Question: I saw from your web site that you explore relationships between Buddhism and the Enneagram. I offered to present a talk about Buddhism at my church group and would love to use the Enneagram as a framework. Do you have anything I could read to prepare for my talk?
Yes, I once gave a sermon on the Enneagram styles as spiritual paths, at a Unitarian Universalist church. For the first reading in the order of service I chose Charlotte Joko Beck's Nothing Special: Living Zen, "The Cocoon of Pain" (pp. 10-11):
"We have many ways to cope with life, many ways to worship comfort and pleasantness. All are based on the same thing: the fear of encountering any kind of unpleasantness.
"If we must have absolute order and control, it's because we're trying to avoid any unpleasantness. If we can have things our way, and get angry if they're not, then we think we can survive and shut out our anxiety about death.
"If we can please everyone, then we imagine no unpleasantness will enter our life.
"We hope that if we can be the star of the show, shining and wonderful and efficient, we can have such an admiring audience that we won't have to feel anything.
"If we can withdraw from the world and just entertain ourselves with our own dreams and fantasies and emotional upheavals, we think we can escape unpleasantness.
"If we can figure everything out, if we can be so smart that we can fit everything into some sort of a plan or order, a complete intellectual understanding, then perhaps we won't be threatened.
"If we can submit to an authority, have it tell us what to do, then we can give someone else the responsibility for our lives and we don't have to carry it anymore.
"We don't have to feel the anxiety of making a decision. If we pursue life madly, going after any pleasant sensation, any excitement, any entertainment, perhaps we won't have to feel any pain.
"If we can tell others what to do, keep them well under control, under our foot, maybe they can't hurt us.
"If we can 'bliss out,' if we can be a mindless 'Buddha' just relaxing in the sun, we don't have to assume any responsibility for the world's unpleasantness. We can just be happy.
"All these are versions of the god we actually worship. It is the god of no discomfort and no unpleasantness. Without exception, every being on earth pursues it to some degree. As we pursue it, we lose touch with what really is. As we lose touch, our life spirals downward. And the very unpleasantness that we sought to avoid can overwhelm us.
"This has been the problem of human life since the beginning of time. All philosophies and all religions are varying attempts to deal with this basic fear. Only when such attempts fail us are we ready to begin serious practice. And they do fail. Because the systems we adopt are not based upon reality; they can't work, despite all of our feverish efforts. Sooner or later, we come to realize that something is amiss."
The responsive reading was from Richard Rohr's Everything Belongs:
"We are usually trapped in what we call normalcy, 'the way things are.' We wait for who we are. We wait for the truth. We wait for the vision of the whole.
"We have to allow ourselves to be drawn into sacred space. We have to move out of 'business as usual' and remain on the threshold where the old world is left behind, but we're not sure of the new one yet. In sacred space the old world is able to fall apart, and the new world is able to be revealed. In this new realm, everything belongs.
"This awareness is often called a second naiveté. It is a return to simple consciousness. The first awareness doesn't know but thinks it does. In second naiveté the darkness and light coexist, paradox is revealed, and we are finally at home in the only world that ever existed. How do we do it? We stand in the middle, living and fully accepting our reality, neither taking this new awareness on from the power position nor denying it for fear of the pain it will bring.
"We do not think ourselves into new ways of living. We live ourselves into new ways of thinking."
I'd left one-page Enneagram diagrams on all the seats and invited members of the congregation to be present in three ways as I reviewed the nine spiritual paths: (a) listen to understand, (b) open your heart, and (c) feel deep in your bones which worldview has driven your behavior and kept your focus narrow.
Note: My booklet, Buddhism & the Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Satori provides insights into the nine spiritual paths and their parallels with Buddhist paramitas or perfections.