The Enneagram by Etty Hillesum: a road map

All the texts below (except the subtitles) are taken from A Life Turned upside down and Letters from Westerbork. (Translation from French to English,ée Nicolas)


Let's start at the very beginning!

I think I am going to do this : every morning, before I start work, I will "turn inward" and listen to myself for half an hour. I could also say: meditate. But the word still horrifies me a little. Yes, why not: half an hour of peace within oneself. In the bathroom in the morning you shake your arms, legs and other muscles well: but that's not enough. A human being is body and mind. Half an hour of gymnastics and half an hour of "meditation" can provide a good basis for concentration for a whole day.


Goal: to become who you are

I only want to try to become the one who is already in me, but who is still looking for her full development.


Here and now

It is here and now, in this place, in this world, that I must find clarity, peace and balance.


Inner work

All day long I will stand in a corner of this great hall of silence that is within me.


The three centers

A bit of peace, a lot of gentleness and a bit of wisdom, when I feel that within me everything is fine.


The ultimate goal

The great work he has done in me: He has dug God out of me and given him life, and now I must continue to dig and seek God in the hearts of all the people I meet, in every corner of this earth.


I look for You everywhere in people, and in them I often find a piece of You.



Point 1

But we must leave things for what they are, instead of trying to raise them to impossible heights; and it is by letting them be what they are that we allow them to finally unfold their true value.


The first condition is to be able to accept, and to accept generously, the very fact of committing faults and errors.


One must first learn to forgive oneself for one's faults if one wants to forgive others. This is perhaps one of the most difficult things a human being can learn.


Everything is perfectly good. And at the same time perfectly bad. Both sides of things are in balance, everywhere and always. I've never felt I had to force myself to look on the bright side. Everything is perfectly good, just as it is. Every situation, however bad it may be, is an absolute and unites the good and the bad in itself.


Point 2

We must help to increase the reserves of love on this earth. Every little bit of hatred that is added to the hatreds that are already far too many makes this world even more inhospitable and unbearable.


All the strength, all the love, all the trust in God that one possesses (...) must be held in reserve for all those who cross one's path and who need it.


Wherever I am, I will try to radiate a little bit of love, of this true love of neighbour that is in me.

Love of neighbour is like an elementary prayer that helps you to live. The very person of that neighbour does not do much about it.


Point 3

I live intensely, I use life to the hilt, and I feel growing within me the sense of my obligations towards what must be called my talents.


How can one burn with such a fire, throw so many sparks? An immense joie de vivre, love and strength spring from me like flames.


My God, I thank you for making me the way I am. I thank you for giving me sometimes this feeling of dilation which is nothing else but the feeling of being full of you.


Point 4

I will have to fight with all my strength to banish from my mind all fantasies and dreams and to do a great inner cleaning.


Solve your problems alone and don't bother others with your little moods. (...) On the contrary, try to discern the main lines, the path to follow.


Now I feel all the weight you have given me to carry, my God. So much beauty and so many trials. And always, as soon as I showed myself ready to face them, the trials changed into beauty.


May a simple human heart experience so much, my God, so much suffering and so much love! I am so grateful to you, my God, for having chosen my heart (...) to put it through all that it undergoes.


A little suffering is not so serious, it is part of the lot, and you could not be happy like you are sometimes, like you are often.


Point 5

An aspiration to silence. It is a fact that silence has returned to me and I carry it constantly within me.


You have to "explain" yourself with this time (...) and try to find an answer to all the questions of life and death that it asks you. And perhaps you will find an answer to some of these questions, not only for yourself, but for others as well. (...) I have a duty to open my eyes.


Most people have a conventional view of life, but we must free ourselves internally from everything, from all the agreed representations, from all the slogans, from all the reassuring ideas.


Death is there all of a sudden, big and simple and natural, entering my life almost silently. It has now  its place and I know that it is inseparable from life.


Point 6

But, God, grant me not to waste an atom of my strength in fear or worry, but to keep them all available to carry this day.


My God, take me by the hand and I will follow you bravely. I will not shirk from any of the storms that will come upon me in this life, I will bear the shock with the best of my strength.


Let's be logical, if we have confidence we must have it to the end.


Point 7

From every moment a new moment is born, one that has new possibilities and sometimes, unexpectedly, turns out to be a new gift. And a moment of discomfort should never be held back or prolonged unnecessarily, because it may hinder the birth of a richer moment.


How each day brings new riches! Thank you for giving me enough space inside to shelter them all.


I do not cease to raise to you the same hallelujah, My God, so much I am grateful to you for having kindly given me such a life.


I have often felt - and I still feel - like a ship that has just taken on board a precious cargo; the moorings are cast off and the ship sets sail, free of all hindrance; it releases in all countries and takes on board everywhere what is most precious.


Even if you live in a mansard and have only dry bread to eat, life is worth living.


Point 8

When I suffer for the weak, is it not in fact suffering for the weakness I feel in me?


By learning to know one's strengths and weaknesses and to accept them, one increases one's strength.


I do not need to look good in the eyes of the outside world, I have my inner strength and that is enough, the rest is unimportant.


When you pray for someone, you give them some of your own strength.


My God, give me peace, and the strength to overcome everything. There is so much to do.


Point 9

Wherever the sky extends, you're home. Wherever on earth one is at home when one carries everything within. (...) One must be one's own homeland.


Wherever you are, be one hundred percent present. My "doing" will be to be.


Before I lived in the preparatory stage, I had the impression that everything I did didn't really count. (...) Today, at the present minute, I live, I live fully.




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