The Enneagram, Core Stories, and Forgiveness

There is this belief, resulting in recurring suffering in relation to, what is referred to in these circles as the core deficiency story. No one comes to the inquiries looking for the “brilliant genius,” or the “devoted peacemaker.” This makes sense in the same way psychologists do not tend to see fully integrated, content individuals. The concern here is with the concept of the inevitability, or necessity, of eventually meeting that core root of suffering and its attendant identification as if it were a requisite, necessarily painful, and therefore noble, right of passage.

When we overlay the Enneagram on this trend, what is implied is divisive differences, mainly towards the negative connotation. Fours are hopelessly dramatic, fives are frustratingly mental, and so on. Our defense mechanisms are maddeningly consistent, and ultimately at the source of all inner and outer conflict. Our compensatory style is the way we erroneously assume to protect ourselves from the world, and it is what others find to be difficult about us in relationship. It is the card you wear on your forehead in this game/life of Liars’ Poker. We cannot see it, yet we lead with it in all our interactions. Others can quite clearly see it–it’s right there on your forehead–and relate to us accordingly.

The suggestion here is to level the playing field of such divisive differences–by simply stopping, right here and right now, and fully accepting our own inherent human frailty, in whatever way that manifests in our interactions with the world, thereby creating a more compassionate and utilitarian perception of that world, and the people who appear in it. For instance, “So it seems that I am overly needy (or distant, or unreasonable) in my relations with others.” Then go from this insight/confession, to something as simple as, “Ah, there it is.” One need not be a grasping drama queen, nor a cold-hearted son of a—, or an unmitigated tyrant. See that this doesn’t imply an overarching, fixed and unacceptable identity, but simply a quirky proclivity to respond, a perceptual filter. The implication of the core story is that we will meet, just past the gates of hell, our festering inner nemesis and wrestle with it mightily until it is vanquished, and forever laid to rest (dramatic overlay added by this sometimes-four author). In short, the assumption is–there will be blood. Must we hang ourselves from a cross for our apparent sins?

“Yeah, I kinda suck at that” is an astonishingly simple yet profoundly forgiving way to view the way we show up in this comic-tragic play. We all come up short, one way or another. Knowing and allowing this is how we see we’re all in this together. Not all personal defense styles, such as despots and serial killers, will be subsumed under the designation of quirky, but there’s definitely a core deficiency story in there somewhere that was not inquired into, nor accepted.

The other side of the coin is to see these idiosyncratic proclivities as gifts–not as lifelong curses, but as the offerings we give back to the world. We do not have to do battle with our theoretical disabilities if we are willing to see the inherent strength or talent that is hidden just underneath. Perhaps Shakespeare was a four, Einstein was a five, and Mother Theresa was a two. Go with whatever is annoying about yourself, rather than suffer interminably in the role of misfit.

In relationship, use the acceptance of your own “failings” to happily allow others to be exactly as they are. See the strengths and talents that are barely obscured behind their best defense. Our core stories can all too easily become another’s deal breaker, and vice versa. The reversal of this perception is called forgiveness–the capacity and willingness to see beyond appearances–and it begins at home. Look right at the one you love, or the one you cannot tolerate (often one and the same?), and see that the love you feel for the first is what the latter desperately needs. Both reveal the world as it is, within and without. Remove the Ace of Spades from your forehead, and stand naked before kings and jokers alike. Thy kingdom come.

Let Go Or Be Dragged

After a weekend of seeing people from all walks of life go through the Compulsion Inquiry (CI), intermingled with the Unfindable Inquiry (UI), it is apparent that we’re all holding something back, so to speak. And when that point of retention is found and released, great relief can be found and witnessed. You might even call what’s left peace, freedom, or happiness.

It could be said that what is being held onto is a definition of ourselves, an identity that consists of what we think we want or need to be happy, what we’ve decided we don’t want, and the image we carry of ourselves that must be just so, a carefully constructed amalgam of comforts and aversions. And so we behave accordingly. Multiple comforts equals maximum peace. So-called adverse situations create tension, anxiety, anger, and fear. What happens when we stop running continually towards a perceived sense of comfort? When we become willing to NOT turn away, and have a go with the underlying physical sense of discomfort which is driving all this running towards or away from? The zig and the zag relax into a steady baseline of rest.

The CI helps us to let go of the things, substances, activities and circumstances we are absolutely sure we need. We see our comfort zone–a drink in the evening, comfort foods, the perfect companion or lover, and the more obvious compulsions that occupy our time, money, and interest. Whatever it is you think you need; whatever discomfort it is you think you cannot or will not tolerate–those are the “yes, buts” that keep us from freedom, from the peace that surpasses all understanding. Some of them are subtly filed under “Yes, I want this, but the wanting is not really a problem.” Some of them are life or health threatening addictions. Either way, it has been witnessed this weekend that giving up our perceived sources of comfort, even a cookie, is both surprisingly effortless, yet somehow hooked up to a substratum of intense, heretofore unseen sensations that often carry a mighty and surprising pinch.

The UI cuts through the identification we have constructed around these substances and activities, through the behaviors and situations we avoid, and those we cannot or will not stop. Essentially, can you find the one who wants or needs this or that? And can you find the one who chooses as such, or controls the either the behavior driven by these mandates or the situations or circumstances that arise? If not, what is left but what is happening right now? Who could not want that?

The CI shows us the areas in which we are still insisting that life be a certain way, our MDR of perceived comforts. It has the capacity to set us free from that dogged sense of my will; not thine. The suffering that is engendered by the illusion of my will is seen and deconstructed at its root. The UI leaves the whole premise of struggle behind. There’s very little identity left that could quarrel with any of this. The absence of any argument with what is heralds the end of seeking and the suffering that accompanies that movement away from the home we never left.

These are only words, so the mind can get curious enough to look and see. The experience itself needs no words, and no convincing or understanding is necessary at that point. A smile is enough. See for yourself.

Beyond Compulsion

I don’t know what is true. I can only describe what the experience is from here. All the following sentences should begin with, “It seems as if,” simply to get the what-is-true thing off the table.

There is this inquiry we’re calling the Compulsion inquiry (CI). Since undergoing and working on this inquiry with Scott Kiloby, there have been significant perceptual, physiological, behavioral, and psychological shifts.

Perceptually, there is more beauty in this world than ever realized. I seem to want to take a picture, or simply stare at, everything. It’s all intricate, fascinating, perfectly stunning. Even pond scum warranted a few moments of amazed appreciation. Can’t seem to find an ugly or a plain face.

Physiologically, tension seems a curious memory. A jaw that felt clenched for millennia has to be grasped with the hand to make sure it’s really there. I must say though, these contractions had to be felt, or brought to the fore, before relaxing. So a kind of tightness was experienced first, more than once, in places I had never thought about much.

Behaviorally, I still smoke an occasional cigarette, but the need, the frantic puffing and sucking is absent. If there are no cigarettes around, there’s about as much hurry to go buy more as I would hurry to buy bananas. I like bananas, but running out of them is not a problem. As a matter of fact, I saw that there were 2 cigarettes left in a pack sticking out of my purse as I was driving yesterday. I passed umpteen gas stations during that drive, and never stopped to buy another pack. I just enjoyed the drive, windows open to this glorious fall day. Perhaps only a fellow smoker would understand that kind of nonchalance in regard to cigarettes.

A couple of times recently, I made myself a drink—but then never drank the thing. When I walked passed the full glass wherever I had left it later, I ended up pouring it down the sink. That’s not to say I won’t ever drink. It’s just that the making-but-not-drinking is a peculiar thing to report. And I have ordered one at a restaurant, yet felt no compulsion to drink it. And curiouser and curiouser–I eat when hungry, and don’t have to finish what is in front of me. Snacking doesn’t happen, seemingly because there’s no edge, no gnawing need for more or something else.

Psychologically, up until very recently, there was this certainty, this oft regaled story of being overextended, coupled with the feeling of being exhausted. This thought was believed: “There isn’t enough time in the day, or enough energy, to do what needs to be done. One person can only do so much.” Now, it’s the seeing that there are things to be done. Some get done. Some don’t. My barely perceptible jaw drops at the simplicity of that realization, and the flood of relaxation and rejuvenation that follows. There is no such thing as “too much.” And any sense of personal agency is an error of perception.

Another amazing, and recent discovery is that annoyance is a totally unnecessary precursor to a movement away. When the word “choice” is replaced by “movement,” annoyance becomes an add-on to any experience. Try this on: people are neither inherently annoying or engaging, there is simply movement towards or away from, with seemingly no one choosing the flow, like colorful tropical fish swimming around the tank. Annoyance can still happen, but it’s now seen as an elective response.

And as a bonus, look to see if there is a command anywhere, in any thought, that says “follow me,” or “believe this.” Thoughts about ourselves, the situation, or the world, do not come with a mandate to be believed. If thoughts were trains coming and going through a station, let it be seen that there is no conductor shouting out “all aboard!” Not even thoughts about non duality, or shoulds, or declarations of love, or those pesky ones that tell us what is wrong with us, have a seal of approval stamped upon them, insuring their authenticity and reliability. They needn’t be the gold standard by which we live our lives.

So essentially, there is this overall sensation of being a relaxed, content, human being that alternately engages in movement and rest; adjectives optional. There’s very little conflict or tension, but both are allowed. The thing is, there is a sense of fun, of play, relief (!), and joy, in all of this. What am I missing? Oh, yeah—this kind of talk can be seriously annoying.

To whom is this all happening, or where is this experience occurring right now? Ha! That’s the kicker. Try and find me.

Homeostasis and Compulsive Behavior

In trials using the Compulsion Inquiry (CI), it has been observed that addiction and compulsive behaviors have a lot to do with the body functioning as a homeostatic organism, not just in regard to physical well-being, i.e. temperature regulation and fevers, but energetically as well. It’s as if there is a baseline, which in this case appears to be rest, relaxation, and ultimately what we might call peace. When we get excited, we drink, we smoke, have sex, or we might engage in other stabilizing activities. When we’re upset, and this is clearly the case—we eat, we fidget and pace, all the above, and so on.

There is an often unquestioned assumption that the drink, the cigarette, the sex, or the piece of cake causes this relaxation response. We come to believe that we must do something, anything, to get back to “normal,” or rest, relaxation, and peace. And when we’re low energetically, i.e. boredom, we feel the need to get high, or higher. Thus we eat sweets, take drugs, look at porn, or go shopping, or bungee-jumping. Even joy and bliss can seem like “too much,” at times, so we do/eat/smoke something to take it down a notch.

Self medicating is nothing new, but to look at the energetic component, and to see there is this ongoing need to stabilize, is to make conscious this unconscious regulating mechanism. Find the baseline that exists independent of any substance or activity, and the whole roller coaster slows down to a pleasant rhythm, if not to a different beat entirely. That beat is the natural state, calling all to dance to a primordial pulse. The relaxation point discovered in the CI points this this natural state, experienced independent of substance and/or activity.

Note that it is the body that is homeostatic in its natural tendency towards wellbeing. It is a balancing act only for the presumed self. The self, or supposed doer, is the unconscious aspect—that which appears to act for its own immediate “gratification,” and only appears to have some control over what is otherwise a natural process. Peace is the body’s instinctive objective. The fictional self, in play, turns this natural tendency into a comic/tragic display of Charlie Chaplinesque antics to the contrary.

Compulsion Inquiry sessions will be widely available on or before October 1st . They are being offered now on a limited basis. And of course, as always, that which is purely conceptual can only be experienced, and is not offered or expected to be accepted as true.

Diary of a So-Called Facilitator

In the beginning…there was a facilitator…who wanted to get it right, wanted to help. Fairly soon, the facilitator disappeared, along with any sense of personal agency, any intention of getting it right or wrong, and most surprisingly, the audacity of “wanting to help.”

Then there was the experience of no facilitator or facilitated, only a spirit of willingness engendered. But still, there seemed to be “results.” Eventually, results also fell by the wayside, were rendered absurd. To paraphrase an old Chinese parable, “Results; no results, who’s to say?”

Then there was the experience of “God dressed in drag,” with every new face that showed up on the Skype screen. There was no longer the one who had-it-then-lost-it, or the one who is working through the core story, and so on. There was only the One Thing, showing up in various costumes. Distinctions fell away “out there.”

Now (only always now), there is no one left, “out there” to talk to. The one who used to think she was a facilitator is talking to no one but OneSelf, like a hologram, but not quite. Just talking happening; listening, too. Faces blur; awareness shines through. Appearances come and go.

The inquiries dissolve appearances. Not to belabor the obvious (is it?), but unfindable means there’s nothing here, nothing there. Nothing. But the movie projector keeps on rolling, much to the spectator’s delight.

A whole lotta nothing going on.

“God looked upon everything he had made, and he was very pleased.”

Look, now, and be very pleased. Rest as the looker and the looked upon.

 

The Unfindable Inquiry as an Incredibly Efficient Tool

After participating as both facilitater and facilitated, many, many times, I’ve come to see that it is almost indescribable how incredibly powerful the inquiry is as a transformational tool. I am continually and increasingly amazed at the efficacy of meeting and seeing through every kind of circumstance, emotion, identification—heck, there isn’t anything that can’t be rendered transparent or unfindable. It is a way of bringing awareness itself to the task at hand, whatever that may be.

And bringing presence to bear is the key to all of it. Addiction? Neither the addict nor the one with willpower to quit can be found. Surrender to that higher power. Relationship issues? The issues themselves are unfindable, but allowing presence to meet the emotions engendered changes everything. Money as a problem? It’s not the money, nor the value of objects, people, or services at issue, but the inability, if not the impossibility, of being positional on matters of value or worth. If that sounds strange or counterintuitive, try looking for the unworthy and/or the valuable. All such distinctions disappear in the gentle light of inquiry.

After sitting with what seemed to be a very uncomfortable sensation with another facilitator recently, it was amazing to watch the mind try to add drama, story, labels, and self-importance over and over again to what was ultimately only a sensation that came and went. The surprising thing was that what showed up didn’t necessarily seem like a loving presence. It felt completely impersonal. A friend recently described the inquiry as “efficient.” That nails the way the experience unfolded. It’s like the homeostasis of the body, an incredibly efficient system. I had an image of white blood cells, hands to imaginary mouths, crying, “Oh, no!” and rushing off in a panic to the nearest point of infection. The body doesn’t work that way. Life doesn’t work that way. In this, the inquiries are effective in the same way that a completely calm nurse or EMT enters into a catastrophic situation. It’s get ‘er done, without much fanfare. That kind of equanimity is a rare kind of love.
Much Ado About Nothing ~ Shakespeare

 

Staying With Subtlety

Let what comes come;
Let what goes go.
Find out what remains

~Ramana Maharshi

 Allow the next thought or the next feeling arise…then watch it fall away…add nothing to what is left in that quiet space. That subtle nothingness, the stillness and silence that follows the falling away of thought is a very powerful place to be. Linger there awhile.

It is so obvious when seen, but so subtle that we simply overlook it. Feelings and thoughts trump what is present without fanfare in an almost unconscious instantaneous dismissal. That? That’s nothing. Nothing is happening there. Look again. What is that? Can you stay there, in love and curiosity, long enough to find out?

It is only “nothing” to the mind. Experience that, rather than try to think about it, name it, or describe it. It is intimately familiar, yet totally foreign in the land of my thoughts and my feelings.

If we overlook this experience in favor of intense feelings and juicy thoughts, we spend a lifetime in bondage to those feelings and thoughts, believing they tell us who we really are. That expansive bliss; that gut-wrenching grief–that is mine. That is me.

Is it? Do not those experiences come and go? What remains between thoughts and feelings? Our identity is firmly maintained by memories (images), thoughts (words), and feelings (sensations). The point of these inquiries is to deconstruct those three elements, and ultimately see that they don’t hold together; they really don’t add up to a “me.”

We are literally addicted to our thoughts and our feelings. Are you willing to let go of the need to think about your experience? Thoughts come up. Must they be believed? Are you willing to rest for a moment without the next emotional fix? Feelings arise. Must we attempt to dwell in the “good” ones, or avoid, and even revel, in the “bad” ones? There is an untapped gold mine in that place (wherever “that place” is, whatever you want to call it), revealing a richness far beyond the gem of a thought that must be believed, or the feeling that thrills for a moment.

Give attention to that subtle instant like you would to a shy child in a noisy world. It is a doorway to an immensity that takes you far beyond the need for emotional or mental fireworks of any kind. Feels like…Home.

On Finding Fear

An interesting addition to the growing number of ways to use the inquiries is to actually look for the experience, the emotion itself, instead of, or in addition to, the self that seems to have or be that. For instance, in working with someone recently who had looked several times for various deficient selves, it was seen that FEAR was the common denominator, whether it was the in regard to the abandoned self or the one who fails. So we actually went looking for fear.

Not being able to find the fear was immediately disarming to a sense of identity in general. If there’s no fear, then…what?

Having personally been facilitated in looking for doubt, I can attest to the fact that just because the concept exists and has a label does not mean, in the end, that there really is such an animal. Apparently, the emotional spectrum has its share of unicorns. In fact, doubt wasn’t even the focus of the session, but rather added on at the end of an insight so uncanny that it evoked some doubt. And then the question was asked—just because the thought is there, does it really refer to anything objective? In other words, the thought “There is some doubt,” went unquestioned, but in looking, it was seen that it only refers to some idea in the mind. There was a lot of laughter around that one. No doubt; really?

So perhaps if looking for, and not finding, the one who is not enough, or who is unlovable, brings great relief, yet fear, anger, or doubt persist in other circumstances, try to find fear, anger, or doubt itself. What you see might surprise you. Maybe all you will find is crocodile tears and a jabberwocky, or two.

Nobody Wants to Wake Up

 In nondual speak this could mean, to some, that well, yeah, there is nobody here to wake up. Even the term “wake up” is under suspicion. But beyond that nobody-home assumption is the empirical observation that truly, most just want a better life, or what A Course in Miracles refers to as a “better dream.” Cool story, Bro.

A better dream is still a dream. And in that dream, there is still a separate individual who is prone to death, loss, loneliness, and poverty, mixed in with occasional bouts of happiness, and even bliss. It’s the intermittent reinforcement of such bouts of bliss that keep the dream alive and the dreamer curled up, bedcovers pulled over her head, in an effort to shut out the light of day.

When the bliss or the peace of mind fades, seeking for the next hit begins in earnest again, and again. The inquiries can be used to get high, as in that belly laugh that often accompanies the experience of no-self, or the extremely pleasurable sense of relief that comes from not finding the never-enough persona that has been carried around like a ball and chain for decades.

Or, like a woman in an abusive relationship (the one who stays beyond all reasonable definitions of what love is), it can be seen that the infrequent moments of pleasure and comfort are not worth the inevitable pain that follows stingy allotments of affection.

There is nobody here that wakes up. But it sure seems like there are a lot of somebodys out there scrambling for the next better experience. The inquiries can be used to feel good for awhile, or as a way to step off the wheel for good. When hell becomes the occasional glimpse of heaven, refuse to settle for small favors. Go the distance; beyond nightmares and worldly dreams. Seek no more for the temporary pleasures of this world.

Who’s in Charge?

If you identify as a seeker, the presumption is that there is something you are looking for, somewhere you’re hoping to get to? From the outset, the assumption would be that it is not already here. Oh, and that you are going to find it. Added onto that assumption is the possibility that there is something that you can or must do to get there—that you are driving the search?

There is an age-old debate: There is nothing you can do, vs the Practice/Process model. This post does not attempt to resolve that seeming paradox. However, it might be asked if the “path” you are on, whether it involves going to satsang, reading books, meditating, or going on retreat (all of these are activities in which the author has engaged), does this behavior reinforce the perception that there is an actual self, person, or separate entity who is in control of this apparently directional activity?

Just ask. Who is in charge? Don’t answer with the mind. And perhaps you’ll know if the mind is attempting to answer if a random “Yeah, but…” comes up. Yes but, so and so meditated for 30 years…and then you are back in the unresolvable paradox treadmill. Get off the wheel and simply ask, rather than when is (fill in the blank with whatever teacher comes to mind) coming to town? Look in your direct experience:  Can you actually find this character that is running the show?