Self InquiryThe direct path of self discovery, healing and realisation
An Introduction to Self Inquiry
Self inquiry is a relaxing and sinking of awareness through deeper and deeper layers of ourself until we arrive at our essential being or true nature. It takes us beyond what we already know, to discover new aspects of ourself and reality that are beyond our imagination.
Self inquiry is not a mental exercise, it is an experiential exercise. The instrument of inquiry is not the mind, it is the soul (our experiencing consciousness). The mind thinks of answers, whereas the soul feels for them. The mind experiences via thoughts and concepts, whereas the soul and experiences directly and intimately.
Self inquiry is similar to Focusing in that the body (or soul) is the primary point of reference, but inquiry takes us deeper – through the psychological and into the spiritual. In fact, every psychological blockage, structure or ‘part’ is a doorway to our deeper, essential, true nature and the spiritual realms of consciousness.
The indirect path to realising true nature is via an intermediary, e.g. Jesus or a guru. The direct path simply involves turning our awareness within and following it back to its deepest, most fundamental source.
Every Inner Experience is Meaningful
Self inquiry is simply the exploration of our inner reality (consciousness, soul, being and other experiential phenomena) in the present moment. Like an explorer journeying deep into the uncharted territory our psyche and soul, we often have little idea what we are going to encounter or discover. Self inquiry is exploring for discovery’s sake – it is not therapy or self-improvement, although these often occur naturally. We generally go into an inquiry without a specific agenda to fix anything or make things better. There is no end goal because there is no end to the truth. The only aim of inquiry is to discover more about ourself and the nature of reality, through direct experience of the present moment. Our present-moment inner experience is always our starting point, and our only orientation is towards the truth.
Every experience is meaningful because nothing in life is random or haphazard. So meaning and understanding can be discovered by inquiring into any experience. The meaning will not necessarily be mental or intellectual – it will often be experiential, in that it opens us up to a deeper layer of experiential realisation. As inquiry progresses over time, the inquirer unfolds and the inquiry unfolds.
The universe didn’t make a mistake in creating you the way you are, and putting you through your personal history. Your personal history didn’t happen to you – it happened for you. It wasn’t karmic punishment – it was a divine gift. The universe always gives us exactly what we need for the continued development of our consciousness. The world and the universe exist for the sole purpose of developing our consciousness. God wouldn’t go to all that trouble if he didn’t love us so much. He certainly wouldn’t go to all that trouble just to punish us. And why would he want to punish his own ‘children’, who he has created, nurtured and guided for aeons? Life is God’s gift to us, and us playing our unique part is our gift to God.
Presence is our soul itself. It is the palpable sense of beingness that is within us (and extends beyond our physical body). Developing our capacity to sense down into our body develops our capacity to sense ‘presence’ itself. Presence is the key to effective self inquiry, so practising it regularly is highly beneficial. Practising presence is like meditating on your entire body, but most people initially find it difficult to sense their entire body at once, so start with something small like your thumb, then expand it to your hand, arm, etc. Don’t just be aware of your body from your head. Move your awareness down into your body – fully inhabit your body, and sense what develops. Notice how your body begins to fill with a subtle yet palpable ‘substance’. This subtle substance is ‘presence’ – the presence of your soul.
Once you have become proficient at sensing presence in various parts of your body, it is beneficial to develop a daily “sensing practice” where you sit down, close your eyes, then slowly move your awareness around your body in the following sequence:
- Right foot, right lower leg, right knee, right upper leg;
- Right hand, right lower arm, right elbow, right upper arm, right shoulder;
- Left shoulder, left upper arm, left elbow, left lower arm, left hand;
- Left upper leg, left knee, left lower leg, left foot.
The head and torso aren’t included in this sensing loop because most of our psychological “material” is located here, and we don’t want to activate anything when practicing presence. But once you have mastered the sensing loop and have become proficient at self inquiry, you can begin sensing your entire body. Once you have become proficient at that, you can begin to include your senses of looking and listening too. Then you can practice maintaining presence while walking, reading, watching TV or doing simple manual tasks. Practicing presence in everyday life helps us to truly embody presence and fully realise (not just mentally but experientially) that we are presence.
Once we have learned to sense the palpable presence of ‘presence’, we begin to realise that the presence is what is doing the sensing. The ‘presence’ is the experiencing medium – the experiencing ‘organ’ – the experiencing ‘being’ – our true being. Developing the capacity to sense ‘where’ we are actually leads us to a deeper experience of ‘who’ and ‘what’ we are. We realise that our soul’s field of presence is primary, and that it contains our physical body, not the other way around. As the felt sense of our body boundary softens and dissolves, the difference between inside and outside becomes less distinct, and we can’t sense where ‘self’ ends and ‘other’ begins.
Presence is Self Discovery
When we begin our journey of personal development or spiritual awakening, we often have no idea who or what we are at our most essential level. Self inquiry builds a cohesive picture from lots of disparate pieces of information, and goes on to provide insight, connections, meaning, resolution and reintegration. Each particular experience leads us deeper into the truth of our being. All of our different psychological patterns and all of the different layers of our being are meaningfully interconnected. So the more we inquire, the more we experientially understand things about ourself that we have never experienced before.
If we have an agenda, to get somewhere or fix something, we will get in your own way. We need to get out of the way completely and allow the inquiry to follow its own path. We are the passenger, not the pilot. So we can sit back, relax and enjoy the experience. All we have to ‘do’ is be in contact with our present-moment inner experience and follow it with curiosity and compassion.
Open awareness of our present-moment experience allows underlying (sub-conscious) psychological ‘material’ to gradually rise up into conscious awareness. This enables our soul to directly experiencing it ‘here and now’, as opposed to our mind just thinking about a past experience. As we sense into whatever is arising, the experience begins to unfold and reveal more of itself. This is when insights, healing and reintegration occur.
Presence is what does the healing and reintegration, so being fully present with our experience is all that is required. All of those other things get in the way of pure presence and awareness, so limit, distort and contradict the natural healing and integration process. Presence, awareness and essence are our fundamental nature; far more so than all of the content of our personal history – all the stuff that we think defines us and makes us who we are.