Self-inquiry is simple. It does not require you to do anything, change anything, think anything, or understand anything. It only asks you to pay careful attention to what is true and real.
Self-inquiry has become one of the most fundamental aspects of my spiritual practice. It is one of the most enriching and it is also one of the most challenging.
What exactly is self-inquiry?
As Arjunah Ardagh states, self-inquiry is simple. And, in terms of the mechanics of self-inquiry, this is true. Self-inquiry is basically inquiring into the nature of your thoughts, ideas, or situation, and gradually peeling back the layers more and more. There is no end to self-inquiry.
Inquiry can begin with a question as simple as, “Why am I feeling uneasy today?” Or with a more complex or metaphysical question such as “Who am I?” The important thing to start wherever you are, and let the internal process take its course.
Practically speaking, self-inquiry can take many forms. We can inquire whenever a troubling situation or feeling arises. We can take five minutes at the beginning of our daily meditation practice, or we can take twenty to thirty minutes daily or every other day to inquire into a particular question.
This brings us to the next question: why should we do self-inquiry? Definitely it’s not to reinforce old stories or dramas or habits. We aren’t trying to feed our biases or justify ourselves.
We are trying to dismantle old and thought and feeling patterns that we mistakenly believe is our true self. We are dismantling these old structures to create space for awareness, love, kindness, and compassion where previously there were had been grievance, hurt, resentment, confusion and pain. Self-inquiry won’t get rid of pain, but it will help us investigate the nature of the pain and perhaps release our attachment to it.
So yes, the mechanics of self-inquiry are easy. But, self-inquiry can also be quite challenging. Self-inquiry requires us, as Arjunah Ardagh states, to pay attention to what is true and real. And being true and real is very difficult. We spend a great deal of energy doing anything we can to avoid pain, and we do this by justifying our thoughts, feelings and actions. Self-inquiry is also is also challenging because we are meant to engage in the process with a spirit of love and compassion. Not only are we experts at justifying ourselves; we are also experts at judging ourselves. But self-inquiry is not about blame or judging.
Self-inquiry is a beautiful practice that invites us to explore our true nature, a nature of pure presence, pure awareness, and pure love. I invite you to make self-inquiry a part of your daily practice. Inquire into whatever is on your heart, whatever is challenging you, whatever you are curious about. Be open and gentle with yourself as you discover more and more of your true nature, a nature that is ever-evolving and expanding. I’ve included below a guided self-inquiry.