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  • Practicing Awareness in the Enneagram Three Centers of Intelligence

    What are “Centering Practices”?  In our Enneagram work, the foundation of any sort of change is the ability to develop an inner observer.  Before we can really recognize our automatic patterns, we need to be able to objectively witness ourselves in real time.  This is called being present. 

    The most direct way of doing this is turning our attention inward, and somatically (soma means body) experiencing ourselves using our three centers (head/intellect, heart/emotions, gut/instinct) with all of our senses.  All three centers reside in our body, hence, somatic awareness. 

    The benefit of somatic experiencing is it gives us no choice but to remain in the present. The body can only be in this very moment.  Our mind can take us to the future and the past, telling us stories and eliciting an emotional response, and so our body is the one center which we can rely on for accurate in-the-moment information.  If we are able to track with sensations, we are able to stay present.

    People’s willingness to experiment with somatic awareness runs the gamut.  Some people really enjoy learning about somatics, while others find it too “woo woo” for their liking, don’t experience quick enough results, or just don’t have the patience for it.  I encourage you to stay open and curious, but at the same time, honor any resistance and voice it.

    For those new to somatics, an easy way to get started is to begin practicing it while you are doing something else.  Is it time to do the dishes? Observe all of the inner experiences you have as you clean the kitchen.  First, get grounded by feeling your feet squarely on the floor.  Describe to yourself what the sensation is of soapy water on your hands….notice the clink of silverware.  Pay attention to any feelings associated with your clean up routine.  These are all beginner ways of becoming present.

    When you have time for an outdoor walk, try this Walking Centering Practice: The description that follows includes just a few of the many ideas for incorporating a walking practice.  You don’t have to follow it exactly-these are only examples to get you started.  Feel free to make it your own!

    Begin your walk at a slower pace than is your habit.  Intentionally notice your feet as they land from heel to toe.  Notice how your feet feel in your shoe.  Take note of the hardness or softness of the surface you walk upon.  Find your breath and breathe from your belly center up into your head center.  When you inhale into your head center, breathe in through the nose and fill your head cavity with air.  Notice your feet/steps for as long as you like. Bring attention to your chest center, and quicken your pace.  What does your breathing feel like now? Can you continue to breathe from the belly up to your head? Now take time to focus on your environment.  What might you notice that you have not noticed in the past in your familiar surroundings? What emotions do you experience as you take in your breath and your environment?  How easy or difficult is it for you to stay present on this walk?  If it’s hard for you, no worries…don’t judge it, just notice it.  

    We can practice presence in any of our daily activities.  Try connecting with your breathing while you are driving, and consciously breathe through all three centers for a couple of minutes.  Putting on make-up?  Experience the sensation of the application.  Playing with your dog?  Notice the sensation of the softness of your pup’s fur; take an impression of your feelings for your dog in this moment.  You can do this anywhere, any place, any time.  Somatic awareness leads to a more accurate perception of reality, which means that our automatic defenses are less likely to hijack us in the same old ways. Somatic awareness is a gateway to growth and I encourage everyone working with the Enneagram to incorporate it into your daily practices.