe four simple (not easy) steps to make Essence part and parcel of our everyday life. They are:

Step One - Remembering
Step Two Losing the “I” - You’re Not Who You Think You Are
Step Three - Cultivating Essence
Step Four - Integration - Live As If

When we diligently and joyfully practice these steps, Essence becomes as natural as breathing. Which of course, it is! And of course, we will backslide, forget, and fumble. I do and I WROTE the steps! And when this happens, we just dust our spirits off and practice again. Each time, it is easier and we believe it more.

Step One - Remembering
The first step to incorporating Essence as part of everyday life is remembering that Essence is always here, within us. This sounds deceptively simple - to remember. Yet it requires clear intention, focused attention, and profound commitment. We continually forget our true nature, even if we have experienced it more than once. We get caught up in the hectic pace of daily life. In fact, the last thing we feel we need is yet another thing to remember! We can barely keep track of the absolutely necessary aspects of running our lives
And yet, when we lose the memory of our Essential being, our life is less fulfilling. Something is missing. We lose touch with our deeper Self, our soul. Remembering our Essence infuses our ordinary existence with meaning and purpose. We feel our soul’s connection to the Infinite.

So how can we remember Essence? It might help us think of Essence as being like the sun. The sun is always shining even though clouds may obscure its light. It is there even when we cannot see it. Similarly, Essence is always with us. Even when we have forgotten our true nature, even when our personality blocks it from our view, Essence continues to shine through us. We are so much more than our small self, the self defined by our personality, the “I” we think we are. Remembering takes only a moment of awareness, of being awake to our infinite, unbounded Self. It only requires bringing our attention and focus to this remembering to infuse daily life with a sense of Essence.

We’ll talk about Step Two in the next blog entries - each of the types has a different, cherished “I” or identity that can block our reunion with our Essential selves. We’ll explore each in depth.
(some material adapted from “The Everyday Enneagram” by Lynette Sheppard)

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