Self-inquiry has been increasingly coming into human consciousness for around 100 years or so, since Sri Ramana Maharshi began teaching it in the early part of the last century.
People flocked from all over India and even from Europe and America to sit with him. And gradually his message began to spread as his students took the principles of Self-inquiry back to their own countries and began teaching it to their students.
I’ve been fortunate to sit with several teachers of Self-inquiry, a practice that – although I’ve studied and engaged with many spiritual paths – I’ve come to value above all others.
That’s not to say that inquiry is a better path than other teachings, but it is the most direct path to awakening.
So if you feel a calling to awaken in this lifetime – and to complete and be free from all the karmic (subconscious) structures of mind that remain in us all from past incarnations – Self-inquiry could be for you.
The K.I.S.S. principle
Keep It Simple and Straightforward is the best advice I know when it comes to practicing inquiry.
I’ve come across so much intellectualisation on Facebook and other “non-dual” and “advaita” forums that, if I was starting out fresh, would likely put me off even taking the first steps …
The truth is that Self-inquiry is a Heart-centred practice, not a process of intellectual analysis, and requires you to feel into the spirit of the process.
The 12-step Self-inquiry process
1) Place one or both hands on the middle of your chest, on your Heart centre.
2) Notice the effortless and peaceful silence of your Heart.
3) Notice the physical sensations in your body, notice your emotional energy, notice your thoughts. That’s all. Simply notice whatever experience is happening.
4) Ask yourself, “Is there awareness of all that I am experiencing?”
5) Clearly the answer must be “Yes” because otherwise you would not know you were experiencing anything.
6) Ask yourself, “Who is aware?”
7) Clearly the answer must be, “I am”.
8) Now, while allowing attention to relax and rest into the silence of your Heart, ask yourself, “Who am I?” or, “What am I?” (it doesn’t matter which question you choose – simply trust your intuition and go with that)
9) Allow attention to relax and rest into pure “I” Consciousness. Give your sustained, one-pointed, yet gentle and relaxed, attention to this intangible feeling-sense of “I”.
10) If attention wanders from the feeling-sense of “I” simply notice that, then gently and slowly repeat steps 4-9.
11) Continue to ask yourself, with a sincere intention to know the truth, “Who am I?” or “What am I?” until only peaceful silence remains.
12) Rest, here and now, as the silence of your Heart.
Self-inquiry acts in a similar way to a Zen koan, a riddle that cannot be solved by the mind.
There’s no possible answer to the questions “Who am I?” and “What am I?” that can be put into words, drawn or conceptually thought. If such responses come, simply notice them, welcome them, and allow them to release themselves as you return attention to the intuitive feeling-sense of “I”.
The answer to the questions “Who am I?” and “What am I?” is the silence of your Heart … and is beyond all understanding.
Read these other Silent Wisdom posts to gain more insights into the power of Self-inquiry:
- Self-inquiry Made Simple – Part 2
- Self-inquiry Made Simple – Part 3
- Self-inquiry Made Simple – Part 4