According to the enneagram, a centuries-old tool for developing personalized spiritual practices, there are nine different ways of seeing and being in the world. And, once you become familiar with the enneagram, you can pretty much predict how you and others will see and respond to the same thing — differently.
According to James Stabile-Patterson, who will lead our upcoming Getting to Know You enneagram workshop on Saturday, January 23 from 9:00 am – 3:00 pm (be sure to register by Wednesday January 20!), one very important aspect of the enneagram is how it promotes unity, curiosity, and conversation between people of differing views.
“You can learn to recognize the motivations behind behavior and say, ‘that’s not the way I see it, but it’s OK that you see it that way,’” James explains, then adds, “So, when it becomes OK if we don’t agree on xyz, we can approach our difference with curiosity: (‘Can you tell me more about how you see this?’) And understanding (‘Oh, I see why you might do that, given how you are seeing it.’)”
Acknowledging that, in the past, knowing and studying the enneagram was mostly about knowing your number to understand yourself better (the only person you can change is you, right?), James says that now that the enneagram is experiencing a new level of awareness and growing popularity in our current culture, it is evolving as a tool for building better relationships and achieving unity with others in times of disagreement. “Studying the enneagram broadens what we can do spiritually,” James says. “It’s an ever-growing, ever-evolving way of understanding not only ourselves but others by understanding what motivates behavior.”
James adds that because the enneagram is not static and can change according to conditions surrounding events and behaviors (i.e., stress, security, wings, subtypes, and other factors to explore), the layers and layers of the enneagram make it something you don’t just learn once but can keep learning and deepening your understanding for a lifetime.
Especially in the world we’re living that is so dualistic, “either/or” thinking, learning the enneagram takes us instead to a world that is both/and. “The best part of you is also the worst part of you,” James says. “Realizing that it is both/and, not either/or is a great spiritual practice in and of itself.”
The first step of this work, James says, is to learn your number and just sit with it for a while — watching yourself do what you do and think about how your choices relate to your number. Then you’re ready to begin the deeper dive into the work of using the enneagram to strengthen relationships and achieve unity in times of disagreement.
“At the end of this workshop you’ll know your number,” he promises, emphasizing that online and written tests may provide clues, but you can only learn your number by working with someone skilled in helping people make this determination. “This is not the time to identify the numbers of others (although you may think you can guess!),” he adds. This workshop will help you acquire a basic understanding of what the enneagram is and how it works, learn your own number, and acquire the tools to begin your own enneagram journey.
Watch this video interview with James and Rev. Linda McDermott, Associate Pastor of Adult Education, to learn more!