For our self-awareness and depth of presence to be of any real substance, it requires balance in and between our three basic centres of intelligence: the gut, the heart and the head. In this article, I wanted to present, in brief, what this means (and how it looks when the balance is off).
The Gut Centre — wants, drive, resistance, and instinctual impulses
Sometimes I hear things about the instinctual centre (a k a the gut centre/the belly centre/the body centre/the moving centre … this really goes by many different names!) that make it seem “less than”: primitive, selfish, almost inhuman; something that was rendered obsolete and irrelevant with the arrival of higher functions, and which now only serves to drag us down into “animalistic” and possibly immoral behaviour and should therefore be suppressed. Well, more or less that, anyway.
However, nothing could be further from the truth. Our gut centre is what moves us, what animates us on the physical level. It is what keeps us alive, in the most basic and further onto surprisingly sophisticated ways. It is the life force within us, regardless of which Enneagram type we have. So cherish it.
The ironic thing is, nobody really learns how to access this centre properly. Sure, some of us, often those with our “Enneagram home” in this centre, identify with it and its various aspects. And all around the circle, the ego usurps the driving forces of this centre and claims them for its own agendas. But that’s what the ego does with it — not its true, helpful, pure properties.
Balance, over-identification, and neglect
When in balance, this centre tells us what we want; what draws us in, what repels us, what direction we want to move in, what direction there is resistance. It’s easy for us to know, and express, what we want and what’s true for us. It’s a very ‘yes or no’ centre, and it grounds us in reality, giving us an identity: not who, how, or even quite what we are, but that we are, and that ‘I’ is different from ‘you’. When this centre is unbalanced and strongly identified with by the ego, we might get pushy, stubborn, inert (meaning both that we’re slow to start and not easily stopped once we got going), territorial, controlling, and/or unwilling to compromise in healthy ways. And when it is unbalanced in relation to the other two centres — meaning the ego is not that invested but because of that not giving the gut centre a lot of room to operate — we might feel unsure of our right to be here at all, feel easily trampled over, and/or lack stamina or access to what we really want. Almost certainly, we have both balanced and not-so-balanced aspects of this centre; it’s usually a mix rather than a straight-forward, all-or-nothing affair.
The Heart Centre — emotional realities and reactions, but also holding, patience, and true compassion
The heart centre has a funny place in our world: in one sense, our cultures are slowly becoming aware of this aspect; in another, it’s swept into the “irrational” corner and mostly viewed as a recreational tool — and on top of that we have some pretty warped interpretations of what it is supposed to do.
The heart centre, in its true capacity, is majorly important. Of course, they are ALL majorly important, in the sense that we can’t function without either of the centres. But the heart is important in a way we might not have seen: it is what allows us to be Real. It is what allows us to truly meet one another, to truly connect with all of our being. It is what allows us to rest, and to be held; or rather, to hold ourselves in our occasional brokenness, so that we can heal.
Balance, over-identification, and neglect
When in balance, in our true (i e, not ego-identified) heart, there is patience, inclusivity, acceptance, truth, receptivity, and absolute integrity. Since this connection requires us to be grounded in the instinctual centre first, there is also the ability to set boundaries; even seeing the love behind all of existence does not mean we cannot identify falsehood or imbalances which we might not prefer to feed. Rather the opposite: we become more clearly aware of them, without the filters that ego-identification introduces. Because when the ego claims the heart for its own purposes, love gets transactional, and the appearance of love wins out over actual love. As a consequence, prestige and quid-pro-quo enters the picture, along with all manner “love” and “lovability” that in actuality are far from it: control, over-indulgence, enabling, emotional unavailability masked as what-I-do-for-you/this family [etc], scoring of points to compensate for low self-esteem, and so on. While imbalances in the gut tend to be about over-use of instinctual energy, imbalances in the heart tend to be about faking many of the true-heart properties — which is not surprising, seeing as the heart is the centre concerned with self-image. And when the heart is unbalanced in relation to the other two centres, meaning the ego is not that invested but because of that not giving the heart centre a lot of room to operate, we might be emotionally unaware, not keen to venture into the realm of our own feelings (not others’), and we might either not feel comfortable letting people in, or we have a hard time moderating the extent to which we do that.
The Head Centre — logic, reason, and bigger picture connection; but also, stillness, clarity and direct knowing
The head centre would be the one we all — regardless of Enneagram type, and pretty much regardless of culture, too (even if it varies to some extent) — over-identify with. Again, not as types, but as humans. Our schools and education systems drill into us that we need to approach the world with thought. And even our caregivers before that, unwittingly, likely taught us this: Questions like “Why are you crying?” (as opposed to, “what are you feeling?”) and “Why don’t you want to” (rather than, “what happens within you when you think about doing it?”) — usually put to us long before we were properly equipped to respond from the sought-after head perspective — taught us that to count, our responses had better have a cognitive back-up. Feels and wants were often secondary (at best); what counted was what we could offer an intellectual explanation for.
So we grew up learning first to imitate reasoning, then (best case scenario) to reason. However, this is not enough to get us through life in a healthy way. The head, contrary to many popular opinion, cannot handle the domains of the heart and the gut. It can take them into account — but it cannot reason its way to whatever they naturally arrive at. This means that a fair bit of growth where the head is concerned is to stop doing stuff. Have you tried to meditate? Then you know what I’m talking about 😉.
Balance, over-identification, and neglect
But this doesn’t mean that the head is useless — not even a little bit. In balance, it has a twofold function: what I call the simple, constructive function of reasoning, assembling information, concluding, questioning, memorising, computing, and all those things we normally associate with “using our head”. But there is also the higher, open function where we get quiet; where the head, rather than executing maths of various kinds becomes available and listens. Here is where we can access true wisdom, not only knowledge; true clarity and sometimes direct knowing, not only our own conclusions. And this — when our gut and heart centres are in balance, too — is priceless. Those who say we need to “get our of our head” to be able to meditate have not really understood what either the head centre or actual meditation is. When the head-centre is unbalanced from ego-identification, it has us analysing, computing, reasoning, intellectualising, worrying, and/or over-calculating so many things in our life. And when it is unbalanced in relation to the other two centres — meaning the ego is not that invested but because of that not giving the head centre a lot of room to operate — our thoughts will be preoccupied with material from the other two centres that we mistakenly label “thinking” but which are in actuality a “mentalised” cocktail of largely unconscious impulses and emotional reactivity.
Experiential learning … or, as we call it, actual learning 😉
Online courses tend to be to a large degree about teaching, as the sharing of information lends itself well to the online format. But it does not have to end there. We can also have guided exploration into the centres and ourselves; experiential knowledge about that which was formerly only a theory. This element is crucial if we want to integrate deeper insights about the centres, and, not least, about ourselves. And it’s also a big part of the course Going Deeper: Inner Work with the Centres, the one for 2022 starting October 11th and running for 7 consecutive Tuesdays, at 6 pm Central European time (if you are reading this at a later date, the link will take you to the current dates).
If you have questions about the course or about the prerequisites, please contact me directly and we’ll sort it out. Also, if the financial side poses a problem, consider applying for a scholarship ❤️