Accidental Lenten Practice

Easter is past, and I never chose a Lenten practice.

Perhaps one chose me, for it was before Ash Wednesday/Valentines Day that I stumbled upon the

It is not the first time I've looked at enneagram theory. It IS the first time I found it helpful.

I'm too new to this to explain it in a blog post. But what I've found has explained things to me about myself that gave me some understanding into things I do well, as well as things I struggle against.

The funny part is that it can be a relief to know that your weaknesses can be described by a personality type. Mostly I've wanted to find my personality in whichever type was practically perfect. Myers-Briggs is good for this. It describes the many personality variations in positive terms. It resonates, because you find a description that both fits you and is flattering.  I could feel strong and validated, gifted and special.

But that kind of description didn't help so much with my frustrations about things that are perennial problems for me. On the ten days in February when Chuck was traveling, I had great ideas of how much I'd get done. Three days in, I realized that this time alone was not all I wanted it to be. Or rather, I was not who I wanted to be. I wasn't motivated, and even when I was motivated, I was indecisive and stuck about all the many choices of good things I could be doing.

I came across a blog post that referenced the enneagram, and gave a passing mention to how one of the personality types struggled with the same things I did.

Finding a personality description that also accurately described the weaknesses I try to deny did not do what I thought it would do.
I was not plunged into shame or defensiveness. 
Instead, there was a sense of hopefulness.  
The weaknesses make sense because of the ways my good traits work. Other people don't have the same weaknesses because they also don't have the same strengths. My weakness can become strength as I become more aware of what I'm thinking and feeling. I can notice when stress causes me to head toward the unhealthy behaviors, and make better choices to lean into health.

I can make choices to turn toward strength.

So, this year, the unplanned Lenten practice has been enneagram study combined with mindful prayer and intentional planning. The planning  part isn't so much necessary for every type, but for mine, it has been kind of liberating. Never thought a to-do list could be liberating, but it is for me right now.

For one thing, stuff gets done. 

For another, I have to value myself enough to add things I want to do, but rarely get to, like writing, reading, exercise, and devotions. Now they are on the list, instead of just getting to them if I "have time" after all the other work is done. On my babysitting days, I make sure to put play time on the list.

The list has two parts. One side has the stuff to do. The other side has a list of the hours, and space to write in what I actually did. Not so easy to get stuck on facebook if I have to write it down. I'm the only one who sees the list, but I'm the one it is for.

I'm doing it for me, because I'm happier and better when I'm doing it.

The mindful meditation is a practice that has been as helpful as the lists. I'm becoming able to notice the way my body feels when my emotions are getting out of order. My typical way of handling stress is to block it with entertainment, but it doesn't work. Still I do it. But now, when I open the solitaire app., I notice my stomach begins to feel uncomfortable. My body knows what feelings I'm denying before I do.  In the same way, I've begun to notice the release of tension in my body when I fill my mind with the truth. It can be listing the truths that counter anxious thoughts. It can be connecting with a friend.  Devotions, prayer, or good writing in any form can almost miraculously help me turn a corner. The mindfulness is making a difference for me.

Not that I'm where I want to be. I still have sleepless nights. I still have anxious thoughts on auto-repeat. But I also have hope that I'll slowly learn how to manage these things.

I am not now how I shall be, but I am on the way. 
---paraphrase of words by Martin Luther 

I've decided not to try to figure out anyone else's enneagram, so no need to worry about whether I'm analyzing you. Since the types are largely based on what your motivations are for the choices you make, only you can truly say what type you fit most closely.

* * * * *

Typology podcast, hosted by Ian Cron
Ian Cron, writer of The Road Back to You, described as an enneagram primer. I own a copy. This site also includes a free introductory assessment.

The Enneagram Institute
This site offers a $12 test, which you can do if you like tests. The tests are generally starting points and you still must look at the descriptions of the personalities to see which thinking processes correspond to your way of being. This site also offers good descriptions of the nine types, and some of the more detailed resources.

For those of you who love and respect Richard Rohr, his book The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective is a resource. I've not read it but have heard good reports about it. Many enneagram experts reference Richard Rohr as the inspiration for their further study. This book was published in 2001. Rohr recently wrote the introduction for a book published last year on the enneagram called, The Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth, by Christopher Heuertz. I've not read this, but if Richard Rohr's recommendation is important, this is one to look at. The fact that it is recent is also good, because there is a lot of nuance that has been introduced into enneagram theory in recent years. It has become less 'boxy' and more recognizant of the ways individuals add nuances to their basic types.

The Complete Enneagram: 27 Paths to Greater Self-Knowledge by Beatrice Chestnut is for those of you who are interested in more in-depth information. Published in 2013, there is a lot here that other shorter books do not attempt to explain about how the types are impacted by the drives of self-preservation, social connection, and drive for one-to-one bonding. I own a copy.

If quick and succinct is more your style, The Essential Enneagram: The Definitive Personality Test and Self-Discovery Guide by David Daniels and Virginia Price. Long title, short book, but clearly written and great for a starting point. I also own a copy of this one.


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