What is this ‘self-inquiry’ and why on earth would I practice it?
Updated: Aug 9, 2019
A brief explanation of one of the most transformative techniques going around.
In the 20th century there was a young Indian boy called Ramana. One day, Ramana was spontaneously seized by an intense fear of death. As this fear gripped him, a strange question arose: “I feel such fear, but which part of me exactly is scared to die?” In that moment, Ramana searched his experience to find “who” it was that would cease to exist upon death. It seems he followed this question with a natural intensity, sifting through deeper and deeper layers of himself, until he landed in a luminous internal space, beyond the ravages of time. Within 20 minutes he had discovered an inner peace that would keep him company until the end of his days. In this famous story of Ramana Maharishi, regarded as one of the greatest meditation masters of recent times, we get an insight into a unique form of self-inquiry – “who am I?”. One method of personal growth is to ask this question again and again within, searching for the deepest, truest and most visceral answer.
“Self-inquiry can provide us with tremendous information from within and insights into beneficial solutions. Self-inquiry is a kind of master-key for self-awareness."
However, that’s not the only way to practice self-inquiry. It could be said that any form of inner questioning is a kind of self-inquiry. We might want to know “who am I?” on the deepest level. On the other hand, we might just like to know what we really want in a particular situation, what’s underneath the feeling of anxiety we’ve been carrying around all morning, or what we can do to improve a particular relationship. In each case, self-inquiry can provide us with tremendous information from within and insights into beneficial solutions. Self-inquiry is a kind of master-key for self-awareness.
All of this rests on a simple human technology – the capacity to ask a question. We’ve done it since we were little – “Mum, why is the sky blue?”, “Dad, where do babies come from?”. These questions serve a valuable function: they focus consciousness on a particular part of reality, and elicit information about it. As our questions become more sophisticated, our view of reality becomes more nuanced.
“If the laws of our own inner world – the realm of thought and feeling – remain a mystery to us, we probably won’t be very happy or fulfilled."
In this way, questions about physical reality have been at the core of the development of the fields of physics and biology. Questions about communication and grammar have been central to the progress of linguistics.
Certainly, through questioning, we can learn all kinds of things about the outer world, but if the laws of our own inner world – the realm of thought and feeling – remain a mystery to us, we probably won’t be very happy or fulfilled. No matter what we know, or where we go, there’s no escape from the inner world; we carry it with us everywhere. Additionally, it tends to stay cluttered unless it’s consciously cleaned up.
“No matter what we know, or where we go, there’s no escape from the inner world; we carry it with us everywhere."
Thus, questions about our inner worlds – the realm of thought and feeling – are how we come to know ourselves more deeply. We can become like experts, like scientists, like elite athletes, in our questioning of the inner world. In doing so, the inner terrain is illuminated, bit-by-bit. We start to see the patterns and laws of our thoughts and feelings. We learn how to navigate disempowering and unpleasant states, and move towards functional and uplifting ones. Ultimately, we can become the masters of our own inner worlds.
How empowering would that be?
“We start to see the patterns and laws of our thoughts and feelings. Ultimately, we can become the masters of our own inner worlds."
So that’s why we practice self-inquiry. It’s the art of questioning, applied to the context of our inner worlds in the present moment. We do it to learn the laws of our thoughts and emotions, so that we might better navigate them. The promise is that we can become more loving, stronger, wiser, lighter, more humorous and energised than we thought possible. As this happens, positivity and upliftment tend to seep into the various aspects of our lives. Finally, we might find ourselves in a place of abundance, a stand-point from which we can truly help others. What could be more satisfying than all of that?
That’s what this ‘self-inquiry’ is, and that’s why on earth you would practice it.
So… When are we going to see you at a Soul Talk? ☺