Almost every morning I have my coffee out of a mug a friend gave me years ago. The colors have faded over time, but the text is still readable: Ubuntu - a person is a person because of other people. Even though nowadays the term might remind people of a certain operating system, it is initially a classical African philosophical concept. Archbishop Tutu writes about Ubuntu: “My humanity is attached to you, it is intertwined with your humanity. We all belong in the weave of life. We say, ‘a person is a person because of other people’.”
There was a strong sense of Ubuntu at the Enneagram Association in the Narrative Tradition conference in Cincinnati, which I got to participate in. The few days spent amidst the narrative community really underlined the things that make this community and this work so profoundly important.
In Finland when we receive feedback for our enneagram trainings, the made-up word guru-lessness often comes up. Within the narrative enneagram, everyone is equal. Equally human in a vulnerable way, equally a work in progress. This was demonstrated in a very beautiful way as all of our teachers got up on stage in a panel sharing their personal thoughts and feelings around grounded presence. In another panel, again from the same place of equality, we heard about the experiences of two former criminals and a family whose son had recently re-entered society after ten years of incarceration. All of these people had reached a new kind of understanding of their motives and experiences from the enneagram. Susan Olesek’s outstanding Enneagram Prison Project is an example of a very impactful application of the enneagram.
When I graduated high school, I was interviewed on my plans for the future. I said I wanted to study anthropology, because I was fascinated by what makes people different, and what makes them similar. In almost twenty years this fascination has not dwindled. In the enneagram, difference and sameness come together in a beautiful way. First discovering the enneagram brings about the everyday heurekas of “Wow, that’s a different way of seeing things!” “Is that how you really perceive the world?” But on a deeper level, inner work leads us to the realization that we are more than our personalities, “we all belong in the weave of life”. In narrative panel work, both sides are present, as we got to witness throughout the conference.
I, too, had the chance of getting up on stage and joining a panel facilitated by Terry Saracino and Leslie Hershberger. Sitting there, I had a powerful feeling of this kind of a both-and experience that comes with the enneagram. There I was, alone on the other side of the world, almost the only foreigner, away from my family, distinctly separate. And at the same time, at least as powerful was the experience of being totally held by the community, of being a part of everyone. This experience still moves me. Saying good bye on the last day to all my dear narrative teachers and colleagues, all I could say was, “I am so proud to be part of this.” “So am I”, said Helen Palmer.