Carrying Stillness :: On the Enneagram and Programs for Happiness

Brightness placed just so.

Bright spots in the rubble.

One afternoon while I was making lunch last week, I heard a podcast by Richard Rohr playing on Kirk’s computer. Rohr was talking about the Enneagram, and I heard him describe it as a means for each of us to understand our personally wired “program for happiness.” 

(Quick caveat: I’m not super familiar with the Enneagram, which, as a spiritual director, is something I know I ought to rectify. And so today, I finally ordered one of Rohr’s books on the subject. But if you want a quick and wonderful orientation to all things Enneagram, I encourage you to check out my friend Leigh Kramer’s recent post about it.)

Back to that day when I was making lunch and overheard Rohr’s mention of our propensity for certain “programs for happiness.” To paraphrase, he said we all have them. He said we try valiantly to make them work. He said this is part of being human. 

But he also said we aren’t meant to cling to them. To be attached to them. To make them the most important thing. 

I think this is what’s happened with my love for the still life I used to have.

Over a period of about 4-5 years, I discerned that spaciousness and stillness were components of a life posture that best fits my wiring. I also discerned it was — at least at that certain point in time — how God wanted me to orient my life and offer his gifts and life to the world. 

But I think that eventually became like bedrock to me. Like gospel. Somewhere along the line, without my realizing it happened, I may have become too rigidly tied to that sense of my life and what it was going to look like.

I felt enormously grateful for it. I felt at peace and at rest. It felt like I’d found my “zone,” and now all that needed doing was for me to keep living it, whatever that might mean.

But for him to turn me in a different direction, like he’s doing now? For him to say the time for stillness and space has ended for now, and perhaps forever? That was not okay.

Which is what indicates the “still and spacious” life may have become my prized program for happiness. 

So I’ve been paying attention to that. And it’s really been working me over. I didn’t realize it had become an idol, but I think — perhaps — it had.