Sunday, April 24, 2011

Dancing with the Enneagram Part I

The Enneagram is such a powerful map that it can help us in nearly every aspect of our daily lives. It helps us to understand ourselves (and grow ourselves.) And it helps us understand others’ internal landscapes enough to open a space for mutual connection and compassion. In other words, we don’t take everything another says or does personally when it is simply a reflection of a different, equally valid worldview.

I’ve been dancing hula for 12 years. In that space of time, I’ve had a total of five kumu hula or hula masters teach me. The Enneagram was invaluable in honoring each of them. And it saved me from confusion, hurt, and misunderstandings that inevitably develop when we believe everyone see the world in the same way.

My first hula teacher we’ll call him “N”, was a sweet, warm Six. He coaxed and coddled us. He never yelled. He reassured us that we would not die if we performed in public by foreseeing the worst that could happen, naming it, and letting us know we’d still survive. He was the perfect teacher for a tentative beginner.

However N would not appear on video because he believed that people might get hold of it and misuse it. He was never clear quite how or why. Knowing he was a Six made it easy for me to understand how scary this might be and to just let it go, even though so many other Kumu Hula were allowing students to use new technology to reinforce learning with the understanding that they were not to share it.

Some of my hula sisters had no map for understanding and were irritable, challenging him on his rule. Which only reinforced that nothing good could come of this. Already it was causing problems.

My favorite Six story about N is this: we were invited to the opening of a sacred site that had been restored as a hula platform high on a hill overlooking our whole island. Another hula master’s halau (school) had initiated the restoration and invited a few halaus and many elders to this ceremony.

Each hula master was to chant or oli a prayer. When it came N’s turn, he blanched and said, “I can’t. I can’t chant in front of him, he’s a hula master.”

“You can do it,” I whispered. “Remember, you’re a hula master, too.” He looked startled, then walked up and delivered his chant. I think he actually “forgot” that he was an equal to the other Kumu Hula there.

I’d heard about Kumu F long before I met him. “It’s all about him,” claimed a friend. “He’s got to be the center of attention.”

The more I heard, the more I fashioned him in my mind as a Three. I was prepared.

The first evening of a week long intensive, he gathered us together. “You need to know a couple of things about me,” he said. “#1, It’s my way or the highway. #2 I tend to be blunt and to the point. Deal with it. #3 There’s no crying in hula.”

I still dance with this wonderful, strong Eight Kumu once a year. Some say he is arrogant. Perhaps, but I’d say he’s accomplished. As a historian, singer-songwriter, educator and cultural resource, even elders defer to him. (Elders in Hawai`i are the top of the food chain, just the opposite of our mainland American culture.)

Dealing with him, I didn’t take it personally when he corrected us strongly. In comparison to N, it might have seemed harsh. But he was merely being blunt and clear. Most important, I would meet his energy. There’s no crying in hula, after all.

As I knew him longer, I began to see the move to Two as a large part of him. As an Eight, he hated anyone to call attention to his loving care and attention. So I learned acceptance of his gifts without too much thank you or gushing.

My favorite Eight to Two story? He had written a poignant good-bye song for a dear friend’s death. We were to learn and perform it for the first time that week. As we practiced over and over, the energy in the room became sad and heavy. We were lost in grief as we danced.

“Okay,” he snapped. “That’s it. Go change clothes. We need a mood change - time for chocolate, coffee, and shopping. Get moving, we leave in 10 minutes.”

After our antioxidant and retail therapy, we were able to continue dancing and expressing the emotion of the song without being overwhelmed by it. Gut knowing and caretaking. Eight meets Two.

There is a Hawaii`ian proverb about hula: A`ohe pau ka `ike i ka halau ho`okahi which translates as “not all knowledge is taught in one school.” And as we Enneagram enthusiasts know: not all reality is contained in one type or worldview. When we open to other ways of perceiving and being in the world, we are expanding our experience, of ourselves and one another.

Stay tuned for Part 2 where I am lucky enough to learn hula from a Five, a Three, and a Nine.

1 comment:

Greg said...

so true in every aspect of our working/playing environments. Taking a quick moment to try and see the perspective of those "sharing" the experience can make a world of difference when it comes to knee-jerk reactions.