There are many forms of inquiry, including the proverbial question that the well-known sage Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi suggested all seekers ask of themselves: Who am I? Maharshi suggested that the I-thought is the sense of individuality and arises as ego: “I am this” or “I am that.” By paying attention to this I-thought and inquiring into its source (from where does it arise?), the I-thought will disappear, leaving only the I-I (Self – one’s true nature) “shining forth.”
Another form of inquiry is the Neti neti (“Not this, not this”) method, as written about in the Upanishads. Neti neti is designed to help the seeker discover that “this” is not who (or what) he (or she) is, nor “this” – thereby negating everything encountered (I am not: the body, name (or any label), form, intellect, senses, nor any other limiting adjunct, not even the mind. Thus, transcending all worldly experience through negation, he finds that there is nothing but the Self – all that remains is the true “I” alone.
Byron Katie created The Work of Byron Katie, a way of identifying and questioning thoughts that appear to result in feelings and expressions of anger, fear, depression, addiction, and violence in individuals. By asking the questions Katie developed, the thoughts unravel and the mind returns to its true nature, which is awake, peaceful and creative.
Scott Kiloby has created The Living Inquiries as tools to help people see through their beliefs, fears, and the negative feelings that appear to run their lives. Instead of trying to change their beliefs, experiences or feelings – or seeking outside of themselves for fulfillment – people learn to allow everything to be as it is and discover the well of peace that is available to them always, in all circumstances.
Spiritual teacher and author Jan Frazier offers a myriad of suggestions as to how one might go about cultivating three conditions that make one ripe for awakening to unfold. These conditions, which are a form of self-inquiry, are briefly mentioned below.
- First, have attention on the immediate, particularly on your present-moment inner state.
- Second, look away from nothing.
- Third, judge nothing that you see within yourself.
Jan suggests that while familiar stuff is happening: anger, dread, attachment, hope, identification, dissatisfaction, discomfort, you can be curious and look, wide-eyed, at it all playing out in each moment, as if you were observing someone else. She says, “Because, in fact, it is “somebody else.” The “you” that’s doing the looking is not caught up in it.”
Click the image of Jan on the right above, to link to the entire article, titled “Inviting Transformation.”
Adyashanti writes about Authentic Inquiry, suggesting that “Authentic inquiry is allowing yourself to care, to take on the weightless burden of caring… to deeply inquire about anything, you have to care about it… it needs to be something that’s coming from the inside. When you find that kind of caring, inquiry has some power behind it.”
He also says, “When inquiry is authentic, it brings you into the experience of here and now, bringing you to the full depth of it, pulling you into it. The question pulls you back into the mystery of your experience. “What am I?” takes you right back into the mystery. If your mind is honest, it knows it doesn’t have the answer. You ask, “What am I?” and instantly, there is silence. Your mind doesn’t know. And when it doesn’t know, there is an experience right here, right now, that is alive. You bump into nothingness inside—that no-thing, that absolute nothingness which your mind can’t know… the answer does not come in the form of a description or phrase; it is a direct experience. And this experience, your livingness, always transcends any words or intellectual answer.”