Two Sides of the Coin — Center for Action and Contemplation

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Two Sides of the Coin

Enneagram Part Three: Head Center

Two Sides of the Coin
Sunday, March 8, 2020

If taken seriously and used responsibly, the Enneagram is a tool that can help us move from dualistic thinking to nondual consciousness. It helps us recognize and forgive the paradoxes that we all carry, what we might call our “sins.” The Enneagram shows us how we continually do things we don’t want to do (our fixations, passions, and patterns) and can’t quite seem to do the things we want (see Romans 7:15-20).

But the Enneagram also insists that our virtue and our passion are two sides of one coin. The way to find our unique gift is often through our flaws. And the way to discover our flaws is often through our gift. Who would have thought?

Eventually we have to admit that our mistakes and failures (our “sins”) are our greatest teachers. The Enneagram taught me that like nothing else in my life. It taught me that I’m a living paradox. For the first half of my life, even with my theological training and maybe even because of it, I largely denied that split or avoided it by confessing my sins too quickly—making them something “out there” I could get rid of instead of something “in here” from which I could learn.

Most Christians were trained to think that we would be punished for our sins, but I’ve come to believe we are punished by our sins. The Enneagram helps me to recognize the punishment I’m inflicting on myself when I remain unconscious of the fears and judgments that drive my behavior. When I am not in honest relationship and present to my whole self, I am much further away from the Divine Presence who forgives everything.

The work of spirituality is to make our presence to Presence possible by keeping the heart space open (through love), the mind space right (through contemplation), and the body resting in the present moment. Those who are alert and awake in all these three centers of Intelligence at once can experience Presence. The Enneagram points out nine particular ways we avoid being present in the moment.

If we deny or eliminate the mysterious, problematic, negative, or wounded parts of ourselves or pretend they’re not there, I don’t think we can relate to God very well, because we will also deny and hide from the mysterious and vulnerable nature of God.

For me, the Enneagram is about as good a tool as I can find to reveal that we are living contradictions and we always will be. Don’t try to overcome your contradictions! Learn from them. Amazingly, that is what makes us compassionate, merciful, forgiving, sensitive, open-hearted, bridge-building people.

It’s all about love. It’s not about moral achievements. The goal of the entire spiritual journey is union in love. And love is not achieved by any performance principle, but it is something we “fall into” when we are not in full control.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Enneagram as a Tool for Your Spiritual Journey, disc 7 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2009) CD, DVD, MP3 download.

Image credit: Female Head (detail), Leonardo da Vinci, second half of 15th century, Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: What [Eastern traditions] all agree on is the true nature of Mind is complete stillness, silence, and spaciousness. Boundless stillness, peace, clarity, forever and ever, amen. So I would say that the Head Center gives us the possibility of sensing, recognizing the Eternal Presence that’s right here in the midst of phenomena. —Russ Hudson
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