Hemmed In!


There are large scale, widespread forces that can trap thousands of people, even millions. Dachau, Katrina, earthquakes, tsunamis, wildfires, natural disasters all over the world and the Coronavirus of 2020. Enormous, catastrophic events can trap people. COVID19 has literally trapped me inside my home. I have to admit, the isolation has taken a toll on my spirit. No visitors! No visits with friends or family. No trips! No haircuts! I have been trapped at some level since my kidney transplant in November. Just at the March milestone that would have allowed me to break the isolation of the transplant, I was even more fully trapped by the infectiousness of this pervasive, unrelenting virus.

Being trapped for so many months has raised up in me feelings of loneliness, isolation, powerlessness, despair, anxiety, even abandonment. And yet, often there is something very good in the center of something very bad. It has been so for me. Yes, I feel trapped in the pervasive power of the coronavirus, but I also sense the arms of God and the embrace of Spirit hemming me in even further. Such a grace-gift it has been to me, as if God has said, “l am hemming you in, and in this space you will hear me clearer and sense me more fully.”

God’s words were truth. Hemmed in, my mind flourished, my heart leapt and my soul entered spaces of calm. I felt enhanced awareness! Even awakening. I saw nature in a different way and basked in the beauty of the rising sun. The sound of the hummingbirds’ trill and the rapid fluttering of their translucent wings were sounds meant just for me. I began to write and paint, to listen more carefully to God’s voice, to allow my spirit to overflow with Holy Spirit. To my hemmed-in call from God, I was compelled to answer, “Here I am, Lord!” When I finally answered God, my hemmed-in place became Holy Ground — a very good place to be that feels more like a holy mystery than a state of being.

Was this pandemic a good thing for me and for millions of people? Absolutely not! But trapped in its dark cloud, God hemmed me in further in ways I am just now beginning to understand. I can say with all honesty that being hemmed in by God has been grace to me.

If I could even begin to choose a favorite Psalm from among the many that inspire me, I would choose Psalm 139. In its weaving of words, there are many passages that are full of comfort. From childhood, I memorized a lot of Scripture and throughout Psalm 139 I memorized several snippets that I often call to mind. One verse that I did not memorize is verse 5: “You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.”

You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.

You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.

You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.

Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.

You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.

— Psalm 139:1-5 NIV

I deplore the coronavirus and what it has done to so many people. I deplore the ways it was able to trap me, physically and emotionally. But the virus, with all its ominous, far-reaching force could not trap me spiritually. That was God’s work — hemming me in so that my spirit could rise to fresh, new heights of spiritual consciousness. Being hemmed in by our Creator has been grace for me in these days of isolation. It has become a transforming sacred pause. For in my hemmed-in space, the Creator helped me create — from my mind, from my heart, from my soul. Thanks be to God.

As Though I Had Wings

 

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I want to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings. [1]

I am continually inspired by Mary Oliver’s poetry, today by her phrase, “as though I had wings.” In the past six months or so — since my kidney transplant — I have felt a little wing-less. Not so unusual, because a transplant — before, during and after — is a rather big deal, like a super colossal deal! If I ever thought the enormous physical challenge would be the surgery itself, I was wrong. I think I deluded myself on that. The aftershocks of the surgery proved to be enormous and enduring. Hence, my lack of wings.

Everywhere, one can see eloquently expressed promises of wings. You and I can “mount up with wings as eagles”[2] or “take the wings of the morning.” [3]  There is even a wing promise that God will “raise you up on eagle’s wings.” [4]

I know the promises and I love them, but I also love how poet Mary Oliver brings it all down to where I live — on shifting sands in an ever-shifting world. She expresses it like this: “I want to think again of dangerous and noble things . . . to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing, as though I had wings.” [5]

All of a sudden, I have a critical assignment, something I must do myself and for myself. It seems to me that I must start by focusing on my mind, thinking again of things noble and dangerous. Then I must allow my mind (my will) to move through my heart and soul, to the very center of my being, because there is the place inside me where dangerous acts are weighed and noble acts can become resolve. In one of the common phrases of my faith — an admonition I heard in church over and over again — a pastor or teacher would say, “count the cost.”

Here’s where I am honest. So I must admit that doing noble things has seemed impossible for me in the past few years. Prior to my illness, my life was a constant journey of determining the danger of noble things and doing them anyway. I miss the life of being a pastoral presence to a dying patient. I miss keeping vigil in the ER family room with grieving parents mourning the death of a child. I miss offering a memorial service  for a dear congregant and friend. I miss comforting victims of sexual assault as police officers question them, sometimes brusquely and accusingly. I miss trauma counseling with persons who have endured horrific emotional and physical trauma. I miss forensic interviewing even the youngest child victim of abuse. I miss standing firm as a court advocate for child victims of sexual abuse. I even miss being thrown out of the courtroom by a persnickety judge who did not appreciate the intensity level of my advocacy.

I miss it all. It was dangerous. All of this work was dangerous and it was noble. I could do it because of wings — the wings God gave me when I determined I would do dangerous and noble things and do them with urgency.

What about now, this season of my life? What am I doing that’s dangerous and noble? Should I even expect to be able to face danger at my age, with my physical limitations? Last night, a friend listened to me list all the things I cannot do when very intently she interrupted me and asked, “Kathy, what can you do?” She continued, as she so often does, “Your life is not about the things you can’t do. It’s about the things you can do!”

She nailed it. Perhaps she even nailed me, albeit with some gentleness. So I have to sit awhile with that provoking question: “What can you do?” I have to sit with that question with God close by to guide me and Spirit near to remind me of Spirit-wind and Spirit-fire. I am not precluded from Spirit-wind because of age or Spirit-fire because of physical limitations. It is up to me to discern what I need in my life right now. Will I be satisfied with what I have done in the past and let myself off the hook? What dangerous and noble things will I take on?

I cannot help but think of so many nurses and doctors who are caring for persons with COVID19 — how they enter the ICU knowing that a deadly virus is there, believing that they could take the virus home to their families. Dangerous and noble! Somehow, Spirit-wind is raising them up for the task.

I wonder if you have thought about this for yourself, considering the cost of doing dangerous and noble things. Have you considered that the things you are already doing — feeding the poor, caring for the sick, taking a meal to an elderly person sheltered alone in her home — are all dangerous and noble things? That you show mercy to others as you go? That you weep for a broken world with so many broken people in it? That you share in Christ’s compassion?

“Dangerous and noble things! Afraid of nothing as if we had wings!” [6]

I’ve given all of this a lot of thought and I think we might get our wings after we have made the determination to give ourselves to noble things, no matter the danger. I think we get wings when we move to the urgency of Christ’s compassion, when our rhythms begin to emulate the rhythms of God. I think we get wings when we have determined in our hearts and souls to act — after we have counted the cost and have said “Yes!”

Again, the eloquence of the poet may most fully express my deepest longing and yours.

I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings . . .

What I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled—
to cast aside the weight of facts
and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world. [7]

May God make it so for us.

 



1 Mary Oliver, Owls and Other Fantasies: Poems and Essays
2 Isaiah 40:31
3 Psalm 139:9
4 “On Eagles Wing’s” composed by Michael Joncas
5 Starlings in Winter, a poem by Mary Oliver
6 Mary Oliver, Owls and Other Fantasies: Poems and Essays
7 The Ponds, a poem by Mary Oliver

A Different Kind of Blog Post: Reviewing the Enneagram

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Settle in! This is a lengthy post. If you are interested in information about your personality type, the Enneagram is a helpful tool. And if you are interested in the Enneagram, or even curious about it, read on! If you’re not interested in any of that, wait for my next blog post.

“What’s your number?
That is the most frequently asked question about the Enneagram.

The second frequently asked question?
“What in the world is an Enneagram?”

Here’s the official definition according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

en·ne·a·gram
noun
en·​nea·​gram | \ ˈe-nē-ə-ˌgram \ plural : enneagrams

Definition of enneagram
1. a regular geometric figure with nine points : the figure inscribed within a regular nine-sided polygon
2. a system of classifying personality types that is based on a nine-pointed starlike figure inscribed within a circle in which each of the nine points represents a personality type and its psychological motivations (such as the need to be right or helpful) influencing a person’s emotions, attitudes, and behavior).

 

Imposed Isolation and a Compromised Immune System

When one system is weak — my immune system — why not work on boosting another system? In this case, I mean my psychological system (which actually needs constant attention). So while I am in an immunosuppressed state of imposed isolation inside my house, I have taken some time to look back on the Enneagram notes I have used through the years. When I first studied the Enneagram, I was asking, “Who am I?”

I’m still asking! I now know that determining who I am is a life-long proposition, so I still need a season of introspection from time to time. Hence, I pulled out my Enneagram diagrams and notes. Let me say at the outset that no system can tell you who you are. The best the Enneagram can do is to offer a bit of insight into various personality types. It has been helpful for me, so I decided to share an Enneagram overview today.

I recently read several of Father Richard Rohr’s daily meditations focused on the Enneagram. He understands the Enneagram not merely as a personality typing system, but as a tool for personal transformation. In one of his daily meditations, Father Rohr says this about the Enneagram:

If you know the Enneagram already, my hope is that you will learn something new about yourself, someone you care about, or even someone you don’t care for very much. Compassion, empathy, and forgiveness—for the self and the other—are some of the great fruits of this labor. And if you aren’t familiar with the Enneagram at all, know that these meditations are simply pointing in the direction of a much greater wisdom to be explored.

 

Some History on the Enneagram

In the late 1960s, Oscar Ichazo began teaching the “Traditional Enneagram” as we know it today. The Enneagram is widely taught as a way of understanding personality, addiction, relationships, vocation and other areas that all of us need more fully understand. However, the Enneagram symbol has roots in antiquity and can be traced back at least as far as the works of Pythagoras. The philosophy behind the Enneagram contains components from mystical Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Taoism, Buddhism, and ancient Greek philosophy (particularly Socrates, Plato, and the Neo-Platonists)—all traditions that stretch back into antiquity. The Enneagram of Personality Types is a modern synthesis of a number of ancient wisdom traditions. (The Enneagram Institute)

People who know the Enneagram in a superficial way think it’s about putting people into boxes, but it actually works to free people from their self-created boxes. While there are tests and quizzes that can help individuals identify their primary Enneagram type, finding our “number” is just the first step. We get to know our “number” so we can begin freeing ourselves from the passions, fixations, and fears to which our ego has become attached.  — Father Richard Rohr

As Father Richard would suggest, we should remember that the Enneagram  does not definitively determine one’s personality type. Its nine categories are not meant to restrict us to a certain way of being or “name” us. Rather, it is  a dynamic system that recognizes that humans are far too complex to fit easily into simple categories. It does, however, offer insight.

The Enneagram  can be  a powerful tool for self-discovery and spiritual transformation, but it shouldn’t be our only tool. The Enneagram is most helpful when used in conjunction with other practices like study, contemplation, therapy, spiritual direction, and life in community with others. The Enneagram’s most important purpose  is  to help us uncover the traps that keep us from being our best selves. That kind of insight is invaluable.
— From the Daily Meditations of Richard Rohr published on February 23, 2020

The Nine Personality Types

85EE4E48-DD90-454E-A9E7-A505DB185E1ELet’s begin by looking at a traditional Enneagram. The types are normally referred to by their numbers, but sometimes their “characteristic roles” are used instead. There are also  “stress” and “security” points which are the types (called Wings) connected by the lines of the enneagram figure and are believed to influence a person who is in more adverse or relaxed circumstances. According to this theory, someone with a primary One type, for example, may begin to think, feel and act more like a Four type when stressed or a Seven type when relaxed.

 

The Enneagram Wings

Most, but not all, Enneagram of Personality theorists teach that a person’s basic type is affected to some extent by the personality dynamics of the two adjacent types as indicated on the enneagram figure. These two types are often called “wings”. A person with the Three personality type, for example, is understood to have points Two and Four as their wing types. A person may be understood, therefore, to have a core type and one or two wing types which influence but do not change the core type.

 

The Enneagram at a Glance

The table below offers some of the principal characteristics of the nine types along with their basic relationships. This table expands upon Oscar Ichazo’s ego fixations, holy ideas, passions, and virtues, primarily using material from Understanding the Enneagram: The Practical Guide to Personality Types (revised edition) by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson.

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Every single person has access to all nine numbers. Based on nature, nurture, and discipline, you express the values of each number at varying degrees of intensity based on your lived experience. You are not one thing; you are complex and multifaceted; you are interconnected. This is a vital paradigm shift. When you consider having access to all nine numbers simultaneously, you increase and expand your capacity for thriving.  [1] 

Considering what you know of the Enneagram so far, in what numbers do you experience ease, or in Jerome Lubbe’s language, sense “efficiency”? Where do you feel less efficient? Great insight can be gained from Richard Rohr’s February 29th meditation that speaks of understanding the Enneagram as a Whole-Identity Profile instead of a single number personality “type,” He says that by seeing the Enneagram as a Whole-Identity Profile, one can expand their capacity for growth in infinite ways.

 . . . When you shift the Enneagram Framework from being a number to having efficiencies in all nine numbers, the Enneagram language shifts with it. It becomes about nature and values instead of type and reductive behaviors. For example, number Seven, traditionally associated with the title of “Enthusiast,” is instead represented by the innate human capacity for “Enthusiasm” as well as the value of “Experiences. 

“I am an enthusiast” becomes “I value experiences” which allows more room for nuance, invites growth and begs the question, “. . . and what else do I value?”. . . There is no human who is defined by a single number.

If you have resisted being “pinned down” to any one Enneagram number, perhaps Lubbe’s approach will help you see all of these qualities within yourself. Take a few minutes to read the statements below aloud slowly, pausing for reflection after each one. Notice any sensations in your body. Observe the difference between the impact of “I am” statements versus “I value.” After reading all nine, where do you feel the most energy and resonance? What values are especially meaningful to you? What values do you want to spend more time cultivating?   [1]  https://cac.org/enneagram-part-one-body-center-weekly-summary-2020-02-29/

 

Jerome Lubbe’s Enneagram as a Whole-Identity Profile

Eight: I am a Challenger = I value Autonomy 

Nine: I am a Peacemaker = I value Serenity 

One: I am a Reformer = I value Justice 

Two: I am a Helper = I value Appreciation 

Three: I am an Achiever = I value Creativity

Four: I am an Individualist = I value Authenticity  

Five: I am an Investigator = I value Clarity 

Six: I am a Loyalist = I value Guarantees 

Seven: I am an Enthusiast = I value Experiences   [2] 

When we understand the Enneagram as a Whole-Identity Profile instead of a single number personality “type,” we expand our capacity for growth . . . You are not a personality. You are not even multiple personalities. You have an identity—and what creates and characterizes your identity can be charted by the nine numbers of the Enneagram.

6F063E55-B677-43FB-92DD-CBEA902AD935The anatomy of the brain reflects this: we are not left-brained or right-brained, we are whole brained. [3]  The same is true for the Enneagram.

To put it more plainly, you are not a personality type or number on the Enneagram. You are a whole person who has a whole identity — you are all nine numbers.

https://cac.org/enneagram-part-one-body-center-weekly-summary-2020-02-29/

 

Too Much Information?

This post may have been too much information for you. Or you may be interested in looking further into the Enneagram. If so, there are many excellent books on the subject as well as online information. You may also be asking how you can determine your Enneagram type. Online you will find many life coaches, spiritual directors, counselors, ministers and others who use Enneagram types with their clients/parishioners. Also at the end of this post I will list some websites that offer free tests that many be helpful to you, with the caveat that after you complete your test, they may offer you further information at a cost.

What’s most important is that whatever personality work you engage in leads you to a deeper knowing of yourself. The goal is to you know who you are, understand your behavior and use the information you have to guide your life journey and follow your dreams. No! The Enneagram test — nor any other personality test — will not make you into your best self. Only you can do that, through self-examination, prayer, contemplation and a process of clearing your soul of anything that might be holding you captive. My prayer for you is that you might search patiently and persistently for whatever brings you inspiration, insight, self-understanding and transformation.

P.S. — I’m a “Three!”

 

 

Online Enneagram Tests

The Enneagram Personality Test – Truity
This personality test is based on the Enneagram personality theory, which describes personality in terms of nine types, each driven by their own set of core emotions, fears, and beliefs. This basic 105 question test is free and takes about 10 minutes to complete. https://www.truity.com/test/enneagram-personality-test

The Fast Enneagram Test. https://enneagramtest.net/

Eclectic Energies Enneagram Tests
Offers two online Enneagram tests help you to determine which personality type you are. Your wing will also be indicated. https://www.eclecticenergies.com/enneagram/test

Additional Resources

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Book: The Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth; 
Paperback – published September 5, 2017 by Christopher L. Heuertz(Author), Richard Rohr(Foreword) Also available: The Sacred Enneagran Workbook.

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For Further Study

Chris HeuertzEnneagram MapmakersExploring the Interior Landscapes of the Ego (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2020), podcastcoming March 24, 2020

Richard Rohr and Russ Hudson, The Enneagram as a Tool for Your Spiritual Journey (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2009), CD, DVD, MP3 download  

Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson, The Wisdom of the Enneagram: The Complete Guide to Psychological and Spiritual Growth for the Nine Personality Types (Bantam Books: 1999) 

Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert, The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 2001, 2013) 

 

References

[1] Jerome D. Lubbe, Whole-Identity: A Brain-Based Enneagram Model for (W)holistic Human Thriving (Thrive Neuro: 2019), 30-31. Artwork by Aimee Strickland; used with permission.

[2] Ibid., 32. Dr. Lubbe’s upcoming book, which will be available May 26, 2020, The Brain-Based Enneagram: You are not a number (vol. 1), will share his latest work on whole-brained interpretation of the Enneagram. See https://www.amazon.com/Brain-Based-Enneagram-Jerome-Lubbe/dp/173329452X/

[3]  Dr. Jerome Lubbe, a functional neurologist and co-founder of Thrive NeuroTheology, has developed a science-based method to understand the Enneagram which he explores in his book, Whole-Identity: A Brain-Based Enneagram Model for (W)holistic Human Thriving