As we approach the end of one season (Summer here in North America) and the beginning of another, it’s a good opportunity to reflect. Times of change often compel us to consider some spacious questions:
- Where do I want to go?
- What do I want to do?
- Who do I want to be?
These are good, tough questions that have within them significant implications for Enneagram work. Such questions are complex, and they demand some intention beyond beginner’s level knowledge of type. Too often I see people view these questions through the lens of choice, from a basic understanding of their Enneagram type. Such persons evaluate the options before them and make the best decision.
But here’s the problem: to choose is to rely [most of the time] on preference. And our preferences can too easily emerge from our character-structures. This can get in the way of the true discernment. And, if we take these questions seriously . . . we need discernment.
Discernment is the quality to grasp and comprehend the obscure. Discernment is marked by insight and understanding.
Choosing is better for the simple quandaries of our day:
- Do I want a bagel or cereal for breakfast?
- Which shirt to wear to work?
- Which TV show to watch?
Beyond the thousands of trivial choices in our days, we must make room for the truly important decisions that come with pondering the importance questions of our lives. This is the realm of discernment. The deep questions of life require more than mere preference. They too require choices, but of a very different sort. These are the choices that arise from the cultivation of wisdom; and wisdom’s fertile ground is discernment. Thomas Merton once wrote,
“We must make the choices that enable us to fulfill the deepest capacities of our real selves.”
Which reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Annie Dillard:
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
Discernment requires space amid the multitude of triviality to think, reflect, and ponder.
Discernment implores us to deeper questions that cultivate the wisdom we need for a season well lived, a decade well lived, and a life well lived:
- How do my current contexts help prepare me for what’s next?
- How do my own wants and wishes align (or not) with the needs that I see around me?
- What do I need to let go of to truly understand my true self?
These will, perhaps not right away, present options which will require a choice. I don’t have the answers for such discerning work, but I believe you do. And I believe the Enneagram is a powerful tool that can expose our trivial choices to dig deeper to the level of discernment. It takes time. It takes energy. But seasons are for growth, after all.