instincts (damn enneagram)

oh jules,

the sun is bright today, despite the cold.

i had a zoom course this morning, sitting with the van doors flung open towards the orange-soaked forest. the wasps (8 at one point) made themselves at home while flocks of birds scattered in a startling choreography of wings.

it was with tamara shantz. remember our lovely day in her ‘office’ – wrestling with the enneagram. i’m still wrestling (i imagine you are too) – i think that is what makes it so grounded and valid. the need to wrestle with it for years. it is not easy or palatable or even digestible for that matter. it takes a while. but, it is nourishing, that’s for sure.

i’ve been thinking about the session ever since. it was about instinctual variants in the enneagram (i know – very exciting stuff! … it is really)… anyway… there are 3 instinctual variants: self-preservation, sexual, and social.

i’m not going to try to describe them here really… just to say that self-preservation is focused on survival of self and those you love (so think of health, finances, etc), the sexual instinct is to attract, to lose oneself, to create, and the social one is focused on belonging and community…

anyway… what was interesting is the way that they are arranged. like, they form a stack, but it isn’t as simple as 1, 2, 3.

your dominant is the one that takes most of your focus and energy. this is the one that from childhood you’ve used to cope.

but the secondary jules! the secondary!

the secondary is not your backup, it is your: “free zone” … your sweet spot. in this place, the inner critic is mostly quiet. this place feels restful and enlivening.

and then… there’s your blindspot. this is the place that you neglect or need to be reminded of. but, this is also the place where a lot of growth can happen…

i still really don’t understand myself, in terms of the enneagram. even after this workshop, i felt clear and then muddy again as i think about it.

but – i don’t think the sexual type is my dominant, i think social is (or was at least)… but…. i think i’ve been spending a lot of time in my secondary these past few years…

with a longing to connect deeply, to experience flow, to create, to write. to connect deeply with nature. to connect deeply with another person.

joy. i experience a lot of joy when i am in a space of my secondary instinct. i get lost in writing, or the moon. this is a place of deep connection, of merging. like those conversations when 2 become 1. (and those physical experiences too).

and these days, spending almost any time in my dominant one exhausts me. maybe it always did. my inner critic lets me know that i’m not investing enough energy there.

and the blindspot… i think mine is self-preservation (though i am not totally clear on this – because i do have anxiety)… but, things like: flossing, taxes, paying rent, doing laundry…. those things take a backseat to: social engagement, connections…. basically they take a backseat to everything.

but tamara shared that sometimes if you listen to your blindspot energy – it can be deeply enriching. like… last week when i spent 4 hours by lamp-light doing my taxes from 2016 because i wanted to buy a tiny house. haha.

it reminded me a lot of the holistic psychologist and the small daily promises. choosing one small thing you’d do every day as a promise to yourself. whatever you chose was supposed to be ‘very small’ … i’d never quite thought of them as spiritual acts though. but. maybe flossing my teeth is a spiritual act.

anyway, i don’t really understand any of this – but i wanted to share it.

maybe this is my takeaway: joy and flow comes when the inner critic is silent….. or quieter. and growth comes from pushing into the places we most neglect.

i have so much more to say, but i don’t think it is clear yet. so many ideas and thoughts percolating because of this. but they’re still brewing. maybe i’ll take her course on enneagram and self-compassion in November (wanna join me?)

until next time, dear friend.


oh, and i already shared this with you, but i wanted to post it here – for posterity. and because, i’m in love with him. haha.

Thank You

By Ross Gay

If you find yourself half naked
and barefoot in the frosty grass, hearing,
again, the earth’s great, sonorous moan that says
you are the air of the now and gone, that says
all you love will turn to dust,
and will meet you there, do not
raise your fist. Do not raise
your small voice against it. And do not
take cover. Instead, curl your toes
into the grass, watch the cloud
ascending from your lips. Walk
through the garden’s dormant splendor.
Say only, thank you.
Thank you.


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