Transforming Your Relationship
to Everything That Matters
through the Enneagram
Q & A
with author Roxanne Howe-Murphy, EdD
1.Why did you write Deep Living?
This book started out-as a small guidebook to my earlier book, Deep Coaching, which was written for a professional audience.
Through my studies and after hundreds of heartfelt conversations with students, clients, colleagues, and people I met seemingly at random, I know that the experience of not having the inner and outer life aligned is a universal experience. During this time of enormous global change, it is easy to get seriously thrown off-kilter if we don’t have a relationship to our integrated, whole nature.
Most people recognize that there is a dimension in life that they are not touching, resulting in a pervasive sense of superficiality and distance from one’s inner core. Many are at a loss as how to make a real connection with their deeper nature and not sure even where to look. Many have tried one or another approach, without results.
Fundamentally, I was drawn to provide a very different perspective that I absolutely know reduces personal suffering. What I’ve learned and have been able to demonstrate is that experiencing a meaningful, real, and affirmative relationship with oneself hinges on having an accurate understanding of the nature of the personality itself. Within this fascinating exploration lies a key to addressing the deepest yearnings of the soul.
I wrote this book to be a shepherd and companion for readers as they find their way back home to a unified sense of self.
2. What is the role of the Enneagram in transformation?
To grow and evolve, it is vital to see ourselves clearly and honestly. The Enneagram is the most powerful framework I’ve ever experienced for seeing oneself clearly through a very precise lens. Through the Enneagram, we learn that there are nine major dimensions, archetypes, or spheres of consciousness that exist. On a human scale, this translates to nine dramatically different orientations to life-also known as personality types.
Each of these nine orientations has specific and repeating patterns of thought, emotion, attention, and behavior that show us how we come to have a certain identity, how we come to believe what we do about life, and how we cope with life-all aspects of the personality. The Enneagram also illuminates the paradoxical mechanisms through which our personalities take us in exactly the opposite direction of our deepest nature.
Because these personality patterns are deeply ingrained, they create a psychic wallpaper which becomes the basis of our internal reality. The patterns once recognized for what they are-automatic activity that we share with approximately one-ninth of the population-become the doorways to our transformation. We have what we need for our growth and transformation right here in everyday life.
The Enneagram is often narrowly described as a personality typing system, but when used fully, as it is in Deep Living, it gives us a map for awakening from our most restricted and confined existence to our most liberated and expansive nature.
3. What do you mean by Deep Living?
It is easy to be focused on the content of life-the plans, activities, relationships, the accomplishments, and the challenges that make up the most visible part of life. From this perspective, it can seem that things happen to us, people do things to us. We have reactions to life, with some days being “good” and others not so good, all based on external conditions of our lives.
Through Deep Living, we become present to and experience life below the surface where our deep intelligence lives.
Just 3 of the several characteristics of Deep Living include: * being able to go below the historic storyline of our life to heal, discover and live from the deeper truths in our lives; *having enough presence to get unhooked time and time again from a profoundly addictive substance-which is the idea of who we take ourselves to be; and* building on our innate capacity for accessing our deeper intelligence;
4. You talk about the relationship between personality and “true nature” throughout the Deep Living book. Can you give a shorthand of your understanding of this relationship?
We have a personality and always will. We need it. Simultaneously, our true and expansive nature—that which extends beyond the limits of the personality, also exists.
Each of the nine points on the Enneagram represents a full spectrum of experience, from our most constricted experience, which lies in the realm of being highly identified with our personality, to our most exalted, expansive qualities. We are not an either/or.
The big question is whether we have our personality or whether it has us. In Deep Living, our primary emphasis is on becoming less attached to or identified with the personality as the basis of our life. The more we can do that, the more access and experience we have of our liberated nature, our full essence.
5. What do you mean by the phrase “One size does not fit all”?
You may have read books that offered a specific set of strategies for getting more satisfaction or success in life, and yet were disappointed, frustrated, or even hopeless because the suggestions did not work effectively for you. Over the decades, I have collected a library of these books. I used to try to follow the author’s suggestions for an authentic life but ended up feeling even worse when the suggestions didn’t work for me.
Well, no wonder. One size does not fit all.
In Deep Living, you’ll find nine different sizes, nine different pathways. Each offers specific suggestions for individuals who most relate to a particular life orientation, of treading that particular pathway. What will best support you might be very different than what would support a good friend or your significant other, because you and your brain are designed differently than most of the people around you.
6. In the Foreword, author Marci Shimoff says that you challenge many ideas about personal development in this book. What is unique about your perspective?
I’ve discovered that most people who are interested in self-development have a deeply embedded-and erroneous-belief that there’s something about them that needs to be changed, fixed, or improved. This belief is widespread and generally unquestioned. Why else would there be a multi-billion-dollar industry selling “self-improvement”? Why else would anyone have dozens of books on self-help, psychology, and spirituality filling their shelves and stacked on the floor?
From this perspective, people often treat themselves in a machine-like way: trying hard to fix, ignore, transcend, add to, or get rid of whatever aspect of being human that doesn’t work or doesn’t seem acceptable. While this approach may sometimes result in short-term results, my response to this is Ouch! As pervasive as this assumption is, it comes with considerable costs.
What would it be like to allow in the full experience of your life, to accept yourself and to accept life? Most people find this to be a totally foreign concept, and at odds with how they have long related to themselves and the idea of what change means.
Through the Deep Living approach, you learn a completely counter-intuitive approach: to be with your inner and very human experience with compassionate acceptance, without necessarily taking action on those experiences. Then something powerful happens: inner constrictions unexpectedly start to soften, and a seemingly miraculous new internal quality rises to the surface. It’s not at all unusual to also experience more internal spaciousness and a sense of your own substance and depth, along with the gradual realization that there’s more to you and that you have more choice than ever anticipated.
7. What are the primary qualities for creating a new relationship with yourself?
In my experience, there are 4 basic qualities that contribute to creating a healthy relationship with oneself, and that orients us toward our more expansive, liberated nature:
A. Being Curious
The quality of curiosity allows us to see things from a new perspective, to engage our inquisitiveness, and to be open to discoveries. This is quite different than feeling an internal pressure to already have an answer figured out. Curiosity comes with a willingness to not know an answer in advance.
B. Practicing Compassion and Seeing Your Patterns as Normal
Being compassionate with yourself is vital in this process. Having compassion means that you do your best to meet yourself with non-judgment and kindness where you are right now, even if there is pain, even if there are aspects of yourself that you would rather not acknowledge. There is no true healing without compassion.
C. Embracing Radical Honesty
It’s rare to meet people who are willing to be honest with themselves. It takes enormous courage.
Honest inquiry helps uncover the falsehoods that keep us stuck. Leaning into the truth leads to deep sigh of relief when old beliefs are revealed and released. It’s very liberating. “Truth does set us free.”
D. Trusting the Process
I have long referred to the process of exploring our true nature as a trust walk.
The idea of trust does not have to do with whether another person or an organization, for example, is trustworthy. Rather, it’s a grounded knowing that whatever happens will ultimately be for the good, even in the absence of immediate evidence. Rather than trying to make or force something to happen, you take a deep breath and work with what is actually happening.
8. What is one of the most important things that readers can do to make a positive difference in their lives?
One of the most tangible and potent places where you can put your energy is in changing your relationship to the inner critic!
Why? Because the inner critic is one thing that everyone in the world has in common! You see it in every opinion and judgment you have. How you experience yourself is intimately related to the amount of internal life space your inner critic takes up! It can’t help but affect your relationship to yourself and others, the decisions that shape your life, and how you do life. Left to operate on its own, it extorts a heavy price that’s ultimately paid by a scarred and deadened soul.
The inner critic is one of the most powerful influences that keeps you from being present.
When it takes a turn outward, the critic is reflected in the often secret judgments held toward loved ones and friends and even toward strangers. Evidence of its prevalence at a more global level is demonstrated through unresolved race relations, in the lens through which different secular or religious sects and communities relate to each other, and in international relations.
The inner critic is a primary cause of enormous suffering in the world. That’s the reason I devoted a chapter to it in Deep Living.
9. What do you mean by presence?
It’s astonishing to recognize how our personality patterns take us away from presence.
Yet, we are wired for presence-for groundedness, for open heartedness, and for clarity and trust-and we have the resources for developing profound moments of presence. In Enneagram language, these resources come in the form of Three Centers of Intelligence: the Belly/Instinctual Center; the Heart/Feeling Center; and the Head/Thinking Center. These correspond to particular locations in your physical body.
Having sensate, direct, lived-in contact with each of the centers offers intelligence that is far more extraordinary than the busy mind can conjure. The Centers of Intelligence, contacted through sensations, allow you to be in real contact with what is actually in the moment. Then you can respond with what is needed in the moment-a gift of enormous practicality.
Presence is the basis for real change; to experiencing oneself as a whole, integrated human being.
10. What do you want for this book?
I want readers to feel that their real inner experience has been recognized and named, and with that, they feel relief and hope.
I hope that this book will be used as a valued guide to life—a book that will serve as a companion, a resource, a reference, and that will be well-used time and time again, to support readers in feeling more at home in themselves.
My great wish for all who read this book is that they will continue to experience increasingly expansive love and presence in their lives. It is not only possible but probable to have this experience on a regular basis. And it is absolutely practical.