Note: This article is an excerpt from the August 1997 issue of the Enneagram Monthly.
Long before the Enneagram was an established personality typology system, it was common knowledge that there was a connection between the body and the mind. Thousands of years ago, the Chinese developed Chi Kung, a movement meditation practice that energized the meridians of the body, while the Indians came up with yoga, the science of aligning one’s posture to maximize the body’s energy flow. Countless body and spiritual practices were established from these two systems alone, all based on the premise of a body-mind-spirit connection.
The ancient premise of a body-mind-spirit connection surely still applies today, and can apply to movement and personality as revealed by the Enneagram.
Using Enneagram vocabulary, let’s assume we’re trying to break the pattern of a fixation. “Fixation” refers to the unhealthy characteristics that one may exhibit when stressed, not emotionally healthy or happy, sometimes called one’s “shadow” side. Chances are, we’ve tried such things as telling ourselves not to “do” that anymore, to “be” different, to just “be” another way. We’ve tried “observing and letting go” of the unwanted behavior, “replacing” it with healthier ones, or moving somehow in the direction of integration. Does it work? Some say “Yes,” but most often, having the intention to think, feel or be different, isn’t sufficient, no matter how much we may want to change. Our minds, after all, have stubborn defense mechanisms that have hardened over a long time and protect our fixations. If the easier and more common attempts at change did not bring encouraging results, it may be time to try a new angle.
You can pick up a three-legged stool by grabbing any one of its legs. Imagine that you are a three-legged stool. Your thoughts would be one leg, your emotions another, and your body the third. If you wanted to change the position of a stool, it wouldn’t matter very much by which leg you lifted it. If you want to change your own position and “lift yourself up”–you could pick up any one of the three legs, and the other two will follow. If the leg of your “mind” has learned to become evasive, or doesn’t respond the way you want it to, why not attempt change by essentially picking up, or choosing to use the “leg” which represents your body? That’s EnneaMotion.
For example, let’s say you are angry, annoyed at being angry, and yet unable to snap out of it. You want to “let go of it” but you continue to clench your fists, clamp down your jaw, tighten the muscles across your chest, you’re stomping about with a heavy and crass directness, on the verge of running into things and offending people around you. Such physical manifestations of emotional states are common, but we are normally unaware of them. If we notice this, and recognize it’s now how we want to engage with life or with those around us, we can move with the intention of how we’d rather be, and we’ll actually generate an alternative emotional state. You’ll soon see and experience the connections between your body, your thoughts, emotions, and your behavior. And voila, you have a technique for how to mindfully change your emotions by lifting yourself up with the “leg of your body.”
Our bodies and our movement are the most concrete and obvious expression of our behavior, therefore most easily recognized and altered. Also, listening to, working with and making change in the body, we by-pass the thinking mind. The body has a wisdom of its own, a different intelligence, and often comes up with things the mind would never think of. This can expedite lasting change.
We can design a set of movements suited to our type, the change we want to make and any custom-designed special requirements, and use EnneaMotion as a daily practice that can help us break an insidious trap we otherwise couldn’t shake off.
The Enneagram gives us the tools to recognize and classify our fixations, and EnneaMotion can become a powerful and practical tool in doing something about them.
Andrea Isaacs, 1997.