Sandra Maitri – ‘Passions and Virtues’
Interview by Iain McNay
Iain: Hello and welcome to Conscious TV. My name is Iain McNay and today we’re going to talk once again about the Enneagram and we have with us Sandra Maitri. Hello Sandra.
Iain: Sandra has written two books on the Enneagram, this one today [Iain holds up book] ‘The Enneagram of Passions and Virtues’ it’s going to be the particular subject of our chat today. So Sandra, for people that don’t know about the Enneagram, just give us a brief overview of what that is.
Sandra: OK. The Enneagram is a system of nine different personality types, and the basic principle is that as our personality, or our ego structure develops in early childhood, that it develops based on nine different takes on reality that are impressions on our consciousness, and those particular takes, or understandings, or fundamental beliefs about reality, in turn kind of mushroom into a whole character type. So, there’s a whole... we can describe 9 types of structures of character in which there’s a basic premise about reality, and about ourselves, what we’re like, what reality’s like, a particular feeling tone that arises as a result of that, which is the passions which we’re going to focus on mostly today and a whole set of behavioural patterns that correspond to those fundamental beliefs.
Iain: And we’re all pretty much basically one type, although obviously we have influences from other types as well.
Sandra: Right, yes, we can experience all nine types within ourselves, but one of them is strongest for each of us.
Iain: So that’s dominant, and that is kind of guiding our personality, influencing our personality?
Sandra: Well, it’s not so much influencing our personality, as it’s, in a sense, it’s kind of the infrastructure of our personality.
Iain: So, it is our personality?
Sandra: Well, it’s the basic beliefs about reality that shape our personality into how it is.
Iain: OK, and we all have one of these types and we’re pretty much - I was going to say stuck with that for the rest of our life - but I know we’ll come on to how it can evolve, but, we’re basically one type, aren’t we from the time we’re born till the time we die.
Iain: There’s not like a transfer out is there?
Sandra: Not exactly no, although Oscar Ichazo, who’s the one who brought the Enneagram of personality into the West, in the sixties, I think works with secondary types, so his theory - as far as I understand it, I haven’t worked directly with him - is that as we evolve, there may be a secondary type that makes itself felt within our consciousness.
Iain: OK. Well, I’m sure there’s a lot of people watching this programme who want to know what type they are. So, are there kind of clues you can give people... without going into too much detail?
Sandra: That’s difficult, that’s really difficult Iain. People pick up a book and they kind of fix on one thing in each of the types and then, because they can identify with that, they think that that’s their type. But to really know what your type is, is first of all to understand the Enneagram and to get the whole kind of flavour of each of the nine types and if you get that, then you can begin to really feel what you might be and for some people it’s instant, the moment they hear the nine types, they get a sense that yeah, that’s what I am, and for other people, they’re very, very hard to type.
Iain: And when you meet someone, and spend a little time with them can you pretty much tell straight away what their type is?
Sandra: Again it depends. Some people are easy to type and some people aren’t, but after working with somebody for a while and starting to understand how they perceive reality and the kind of suffering that they go through, what the nature of it is, then I can get a pretty good sense of what somebody’s type is.
Iain: So you’re sitting having dinner with a group of people and you’re kind of checking them out to see...
Sandra: I don‘t really do that, I don’t. It’s usually only in retrospect if somebody asks me what do you think so-and-so’s type is, I mean I mostly just take in people as they are, without trying to categorise them, or figure out what they are. And sometimes if I’m with someone I definitely get a strong impression, and it’s like, oh yeah, that person’s a 7, or a 2 or you know, whatever.
Iain: I must say, I don’t know so much about the Enneagram, I only know some basics, and I find it enormously helpful, especially if I have a difficulty with somebody, you know, it may be a business relationship or a personal relationship, if I know their type, or I think I know their type and I understand their type, then somehow I can understand them better, and that helps our relationship much better, and they may not realise that I’m on to this, or that I’m doing this, or that I have this extra facility if you like, that I’m able to access, but it’s good stuff, it’s very effective, it’s very practical and that’s what I like about the Enneagram, it’s so practical.
Sandra: Yes, yes. I think it’s very useful, mostly as you say to understand other people, as well as ourselves of course, but it really helps us have compassion for others which is so important for them and for us, you know, to really get that other people are different than we are and to understand how they work and why they’re operating the way they are and not to take it personally, that it’s not about us, it’s about how they’re wired up.
Iain: Absolutely, so the emphasis on today’s programme is the passions and the virtues, so what are the passions and the virtues, especially with relationship to the Enneagram?
Sandra: OK. What we call the Enneagram of personality, which is a collection of different Enneagrams, has to do with an Enneagram that’s the Enneagram of the fixations which are nine different fundamental beliefs about reality, as I said, and that corresponds to our mental, cognitive orientation to reality and the Enneagram of the passions has to do with the heart, it has to do with our inner atmosphere, the feeling sense of each of the nine types. And then there’s a whole other set of Enneagrams which have to do with the instinctual sub-types, and those have to do more with behavioural patterns and styles of orientation to life, really.
Iain: So, you mentioned two things; you mentioned the passions and also fixations, so what’s the relationship there?
Sandra: What’s the difference? The fixations are nine fixed beliefs about ourselves and about reality and they arise as a result of loss of contact with our True Nature, in early childhoods. So the theory behind the Enneagram is that, as we develop, as we begin to be able to think, as our nervous system develops, hand in hand with that is the loss of contact with the depth dimension within ourselves and as we lose contact with that depth dimension within ourselves, in place of that contact we develop nine different fixed beliefs about how reality is and those are the fixations. So, out of those fixed beliefs we have a whole set of feeling patterns, or we could call them patterns of suffering, and those are the passions. They’re reactive styles, is one way of describing them, they’re passionate in the sense that they’re kind of knee jerk reactions, responses to reality, so if something in particular happens, nine times out of ten, we’re likely to respond with our passion, rather than with an objective response to the situation, to the extent of course that we’re identified with our personality structure. Is that clear?
Iain: Yes, it’s interesting that you use the word passion, because for me passion is something that I feel passion about, and that can be my wife, it can be my football team, my business, walking, the things that I love and I see it as something positive, and that’s maybe not the terms you see it in and yet we’re looking at passion here as something that is maybe as you say, a reaction, a knee jerk reaction to something.
Sandra: Yes. The Enneagram is interesting and kind of unusual in that a lot of the terms for things to me are like codes, they’re not necessarily the meaning that we typically have for those words. So, passion here is really used in a very old fashioned sense, like when we talk about the passion of Christ, so the suffering of Christ on the cross for example and the enormous amount of energy and pathos that was going into that whole process for him, as well as exultation of course. So it’s in that sense that the word passion is used. We tend to use that word also sexually, with passionate desire. It’s being used here in the Enneagram in the sense of like tremendous force, tremendous energy behind these particular emotional states.
Iain: OK, so let’s run through some of the passions, and see what we’re talking about on a practical basis.
Sandra: OK. So, beginning with point 9 which is the point at the top of the Enneagram and is really the basis of all of the other nine types. I think I talked about this in the last programme in some depth. We can see that what point 9 represents, whether it’s the fixation, or the passion, or the instincts there, it’s sort of primary, it’s like if we took white light and refracted it through a prism, point 9 would be the white light and the colours of the rainbow would be the other eight types, so they’re differentiations really, of this fundamental principle represented at point 9. So, that said, here the passion is laziness, and the virtue is action. The passion here is pointing toward one of the forms of suffering that we humans encounter and experience, which is not attending to what needs to be attended to, being lazy about listening to ourselves, doing what we need to do in our lives, you know, whether it’s balancing our cheque book, or doing our taxes, or doing things that we know we really need to do and end up dragging our feet on, in fact sometimes even forgetting that we need to do it in the first place. So that kind of procrastination is something that for many people is tremendous, tremendous suffering in their lives. So, of course for people who are 9s, laziness has to do with a difficulty in attuning to themselves, knowing what they think, knowing what they feel, really feeling what’s going on in their bodies, it’s a laziness in terms of self-attention.
Iain: And they’re probably aware of that, if they really look at themselves?
Sandra: Yes I think so.
Iain: It’s not something that’s that unconscious is it?
Sandra: No, it’s not something that’s that unconscious, although I think the depth of it for most 9s, tends to be unconscious, just like all the other passions. There are levels of perception of them, and as we work on ourselves, as one investigates what’s going on inside one’s psyche, there are increasing levels of depth at which we can perceive the passions and increasing levels of subtlety also.
Iain: So how does then someone get from this laziness, to action which is the virtue?
Sandra: OK, that’s a good question. From the perspective of the work that I teach, the Diamond Approach... actually let me say something first about that. The Enneagram is really a map of well, let’s talk about the map of the passions and virtues, it’s a map of the difficulties that one typically finds within ourselves, the virtues are the end result of our work on ourselves, with those particular problematic areas. The virtues are also attitudes that we need in order to resolve that difficulty represented by the passions. How we do that, is very much up to the individual path that we’re using to approach these areas within ourselves. So, the map of the Enneagram doesn’t tell us how to do it, but it tells us what we can do, and what’s possible for us.
So, that said, for somebody who is a 9, or who has a great deal of laziness as part of their psyche, the virtue tells us that action is needed, action is the virtue, and action here means doing what we need to do. So, action means if we’re unaware of what we really believe about something, it’s doing whatever we need to do to find out what we really think, or to find out what we really feel about something, or to get what our body actually needs, you know, that we need a particular kind of diet, or a particular kind of exercise, and that only happens by tuning in to ourselves, listening to ourselves. So, the movement of point 9 from the laziness to action is really a movement towards self, it’s an increasing sensitivity to oneself.
Iain: So it’s away from the influence of the personality, back to something more tangible and basic. Would you say that?
Sandra: Well, I would say it slightly differently, which is that the orientation of the personality at point 9 is outward, it’s about other people, it’s tuning into what’s going on outside of oneself. So, the movement to the virtue is a shifting of the attention going out, to the attention going in. It’s like that. That’s a very fundamental principle in all kinds of inner work, whether it’s psychological work, or spiritual work, that in order to grow and to develop we need to tune in to ourselves.
Iain: It makes sense, absolutely. OK. So, that’s one point done, point 9.
Sandra: Alright. So point 1, the passion here is anger, and the virtue is serenity.
Iain: That’s a big shift I have to say...
Sandra: It’s a huge shift.
Iain: ... going from grrr, to really peaceful is something.
Sandra: Right. And the definition of anger that Oscar Ichazo gave, I think is the best description of anger that really encapsulates what this passion is, which is that it’s ‘standing against reality’. So the anger here at point 1 is being upset that reality, whether it’s our inner reality, or our outer reality, doesn’t conform to the ideas that we have about how we think it ought to be. So, here it’s our preconceptions about what ought to happen and what ought not to happen, that cause us tremendous suffering. And each of us experiences that in the form or our inner critic, or super-ego, that’s the part of our minds that’s telling us what’s right and what’s wrong and what should, or should not be happening. If we look at the virtue here of serenity, serenity is the absence of those preconceptions. It’s a sense of receptivity to whatever’s going on, within ourselves, outside of ourselves and an openness to a non-judgmental attitude to whatever’s arising, which especially for 1s is a tremendous relief from a lot of inner aggravation and upset. So really the passion here of anger is, for 1s, it’s experienced as rage and as upset and frustration and the understanding of the passion tells us that that’s rooted in our ideas about what should and shouldn’t be going on.
Iain: Right, and they’re the voices in our head, that kind of, as you hinted have sort of been put there by somebody else in one way, sort of what we’ve learned along the way, and isn’t necessarily our own voice.
Sandra: Right, yeah. They weren’t exactly put there by somebody else... that’s kind of a 6ish thing... I’m sorry Iain!
Iain: That’s my simplistic language from my Enneagram type (laughs)... we’ll get to type 6 a bit later. So, where do we go from number 1?
Sandra: OK we’ll go to point 2. The passion here is pride and the virtue is humility. Pride here represents having an inner picture of how we’re supposed to be and if we look as we go around the circle of the Enneagram, we can see that each point builds on the next. So we have an ego ideal as it’s called, psychologically, an inner picture of how we ought to be, and the pride is telling us whether we’re corresponding to it, or we’re not corresponding to it, so it’s an inner voice that’s telling us, “Oh that was really great, that was really good, you did that extremely well... I feel really good about myself now”, or “God you are the worst possible human being on the planet”.
Iain: (laughs) It’s a great extreme isn’t it, one to the other.
Sandra: Yeah, but as I see it both of them are part of pride system because there’s a self-evaluation and it’s primarily about the self here, the pride, in terms of whether one is special, or more wonderful than other people, or way worse. So, in both cases it’s an exaggerated self-importance, and an exaggeration of importance on how one is seen by other people, and how one is responded to and so on. 2s are very, very concerned about whether they’re accepted and loved by others. So the virtue here is humility, which means, according to Ichazo’s definition again, ‘knowing one’s limits’, and to me it’s always been, as a 2, it’s always been an extremely useful definition because 2s get into over-extending, and pridefully over-extending, ”Oh, I can do this for you or I can do that, or you know time’s no obstacle” that sort of thing, and so a kind of inner over-ride of any sense of limitation. So, humility here is a realistic self-assessment, it’s not false humbleness, which is a way that that term is often used, but rather it’s a sense of kind of bowing to 1s’s true reality.
Iain: So it’s not trying to be superman or superwoman. It’s saying “I am a human being with finite resources and time”.
Sandra: Right... “And this is where I am, and this is what’s happening to me, and I don’t need to inflate myself or feel deflated because of where I am”. So, it’s an accurate and an open assessment of where one is, or actually it’s no assessment, but it’s a recognition of where one is without judgement.
Iain: Yeah, it’s just what’s coming up for me now, it’s interesting. When I was reading the preface of your book last night, this thing you mentioned about brutal honesty and it just seemed that if we’re honest with ourselves, we actually discover, not only our Enneagram type probably, but also it’s so much easier to discover what our passion is and the possible way forward to our virtue. Unless we are honest with ourselves, then there isn’t much of a starting point is there?
Sandra: That’s right, yeah. I think that’s the real beauty of the Enneagram, that it lays out some very difficult material for each of us to confront about ourselves. And there it is and if we know that we’re a particular type, it’s pretty clear.
Iain: Even though it’s embarrassing and we want to deny it, “I’m not like this”, there the facts are and we can either take it on board and decide we can do something about them, or we can try and push it under the carpet again.
Sandra: Exactly, exactly yes.
Iain: So let’s move around, so do we go to 3 next?
Sandra: Yes we go to 3. So the passion here is deceit or lying and the virtue is voracity, telling the truth, truthfulness, also ‘something real’ is another definition of voracity. So, here, what’s being pointed to is a form of suffering in which we delude ourselves, or deceive ourselves, about what’s really so, what’s really true for us, who we truly are. It’s connected to point 9, and actually it leads to point 9 if we followed the lines of flow around the Enneagram, but that’s a whole other story...
Maybe we’ll get into that another time. But here at point 3 is the tendency that human beings have to not face what’s so. So it’s interesting that you brought up about being brutally honest, this is where - especially here at point 3 - where that need for honesty, brutal honesty with ourselves is seen as a virtue. 3s as a character type, typically deceive themselves about who they are and about what’s important to them, because they’ve taken on from others, from their culture, their family, a sense of who they’re supposed to be, what the image is that they’re supposed to correspond to and so they end up kind of shape-shifting, changing themselves, becoming different, altering what’s so for them, in order to fulfil that image and each of us of course does that to greater, or lesser extents and the virtue here of voracity tells us that in order to truly know ourselves and to become at peace with ourselves, we need to get real about what’s really true about us, what really matters to us, what we care about, what we feel. It’s not so much a matter of listening to oneself as it is at point 9, it’s a matter of really understanding that it’s much more efficient for us to be truthful, than it is to kind of lie our way through life.
Iain: Yes, it’s also a lot easier isn’t it somehow...
Sandra: It’s a lot easier...
Iain: Because if you start lying you’ve got to keep up the pretence, which requires tremendous energy.
Sandra: Right, and on a deeper level, Iain, from a spiritual perspective, the passion here of lying is lying to ourselves about who we really are. In other words, deluding ourselves into believing that we are our personality and that’s a fundamental and basic lie that all human beings tell themselves, as long as they’re identified with their personality as being who and what they are. In the retreat I just led last week, one of the participants, one of the group members, talked about the personality as the kind of froth on the surface of ourselves and I thought that was a very beautiful description of the matter. So deceit here is believing we are that froth, instead of the real substance underlying that.
Iain:: OK, shall we move down to point 4?
Sandra: So, here the passion is envy, and the passion of envy is having the felt sense that what others have is better than what I have, so what’s over there is better than what’s over here, the grass is greener over there instead of here. The passion of envy as an emotional state is a very, very painful one because really it’s a self-rejection; it’s a sense of pushing away who I am and what I have and wishing to be different. So, it’s a terrible form of suffering. The virtue of equanimity on the other hand, is the recognition that how I am, how somebody else is, are equal, equanimity means equal. So, there’s a sense that what’s here is fine, what’s there is fine.
Iain: Yes, they’re very big shifts these, aren’t they?
Sandra: Yes, they’re enormous.
Iain: They’re almost quantum. It’s a tremendous challenge to someone who’s really engrossed in their passion to think that’s what I am and this is how I live my life. It’s almost 180 degrees, isn’t it?
Sandra: It is, it is. 180 degrees, but within the same bandwidth, dealing with the same level of problem, one could say.
Iain: Yes, so there’s kind of a consistency of issue there, or major issue that you follow.
Sandra: Right, right, yes exactly.
Iain: OK. I’m just looking at the time here, I want to make sure we get through them for anyone looking at the programme and thinking they didn’t see themselves. So, then we go to number 5.
Sandra: OK. At point 5 the passion here is avarice or hoarding, which is a holding on to what we have or what we are and the delusion of course, well of course for those of us who are involved in spiritual work and the recognition of the underlying principle, that we’re part of a oneness. The delusion here is that we’re separate and that we have to hold on to what we have for fear of losing it.
Iain: We all feel that to a large extent.
Sandra: We all feel that absolutely... We believe we’re separate. Non-attachment, the virtue here, is the recognition that we’re all interconnected and that what sustains us is something that is constantly replenishing itself, constantly available. So non-attachment then naturally arises, the more we know that, so it’s an attitude of allowing things to come in, and allowing things to go out, which is very difficult for 5s.
Iain: Yes, it’s difficult for most of us actually and it’s what the planet needs more and more now isn’t it, this oneness, everything being interconnected?
Sandra: Yes, the recognition of it...
Iain: ... and intelligent use of our self and everything else... So, why is that particularly hard for number 5s do you think?
Sandra: Because the fundamental fixation, or the fixed belief about reality, is rooted in one’s sense of separateness, so that’s sort of the bit of egoic reality that’s highlighted for 5s.
Iain: That’s extra strong in them?
Sandra: I wouldn’t say that it’s extra strong, but it’s what the whole personality is constellated around. Any of the fixations could be quite strong, but it’s a principle that the fixation of our type is the one that we’re constellated around, that is given primary highlight, I would say. But anyway, we probably should get back to the passions and virtues, so that I get through all of them!
Iain: OK. So, after 5 is number 6.
Sandra: OK. So the passion here is fear, and fear shows up as anxiety, as doubt, as an inner sense of agitation, unrest. It’s a felt sense that is ubiquitous in our modern world, where people feel tremendous survival anxiety, especially now I’d say, with what’s happening in the world. And the Enneagram tells us that the degree to which we’re identified with our bodies, with our physicality as defining who and what we are, is the degree to which something like the recession happens let’s say, other kinds of difficult health issues, that our fear gets increased, so the virtue of courage naturally arises the more that we’re not identified with our bodies as being the end all and be all of who and what we are. And that of course is one way of looking at the spiritual journey; it’s a matter of increased non-attachment, increased recognition that who and what we are is not this form. That what we are inhabits this form, but isn’t our ultimate nature. This is not our ultimate nature our biology.
Iain: Which as a number 6, I understand in one way that it’s very hard to really, not incorporate, but to really absorb the true meaning of that, and I think it’s very hard for a lot of people actually, they understand that everything is connected, well certainly some people do... but when it comes down to, especially when you feel a threat, or what you perceive as a threat, it’s very hard to just say, well I’m not just this body.
Sandra: Right, but if you take an orientation when you’re experiencing something as a threat, and you begin to question: “Who’s feeling threatened? What’s really being threatened here? Who am I taking myself to be... that can be harmed?” Then we can begin to unpack and unwind our beliefs about who we take ourselves to be. But that’s a very long journey, as you say. Really I think that the realisation of the virtues, is something that increases as one increasingly approaches enlightenment, self-realisation, and that the passions really are with us in every step of that way.
Iain: It’s an on-going process.
Sandra: It’s an on-going process and with increasing levels of subtlety.
Iain: OK. So, after number 6 we have number 7.
Sandra: Yes, we do. The passion here is gluttony, and gluttony is a hunger for stimulation, a hunger for taking in. It’s the result of a whole orientation that we have as long as we’re identified with our personalities, which is that the goodies are outside of us and they need to be taken in, in order to connect with them. From a spiritual point of view, we see that the virtue here is sobriety and it tells us that the goodies, as it were, in life, are available within ourselves and that they’re the result of turning toward ourselves and being with ourselves instead of looking out there for what’s going to stimulate us, bring us a sense of excitement, or happiness, or joy, whatever. That the true source of happiness and joy and excitement resides within ourselves and hence there’s a quieting down of soberness that increasingly results in our consciousness, as we realise that, as we turn towards ourselves.
Iain: The number 7s, the ones that I know, they do find it very difficult to - I suppose everybody does - change, in particular because they’re drawn off into alcohol dependence and drug use and just getting hyped up about things and getting very busy and active and that really again, is a huge shift. I guess it either happens as a quantum thing, where you wake up... there’s a good friend of mine, who was, I can’t say drug abuse or alcohol abuse, but he was certainly living on the edge of being a number 7 and he had a stroke and of course that completely changed his life. He had to start to rebuild the way his body worked, he doesn’t drink, he doesn’t smoke now, he takes life much easier. It took his body, if you like, to give him the message. I’m not sure he would have got it otherwise. So, I know it’s a very difficult thing for a number 7.
Sandra: It is, yes. 7s are also a very mental type, so the gluttony is not so much a kind of physical drive toward our physical greed, it’s more a mental kind of greed, it’s a wanting of interesting ideas and titillation and interesting thoughts and making connections and all of that.
Iain: It’s very much about stimulation isn’t it?
Sandra: It’s very much about stimulation.
Iain: Yeah, for someone that loves stimulation, to say that they need to be more sober in all aspects is tough.
Sandra: Yes, because you’re basically saying that what’s causing a lot of your problems is going with that drive for stimulation. That that it in and of itself is making you suffer, you know it’s keeping you in a state of inner unrest, basically.
Iain: Yes, yes.
Sandra: So, point 8 - lust and it sounds very close to gluttony, except that here lust is being at the mercy of our physical passions, our physical drives, whether it’s our sexual drives, or our lust for life, or desire to just kind of devour things. So, it’s again the attitude of taking in what’s going to satisfy from outside, but it’s a matter here of completely devouring it, you know, just sort of grabbing life and as much of life as possible, and just eating it up.
Iain: Which on the face of it sounds an intelligent think to do when you’re younger, just to get the best you can out of life, it sounds very passionate and it just sounds as though you want the best of what’s available. I want to say, what’s wrong with that?
Sandra: Well there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just that when our drive, our passion to take in becomes a fixation, it’s the only way we can operate such that we’re constantly trying to gratify our physical needs, then we become slaves of our bodies.
Iain: So it becomes an automatic programme somehow?
Sandra: Yes, and for 8s it very much is. It’s like being a slave to your appetites and not having any freedom from them. And the virtue innocence tells us that the more we become slaves of our appetites, the coarser our consciousness becomes and we can see that in people who are alcoholics for instance, or who are slaves to particular types of addictive behaviour, which is not to say that 8s are addicts, or alcoholics, or anything like that, but that when they are, what’s happening is this kind of addictive passionate quality in which one can’t say no to one’s drives and that it has the natural tendency to coarsen one’s soul, one’s consciousness. There’s a sense of density and grossness that gradually starts to take over. From a spiritual perspective, the virtue here is telling us that we lose our innocence, we lose the openness and the transparency of our consciousness, the more that we are driven by our physical biological drives.
Iain: Thank you. We have a few minutes left, so we can still very much talk about this whole relationship between the passions and the virtues, and, again, in the introduction to your book, you said, and it’s very obvious - now you have talked about it - that you really need to understand the passions, before you can access the virtues. So, it is very much, going within I guess, understanding the way you are and I guess it helps to understand the way other people are too and then that opens up doorways doesn’t it?
Sandra: Yes. Sometimes people work with the virtues as trying to take on certain characteristics; it’s not the approach that I take to them. I think that as you say, they’re something that evolve naturally the more that we start unwinding and understanding the way that our structure works.
Iain: You mentioned earlier the Diamond Approach, which I think you have seminars don’t you, retreats you run in Wales and in the UK?
Iain: And you work partly with the Enneagram on those retreats?
Sandra: Yes, it’s kind of a subset of the work that I do, the overall work that I do is about personal transformation and contact with True Nature and it’s a way of working with the personality, in which we go into the personality structure itself, instead of trying to transcend it, which is the more traditional approach to spiritual work. We go into it, we work with it, we enquire and what we find is that the personality has a natural tendency to loosen up and relax, such that we can get glimpses, increasingly larger glimpses, of who and what we truly are.
Iain: So in a way the personality is giving us the clue, it’s like when you watch the detective things on television, they’re looking for the clues and some spiritual schools say oh personality, must get rid of the ego, but in a way, what you’re saying is no, the personality is giving you the insight into what really is more true for you.
Sandra: Yes, the way that we look at the personality is that it’s a mirror image of what is most true and most real about us and so if we stay with this mirror image it will lead us to what is deeper than that, within ourselves.
Iain: I wonder how we got there in the first place? Why would we do that, why would we have this something that’s real and then we build a mirror image; it sounds strange doesn’t it?
Sandra: Well it does, but if you look at things from a slightly different angle, you could say that the purpose of human life is about learning to recognise our True Nature and that the capacity to develop a whole structure that reflects that nature develops along with it, capacity for self-reflection. So as we unwind that structure, which goes hand in hand with our capacity to know ourselves, we have the possibility of our deepest nature recognising itself.
Iain: OK, that makes sense. You also talked about in your book, as if there are almost two levels of understanding the Enneagram, it’s like it’s understandable at the level of personality, but of course there’s a much wider picture if one takes the wider picture of consciousness into account.
Sandra: Yes right, we can look at all of the passions as difficulties that each of us faces in life and we can also look at them from the perspective of difficulties that one faces on the spiritual path itself. So these are really two levels of discussing the same thing.
Iain: And they’re both true and they both sort of interconnect?
Sandra: Yes, yes, they’re just different degrees of, or levels of understanding of the map. That’s the great thing about the map of the Enneagram it’s relevant for the more superficial parts of our lives and it’s also relevant for the deepest depths of our lives.
Iain: It’s this thing you know, it comes back to this thing of my Enneagram type the virtue is courage, but I think that really applies to anyone who’s going to be watching this program, who’s going to say, well this looks really interesting, but of course it’s got consequences in so far as - if you’re really going to start looking and make changes in your life - you’re going to see something about yourself you probably don’t like and don’t want to recognise, it takes a lot of courage to go on this path doesn’t it?
Sandra: Yes it certainly does, it certainly does… I think the thing that happens is that in a way you start seeing yourself under a magnifying glass and so you see wonderful things and those get bigger and you also see parts of yourself that are quite painful, and difficult to be with, and so for a while on the journey the suffering seems to increase, but it’s on the road to its resolving, through being the truth of our experience.
Iain: And how is it for you, someone who has been doing this for a long, long time? Does the suffering still come up, or do you feel a little bit on the home run now so to speak?
Sandra: It’s definitely different. I’ve been working on myself for the whole of my adult life, since I was 20, that was when I first started working with the Enneagram, so that’s been many decades, and I won’t say how many, em ...
Iain: A couple...
Sandra: A couple. Definitely a couple and I live in a very different world than the world I used to.
Iain: So, I’m sure it’s been worth it, the hard work hasn’t it, the courage and the brutal honesty and all the other things that you talk about in the book?
Sandra: Absolutely yes, some of us have to go for the truth of our experience and aren’t content to live on the surface so... it’s definitely worth it.
Iain: I understand that for myself...
Sandra: Yes, I know you do.
Iain: Thank you for coming along Sandra and chatting to us on Conscious TV. Just to say that Sandra is doing these retreats in Wales and her website address will be at the bottom of this programme, so you can find out more about that. And I found this book really fascinating about the Enneagram, and she has another one as well, the other one is called...
Sandra: The Spiritual Dimension of the Enneagram: Nine Faces of the Soul.
Iain: OK, so there you go, thank you for watching Conscious TV and we’ll see you again soon. Goodbye.
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