by Andy Muth, USA
Several months back, I was making my way down the west coast and made a stop in San Francisco. I stayed with a help-x host and shared work with another traveler from Northern Virginia. We quickly became friends and spent our days speculating about where our journeys would lead us. A lot of philosophical talks brought up a gem that I never knew existed – the Enneagram. At the time I was pretty skeptical and saw it as just another way to get pigeonholed. It’s a tool used to assess personalities and that didn’t sit right with me. I had the belief that I was something different, that I couldn’t be figured out, that I couldn’t be labeled in any way, shape or form. Basically just a big ego. I took a quick online assessment test and didn’t make much of it. For the next few months I put it on the back burner and continued traveling; all the while analyzing my past and trying to plan my future.
Later in my travels I settled into a sleepy town in Southland, New Zealand for a few weeks and had a great deal of privacy. This is where I was going to hone in on my goals, figure shit out. In an attempt to understand myself better I went back to the Enneagram. This time I chose a different online quiz and it resonated.
Without getting into a really lengthy description, the Enneagram is a psychological and spiritual description of human behavior. This description is integrated into a nine-pointed geometric figure. Hence the Greek name, ennea meaning nine and gram meaning figure. At each point on the figure is a different personality type numbered one through nine. I’m not here to push it on people, I’m just staying it works for me.
As my wanderlust waxed and waned, I toyed with ideas of where to go next. I kept going back to the help-x website and sifting through some options. What jumped out at me was a retreat/recovery center in Thailand that offered (amongst many things) Enneagram work. I had to do it.
So I booked my plane tickets and reserved a room for one month at this place called New Life Foundation. I flew into Bangkok and spent two days dodging traffic, fending off scammers, cruising on longboats, strolling through temples, huffing smog, sweating my face off, getting the life squeezed out of me by a surprisingly strong Thai masseuse and eating tons of weird food. After 48 hours, my head was spinning and I was ready to move on. I hopped on an over night train up to Chiang Mai. The food was mediocre and my sleeping berth was, well it was… let’s just say slightly untidy. From Chiang Mai I hopped right on a bus to Chiang Rai and after a short tuk-tuk ride from the bus station I had arrived at New Life Foundation. There to greet me with a big smile was Sabrina, one of the amazingly gifted life coaches on the staff.
Going from being a lone wolf to a member of the pack took a little while for me, but the people made it easy. The community at New Life is made up of volunteers, residents and staff from all over the planet. I signed up as a resident in an effort to improve myself and work on finding some direction in my life. With me in the residence group are about ten people who are there for drug addiction, depression, stress and burnout. It doesn’t seem to matter if you are a heroin addict who has hit rock bottom or a workaholic who has lost sight of your passion, we can all relate to the same human issues. We are all here to work on and better understand ourselves, so even if you can’t relate to some one directly you have this unique opportunity to profoundly understand where they are coming from. I have rarely seen people open up the way they do here. What this does is bring a higher degree of clarity to our hold-ups, personal issues, and relationships with ourselves and others. Yeah, it’s pretty good.
After being a wandering vagabond for so long, it’s nice to finally have some structure to my days. Every morning residents are required to be up by 6 am to do physical exercise. I’m pretty keen on yoga these days. From there on the day is fairly well structured with community work, life coaching sessions, group workshops and meditation sessions. Enough to keep you busy but with plenty of free time in between to swim in the pool, go grab a smoothie or Thai iced coffee, or just chill out with a good book. There’s no shortage of good company, so if your looking to play ping pong or a game of chess you don’t have to look very far to find an opponent.
Enneagram coaching has been an incredible tool to get to know myself. As it turns out, the online assessment that I felt so sure of at the time actually led me slightly off base. Having an objective life coach working through the Enneagram with me has brought me to a better understanding of my patterns than I could have discovered on my own. It was too easy for me to see myself as I wanted to be rather than how I actually am. I wasn’t too far off though, so you can’t say I’m totally delusional. The more I’ve learned about the Enneagram, the more I’ve come to respect its insights and morality. I’ve become so appreciative of its usefulness that I recently decided to begin a training course to start teaching the Enneagram. So if you are interested in it I’m happy to answer questions.
With the underlining theme being mindfulness you’ll find that the atmosphere here is perpetually welcoming. As new people arrive each day new friends also leave each day. It can be bittersweet at times but I’ve never been to a place where I feel so connected to complete strangers so quickly. So in the end you can really only feel fortunate to be here. One month wasn’t enough for me so I’ve extended my stay by another month. It’s the first time in my trip I haven’t been obsessing about where to go next, the grass is greener here.
This piece is excerpted from Andy’s blog. You can follow it at amuthnomadic.blogspot.com