All wisdom traditions acknowledge that we experience the world in three ways, through our head, our heart and our body. Science is catching up on what has been known for thousands of years. It’s now known that we have complex neural networks in the heart and our gut, and that more signals go from these areas to the brain than the other way around as previously assumed. In the Western world we tend to value the wisdom of the head over that of the heart or gut, and our educational systems reflect this bias. The heart and body have an equally valid intelligence however, and it’s possible to use all three centres in a more balanced way in order to experience and respond to life more fully.
The Enneagram system teaches that each type has a dominant centre of intelligence through which we experience the world. We each have a head, heart and gut so all three centres are available to us but we tend to lean more on one centre and underuse the others. In this way we turn away from some of the wonderful resources available within each one of us.
We all use our head centre for thinking, analysing, planning and much more but Enneagram types 5, 6 and 7 filter the world predominantly through their head centre. They have good imaginations and value facts and ideas. These types are concerned in different ways with safety and security. Fear is the core emotion associated with the head centre though each of these types experiences fear differently.
We all use our heart centre to experience emotions; it’s about what we feel rather than what we think. Enneagram types 2,3 and 4 filter the world predominantly through their Heart Centre. They focus on relationships and particularly how others see and relate to them. Sadness is the core emotion associated with the Heart centre though each of these types experiences sadness differently.
We all use our body, gut or instinctual centre to experience the world through sensations, for example when we have a gut reaction to a person or situation. Enneagram types 8,9 and 1 filter the world predominantly through their body centre. They make decisions from a sense of body knowing and tend to act instinctively. Anger is the core emotion associated with the body centre though each of these types experiences anger differently.
We don’t need to know anything about Enneagram types in order to become more aware of our centres of intelligence. In fact discovering your dominant centre is often a first step to finding your type.
Even though we tend to be more comfortable in our dominant centre, we often use it in an unhelpful way. Type Four for example may get lost in negative emotions while Type Five may over-analyse. Ideally we want to be able to access more the resources of our less used centres of intelligence and use all three centres in an integrated way. We don’t want to rely solely on our head for example when making a decision but use the wisdom of our heart and gut instinct as well.
It’s a valuable practice for us to connect with our three centres. Begin by paying attention. Take a few moments to be still. First notice what’s going on in your body. Ask yourself, what sensations do I notice and where in my body are they? How relaxed, tensed, energetic, tired does my body seem? What are these sensations telling me? Then take a few moments to notice your heart centre. Ask yourself, what’s going on in my heart? What sort of feelings are coming up? What are these feelings telling me? And finally notice your head centre. Ask yourself, what’s going on in my head? Where’s my attention? What thoughts, memories, ideas or imaginings are popping up?
At first it may seem like visiting unfamiliar territory when you try to connect with your less dominant centres. It might seem as though a part of you is closed off. But the more we bring our attention to our three centres and especially the ones we use less, gently asking “what’s going on in this centre?” the more we open ourselves to all of who we are.
When we access our three centres of intelligence in a more balanced way we benefit from a quiet open mind, a compassionate loving heart and a grounded aware body. What more do we need?