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March 31, 2022

The Key Questions of Inquiry

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This is a simple practice I’ve used for years as a tool for going deeper.

I first heard about this kind of inquiry from studying Ramana Maharishi, and have since expanded it as a result of my exposure to Loch Kelly, Hale Dwoskin and Adyashanti.

Instead of doing a normal meditation practice, try this for a day or a week and see what happens:

  • Sit quietly in stillness and ask yourself: “Who am I?”
  • Simply notice what arises and appears, and then ask again,“Who am I?”
  • Notice what arises and ask again,“Who am I?”

Sit in the question as the truth of who you are becomes more obvious, more transparent.

Once in a while, I’ll add to the practice by asking the question,

  • “Who am I?”, listening to what arises and then asking either,
  • “If I am not that, who am I?”, or
  • “If I am even more than that, who am I?”

Across the ages, there are some who have experienced that asking this question once explodes their reality open to the vastness of who they are, changing them forever in a moment.

Others, like me, have had more of a drip, drip, drip, little-by-little unfolding of a realization of the truth of who I am.

Michael Singer in his wonderful book, The Untethered Soul, does a beautiful job of unpacking the question Ramana Maharishi first asked. It’s worth getting the book and reading chapter 3, “Who are you?” But I recommend not doing this until you have sat for some time by yourself with the question.

Once you have played with the inquiry, “Who am I?” you can play with other inquiries like:  

  • “What am I?”
  • “Where am I?”
  • “When am I?”

This practice is for the determined who are willing to sit in the unknown and be with frustration and emptiness.

For those who are willing, it offers rewards that are literally unimaginable.

I say unimaginable because what most people imagine as being awake is actually not what being awake is like. Full awareness of the truth of what you are is not recognizable by the mind.

I heard this from Loch Kelly and it made such profound sense to me:

“The Shangpa Kagyü Tibetan Buddhist tradition gives us a poetic response to the question of why we don’t recognize awake awareness. We don’t recognize awake awareness because it is…

  • So close you can’t see it
  • So subtle your mind can’t understand it
  • So simple you can’t believe it
  • So good you can’t accept it”

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