Deep Diving

I am a type 4 on the Enneagram. For those not familiar with this, the Enneagram is a means of categorising and better understanding our personality traits. I have found it a good way to, I hope, become more self aware and put effort in to balance out the worst excesses of my weaknesses and vulnerabilities. A type 4 is one of the feeling types, so I will tend to react out of my emotions and our dominant core emotion is, interestingly, shame. 

I find being a type 4 very difficult as the world is disparaging and unsympathetic to those of us who primarily respond out of emotion. I think this is because most people, especially – although not exclusively – men, are actually in denial about their feelings. They believe they act rationally. But, it is impossible to do anything without emotions being involved in addition to thought processes. Yet, as I am honest and brave enough to acknowledge and own my feelings, as well as think deeply and act reasonably, what I articulate is diminished or dismissed entirely and I become a receptacle for other people’s emotions that they are not willing to observe and acknowledge in themselves.

A manifestation of this is projection. For example, someone familiar with my work liked to say I was a one trick pony. Actually, I have lots of ideas and am working on many different projects at the same time. He is the one trick pony, but he couldn’t own this for himself. Instead, in his envy, he tried to convince himself and others that I was the reflection of what he couldn’t face about himself. I have learnt through bitter and painful experience to no longer just take on these personal criticisms. More often than not they are not about me at all and reveal more about the person expressing the derogatory remark. And yes I have to admit, in the past, I have also been guilty of doing the criticising in order to deflect and protect my own fragile sense of self.

The things I like about being a type 4 is that we are creative, enjoy pleasing aesthetics and can be incredibly original as we gain insights from situations few will allow themselves to experience. One of the reasons for this is we go to the depths. About 11 years ago, when I was going through a similar re-evaluation of my personhood and discernment into what is my unique gift to the world, I felt the Spirit tell me I was like a pearl. I was then thrilled to be reading Richard Rohr’s book on the Enneagram where he likens a type 4 to being a pearl. That’s because we are often the irritant that, if allowed creates the beauty and value. Due to shame, I am also prone to hiding!

Yet, often these unique insights and original ideas come out of intense suffering and soul searching. I don’t know why it has to be this way, but that is what I experience time and again. Yesterday I spent the whole day wrestling with the most unbearable and intense feelings of despair and hopelessness. I slept on and off through the night. I kept reaching out to God and imploring the divine for help and relief. Then having watched the dawn, I had a profound thought which seemed to make sense of my anguish. I was then able to sleep and enjoy some peace.

I do wonder if the revelation is worth it. However, I am reminded of the parable of the pearl of great price. If this is the treasure, the thing of real worth and value, then everything else should be sacrificed to own it. However, there is also a scripture about casting pearls before swine. And, my deep diving to secure the treasure of the kingdom has by some been ignored, suppressed and even actively despised. So, maybe, if we maintain a honest and humble assessment of ourselves, we will be able to move beyond envy and projection. Forgiveness is always available when we admit our failings and seek to make amends. This, in turn, leads to greater maturity and models a mission spirituality that has the power to change us into the perfected version of ourselves that was always the intention of our Creator.

A Holistic Gospel in Three Dimensions

When I submitted my paper on shame to an academic journal for consideration, I was subject to a peer review. One of those who gave feedback suggested I read and refer to a book called ‘The 3D Gospel’ by Jayson Georges. What he argues in this short publication, which is actually little more than a pamphlet, is that there are three main cultures in the world. In the West we understand justice through a sin/guilt lens. The Eastern worldview revolves around a honour/shame interpretation of punishment and redemption, and the global South makes sense of the world with reference to the battle between good and evil spiritual forces. He goes on to suggest that in the accounts of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus we see an answer for each of these perspectives and taken together they represent the fullness of the Gospel to heal, save and eternally liberate.

For years I have wrestled to understand what might have caused the decline in church attendance and the collapse of influence of the Christian worldview on our contemporary Western culture. Obviously, one element for me has been the observation of a shift away from the sin/guilt lens Georges says is traditionally at the core of Western philosophical thought and the exploration of the impact of shame which has long been associated with Eastern cultural assumptions and means of regulating behaviour. However, yesterday I watched the film ‘Eat, pray, love’ and wondered if there’s another 3D perspective that has been lurking at the back of my mind and finally came into the light as I saw the dawn this morning.

Although it attempts to do justice to the memoir by American Elizabeth Gilbert, the film remains too Hollywood and overly simplifies the learning of her spiritual awakening post divorce and as a consequence of experiencing life in Italy, India and Bali. Yet, it reminded me of a Ruach card reading I had as part of a training session I was leading last month. One of the cards I picked was turquoise and on that particular card there is an image of three windows. The trainee giving the reading suggested that the number three might be significant and so I’ve been praying about what God might be revealing to me. Firstly my mind went to the Trinity. The Divine as Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. Then my immediate family, my husband and two sons. I am also working on three new projects – the Green Shoots Network, Spiritual Places Pilgrimages and my own teaching and mentoring practice, Gestate.

But in the middle of the night, my mind went to a conversation I’d recently had about the importance of embodied spirituality. A couple of weeks ago the principal of a theological college told me how saddened he was that the majority of his students seemed to have a very mechanistic view of the body and I mentioned how one of the members of our community, Sacred Space Kingston has launched ‘Embodied Perspectives’ to help engage the physical in prayer, as well as our minds and our spirits. I, therefore, wondered if in the West we are overly preoccupied with the mind. I even catch myself viewing my body as little more than a vehicle to carry around my vast brain!

This is not healthy or, I believe, godly. If we take the concept of the Trinity seriously, God became flesh. The Divine Creator dignified and sanctified the physicalness of our humanity by becoming embodied. Not only that, but a huge proportion of His earthly ministry was concerned with healing bodies that were diseased and damaged. Illness not only causes pain and incapacity, but has a devastating impact on self worth, being an acceptable part of community and robs the capacity to earn a living. Perhaps the interest in Yoga is an acknowledgement of wisdom in the East that recognises spirituality needs to have a physical dimension. And maybe from the global South we need to learn that not everything can be explained by science and reason. Our struggles are rooted in the spiritual every bit as much as psychology and physiognomy.

So then, as we are each body, mind and spirit and God is Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer, we reclaim a 3D gospel. The West might prioritise the mind, but we also need the embodied practice of the East and spiritual sensitivity of the South. A rediscovered holistic Gospel to recalibrate our thinking, ground us in reality and ultimately restore our souls.