In Conversation with Vrin Rao, Enneagram Coach

You know when you connect with someone and you’re not totally sure what they do, but you like their energy and decide that you’re game to learn more?

That’s how I felt when I met Vrin Rao. Digitally, that is. We’re official IG friends who, in true 2020 fashion, have never met in real life. 

We chatted in the DMs (you KNOW it goes down there), moved to email, and in our very first Zoom, she gave me an Enneagram reading. Which, in all honesty, felt a bit like therapy. She shined her light into all of my dark spots, my triggers, my nooks and crannies. It was fascinating how learning about my Enneagram Type  (I’m Type 2 – The Helper) helped to shed greater insight on and understanding of my relationship with myself and others. 

Vrin has had a long road to becoming an entrepreneur, as many of us have, and as an Enneagram Coach and Meditation Teacher, she helps women to build foundationally healthy relationships with themselves. Enneagram is the personality framework that helps us to understand our core motivations, which play out in our needs and fears. In this way, it’s a really interesting tool to have in your toolbox; something that we can all use to increase our awareness and understanding of self.

And hey, it’s 2020 my friends. I can’t imagine a better year to continue a deep dive inwards, and to strive for better knowledge and acceptance of ourselves. It not only makes us better, I believe that it makes those around us better as well. Happy reading. 

Let’s talk about your entrepreneurial journey. How did you get to the place you’re at today, and what was your career path that led you to become a coach and meditation teacher?

True story: when I was in University, I thought I would end up as a scientific researcher. I was getting my Bachelors in biochemistry and Masters in lab medicine and pathobiology when I started to question my purpose. Within a few months of doing my Masters, I realized with a start that my plan of becoming a researcher wasn’t anywhere close to what felt authentic and natural to me. It was also during this time that I spent 1.5 years going deep into the yoga texts, and it (to my surprise) left me a changed person.

However, I wasn’t ready to delve deep into alignment just yet. 

It was upon meeting my husband and an impending move to New York City that it was time to find out how I could serve in line with my true nature… but I had no idea where to start. I began by pursuing a coaching certification, not with the purpose of becoming a coach, but to learn more about myself and equip myself with skills that would help me in whatever I would choose to pursue in the future.

Within 25 minutes of the certification, I knew I had found my service.

The discovery of finding my purpose came with lots of fear of failure, worry, and uncertainty. It’s been a lot of work in identifying and preventing unconscious insecurities from allowing myself to step into my full self. I still face it everyday, but know with clarity – there is nothing else I would rather do.

As for meditation, being raised in a family of meditators, the practice has always been a part of my life. It was over 15 years ago that I started my personal practice of 2 hours of mantra meditation daily. Over the past several years, I’ve invested significant time in learning other types of meditation and it came very natural to me to blend both coaching and meditation together as a service and offering to others.

I never had any knowledge of enneagram until I had a session with you, and I’m so curious how you encountered enneagram, and decided to make it a part of your business and practice?

My own introduction to the Enneagram came after meeting my husband. He started sharing his own journey of learning and diving into the Enneagram. My husband was a former Bhakti monk for over thirteen years and during the time he lived in the ashram (conveniently located next door to a tattoo parlor in the Lower East Side), he and a few other monks started looking into tools to help support the members of their monastery.

At that time, there were over fifteen monks (of varying ages and dispositions) living together and the leaders wanted to find ways to offer care. The senior monks explored various systems and frameworks until they came across the Enneagram. What impressed them was the fact that it not only offered nuanced explanations behind how each of us work, it also spoke directly to spiritual applications.

When I heard this and experienced a workshop that my husband held on the Enneagram, I was convinced of my need for doing this work and supporting others using this framework.

For those of us who may be new to enneagram, can you describe what it is, where it comes from, and how it’s used?

The Enneagram is a personality framework that describes nine different energies, or lenses by which we see the world. 

What does that mean? 

Whether we recognize it or not, our egos are constantly looking for validation of the identities that we hold dear. Depending on the lens by which we see the world, we will internalize and process occurrences, words, actions, and circumstances in very unique ways that will cause our ego to either categorize them as triggering (eg, a particular identity I hold dear is being called into question – DO SOMETHING NOW!) or validating (eg, Ah! I’m being seen as I want to be seen).

When we start to understand that lens or filter, we immediately develop greater awareness of ourselves, others, and the truth that what I perceive as reality is skewed. This helps us develop greater compassion for others. Their ego lens may be different, but they are in the same boat as me – we are all being controlled by the ego.

The Enneagram gives us a language to talk about those triggers and why we get triggered.

All of us are driven by these nine motivations, however, for each of us there is one primary lens or energy by which we see and interact with the world. This is known as your dominant Type. Alongside that, there is an adjacent or secondary Type by which we experience the world.

What does the practical application of enneagram look like? Once you’re armed with the knowledge of your type, how can people connect it to their real lives in an actionable way?

When I start to recognize how my ego lens affects the way that I see the world, and especially, the way I internalize interactions with others, it can help me to stop and pause. Instead of reacting from a place of feeling misunderstood, hurt, or upset, instead I can start to question, “What identity is being called into question or not being seen right now?”

My husband once said something to me that I think about a lot. In our relationships with others, we often unconsciously step onto each others’ “landmines”. We very often walk into conversations and interactions without knowing what may be significant, sensitive, or important to the other person. And guess what – they often don’t know it themselves because it’s still unconscious to them.

Starting the process of questioning instead of reacting allows us to come from a place of authenticity instead of ego. We start to take responsibility for our ego lens and the insecurities and fears that it confronts us with. As we start to do that, our self-awareness grows. Although the lens by which we see the world never goes away, what we can do is become more conscious of it, instead of identifying with it.

This automatically elevates the consciousness and depth of interactions we have with others. Instead of taking offense, we are more likely to offer compassion and genuine kindness. That’s because we truly understand the suffering the other person is experiencing on the other side having to deal with their own ego.

How does enneagram interact with your other practices, such as yoga and meditation? How can these elements contribute to a meaningful and authentic life, in your eyes? 

I think of the service I offer to others as an intersection between the wisdom of the Enneagram, yoga psychology, and meditation. What I see as the commonality (and synergy) between these three is the emphasis on elevating one’s consciousness through the gradual dismantling of the false ego.

The false ego is that which attaches our worth and identity to everything that is material and temporary. Often it is looked upon as bad, but that isn’t true. It’s our overdependence and attachment to it that is negative. On its own, like most things, it is neutral.

Enneagram has spiritual origins, and its purpose is to help us begin our spiritual journey. In order to do so, one has to clearly understand the ego and the effects it has on us. Yoga and meditation offer very practical practices as to how one can start to distinguish the true self, the spirit, from the ego.

This is what excites me so much with the work I get to do with women. For those who are interested, this transformation process is not only about becoming our best, most authentic selves, when working with the material world around us and building strong, healthy relationships, but also investing and growing in the spiritual work that we are all called to do.

Any last words of wisdom you’d like to share with my readers? 

If you’d asked me three years ago if I was a self aware person, I would have said “Absolutely!” 

As I continue to uncover and discover the ways my ego screams for validation of the numerous identities it holds dear, I realize more and more how much awareness I lack. After all, we can only see what we can see. The Enneagram has helped me so much in recognizing the limitations of my self-awareness and continuously gives me the next steps to expand them. I feel so grateful to be able to journey along with others who are curious and want to do this in their own lives.

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