Essence and the Enneagram

“Essence is not alive; it is aliveness. It is not aware; it is awareness. It does not have the quality of existence; it is existence. It does not love; it is love. It is not joyful; it is joy. It is not true; it is truth.” - A.H. Almaas


"The Enneagram is the name given to a 9 pointed symbol said to have been brought to the west by Armenian mystic, George Ivanovich Gurdjieff. It’s exact origin is a mystery, but its meaning and application have evolved over the years, becoming one of the most powerful tools for understanding how and why our personalities have developed. The Enneagram is more than just a symbol with 9 points to it. It is a map that shows us the flow of creation and how our human journey takes us away from the source of Being, our True Nature – and also, how to return home." - Sandra Maitri


Click on Image for Type descriptions and Free type Test courtesy of The Enneagram Institute.

Click on Image for Type descriptions and Free type Test courtesy of The Enneagram Institute.

My experience with the Enneagram

My experience with the Enneagram began around 2004. I came across a book, "The Wisdom of the Enneagram" by Don Riso and Russ Hudson while resting at a friends house after a day of healing/counseling sessions with clients in Rochester, NY. I had seen the book before and was never drawn to explore it prior, but for some reason I felt compelled to pick it up and  see what it had to say. To say it blew my mind would be an understatement and I devoured its teaching. As I began to see the characteristics of the 9 different personality types and understand how they came to form out of a loss of contact with certain essential qualities of True Nature I simultaneously began to see how each of us tends to live in an isolated belief that what feels missing in us is a unique and personal flaw. Our ego/personality then sets about shaping our experiences and our beliefs in ways that can defend against this sense of inner deficiency. One of the first things that the enneagram shines light on is the fact that what we had taken to be personally flawed is one of nine distorted perceptions that all human beings fall into and can relate to universally. Finding myself in this map had the effect of normalizing my experience and igniting a deep desire to explore and find the Truth of who I was rather than looking for ways to hide my deficiencies or defend them. It also opened up a deep compassion for the suffering of others and an understanding of the suffering that lay beneath and motivated their behaviors.  My journey with the enneagram opened further as I entered and graduated from the Enneagram Institute training program.

It wasn’t until I began to see and experience  how the Essence of Being is reflected in the Enneagram that I  began to understand how transformation of the personality was possible.  At the core of each of the 9 personality types of the Enneagram there is an essential quality, that got misperceived, distorted and disowned in some way as we were growing up. The enneagram is like a mirror that reflects back to us not only our personality, but all of the different dimensions of our True Nature.  In my original training with the Enneagram Institute  I began to hear about a number of people who had influenced my teachers and was introduced to the practice of Inquiry. Enflamed by this time with a burning desire to know the Truth of myself as well as a personal commitment to heal the wounds of my past I found my way into the Ridhwan School and the teachings of the Diamond Approach. This is a school in which the main method of self-discovery is Inquiry. I was fortunate to enter a group which was being facilitated by Sandra Maitri,  a senior teacher in the school and author of "The Spiritual Dimension of the Enneagram" and "The Enneagram of Passions and Virtues",  Sandra had received the early transmissions of the Enneagram directly from Claudio Naranjo, a Chilean psychiatrist and one of the principal developers of the Enneagram of Personalities, who in the early '70's brought together a group of students known as The Seekers After Truth (SAT), which included Sandra Maitri and Diamond Approach founder, Hameed Ali, aka A.H Almaas .  My deep gratitude for the wisdom, clarity and guidance that I have received from these truly dedicated, sincere and skilled spiritual teachers and pioneers in consciousness is beyond words.

I quickly came to understand that while it’s valuable to see how our personality operates and the constellation of beliefs, fears, convictions and strategies that our personality type employs in order to survive in the world, to stop there only keeps us fixated in an unending cycle of suffering.  When we are able to connect to and experience the undistorted essential qualities that the personality has lost touch with, we begin to experience that at the core of every difficulty or issue that we face – is Essence. Because Essence is who we are, transformation must come from seeing and experiencing our Essence directly.

Essence and the Enneagram

                                       Courtesy of The Enneagram Institute

                                       Courtesy of The Enneagram Institute

The Enneagram of Holy Ideas is the name given to the 9 particular ways that we perceive Reality when we are seeing it free of the distortions of the personality/ego. Another way of saying this is that when we are in touch with the depth dimensions of our “divine nature” there are nine sacred truths that reflect the ultimate, unchanging characteristics that imbue everyone and everything, including ourselves. 

While the powerful relief that arises from our identification with the Enneagram of Personality types is the first step in healing, what we come to understand over time is that our personality type isn't who we are but who we are not. In other words, the release of our human suffering comes from seeing our way free of our identification with our enneatype and its defenses and opening to the freedom that lies beyond the prison of the personality/ego.  


The theory of the enneagram is that each of us comes into life sensitive to one of the 9 Holy Ideas. Sensitive in this case doesn’t mean that we are particularly in touch with it. Rather, that we are unconsciously attuned to a distinct lack of connection to something that we know is vital but out of reach to our consciousness. This leads to the formation of one of 9 personality types which tries to resolve this dilemma by shaping itself and the world in a way that will make up for the inner sense of deficiency.

The Work

One aspect of the Work involves penetrating the structures of the personality/ego with awareness through self-inquiry and direct contact with the barriers that veil our ability to see and experience our True Nature. The second aspect of the work happens as we make actual contact with the essential qualities of True nature and learn to discriminate them and integrate them within our everyday consciousness.

I have taught workshops and retreats on the Enneagram of Personality as well as the Essential Enneagram extensively over the last decade and continue find great meaning in the Enneagram as it is considered to be a living map of the nature of reality and one that continues to reveal its secrets as our consciousness continues to unfold.  

I look forward to sharing in this journey with you in the spirit of revelation through which I have received and explored these profound teachings.