It is said that the student will not find the teacher, but the teacher will appear or find the student when the student is ready. For me, I have both been looking for teachers, and teachers have also entered my life exactly when I needed specific teaching. I am writing this both as a Enneagram student and as an Enneagram teacher.
What is a teacher – and especially of the Enneagram?
I have been teaching in the field of psychology and philosophy for a couple of decades, and a teacher is naturally a person who can transmit wisdom, experience, knowledge etc. A teacher is also searching or curious for something, and my suggestion is to find a teacher who is looking for what you would like to explore. Teachers also take their own medicine and often are in a process of therapy. For me teachers are also creating original materials and lastly teachers find ways to secure the teaching.
- Transmitting Wisdom
- Searching or curious
- Taking own medicine
- Creators of original materials
- Secure teaching
Transmitting is central for me as a teacher, as it gives me the invitation to reflect on what it is that I want to transmit. And what has been transmitted to me by my teachers.
One of my Buddhist teachers, Daniel Silberberg, once told me that the answer he is giving me is the answer that his teachers, teachers, teachers, teachers…. teacher would have given me. For him, wisdom was transmitted through his lineage, and he was now that person transmitting it to me. This transmitting can be done in several very personal ways, and that is partly why I connect so deeply with my teachers. The personal holding or expression of the teaching is important to me. And I love, that we all teach our part of the truth.
Searching or curious
I have always looked for a teacher who was searching or curious about something in particular. If my teacher was on a search path, then I wanted to become a part of it. Maybe I did not understand at all what he/she was looking for or even the way they were looking, but it gave me new insights into things to search for and how this search could be done. One of the most amazing paths is the pilgrimage journey to Egypt, led by Russ Hudson. Every year for 20 years, Russ Hudson has been traveling to Egypt, walking in the footsteps of Gurdjieff, looking for what Gurdjieff found when he was doing his search.
The method was to step into a mindset dating back thousands of years where the paper was not invented and the teaching was the monuments, temples, buildings, obelisks, statues, engraving, and sound and colors.
I have been on the journey twice, and I would love to explore it again with Russ Hudson. This would deepen my understanding of the teaching but also reveal more of how Russ is using this teaching in his personal life.
Taking own medicine and walk the talk
There is nothing more discouraging than a teacher not taking his/hers own medicine. When teaching the Enneagram, most of the teaching is about presence and awareness. The experience of a teacher who can not hold presence or demonstrate self-awareness is both embarrassing and damaging. If it is just embarrassing, then you can walk away and find another teacher, but when it is damaging, the pain can stay with the damaged person for a lifetime.
Creators of original materials
In my early years of teaching, I was trying not to be a “karaoke teacher” singing the song of my teachers without a talent of my own. I wanted to find my own path, my own voice and my own way of presenting the materials. But in the beginning, when we start teaching, it is mostly the voice of our teacher we represent until we integrate the wisdom in our own lives with a form or shape for teaching.
In a purely academic field, original material is a must, and I believe that we can borrow some of the mindsets. One mindset is about original material, and an other is about mentioning the creators of the material we present. Showing where we get the material from is not just polite, but when the field of the Enneagram is growing it is important to understand where the theories and ideas are coming from.
To secure the teaching, a teacher must find students who want to and are able to take over the teaching. I don’t have much experience with that part myself, but I see different teachers starting new schools on their own without presenting their lineage or without a focus on the lineage. Without the lineage, I get the sense that the new school is more about running a business than securing a lineage or wisdom tradition.
I also acknowledge the many difficulties in creating new teachers, but still I believe that the transmitting of wisdom is a central part of what shapes a great teacher.
What is a student – and especially of the Enneagram?
When reflecting on what characterizes a student, then I will limit my writing to a student of the Enneagram. If you want to study the Enneagram, there are different areas important to the studies.
- Understanding the structure, types, triads, dynamics etc.
- Creating balance
- Practices of presence and awareness
Understanding the structure, types, triads, and dynamics of the Enneagram
If you want to study the Enneagram, then you need to understand the structure of the Enneagram, the types, the triads, inner dynamics etc. One limitation of the Enneagram is that it is so precise and specific in its structure that the fascination about the system can be a place where you want to hang out en enjoy the clarity about human nature.
But if you get stuck in the fascination and amazement of the Enneagram itself, then you can grow even more narcissistic and gain the opposite of the whole intention with the Enneagram.
You will be able to tell people (and your self), that you might be a Type 8, with an optimistic 7-wing, high in the levels of development, using your 9-wing to balance your instinctual stack, where the blindness of the social instinct makes you difficult to be around when you are angry. You might also tell, that you have been working on yourself for several years, integrating Type 2 in your journey toward Type 5 making you self-aware to a degree where you get triggered when others are not at the same level of development as you.
So we should naturally understand the structure but also be aware that our personality or Ego wants to have labels to strengthen the sense of identity.
When you encounter the Enneagram, you will learn about different types and traids. Some of the basic teaching of the Enneagram is about balancing your primary type and balancing your triads. Balancing your type is about becoming aweares when you are stuck in your personality and identify with your type.
Balancing the triads is about balancing both the elements of the triad and the triad as a whole. The first traid most students will learn is the basic triad grouping body-types, heart-types and head-types (this is very very simplified, and the triad has several names). When you balance the energy of your body, you will hold yourself more strong and agile, you will breathe healthily, and your energy will both rejuvenate and cleanse. When you balance your heart, you will find self-acceptance, self-love and self-awareness. You will respond with empathy and compassion, and you will feel deeply connected to people and life. When you balance your head, you will have clear thoughts, be able to shift and hold different mindsets, you will observe yourself neutrally, and you will engage with curiosity and optimism.
And when you have balanced the different parts of the triad, you will have to create a balance between the body, heart, and head.
That will be the same for all the other triads, that you have to balance the different elements and the three elements together.
Practices of presence and awareness
A student of the Enneagram also has a personal practice for presence and self-awareness. The practice often depends on how the teacher (or teachers) are practicing, where some teachers have a deeper focus on somatic intelligence and awareness, others are more into emotional or relational awareness, and other have a stronger focus on calming the mind and seeing clearly.
A combination of practices are often helpful, but one of my teachers once told me to stay with a teacher and his/her practice for some years before adding other practices. I agree now that it is a great approach, even if I did not listen in the beginning.
Is the way to look for a teacher, or will the teacher show up when you are ready? I don’t know if it is one thing or the other, but I want to thank all my teachers for seeing me and often seeing what I could not see myself. A deep sense of gratitude to:
- Karsten Kock
- Don Richard Riso
- Russ Hudson
- James Flaherty
- Daniel Silbergberg
- Pamela Weiss
- John Tarrant
- Ole Fogh Kirkeby