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"Enneagram Web" by Marjorie Graham. Used by permission. See ordering information below

The Enneagram & Bodywork

One of the most exciting discoveries I've made since I started attending The Whole You School of Massage and Bodywork, is the connection between the passions and ego-fixations of my personality type and the way that my body holds stress and dis-ease.

According to Oscar Ichazo and the leading Enneagram theorists of our time, we have three centers or three intelligences that direct our interactions with the visible and non-visible universe. These are the thinking (head) center, the feeling (heart) center, and the doing/instinctual (belly/gut) center. These correspond bodily to the three tan-tiens of Chinese and Taoist medicine. When we have access to our Higher or Essential Selves, we are in touch with with the Holy Ideas (head) and Virtues (heart) of our type.

Oscar Ichazo describes the Fixation of each type as being a distortion of the essential Holy Idea of our types; likewise, he sees the Passions and distortions of our Virtues. 

Interestingly, one way to get from our Fixations and Passions back to our Essence is through the body. Simply being in the present moment and feeling the messages that are constantly being communicated to us through the body is one way to get out of our heads and access this wellspring of intuitive and instinctual knowing. Listening to our senses and our energy fields can give us an incredible amount of information that rational intelligence just misses. paying attention to our bodies helps us lift the habitual filters that keep us unconscious and living in the past or future rather than the eternal Now.

Enneagram enthusiast, bodyworker and author of Senses Wide Open, Johanna Putnoi, says, "These unconscious habitual filters limit what somatic educators call natural instinctive responsiveness. Mirroring the insights of the Enneagram system, the somatic approach illustrates how some of us get caught in the negative portion of the mental realm, fearful and tentative, rationalizing the world into making some sort of sense, while others live primarily in the negative portion of the emotional realm, sinking into a swamp of despair or suddenly flying high, dramatizing each event in order to begin to feel, while still others get caught in the negative portion of the physical realm, angry, confused, lashing out, unable to separate sensation from memory and emotion. This supports the Enneagram’s description of the head, heart and belly types, as well as, the three centers of perception.

Putnoi continues, "If we’re lucky, the discomfort created by these imbalances eventually gets us interested in change. Systems such as Somatics and the Enneagram provide a useful map that directs us out of our limitations and toward a more honest and open approach to life. When we learn how to be more embodied or centered, our whole being radiates the essence states the Enneagram system so brilliantly describes." (Web Source: Senses Wide Open: The Enneagram of the Body)

According to Enneagram theory, the human being has three equally important centers of intelligence: the body center (also called the gut, belly, instinctual, or doing center), the heart center (also called the feeling or emotion center), and the head center (also called the mind, intellect, or thinking center). The core of each of these centers are located at the point of the three tan t’iens of the Traditional Chinese Medicine where the Three Treasure reside: the lower tan t’ien, located about three fingers below the navel and three fingers in, houses the ching or body essence and sexual energy; the middle tan t’ien, located in the heart, the chi or life force energy our soul; and the upper tan t’ien, located in the third eye, houses the shen or spirit, including the higher faculties of the mind. The nine Enneagram types describe the nine compulsive ego patterns that are based on overuse or underuse of one of these three kinds of intelligence. Understanding one's type indicates a path to create balance in the three centers by helping us to catch ourselves in the act of our habitual and unconscious misuse of the centers.

Childhood wounding (much of which occurs before we even have language and which is stored in our cellular memory) causes us to misuse one center by preferring it or repressing it more than the others. Thus, the three types of the body center, Types 8, 9, and 1, have issues around the body and a felt sense of self and around the emotion of anger or rage. They create boundaries around themselves that are based on physical tension and have problems with aggression and repression. The heart types, Types 2, 3, and 4, have ego defenses around the feelings, and they carry a great deal of shame and guilt. They are attached to a false self-image and tend to see themselves almost entirely through the eyes of others. The head types, Types 5, 6, and 7, have ego defenses around thinking and have underlying feelings of fear, anxiety, and insecurity. They resist aspects of the present and are more future-oriented, always worrying, planning and strategizing about how they will move forward in life. They have real trouble getting their minds to just simmer down and quieten, and they have issues about the lack of support.

Somatic teacher and developer of EnneaMotion and the Somatic Enneagram Andrea Isaacs says, All habitual patterns, even those based on the higher aspects of our personalities, have been choices. Regardless of when or why we adopted them, or whether the choices were good or bad, they have been over-used. Like a record stuck in a groove, we often refer to our favorite strategies even when circumstances change… Awareness itself does not enable us to change these patterns. We may live in frustration and awareness of one of them, and instead of dealing with it directly, we compensate for it elsewhere."

It is true, however, that although we have the potential of all human qualities within us, they are at different stages of development and not equally accessible. We could say that all conflicts and challenges may have resolutions, but the best way to approach them may lie dormant within us. In addition to awareness, desire and will, we need a technique for accessing all the gifts, virtues, and the higher experiences we thought were reserved to the realm of other types. This would allow us the option of drawing from a wider spectrum of behavior patterns, and to respond to life's situations with more appropriate action… This can be achieved by turning to the body channel and to somatic exercises. This would present a different picture of the situation and temporarily remove the lens through which we usually view the world, allowing a more neutral state of mind to emerge (Isaacs online). Combining the Enneagram and massage is combing two of my loves. It gives me a way out of my own fixations and an avenue to help others to awaken to True Nature. Working on the body armor that often accompanies the type fixations can release holding within the psychic structures and bring to consciousness rage, fear, and shame that blocks us from living in our personal essence.

About the artwork: The painting above, "Enneagram Web" is one of a series of pieces using the web as a theme done by artist and educator Marjorie Graham. Graham uses a technique for producing prints called gicleé. Gicleés are prints made with 100 year archival pigment inks on acid-free Somerset Velvet paper. The entire collection is wonderful. You can see and purchase "Enneagram Web" and other of her gicleé prints through her website: www.marjoriegraham.com. http://www.marjoriegraham.com


Body Talk: What is Your Body Telling You?

Polish the heart, free the six senses
 and let them function without obstruction,
and your entire body and soul will glow.
~Morihei Ueshiba

Right now, in this very moment: What is your body telling you?

Can you remember a time when your stomach knotted up in fear, your heart raced before an exciting challenge, you intuitively moved closer to a new love? Can you recall how your mind interpreted what your body felt? Did it berate you for being so weak (or cowardly or childish or out of control), ignore the sensation, and make your body do the exact opposite of what it knew was right?

"Trust your gut instinct"... "I knew in my heart it was the right thing to do"... "I just had a feeling"... Our language reflects our understanding that the body has real wisdom and knowledge. Why, then, do we spend most of our time trying to override its signals?

vitruvian manThe human body comes equipped with an innate ability to intuit real danger, and a brilliant physical response system that knows when to run and when to fight -- even when we are actively not listening to the information we are receiving from our senses. The body also has the inborn ability to know when we are safe, to know who can nurture us emotionally, and to bond in love and support with others.

That's right: We are born with an innate instinct to survive and prosper, to love one another. One of the intrinsic ingredients that allows us to thrive is the experience of pleasure. However, when we are not actively listening to the information we are receiving from our senses, when we are taught that the language of the body will get us into trouble, it is much more difficult to respond naturally, to bond in long-lasting satisfying relationships with others.

Feeling fully alive means engaging life with our senses and instincts wide open. Touch is the mother of the senses. It is born with the oldest, largest, and most sensitive of our organs, the skin. Ashley Montagu, in Touching, his wonderful book about the significance of the skin, says:

"The skin is the mirror of the organism's functioning; its colour, texture, dryness, and every one of its other aspects, reflect our state of being, psychological as well as physiological. We blanch with fear and turn red with embarrassment. Our skin tingles with excitement and feels numb with shock; it is a mirror of our passions and emotions."

"The skin is the mirror of the organism's functioning; its colour, texture, dryness, and every one of its other aspects, reflect our state of being, psychological as well as physiological. We blanch with fear and turn red with embarrassment. Our skin tingles with excitement and feels numb with shock; it is a mirror of our passions and emotions." The skin covers our entire body. It is the foundation on which all the other senses are based. Our skin is the interface between our nervous system and the environment in which we live. It connects the outside to our insides, and vice versa. Neuro-anthropologist Andre Virel says, "Our skin is a mirror endowed with properties even more wonderful than those of a magic looking glass."

The skin is an essential player in the conundrum of our existence, in our striving for radiant well-being and connection to all things. It is our skin that allows us to differentiate between sandpaper and marble, glass and water, hot and cold, pain and pleasure. When we add taste, smell, sight, and hearing to this biological equation, a magnificent symphony of feeling and sensation informs our experience. Without our senses we are like stick figures -- without sense and sensibility, forever ensnared in the modern disease of cerebral reasoning.

Unfortunately, most of us learn at an early age that the life of the mind is the real life, the important life, the body's high commander. The fullness of life -- sensation and emotion -- are subjugated to what we think at any given moment. Without the full palette of sensual input, life is reduced to a monochromatic dimension that has little room for the colours [sic] and sounds and smells and tastes and sensations that enable us to experience genuine pleasure and delight.

The Language of the Body

da vinci enneagram

Montage by Johanna Putnoi (with perm.)

When we are warm and safe and well-nourished, our muscles relax, our blood flows easily, and we feel a sense of well-being or authentic pleasure. When we are in danger, cold and hungry, we feel anxiety and fear. Our muscles tense up, our breathing gets shallow, and we get ready to run. I call this intrinsic intelligence natural embodiment. We are naturally embodied when we can experience sensate pleasure on a regular non-sexual basis, when we can deeply relax into ourselves, when we can give freely to other people and receive from them easily, when we know the difference between hedonism and authentic pleasure.

Animals move freely, effortlessly. They drop down for a nap when they are tired, they eat when they are hungry. We envy this natural state, but it is not ours. Being human means we have self-awareness. As human beings we are born with the unique ability to consciously observe and control our own behavior. Sometimes this is what gets us into trouble. Sometimes our minds don't like what we see, or we fear what might happen and we override our bodies' messages. Yet this awareness can also work to our benefit: We can train ourselves to move and think and hear and see and feel in ways that bring the world to life in infinite, unseen detail, much as a trained violinist can make a violin sing in tones that are beyond the reach of the student.

Conscious awareness naturally includes the language of the body. It helps us respond more honestly to what is happening in the moment. It helps us filter out neurotic thinking in favour of natural embodiment. I know this is true because I see it every day.

For more than twenty years I have worked with hundreds of disenfranchised human beings who are in search of their bodies and don't know it. Like most of us, they suffer terribly from our culture's mixed messages. Many of them are full of guilt and shame, trying unsuccessfully to reason their way through life. They have very little real information about the nature and function of their bodies' desires, illnesses, knee-jerk behaviors, and pleasures. Instead, their minds have developed elaborate mythologies about what might happen if they let go and allow their bodies to speak to them. Surely, they think, they would lose control sexually, or hurt themselves, or do something they would regret. Their fears are deep and powerful and keep them in the dark about how the body actually works. Paradoxically, they take their health for granted.

When we feel sick, we passively let the doctor tell us about our afflictions and follow medical directions without question. Our ignorance is staggering.

The last two decades of the twentieth century have been characterized by a frantic search for self-improvement and purification: We join programs to give up smoking, drinking, and drugs. We train our bodies in gyms. We eat carefully controlled diets to starve our bodies into submission. We buy books on how to improve our sex lives. We live hard and fast, seeking excitement, and then recover by meditating on inner peace, chasing out-of-body experiences and longing for a less corporeal world. We spend billions of dollars on diet, fitness, entertainment, and religion, and we are still not satisfied.

The simple truth is this: In seeking to perfect our bodies, tire them out, or escape them altogether, we have forgotten a fundamental point. We can't go anywhere without them, even though we try. The body matters. It's a resource, not an object to whip into shape. It is you.

Having a body is what being a human is all about.


Johanna PutnoiJohanna Putnoi is a dancer, writer, and somatic educator who lectures and leads workshops, seminars, and trainings in applied somatics, the movement arts, and the enneagram. She teaches throughout the United States and Europe and is a somatic counselor and popular workshop leader at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, CA.

Putnoi also teaches Somatics and Healing at Stanford University. Visit her website: Senses Wide Open: The Enneagram of the Body This article was excerpted with permission from her book "Senses Wide Open", ©2000, published by Ulysses Press, Berkeley, California, USA

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June 2006

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Quotes about the Body and True Nature

Take care of your body with steadfast fidelity. The soul must see these eyes alone, and if they are dim, the whole world is clouded. ~Johann von Goethe

You see, when weaving a blanket, an Indian woman leaves a flaw in the weaving of that blanket to let the soul out.
~Martha Graham

The greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches, but to reveal to him his own.
~Benjamin Disraeli

The body has its own way of knowing, a knowing that has little to do with logic, and much to do with truth, little to do with control, and much to do with acceptance, little to do with division and analysis and much to do with union.
~Marilyn Sewell

Your body is precious. It is our vehicle for awakening. Treat it with care.
~The Buddha

Good for the body is the work of the body and good for the soul is the work of the soul, and good for either is the work of the either. ~Henry David Thoreau

The body is a sacred garment.
~Martha Graham

The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek. ~Joseph Campbell

Liberation is only being rid of the idea that there is anyone who needs liberation.
~Ramesh Balsekar

I believe that the physical is the geography of the being.
~Louise Nevelson

Both body and earth are sacred.
~Mathew Fox

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