If you are unfamiliar with the Enneagram, you might want to start here with the Introduction to this Series.
The High Priestess and the Gift of Loving-kindness
Hi! Welcome to the second video in this series “The Enneagram and the Major Arcana.” Today we are looking at the second gift listed in the Enneagram, the gift of Loving-kindness. As I’ve said before, in my understanding of the Enneagram there are nine pure gifts, into which we are all born. If we could stay our truest selves, those gifts would pour from us naturally.
But early in our lives we start to doubt ourselves. We begin to think that we have to work at offering our gifts to the world. So instead of allowing the gifts to flow freely, we try to make them happen. In the course of “making it happen” we create a distorted pattern, which actually gets in the way of the gift flowing in the world.
The Distortion of Loving-kindness
When the gift of Loving-kindness is distorted, a person tries to appear as though they’re loving and kind, because they’re afraid they actually aren’t. So they try to accomplish this by over-focusing on the needs of others. They will just pour themselves out in service to others. They’ll anticipate needs, interject themselves when someone is in pain, and just live their lives to take care of other people.
There are a couple of problems that come with this distortion. First when we insert ourselves into other people’s lives as their caretaker we are actually robbing them of their own autonomy. You probably see this in family systems where there’s one person who’s serving everybody else. and everyone else can’t seem to function at all. They don’t even know where their socks are. They can’t make a grilled cheese sandwich. They can’t do anything because they’re so dependent on this one person.
Feeling Unloved and Unserved?
Another problem is when a person is over-focused on the needs of others they obviously are not giving much attention to their own needs. They may not even know what those needs are. They may not even realize that they’re hungry or thirsty or tired, or that they need some time alone. They aren’t paying attention to what’s going on inside themselves.
Even if they do realize they have needs that are going unmet, they are unlikely to ask others to meet those needs for them. People with distorted Loving-kindness will have this silent contract in their heads, where they think, “l I’ll take care of that person and they will take care of me.” But of course they never say it out loud. And they’ve already created a dynamic in which the other person is not really functional and so is unable to offer any substantial support. That may feel resentful: “Here I am serving others, but nobody is serving me. I’m not being loved the way I should be. It’s not fair.”
Finally, even if someone help to a person in the distortion, they are very likely to rebuff it. That is because the sin attached to the distortion of Loving- kindness is the sin of pride. “I am the caretaker. I don’t need someone taking care of me! I got it under control.” So the distortion causes problems in our relationships to others, since it creates dependency; and it causes our needs to go unmet.
Repairing the Distortion: High Priestess to the Rescue!
We want to fix this distortion, to make this gift functional again. So we turn to the second card in the Major Arcana, the High Priestess. As we look at the card we see the High Priestess – calm, contained, relaxed. Already this is different from the distortion, which is driven by an almost frantic need to help others. She sits on her throne. Behind her is a veil, a curtain, which indicates us that something mysterious is happening beyond our eyes.
This is important: the work of Loving-kindness is not visible work. which addresses one part of the distortion. When people are in the distortion of Loving-kindness they want people to see them be loving and kind, to reassure them that they are loving and kind. But the true work of Loving-kindness happens behind the veil of mystery. It’s like a an underground stream running through a forest – nurturing all the trees, present but unseen.
Also the High Priestess is sitting in and tending to her own space, which is the key to true Loving-kindness. First we create a hospitable space for ourselves to feel complete and nurtured. Then, once that’s accomplished, the silent river of our Love spreads out to other people. So the High Priestess redirects our attention from focusing on others to focusing on ourselves.
The High Priestess: Second Step in the Hero’s Journey
Not only are we looking at the Major Arcana in connection to the Enneagram, but also applying it to the human journey for each of us. Last week we talked about how the Magician is the conception card, where the new thing begins. If that is true, then the High Priestess card is the “womb” card. It’s where that new thing is protected and nurtured until it is strong enough to see the light of day. This is a really important step when we are trying to manifest new things, and one that we might forget about. Since this step isn’t visible or public, we might overlook it. But we do so at our peril. The High Priestess reminds us that what we’ve conceived is fragile and delicate. It will never come to fruition if we don’t take proper care of it.
It’s important for us to acknowledge that whatever we are creating is only as powerful and as healthy as we are, similar to a woman who is with child. She doesn’t say, “It doesn’t really matter what I eat or what I do. The baby’s not about me.” The pregnant woman realizes that if she is strong, if she makes healthy good choices, her baby gets stronger.
Manifesting Our Vision in the World: The Forgotten Step
It is the same for those of us who are trying to do new things in the world. Ideas or visions might be conceived because we dream them, but they survive because we work at being healthy. We have to decide what it is that nurtures us, supports us, and what are the things that take away our life. Those may be behaviors or habits that hurt us, or relationships which exhaust or anger us. Anything that distracts us from our joy, our peace, our comfort, we get rid of. Just as a pregnant woman gets rid of caffeine and cigarette smoke!
This is the point in the manifesting process at which you decide if what you dream is really important to you. It’s a time we can turn our attention inward, and really commit ourselves to our own well-being, recognizing that in doing so we create a new River of Life for the world around us.