We, or our ego mind, likes to see things dualistically. As opposites — or, by all means, as complimentary powers; the ego isn’t necessarily opposed to those, either. But it always seems to be about two ends of a stick, with us somewhere in between — usually closer to either, sticking to one or bouncing back and forth between extremes.
In the Enneagram world, we are used to thinking in threes, and the Enneagram itself rests on the Law of Three; the addition of a reconciliatory power, the awareness containing the duality, sometimes acting like the catalyst that makes two substances change and/or affect each other without itself changing in the process. This inches us somewhat nearer the truth. It’s still a bit of a simplification, but the actual state of things would be quite impossible to comprehend from an intellectual perspective.
When we are going through something challenging, or downright excruciating, sometimes a zooming out a bit here helps. (Full disclosure: Sometimes the suggestion of a wider perspective makes me respond less graciously and opt for a drink or half a bar of chocolate. That’s fine, too. But for those moments when some perspective on our human journey is exactly what we seek, here is one such perspective ❤️)
The part’s failure to grasp the whole
The tricky bit is that in terms of our inner world, the one trying to get a handle on how it works is the ego and its dualistic perspective. This means that if we are even considering an alternative to the ego perspective, the ego tends to put “soul”, “essence”, “higher self” (or something else that gets to stand for whatever is not ego; the deeper truth of our being)* in the opposite corner from itself in the proverbial boxing ring. This paints the human as a duality of ego/matter/dualism on the one hand and soul/divinity/oneness on the other. The ego looks with suspicion in the direction of what is not ego (for want of a better word, let’s call it the soul). It’s intrigued by it, and quite jealous of it in fact, for what appears to be its enviable qualities of peace, love, and truth. It is also suspicious, however, because while it covets many of those qualities, it has also heard rumours that they will in fact be its undoing. The soul must abhor the ego (thinks the ego), as they seem to be so mutually exclusive.
But here’s the thing: They are only mutually exclusive from the point of view of the ego. They are only mutually exclusive in the perspective of duality. In actual fact, the soul, or oneness, does not abhor the ego. It cannot; as oneness, it abhors nothing, and includes everything. The only power struggle, the only opposition, the only dichotomy, is the one envisioned by the ego.
Thus, the old adage that “it takes two to tango” is not altogether true in this context. The ego does a fine dance all of its own, creating opposition, and sometimes finding support, to fit in with its world view and hold up its belief system. And it’s good at it, too.
A life on earth is a life with an ego
“The ego” as I use it here is not a bad thing. It’s not “the shadow” — our selfishness (or envy or anger or any specific or generalised form of negativity) — counteracting “our light”. Rather, it is the very thought construct of “me”; the belief that “I” is confined to this body, and possibly some aspects beyond it. That it is separate from “you”. That it ends where the rest of the world begins. And in our everyday reality, this is sort of true. You can see how the belief started. If I pinch your car in the sandbox where we are playing with other four-year-olds, I now have a car, and you don’t. If you fall and skin your knee, your knee hurts and mine likely does not. It makes sense. And furthermore, we have spent our first few years — and will spend quite a few more — to understand, furnish, build, and polish this ego. We were meant to; it’s in the curriculum for a human being growing up.
Moreover, to quite some degree, we need the form that the ego provides to function as humans, as the alternative — floating about in a primordial soup — is not an efficient way to exist on planet Earth. It seems to me that we are offered the experience of this messy, wonderful, visceral, excruciating, ecstatic, confusing, tactile, ultimately challenging, and supremely rich affair that is life in a human body. And I also believe that in that, that we are given the sublime opportunity to rediscover, still from within that finite perspective, our true nature as something more than that.
The rides we choose to go on
Now, not everyone will be interested in doing that. Some of us will relish the ego experience and use our time here to taste, conquer, sample, and savour every last ounce of our human experience, with varying degrees of balance and implementing inconsistent measures of love. Others believe (quite contrary to myself) that the whole point is to transcend our humanity altogether and try and exist on Earth as only a soul, renouncing our delicious humanness and this grand adventure we are offered in the form of diversions and delights — and, of course, challenges and hardship.
And then there are some of us who will attempt to explore this field-trip as human beings rediscovering our true nature within this experience. Aware that our essential core is spiritual, we start our work with psychological subject matter. This places our playing field in the cross-hairs of where our psychospiritual energy meets our practical, flesh-and-blood world, all contained by the awareness which offers all of these labelled phenomena the space to exist.
The invitation into the heart — from the horizontal dance to the vertical fall
For this last type of life, seasonal tickets to the heart is highly recommended. In it, we can land, rest, breathe, find our feet again, and most of all, find love. The heart is such a precious faculty, and energy. It’s not only what truly allows us to be real, but it is also the seat of the soul, as well as our deepest wounding: the loss of connection to being, to our essential roots.
As humans, we are animals through and through: mammals with desires, needs, and reactions. But in our humanity, we are also completely of spirit; divine energy, angelic, or whatever one prefers to call it. We are not half-and-half — we are both, completely. This does not make mathematical sense, but then neither does the true heart, really, so it does not matter.
The deeper truth
The point is that these two realities come together in the heart. Here, our egoic life (which would be pretty unique to humans, as far as I can tell) really plays out, and meets — but never quite — our divinity. Here are our self-image issues, our masks, our disappointments, sorrows; our loneliness, our longings, our shame, our narcissism, and our insecurities in who we are. But, just a few strata deeper than that, is our true heart: an inexhaustible reservoir of patience, holding, acceptance, compassion, and fierce love. Usually, we can perceive one of these at a time (and more often than not, it’s likely to be the egoic bit). But on occasion, a moment comes where we can meet the pain and beliefs of our ego reactivity from another place that is, in itself, not reactive. Our eternal, unfailing compassion can embrace and hold our suffering.
This is love. And not only is it love; I think it is love in the purest form a human being can perceive. The moment when we can embrace our kicking and screaming ego and just be there, for all of it. Where we can put down the ball of opinions and self-protections and accusation and blame and fear and reactivity; when we can allow ourselves to be held by this love, completely and utterly, if only for a few moments.
Love begetting love
So while our everyday awareness tends to be strongly transactional and separated, the deepest truth within us is neither. On the egoic level, we might believe that we need to deserve reprieve, love, or absolution. When we fall into our own heart, we realise we do not. Also, we might believe that we can direct anger or hatred outwards, while directing love and compassion inwards. We might even believe that the anger and negativity towards people or circumstances that have hurt us helps us nurture the protective love for ourselves or others that we care for. On an egoic level, on a transactional, dualistic level, this kind of makes sense. But in the deeper heart, it does not. What is not love can not nurture love, any more than letting more darkness into a room can make it brighter.
So anger is wrong?
When the ego reads this, it might get the wrong end of the (dual) stick. Either, it might get upset as it thinks this means anger, violence or negativity is not OK. And it feels like it should be OK; after all, I’m feeling it on occasion. If this is the case, I hasten to reassure it that anger and negativity of all kinds is fine. To feel. To express. To explore. I’d prefer to not hurt anyone or myself in the process, but there is nothing to say don’t embrace it. (Btw, if you have thoughts about anger, you might want to read the article “Anger” is not one thing — how generalisations and simplifications squelch our inner experience.) Just don’t harbour it and let it accumulate. That won’t help anyone. And more likely than not, it will be destructive.
The other way the ego might misunderstand is by agreeing. Oh, I realised anger was just negative, so I gave it up. I never get angry. I’m beyond that. But again, that is missing the point. If the truth right now is anger, acknowledge that. If the truth is grief, acknowledge that. If the truth is joy, acknowledge that. The deeper love does not discriminate. Just like the soul, or oneness, that we talked about in the beginning of this article, love (which is, basically, just another word for the same aspect of reality) cannot do that. It can only, well, love. It never dismisses what is true, but always embraces it.
* * * * *
Our ego-mind, again, has a hard time wrapping itself around these aspects. That’s fine, too. We can just keep an eye out for when we start getting back into the transactional thinking, back into dualism. Again, we are not even meant to not have that; it works a charm when we want to follow a recipe or calculate our holiday budget — or even understand the intricacies of something like the Enneagram. We just need to be mindful when we, mostly in our inner work, step over the threshold into a territory where different rules apply ❤️.
*) For the purposes of this article, it does not really matter which of these we settle on. That does not mean we can’t make distinctions between the soul and being, or between essence and individual aspects of essence. It just felt unnecessary here.