The Insight Approach

The Staff of the Maine Enneagram Center for Transformation and Well-Being are trained in the Insight Approach, developed by the leaders of the Enneagram Institute in New York City, Don Riso and Russ Hudson, the global leader in Enneagram Studies and Education. The purpose of the Insight Approach is to assist individuals in developing “radical acceptance” and “presence” such that they begin to see the unique workings of their habitual personality reactions based on their Type, with precision and compassion. Each Type has a particular fixated pattern of reaction that operates most often in an unconscious manner. The capacity to observe one’s personality in action, with compassion and objectivity, is a potent doorway to freedom. Utilizing the Enneagram via the Insight Approach, an individual begins to acquire “eyes to see” the habit of personality suffering that inhibits their capacity to experience their sense of deep value, purpose, strength, joy, spontaneity, aliveness, creativity, clarity of mind, and ability to love themselves and others at depth.

And so what then? You’ve identified your hypnotic, robotic type patterns that have sucked the blood of your joy, happiness and well being like a vampire for most of your life, but now you’ve seen the patterns. You’ve got the info tucked away into the library of your thinking center in the category of “Info that will make me feel really good,” now like a hidden weapon designed to  destroy the unwanted, fast-as-a-bullet, nearly immortal patterns. You are ready and armed to kick ass like a fierce Type 8 .

This is what they don’t prepare you for. (Darn them!) As you ready yourself to leave your workshop, afloat in all kinds of feelings of well-being, heart open to loving-kindness for self and others, inner contentment residing in your belly and heart like a wonderful hit of mescaline (if you’ve had mescaline you know what I mean…until you get addicted!), a joyful connection flowing to and with those around you, what you don’t realize is that this sumptuous ocean of really-good-awesome-feelings that you’re now bathing in are untested in the world.

It’s like you’ve just given birth to that beautiful inner child inside you that’s been waiting forever to be freed, and of course, it’s happened in a near-zero, conflict-free, filled-with-honeyed-kindness environment (and don’t forget the awesome food!) And frankly, the new hit of well being, is, as my teacher would say, an interesting ‘state.’ He’d say, “It’s just a state. Let it go Michael and return to the next moment.”  But…but…I’ve been waiting for this state forever. It’s as good or better than any drugs I took. You’ve got to be kidding me. Smiling at me, and seeing my consternation, he’d say, “Or, hang on tight to them. Inflate them if you can. See how that works for you.” Still smiling at me, he seems happier every minute. 

Here’s the lowdown: As you’ve been nurturing this new birth inside you, out in the parking lot your wily, highly skilled, tough as nails, nearly immortal personality patterns have been doing push-ups, lifting weights, preparing to snag your attention when there is a crack in the pink glow you are immersed in. As one teacher chimed, “Michael, I hope you can retain your new found enlightenment through the first stop light,” as he smiles ear to ear, eyes a glitter with an irritating-as-heck joy. 

So out the door you go, filled with dreams of riding off into the essence-filled-sunset, fulfilled and at peace with all of humanity. And if you are lucky, you get through the stop lights and actually make it home with your newly found ‘states’ still in tact. And there you connect with your wife or husband, your kids, your dog and cat, and in this holy moment you see them through the camera lens of this expanded state. They are more beautiful than ever. And…you feel a new found forgiveness for their foibles, and their habits that often can drive you ever-loving nutso. But not now. You see them with a new set of eyes, and realize they are awesome, and that when caught up in your type patterns your camera lens on reality shrivels and shrinks to accommodate your personality distortions. Such a gift to feel this deep love and abiding care for them. And then, slowly or sometimes way too quickly, this expanded heart and pristine perception-lens returns to its default and suddenly they are frustrating you in the same damn way they always have. They are a pain in the ass! Right now, a true pain in the ass. And before you can take a breath your personality patterns have got you. Welcome to being possessed once again. It feels oddly comfortable. Gasp!

Welcome to another new insight: you’re patterns are not eliminated quickly. You are now assigned to delivering unconditional friendliness to yourself as you watch how these mighty patterns have a life of their own, and could care less about your insights. And along with this is another insight, learned very slowly, with face to the pavement, counter-intuitive as all get out—that if you can learn to observe these type-patterns, observe yourself taken again and again by them in spite of your transformation knowledge and insights packed tightly in your thinking center along with your sincere vow to change  buried deep in your heart…well, take a breath…if you can observe yourself with kindness and non-judgment, the smooth-as-silk-hypnotic-patterns start to lose their capacity to take you out so easily. In fact, nonjudgmental observation of your patterns is what slows them down so that one day, in the middle of getting triggered, you actually witness a “something” enter your field of awareness and instead of responding defensively you respond with understanding compassion. Hurrah! You’ve developed eyes to see your patterns, at least some of the time. 

Now you have another insight worth its weight in gold. Nonjudgmental observation of self allows an uncanny wisdom to arise and assist you. 

And we can’t forget this other, weight-in-gold insight that will show itself to you. As you truly learn to observe yourself and this powerful transformation process, and watch yourself stumble and fall and stumble and fall again, humility will take hold of you and you will recognize that everyone struggles with this process of change.

In fact, you’ll be a kinder more compassionate person, and this alone will make you very happy. (I get happy just thinking about it.)

So, here’s a suggested framework for this inner journey. Awareness is the first step, and then comes the healing, the expanding, the discomfort, the opening to the new, the cracking through deeper constrictions, the continued surrendering to necessary suffering, and…the surrendering to new freedom. Take a breath, and the process begins again. As Mr. Gurdjieff would say, you’re either moving forward into new grounds, or your moving backwards into old familiar patterns. No sitting still anywhere. And of course your Inner Critic is cheering, seducing, slam-dunking and waylaying you to step back onto this gravitational conveyor belt to past learned suffering. The heroes journey! And if you can relax in the face of the message of your spiritual inner critic (the trickiest one of all!), who says, “You should be healed by now. You should be able to get rid of negative patterns–yesterday!” and realize there is no getting rid of anything (and if someone says you can get rid of patterns, its just because they’re not paying attention to their patterns), but learn to be like a ninja who navigates the patterns more gracefully, and picks oneself up off the ground with a better and better sense of humor…you’ll be good to go! And your family and kids will be deeply grateful that your self-righteousness is being slowly but steadily worn down into near invisibility. And you, well, you’ll just be a happy person, and that’s a Crown Jewel to hold close to your heart! 

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