Find wholeness and balance with the Enneagram

Download Audio

Suzanne Stabile is a longtime United Methodist, wife of a United Methodist pastor, best-selling author and known internationally as the Enneagram Master. On today’s episode of “Get Your Spirit in Shape,” Suzanne shares how she uses the Enneagram to feel closer to God, teaches us how Enneagram wisdom can be a tool to achieve balance and wholeness in our lives and how she believes John Wesley’s Enneagram number influenced his founding of Methodism.

Popular related items on UMC.org

Join the conversation

  • Email our host Crystal Caviness or our producer Joe Iovino about this episode, ideas for future topics, or any other thoughts you would like to share.

Help us spread the word

  • Tell others: members of your church, coworkers, and anyone else might benefit from these conversations.
  • Share us on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites.
  • Review us on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you download the episode. Great reviews help others find us.

More Get Your Spirit in Shape episodes

Thank you for listening, downloading, and subscribing.

This episode posted on June 10, 2022.

Transcript

Prologue

Crystal Caviness, host: Suzanne Stabile is a longtime United Methodist, wife of a United Methodist pastor, best-selling author and known internationally as the Enneagram master. On today’s episode of Get Your Spirit in Shape Suzanne shares how she uses the enneagram to feel closer to God. She teaches us how Enneagram wisdom can be a tool to teach balance and wholeness in our lives and how she believes that John Wesley’s Enneagram number influenced his founding of Methodism.

Crystal: Suzanne, welcome to Get Your Spirit in Shape.

Suzanne: Thank you. I got up this morning and thought, is my spirit in shape? Like, I need to be sure I’m ready.

Crystal: Well, I’m sure it is. And we’re going to talk about that, too. In fact, there is no way we’re going to cover all the questions that I have. I just have page after page of questions. But we’re going to try to get to a lot of them. And before we talk about your new book which is titled “The Journey toward Wholeness: Enneagram Wisdom for Stress, Balance and Transformation,” can you tell us just a little bit about yourself, please?

Suzanne: Sure. I am 71. I’ve been teaching the Enneagram for about 30 years—teaching and learning. I learned from Richard Rohr a long time ago. We have 4 children. We sent ‘em all away to school. They all came back and they all live here with their spouses. We have 9 grandchildren. My husband Joe is a United Methodist pastor, but he was a Roman Catholic priest until he was 40. And so…. He’s 74. So we’ve been in the United Methodist Church for 34 years. He is currently on staff at First United Methodist Downtown Dallas as a retired clergy person. He…as you know in the Methodist Church they have to retire at 72. And he just didn’t want to, and had an opportunity to continue to be on staff. So he still gets to do all the things he loves. And we do Life in the Trinity ministry together. We founded it in the Catholic Church actually, 37 years ago. And when Joe left the priesthood brought…he brought it with him or with us. And we do a lot of work out of that, which is our own nonprofit.

Crystal: And you are an author and you are a podcast host. When I was looking at your bio the one thing I just love, it says that you are an Enneagram master. That just sounds like a super hero title to me. I love that. So we’re going to talk about the Enneagram. We’re going to talk about your new book. And I’m sure we have listeners who might be familiar with the word, those who are extremely familiar Enneagram and then those who maybe for the first time are hearing this word. You’re probably asked this question a lot. But can you just give us a really…like maybe the elevator pitch for what is Enneagram?

Suzanne: Sure. I’ve been trying to have an elevator speech for a long time. And it’s very difficult. Enneagram doesn’t lend itself to that. So let me must give you some highlights that would of course be followed with lots more information if we had time. When I first heard about the Enneagram, Richard Rohr was our mentor, Joe’s and mine, and our spiritual director. And I found out how much I appreciated it almost immediately. And he suggested that I study for 5 years before I talked about it. And so I did that. And I think that has made the difference in how I see and apply and understand the Enneagram because I didn’t ever take a shortcut along the way because I had accountability to do it differently than that. So the Enneagram is, I believe, 3000 plus years old. And it has roots in all faith beliefs all over the globe. And it is essentially 9 ways of seeing. But, you know there’s deep Enneagram wisdom and there’s trendy Enneagram. And the Enneagram is very trendy right now and I’m glad it is. That’s a good thing. Everything has 2 sides. And one of the temptations is to think that you can talk to other people. And you can’t because your Enneagram number is determined by your motivation for behavior and not for behavior. And all this talk around taking a little quiz and then knowing your Enneagram number and your wings and your subtype, that’s not…that’s just not accurate. And I hope it leads people to what is accurate because in my experience the Enneagram, if used properly, has the potential to be life changing or transformative, I would say. I get a lot of email and a lot of people in conferences or places where I’m speaking and they tell me that knowing the Enneagram literally changed their life in one way or another with their children, with their spouse, with their parents, with their job, with how they decided to leave that and do something else. It is really a very powerful wisdom offering. However, it’s just one. I just think it’s really important. People have been asking me on interviews for publication for a long time, what’s dangerous about the Enneagram. And I only have one thing to say it’s dangerous, and that is that you take to be more than it is. And it’s pretty great, but it’s one singular thing. 

Crystal: When I was first discovering that I… I’m still discovering that I’m a 2, wing 3, it seems, a close friend sent me a description and I read it and I cried. And I cried because I was reading things about myself that I hadn’t even realized maybe were truths about my motivations. And it felt vulnerable but it also felt really important that I was, you know, recognizing this for the first time which has started this exploration into my motives and my weaknesses. And the more I explore the more I have to learn. I also realize… Suzanne, how does this kind of self-awareness…how does that impact my ability to love God, to love other people, to love myself?

Suzanne: Let’s start with God first. When Joe, my husband Joe, joined the Vincentian community he was 14. He went away to high school seminary and he’s 74. He’s had a spiritual director for 60 years. And he is a spiritual director. And the reality of that relationship is to bring your real self and have somebody represent your belovedness from God and then to know who you are in relationship to God. And if you show up in relationship with God in whatever ways you do that, with your personality (which is your enneagram number) instead of your essence which is who you are underneath all of this behavior and all of the reasons for that behavior, then you’ve reached the place where you can actually embrace, see, be aware of opportunities to do life in a more holistic and better way. In relationship to ourselves it’s very difficult…. And you were just talking about it. It’s very difficult to address what you can’t name. People go through life saying, you know, I wish this was a little different, or I wish this was different. But they don’t know what to do with that. And I think one of the reasons people sometimes cry and sometimes walk away from the enneagram and sometimes get excited when they hear their number is because it rings true, but those are things you haven’t yet been able to put words to for yourself. And I also believe you can’t change what it can’t name. So if you can have a greater awareness about who you are, about how you are in relationship with other people, about who you are in relationship with God, then the path before you is one that is less fraught with options that maybe are not choosing your best option and that are filled with misunderstanding of other people. My daughter is an 8 on the enneagram. She’s 44—my oldest daughter. And she’s known the enneagram since she was 18. And she called me one day, I don’t know, maybe early 30s, mid-30s…and called me one morning early and she said, Mom, I’m pretty sure the Golden Rule doesn’t apply to 8s, to which I said, Well, that’s a fascinating statement; it’s something an 8 would say. So, how is it that it doesn’t apply to you? And she said, I treat people exactly like I want to be treated and it doesn’t go well. And so I think what we have to come away with is there 9 ways, with all the variations of those 9 ways, of how people want to be treated. And if you can begin to know enough about other people to treat them the way they want to be treated instead of the way you want to be treated and to recognize that standing from exactly the same point you have different points of view, then that automatically eliminates some of the problems, not all, that accompany relationships.

Crystal: Suzanne, I read or heard that the 9 enneatypes each represent a characteristic of God. I tried to research it a little deeper to kind of, you know, but I couldn’t really find a lot about that. But I think the gist of it was that, you know, with each of us made in God’s image that at our best we’re reflecting that part of God to the world. Have you heard that or has all that played into the enneagram enneatypes?

Suzanne: Well, the language I use is that the enneagram represents the face of God. So that’s a much more inclusive reality. Joe and I are doing a good bit of work with pastors right now because the church is in…some days I think the church is in such danger. Some days I think the church is in the middle of such loss or other days it’s such potential and such hope. But one of the things I’m very mindful of is in those churches where people are making decisions for other people (which we do a lot in the United Methodist Church), unless all 9 ways of seeing are represented at the table then there exists a group of people who are not represented in the conversation. And I do believe that the enneagram is the face of God if you look at the whole thing and take the whole thing together. If you look at the Gospels, if you know a good bit about the enneagram and you read Luke, then you will pick out messages that are just for you. So since you’re a 2 and I’m a 2, I’ll give you an example. This isn’t the most loving thing I could do for you. I’m sorry, but it helps us teach. But, you know, one of the things that we might think about, one of the gospel stories is: go out and round up all the people and bring ‘em to the table. And be sure that you choose people who can’t pay you back. I would love it, as 2s, if we could say, Oh, we don’t want people to pay us back. But the reality is that most of the time we expect to get something in return. It’s not dinner; it’s appreciation, which isn’t what we’re looking for either. We’re looking for love; we settle for appreciation. But we want there to be some awareness of the thing that we did to be in relationship with the people that we bring in for the meal, right? Another example is Martha. You know, she’s…. Martha and Mary and Lazarus are together. Lazarus’ sisters. And Jesus is coming to dinner. And Mary is having a conversation with Jesus in the family room…. I hope the theologians will be…you know, just take a deep breath. I’m not a theologian. And they’re talking which Martha really wants to be part of, but she’s also cooking dinner and in the kitchen and preparing to serve. Right? And that’s often where we find ourselves. We’re often trying to prepare to serve someone when we want relationship instead. So that’s a way I think we know that. And whatever your enneagram number is it’s in there. Joe is a lectionary preacher and, of course, the churches we’ve served have primarily been enneagram wise because of my work. And they know when they walk out of worship on a Sunday if that gospel story was really just for their enneagram number.

Crystal: Well, you’re right. I… Now that as I’ve been studying enneagram I’m so aware of my motivations and often embarrassed…

Suzanne: …which is okay as long as it’s not shame.

Crystal: So let’s talk about the book. This is your third book about enneagram. And the title is: The Journey to Wholeness, which feels like a really tall order to find this place where we learn to balance our stress in a way for transformation. In the book you write that the book started out at a time that you felt was tumultuous. There were lots of changes in the world, a lot of anger in the world, a lot of anxiety. And it was interesting that all of this was pre-pandemic. So how has the pandemic changed the book or changed your teaching of the book, because I’m sure that just the pandemic….

Suzanne: That it’s really all about. Yeah. Talk about liminality has been around maybe for 3 years, kind of, or 4. I’ve lost track of time because of the pandemic. But prior to that people weren’t talking about liminality or writing about it. And I began to feel like (before the pandemic) that there was anger and anxiety falling on all of us, unbidden. It was just everywhere. And I started to question why that was true. And I began to think about all of the ways that I believed that we were in liminal space. And for listeners who don’t know about liminality it is essential when you’re betwixt and between. It’s when you’re on the threshold. It’s when you’re not where you were and not where you’re going. In our denomination, as United Methodists, a good example of liminal space is when you know you’re gonna be moved, but you haven’t moved yet. And for churches it’s you know your pastor’s leaving, but you don’t know who’s coming yet. Undocumented workers are in liminal space. Pregnant women are in liminal space. Kids who have graduated from high school but haven’t left for college are in liminal space. It’s everywhere. And so when I was looking at that I thought, you know, I think the enneagram has a lot to say about that. So I wonder if it would be important in my teaching for me to address liminality before I began to talk about some very specific things for each number that I think might be helpful on the journey toward transformation, since that’s not a destination; it’s just always true. And so I actually sold the idea for the book to Intervarsity Press before the pandemic. And then when the pandemic started I thought, Oh man, I missed it. And then I realized, No, I actually now can speak to a space that everyone has experienced in one way or another. I did part of the writing during the pandemic. But it didn’t really change what I had planned to write and to say.

Crystal: You know, I wasn’t familiar with that term ‘liminal space’ until I read your book. And honestly I thought it probably was coined because of the pandemic. But, you know, as you’re saying there have been times in all of our lives where we find ourselves in the ‘between.’ Yeah, so…Well, and to…the way to successfully survive those liminal times, you write, is to find the balance and learn to manage the stress and the relationships and the unknowns. How do we begin that process?

Suzanne: Well, first of all let me say that when I started writing about liminality I knew that Father Richard Rohr had talked to Joe and me about that. So I started looking back through my journals. And he started telling us about liminal space 19 years ago. And he said then, and still says, liminal space is the most teachable space. And then he went on to say, in fact it may be the only teachable space. And if you look in Scripture you will find that God is always trying to push us into liminality. So I think we want to know that this discomfort has lots of potential. The enneagram actually holds space for lots of groupings of three. There are 3 triads that are based on 3 centers of intelligence, which are based on the work of Maurice Nicol, which was introduced kind of along with some modern enneagram work in the 1940s. And essentially a man named Gurdjieff revived the enneagram and he was…had a school in Europe. Maurice Nicol came along. He was in England and he said, You know, we actually all respond to all stimulus first with either what do I think, what do I feel or what am I gonna do? And if you put that reality and the work of Maurice Nicol on the enneagram then what you have is: 2s, 3s and 4s respond first with what do I feel? 5s, 6s and 7s with what do I think? And the 8s, 9s and 1s with what am I gonna do? Let me go ahead and set the table and then I’ll come back. Stances also were talked about first during that time. And there was a woman who was doing a lot of really good work with psychology and understanding motivations and how we relate to people. And her name is Jan Orni (?). And she was German-American. And if you put Jan Orni’s work with Maurice Nicol’s work on top of the enneagram, and Jan Ori said, We all either move toward other people, away from other people or we stand against other people. Jan Ori’s work on top of Maurice Nicol’s, on top of the enneagram shows you that one number in each of the 3 triads moves toward other people, one moves away from people; and the other, in her language, stands against people. I’m no longer using that language of standing against other people. I mean, there’s a better way to say that and I believe that 3s, 7s and 8s, who are those 3 numbers in that stance, stand independently.  And it feels to us like they stand against us. So, if we go back to your question and we have the enneagram and then we have these 3 triads. And your triad is determined by your dominant center. If you can’t manage your dominant center you cannot achieve balance with all 3 centers. So I have to manage feeling in order to appropriately use thinking, feeling and doing for each, each for its intended purpose. If you can’t balance that, then doing stance work is very challenging and I believe stance work is the magic of the enneagram. If there’s magic anywhere I think that’s where it is. And essentially in stance work you don’t try to push down your dominant center which you’ve learned about in terms of triads; you try to bring up the center that you use the least well, which is referred to as your repressed center. So, my living in the world as a 2 is that I am feeling dominant, doing supports feeling meaning. I take in feelings from the world and my first response is what am I gonna do about that? But my problem is I don’t use thinking to make that decision because thinking is my least used or repressed center of intelligence. And so on this journey if you can’t be working on balancing the 3 centers, then your response to life will lack balance as well. And so the book walks one through understanding liminal space and then starting triads you’ve gotta do this work. Then with stances you have to do this work. And then you still have the problem of stress. And the old fairly traditional enneagram understanding is that you are connected by a line to the number that you go to in stress and the number that you go to in security. And my teaching about that is that you cannot take care of yourself without the number you go to in stress. And you can’t experience holistically on your own what we’re talking about is transformation without the number that you go to in security. And the reality is that in our enneagram number all the time we’re either healthy, average, unhealthy in accessing our number or sometimes pathological. That means that when you make a move, that is either intentional or intuitive, an intuitive move to your stress number everybody thought meant that you have to go to the unhealthy side of your stress number ‘cause that would be equal to being unhealthy in your number and the reason that you’re stressed. And the reality is that with some work (not a ton of work but with some work) you can learn when you feel stressed to access the behavior of the high side of the number you go to in stress. And that has the potential to make all the difference. And I worked in the book to teach people how to choose that and what it looks for their number and for their whole journey through enneagram wisdom between liminality and transformative opportunities.

Crystal: Suzanne, you might appreciate that for a long time I’ve had a post-it on my desk that says, “Crystal, stay in your lane,” because as a 2 that’s a struggle for me.

Suzanne: Sure. Sure.

Crystal: And so I do appreciate that the book was so clear in helping me understand where…what I might be doing, you know, instinctively and how to manage that and how to get better at it for that balanced place.

Suzanne: And you know, just for everybody (since we’re both 2s) I’m just gonna run through all 9 numbers, what it looks like if you’re not staying in your lane. Ones who aren’t staying in their lane are applying their sense of right and wrong and good and bad to other people and to their behavior and the way they do things. Twos who are not in their lane are helping people who don’t want their help and who don’t need their help and who didn’t ask for their help. And in order to do that they’re not doing the things that are theirs to do. Threes in order to stay in their lane have to avoid expecting other people to take shortcuts and they have to be very careful about keeping their goals short term and long term as their goals and not assuming that they can apply those goals to the groups that they belong to. Fours who don’t stay in their lane are often not what I would call right-sized for the room. And what that means is they are often operating on a deeper level emotionally and intellectually than other people are ready to operate on and then expecting that from other people they tend to not be in their own land. Fives, on the other hand, don’t inhabit their lane by not keeping up. They are fine to park in their lane. And when a 5 parks that means that they think about doing, but they’re not doing. And they think about engaging but they’re not engaging. And so 5s have to stay in their lane by doing what is theirs to do and making it possible for everybody else to move forward in the lanes that they’re in. Sixes struggle a lot with fear which is better named as anxiety for them. And when you as a 6 kind of sprinkle your anxiety on whatever everybody else is doing, then it holds you back and it tends to be a block for other people. Sevens go too fast in their lane to avoid maybe some of the other folks who are traveling along beside them. And they reframe things very quickly that need to be looked at that might be painful. Eights are natural born leaders and they always want to lead, and they really kind of like for people to line up behind them in the lane that they’re in while they lead us to get some things done. And nines in relationship to lanes have a tendency to stay in their lane but they don’t occupy the lane that is theirs in terms of responsibility and ???

Crystal: Thank you. I think that that’s gonna help our listeners really kind of think about themselves, and maybe see themselves in there. And if they learn more it’s really helpful information. But one of the lines that really stuck out to me in the book, Suzanne, it says, “It is always your option to connect with your soul in ways that enlarge rather than diminish the goodness of who you are. I read that and it felt so hopeful, it felt so empowering that it was an option for me to choose. And I really loved that hopefulness. Can you talk about this process of soul connection and how we use the enneagram to do that, to make that connection, to enlarge the goodness of who we are?

Suzanne: Sure. We have to start with the fact that I spend my life and my days teaching people who they’re not. So your enneagram personality is necessary and it’s how all of us made our way out of childhood kind of into life. Right? But it’s not who you are. Who you are is underneath all that. And the trick with getting back to essential…to who you essentially are in your soul is part of life’s journey toward transformation which is: You have to allow parts of your personality to fall away. The trick is we don’t do well with allowing, particularly those of us who live in the west. We believe we have to make things happen. We have to do things that make things happen. And what we’re called to do is get up every day (I believe) and find our place in what God’s already doing. And that is a place where your soul is called and safe. But you have to allow your personality to fall way in order to inhabit your own soul in that way. And so that’s why I think enneagram work is soul work, because it helps you recognize that what you needed personality-wise when you were 5 or 15 or 25 you don’t necessarily need at 40. And if you allow that to fall away there is a way that you inhabit your soul that you didn’t know you were invited to because it was covered up with personality. I grew up in the United Methodist Church. I was Catholic for 10 years which I’m very thankful for. It was a great experience. And then back in the Methodist Church. And I didn’t grow up knowing that my soul was work for me to do. I thought I could mess it up, but I didn’t think there was soul work that I could do that would enlarge my capacity for doing life well and comfortably and peacefully. And along with other spiritual practices, again, I can’t say that enough, I think the enneagram really helps us to do that. And I think that’s where the hope is. The hope is that underneath all of this we are who we were created to be, in the image of God and that we have the potential as we’ve been taught to do all that Jesus did and with the help of the Holy Spirit and more besides. And you can’t do that, I don’t think, from a place of personality. You have to be able to access your soul. And I just don’t think we talk about that very much. And I think it’s because we have the question you have which is, Okay, I’d like to see that, but how? I would like to just say, and people are gonna push back on this and I… Okay, like… Go ahead, but I’m right. If we want to do this work we have to have a contemplative practice. There has to be a way of listening and of emptying in order to make space for the kind of work that I’m talking about. And there are a lot of spiritual practices, spiritual disciplines, that people can add to enneagram work. But the one understanding practice that Joe and I stand firm on is: you’ve got to have a contemplative practice.

Crystal: Suzanne, I love that in your book you identify hurrying. You type what spiritual practice might be most…maybe that type is most in tune with that spiritual practice. I really appreciated that because there are a lot of practices out there, and it might be hard to know, well what’s gonna wo…. What am I going to connect with? So I appreciated that you…I didn’t have to try out a lot of things. You said, Here are 3 that you can try these. Just try these.

Suzanne: And you know, based on talking about triads and stances it’s great to choose one based on the fact you are feeling dominant. But you also need to include one that is based on the fact that you are thinking repressed. That helps you bring up thinking because that’s part of achieving the balance that we’re looking for. Right? And I think we’re inclined toward one that really suits our personality, which is great. But that’s like the appetizer. And then you need something that stretches you, too.

Crystal: Sure.

Suzanne: Something that is going to help you grow.

Crystal:  So how would you say that the enneagram and enneagram wisdom has impacted your personal relationship with God?

Suzanne: Different ways at different times, I would say. I have always believed that God is all-benevolent and all-loving. I work with a lot of people who grew up or who have as adults experienced the opposite of that, and who come from a frame of reference that they’re in trouble and that there is work they have to do or they’re gonna be forever in trouble. And I think what the enneagram reveals (it has for me) is that I am God’s beloved as I am. And I can be more and more aware that I’m God’s beloved, the less personality I have. And so because I’ve been doing this work for a very long time and I’ve had a spiritual director for a long time and I live with Joe Stabile who I think is the best human on the planet, then I have boundaries in the form of people who keep me from believing that I’m not worthy, that I’m not wanted or that because of A B C I’m not in the realm of God’s beloved. And I think when you get to name the things that you do that are disappointing for you and then you recognize that they’re part of how you see the world and that you’re put together that way, then somehow you know there’s value there. You just have to find it. So I guess I would say this: I live in the belief that everybody is gonna be invited to the table for all eternity, and that I have this opportunity to talk about the fact that because we’re all at the same table it doesn’t mean that we all see the same way. And in understanding that we might be able to make room for more and more growth and more and more peace and less fear, I think.

Crystal: I love that. I have 2 questions, one’s very Methodist. I loved when I was reading the book that you bring up John Wesley. And in the book you speculate that John Wesley may have been in the gut’s triad or an 8, 9 or 1. Can you talk about how you believe he may have found wholeness or how his ministry was impacted by his enneagram number?

Suzanne: Sure. I actually kind of gave myself a little breathing room there for people who read the book. I actually think he was a 1 on the enneagram. And that’s a great question because it’s a great way for us to look at how the enneagram finds you where you are and helps you build on that so that you can offer something for the greater good. And with Wesley’s understanding, based on how he lived his life, was that a 1 would say there’s got to be a method to all of this. We need a plan. And there has got to be one. But people won’t stick with the method unless we put them in groups so that somebody’s checking on or at least privileged to whether or not you’re honoring your commitment to the method. And he didn’t use enneagram language everywhere but the method, the Sunday school, the way that we methodically work through what is ours to do demands and insists on allowing personality to fall away, but it’s kind of the thing that’s happening in the background because you’re focused on any of these practices that are Wesleyan. I taught Sunday school for 35 years. I’m not gonna do that anymore. I teach from time to time, but I think I’ve done what was mine to do. But I’ve always looked around the Sunday school class from time to time and thought, What would you do if I called you this week, as Wesley instructed, and asked you, How’s your soul? And I actually, when I knew that most of the people in the room had done some enneagram work with me over time I started asking in Sunday school. So I don’t need your answer publicly but just for your own edification, how’s your soul today? And I think Wesley was contributing for the common good a path that helps us grow our souls. And I think as a 1 he did that with lots of dualistic choices because that’s how 1s see. There’s a right way and a wrong way, a good way and a bad way. And here’s the path we should be on. I’m working with district superintendents from the jurisdiction that I’m in, and I have been for 5 years, I guess, teaching the enneagram. And we’re beginning to really get some place by my estimation in that group. And one of the reasons is because not only do our pastors have an enneagram number, but so do our churches. And I didn’t talk about this in relationships to stances, but stances each represent an orientation to time. So 3s, 7s and 8s’ orientation to time is the future. 1s, 2s and 6s’ orientation to time is the present moment. And 4s, 5s and 9s’ orientation to times past. And what is being looked at by these district superintendents and evaluated and worked with is we can’t appoint a pastor whose orientation to time is the future to a church whose orientation to time is the past without a bridge in between in some role that is significant or an interim pastor that is oriented to the present moment to bring people who are oriented to the past to the present before we offer somebody who’s vision is for the future. And in our appointive system the enneagram has unending potential for how to work with problems that occur because we weren’t able to use that metric as part of what they use to decide about abundance and helping somebody just recognize you’re gonna have to slow down. Or, if you reverse it and the church’s orientation to time is the future and the pastor’s orientation to time is the past, you’re gonna have to get with it because they have ideas of moving forward and you can’t lead them unless you can catch them. Like, I think there’s some real important things we could be using in the Methodist Church. And right now we need all the tools we can get.

Crystal: That’s such important insight and it’s kind of like, well yes, of course that makes sense, but without that knowledge and without those tools we would never maybe have those observations.

Suzanne: I was teaching our bishop and his cabinet. And they all were very confused on their own… (It had nothing to do with me.) …about an appointment they made of a very successful pastor to a significant church in our conference. And it didn’t work. It just didn’t work. And they were all sitting around the table. And I started talking about you can’t put a pastor whose orientation to time is the future and a church whose orientation to time is the past. And they literally all looked at each other and said, That’s it. That’s what we missed. That’s what we needed to know. We didn’t have that on board. So I’m very hopeful. Very, very hopeful about that.

Crystal: The enneagram wisdom really just opens doors, doesn’t it?

Suzanne: Yeah. It sure can.

Crystal: Suzanne, how do you keep your own spirit in shape so that you can ask yourself that question, how is my soul today, and get that affirmative answer?

Suzanne: I do a contemplative sit every day. And when I’m traveling and I have an early flight and I don’t do it or when I, you know, when something goes wrong on a trip, whatever… When I don’t do it, by about 3 o’clock in the afternoon I’m behaving badly. It’s a given. So there’s that. And that’s been true for me for 35 years, I guess. Now how do I do a sit every morning? I live with somebody who does a sit every morning. I have lots of accountability built in to my life and around me. I’m working always on bringing up thinking because that’s repressed for me and that is problematic for my spiritual journey. So right now I foolishly looked yesterday at the two areas that I’m considering doing any ground work, one for sure already, and another that I’m considering. A Methodist pastor, Dr. Andy Stoker, and I are gonna teach an enneagram cohort in ’23 that is Enneagram and Family Systems. And he’s a Family Systems scholar. So I have a lot to catch up on to be ready for that work with him by January. And so I have pages and pages and pages to read of non-fiction and non-memoir and not stories and things that I don’t love, which brings up thinking. And that then is part of my spiritual practice because I have to be balanced in my approach. Right? I’m also considering but haven’t committed to doing work with enneagram and some folks whose specialty is moral injury. And that’s a learning curve for me. So that’s part of my spiritual practice as well. Joe and I were on…we go on a retreat every year. And we have some pastor or priest plan a retreat for us. But we go alone. And it’s often Father Rohr and our history. But it’s been a lot of people. And we were headed to Arkansas. Ten years ago and our kids were in school. …Maybe 15. And we had been teaching the world’s religions together. And I said, Have you ever thought about the fact that every faith belief has beads except us? Like, we need some prayer beads in the Protestant church. So later on in the trip I said, Who planned our retreat? And he said, I did. And I said, Oh, okay. Well, what is it? And he said, Silent. We’re gonna do a silent retreat. To which I said, No, no. And we did three and a half days. He won. But during that time, because of that conversation which is how I think ??? works, Joe having used a rosary for…until he was 40 and beyond, created prayers for beads based on the fruits of the spirit. And in Life in the Trinity Ministry we have an old friend of Joe’s (high school seminary friend) who used to make rosaries who makes our prayer beads. And praying the beads is very helpful to me when I’m anxious because prayer beads require that you do something with your hands, with your mouth and with your brains. You’ve got to think, talk and do. And they’re very helpful to me during times of anxiety. And when I pray them every day during… I don’t do them year round. But when I pray them every day during those times then I carry them in the pocket. And when I start to feel like oh I can’t get all of this done. I’m feeling anxious. I can put my hand in my pocket and just start praying through the beads and know that. Sometimes I do a daily Scripture study and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I do a weekly Scripture study and I just…I have a journal where I work with whatever…whoever’s preaching in our church chooses for the gospel reading for that Sunday. I have a variety of things that stretch me and a variety of things that comfort me. A liturgy of the hour is one of Joe’s spiritual practices for all of time. And he really like that. So I commit to do that with him part of every year. He does the full liturgy where he prays 6 times a day when he does that, when that’s one of his choices. And I do the Phyllis Tickle representation which is not quite that heavy. So those are some. The most life-giving thing I do is spend time with Joe. And the most life-giving thing we do is spend time with our children and grandchildren. So we try to make that part of all the things. There are 19 of us. But we get together at least once a month. And that’s part of my spiritual journey.

Crystal:            Thank you for sharing that. I love that you’re not just looking for a spiritual discipline that comforts you, but one that’s also growing you. And kind of that…always that transformational place of being balanced.

Suzanne:          There’s one that comforts me that I didn’t mention that might be a good one to mention. And that is that I don’t know if people know…. Henri Nouwen is a self-identified 2 on the enneagram. And I have chosen to read everything he wrote which is a lot…lots and lots and lots, because it’s been very comforting for me to read somebody else’s journey. It highlights the stuff that I still need to work on, but it comforts me that somebody else struggled in the same way that I did. And there are authors for every number that they could read that is gonna be challenging/comforting at the same time, but mostly comforting because it’s somebody else who is writing about the same experience you’re having on your journey.

Crystal:            Well, I just can’t thank you enough for being with us today on Get Your Spirit in Shape. We’ll of course link to your website where you can find the book, your podcast and just where we can learn more about the work that you’re doing. It sounds like some exciting work is coming for you as well. And I just appreciate just the gift that you are to the denomination, to people all around the world. So thank you so much, Suzanne, for being with us today.

Suzanne:          Thank you for having me.

That was Suzanne Stabile, author of “The Journey Toward Wholeness: Enneagram Wisdom for Stress, Balance and Transformation.” To learn more about Suzanne and her new book and her ministry teaching about the enneagram, go to UMC.org/podcast and look for this episode. In addition to the helpful links and a transcript of our conversation, you’ll find my email address so you can talk with me about Get Your Spirit in Shape. Thank you for so much for joining us for today’s episode of Get Your Spirit in Shape. I look forward to the next time that we’re together. I’m Crystal Caviness.