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  "Enneagram Opportunities"
(In Our Practice, Fall 2000)

By Cheri Huber

People are often surprised that we provide opportunities for people to study the Enneagram while at the Monastery (explanation of what the Enneagram is follows for those who are not acquainted). "That's not Zen!" they assert. (I always get a chuckle out of what people know to be Zen.) I often tell them that we have a whole shocking, secret life at the Monastery in which we study all sorts of subjects–Chakras, yoga, neuro-muscular reeducation, techniques for using energy to balance and heal the body, etc.–that the world might not consider Zen enough for Zen monks.

Years ago I went on a backpacking trip with a Zen teacher friend and his Sangha. One of the participants asked him what backpacking had to do with Zen practice. His response: "Nothing." We then proceeded to get in a line behind him, and, taking small walking meditation steps, climb to the top of a huge mountain range–in silence. We carried everything we needed on our backs. We found our entertainment in ourselves and our immediate surroundings. When we got to our destination, we set up our campsites, climbed the rest of the way to the top, and "boulder-hopped" back down to our camp, running with our hands in our pockets, stepping exactly where our guide placed his foot. What did this have to do with Zen training? Nothing...and everything.

We have a saying that is posted around the Monastery and at away retreats that goes, "We have many guidelines, but only one rule. That rule is: We will use everything in our experience to see how we cause ourselves to suffer so that we can drop it and end suffering." If you want to get a fairly complete picture of what you probably look like, view yourself in a lot of different mirrors. Don't just use that bathroom mirror, get a full-length. Get one with three panels so you can see the back and both sides; put mirrors in different locations, in different lighting. If you really want to see yourself, take advantage of every opportunity that gives you a glimpse–especially a fresh, new glimpse.

People like to make belief systems out of everything. That's just what egocentricity does. So, we are careful not to let the Enneagram turn into a newer form of the 60's approach to astrology: "What's your sign?" as the short-cut to knowing all there is to know about a person. Knowing one's personality type (Enneatype), as with all aspects of karmic conditioning, is a starting place. "I have this tendency, and, when I'm not paying attention, I will very likely act out of that tendency." Type is never an excuse or permission to stay stuck. It is a helpful glimpse into a different mirror, for ourselves and those whose karmic tendencies manifest as a different type.

At the end of the overview of the Enneagram, we have listed some reference works if you are interested in reading more. If you have no interest in the Enneagram whatsoever, I think there is still much insight to be gleaned from the adventures of the monks who are practicing with this particular technique.




Copyright 2003-2011 Cheri Huber