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The Seven Centers and Functions

By Deborah Ooten, Ph.D. and Beth O’Hara, B.A.

The Enneagram of Personality teaches three centers of intelligence, the body, mind, and heart. Gurdjieff originally taught the Enneagram as a system of transformation through awakening and integrating the seven centers of intelligence and their functions: instinctual, moving, sexual, emotional, intellectual, higher emotional, and higher intellectual.

The personality co-opts the energy of these centers, with certain centers doing the work of other centers. For example, the intellectual center may be used to do the work of the emotional center. The intellectual, emotional and moving centers are often used to do the work of the sexual center. When these distortions occur, the energy of the center is robbed, resulting in our consciousness remaining asleep. It is necessary to expand and integrate all seven centers in order to fully awaken.

There are seven centers as well as seven functions. These centers reside at the core of our being and are much more difficult to see than the functions. These centers pertain to our very essence and reside in the unconscious. The centers and their functions receive, record, select, transform and transmit energy.

Four of the seven centers are used to take care of our everyday life: the instinctive, moving, intellectual, and emotional.

The instinctive function is tasked with the function of automatic maintenance of our body and all of its internal work. Involuntary physical functions, the physical senses, sensations, and reflexes are in the instinctive center. You can practice working with the instinctive center by noticing your sensations and senses from moment to moment.

The moving function is responsible for the external movements like walking, writing, and eating. It assists us in our day-to-day interactions with the external work we engage in. You can work with the moving center by being present to your movements and even engaging in conscious movement practices like a walking meditation.

The intellectual function houses our ability to ideate and think. You can work with your intellectual function by noticing your thoughts in the moment and tracking your habitual thoughts in a journal.

The emotional function deals with the emotions and feelings that we have day to day. To work with the emotional center, practice noticing the nuances of your emotional patterns as well as how they shift from moment to moment.

According to Jean Vaysse, the sexual function is on one hand, in our day to day life, and on the other it is responsible for the development of “true individuality”. The sexual formation has the function of the masculine or feminine principle in all ways, resulting in the participation of “creation”. Sexual function is both for sex and for creativity, yet this center is the one most often robbed and distorted in Western culture. You can work with this center by noticing, without judging, your sexual and creative energy and all the ways you try to suppress or distort this energy. Becoming more aware of how this center functions can lead to greater clarity about the sexual center.

There are two other centers which appear in higher states of presence or consciousness, higher emotional center and higher intellectual center.

The higher emotional center and function is concerned with being aware or present to oneself. Being present to the self is not an easy task and requires the development of a permanent “I”. The permanent I develops attributes of self-awareness/consciousness, attention, and will, allowing the individual to have access to “true or real feelings”. Practice with this center begins once the first five centers are stabilized. When you are ready to start working with the higher emotional center, attempt to sustain present moment awareness of your inner and outer experiences for as long as possible without slipping into reactivity in order to begin establishing a permanent “I”.

The higher intellectual center and function is expressed in objective thinking. There is an awareness of “universal being and presence” connected to this objective experience of consciousness, allowing for objective consciousness and true feelings to be experienced fully. Once a permanent “I” is established, the awareness of universal being can unfold, not as an intellectual concept, but as state of being.

You are invited to join us at the 2017 International Enneagram Association Conference in San Antonio where we will present about these Seven Centers and Functions in more depth and provide experiences to begin to awaken and integrate these centers. You are also welcome to email us at [email protected].

Dr. Deborah Ooten and Beth O’Hara teach the Enneagram of Personality and the Gurdjieff Work in the School of Conscious Living, through both online classes and in-person classes in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Dr. Deborah Ooten has her doctorate in clinical psychology and is a certified Enneagram teacher in the narrative tradition. She is CEO of Conscious Living Center and Conscious Dynamics and founder of the School of Conscious Living and community. Dr. Ooten teaches Gurdjieff work in her Consciousness Ascending programs.

Beth O’Hara is a certified Life Coach, Iyengar Yoga Teacher, and Enneagram teacher in the Narrative Tradition. She is a senior teacher in the School of Conscious Living. Beth holds a degree is in Physiological Psychology and is pursuing her Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy.

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