Spiritual Development Tools (Part 2)

Key Point: We hope you enjoyed reflecting on the first four spiritual development tools as outlined in the last blog. Just a quick recap: The Enneagram has been a system and model of human personality, which is principally understood and taught as a typology of nine interconnected personality types. It has been used as a “map for the soul” for centuries and appeals to the tenets of most formal religions and secular thinking. According to Don Risso and Russ Hudson, two of the foremost experts on the rich application of the Enneagram, we need more than interesting information about the nine personality types, (which does not diminish the importance of understanding the Enneagram). To quote them: “This map of the soul can become useful for us ONLY when we combine it with key personal growth techniques. To this end, we offer seven tools that we have found indispensable for spiritual development.”

The First Four: 

  1. Seeking Truth 
  2. “Not Doing”
  3. Willing to be Open 
  4. Getting Proper Support 

Now for the final three:

Learning from Everything:

Once we have involved ourselves in the process of personal growth, we understand that whatever is occurring in the present moment is what we need to deal with right now. And whatever is arising in our hearts or minds is the raw material that we can use for our growth. It is an extremely common tendency to flee from what we are actually facing in our imagination, romanticizing or dramatizing our situation, justifying ourselves, or even escaping into “spirituality.” Staying with our real experience of our situation and ourselves will teach us exactly what we need to know for growth.

 Cultivating a Real Love of Self:

It has been said many times that we cannot love others if we do not love ourselves. But what does this mean? We usually think that it has something to do with having self-esteem or with giving ourselves emotional “goodies” to compensate for our feelings of deficiency. Perhaps, but one central aspect of a mature love of ourselves is caring about our growth sufficiently not to flee from the discomfort or pain of our actual condition. We must love ourselves enough not to abandon ourselves – and we abandon ourselves to the degree that we are not fully present to our own lives. When we are caught up in worry, fantasy, tension and anxiety, we become dissociated from our bodies and our feelings – ultimately, from our true nature. True love of self also entails a profound acceptance of ourselves – returning to presence and settling into ourselves as we actually are without attempting to change our experience. It is also aided by seeking the company of people who possess some degree of this quality themselves.

Having a Practice:

Most spiritual teachings stress the importance of some kind of practice, be it meditation, prayer, yoga, relaxation, or movement. The important thing is to set aside some time each day to reestablish a deeper connection with our true nature. Regular practice (combined with participation in some kind of teaching or group) serves to remind us over and over again that we are hypnotized by our personality. Spiritual practice interferes with our deeply ingrained habits and gives us opportunities to wake up from our trance more often and for longer periods of time. Eventually, we understand that every time we engage in our practice we learn something new, and every time we neglect our practice we miss an opportunity to allow our lives to be transformed. A major obstacle to regular practice is the expectation of the personality that we attain specific personal growth results, and, ironically, this is especially true if we have made significant breakthroughs in our spiritual growth. The personality seizes on breakthroughs and wants to recreate them on demand. This is not possible because breakthroughs occur when we are completely open to the present moment, while anticipating a certain payoff distracts us from experiencing how we actually are. In this moment, a new gift or insight is available—although most likely not the one that was available last week. Furthermore, the personality uses our breakthroughs as justifications to stop practicing saying, “Great! You’ve had a breakthrough! Now you’re ‘fixed’ and you don’t need to do this anymore.” 


Along with our regular daily practice, life presents us with many opportunities to see our personality in action and to allow our essential nature to come forth and transform our personality. But it is not enough merely to think about personal development or to talk about it or to read books about it. Procrastination is a great defense of the ego. The only time to use the tools of personal growth is now.

Character Moves:

1. Give yourself time to understand and evaluate where you are with the last three of these seven spiritual development tools, and determine how you can advance with each in your life. Like most things of enormous value, they are paradoxically simple but also quite complex. As with many successful, habit-forming initiatives, small forward steps propel us there in a more sustainable way.

2. Now examine how effective the seven tools could be as a complete system. Ask yourself what would be in it for you if all seven were part of your life in some, continuous way. Risso and Hudson’s work is credible and practical. If we know what our personality ethos is, better understand what makes our natural makeup (helped by the Enneagram) and then leverage the seven tools, we grow spiritually. It’s combining the elusive search for greater self-awareness along with tools for advancement. And that flat out is a very good thing for the people we love and ourselves.

All Seven in The Triangle,

Lorne 

One Millennial View: Following a list of “Spiritual Practices” might sound as much fun as flossing teeth, but we all know we should do it, we’re only better off for it. So the sooner we try to develop some sort of habit with this checklist, the sooner it’ll benefit us.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

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