By Scott Kiloby.
Somewhere along the way, the Living Inquiries facilitators and I developed the process of mining. I can’t even remember how it started, but I’m so glad it did. It’s truly been the greatest gift.
Mining is a process within the Living Inquiries of pulling out unconscious words and pictures, one at a time, from an emotion or sensation and then letting those words and pictures be seen, allowed, and then letting them dissolve away naturally.
I remember giving talks years ago and people would ask about dense and persistent emotional energy or sensations (e.g., contractions). The question was usually, “What do I do with this?” The standard nondual answer of “do nothing, just feel it, be aware of it,” was great. After all, sensations and emotions tend to persist because we remain perpetually unaware of them, placing our attention instead either outside ourselves or in the mind as a way of distracting. Many of the denser contractions in the body seem to have formed from years of turning away from the inner awareness of our bodies. These energies then crystalize into dense matter, contributing to addictive seeking, depression, pain, anxiety and a host of other states and conditions. They are often directly linked to unresolved trauma. But the pointer, “do nothing, just feel it and be aware of it” often resulted in people unknowingly “sitting with velcro” instead. Sitting with velcro means that a person believes they are just feeling or being aware of pure energy, sensation or emotion, when in fact they are sitting with unconscious words and pictures stuck to that energy, sensation or emotion. The Living Inquiries are all about undoing this velcro effect. And mining is an even more precise way of pulling out these unconscious words and pictures.
Let me give you an example of mining from my own experience. Many years ago, I visited an acupuncturist to help ground and release some dense energy in my sternum. He said, “I can do acupuncture in that area but the best thing to do is be aware of it.” Without even thinking, I said, “That’s easier said then done.” How can I be aware of something that is largely unconscious? The contraction in my stomach did not exist in a vacuum. It was there for a reason, as a result of feeling as though I had to protect myself from some perceived threats out in the world. Simply sitting and being aware of that contraction would have been like entering a cave without a flashlight. The density was there because of what I could not see.
While lying in bed one morning, I began breathing slowly into the sternum area. I could feel the density. It was painful. It felt too overwhelming to face. But slowly certain elicitation questions began to naturally arise. In the Living Inquiries, an elicitation question is any question designed to elicit unconscious mental material from a stuck emotion or sensation. The first question was, “What am I afraid of?” Once the question was asked, pictures of being bulled in sixth grade arose. I looked at them one by one. I stayed with each picture, gently watching. I saw that the pictures had a theme. I had been mostly afraid of people – certain people who had bullied me. I asked to each picture, “Is this picture a threat?” This is a question from the Anxiety Inquiry. Seeing that no single picture was a threat, each one of them dissolved, one by one. Eventually as the pictures ran out, the sternum sensation dissolved. Then I began to feel dense sensation under that, down in the belly area. At that point, a different elicitation question arose, “What am I ashamed of?” A storm of pictures began to arise, and some words. I gently watched each arising, asking “Is this the shame?” Seeing that no single picture or set of words was the shame, each one dissolved one by one. Eventually the mind became quiet and no more pictures or words arose. The belly sensation then naturally dissolved.
I remember thinking, “Wow, that was easy.” What makes a process like that easy is having the right set of skills. Had I not had this process of mining, I might have sat with those sensations for many, many years – like being in a cave without a flashlight. Sensations like that are persistent only when we lack the requisite skill to mine out the unconscious material in them.
These days when I’m working with people at the Kiloby Center, I never assume that just sitting with sensation is the answer by itself. Chances are, there is unconscious material embedded in that sensation. Asking the right elicitation question is key. But it isn’t rocket science. Usually any of the following elicitation questions will work:
• What does this sensation mean?
• What are you afraid of?
• What are you ashamed of?
• What is this sensation connected to?
• When was this first created?
• What is this protecting you from?
Asking the right question is like having a magic key to a door that has remained closed and locked for years. The right question naturally elicits a lot of unconscious material. Once that material starts to arise, the key is just to watch the words and pictures, one by one, and maybe ask an inquiry question.
Never again will I go into the cave of my body or another person’s body without a flashlight and a good key. I invite you not to enter blindly and unskillfully either. The right set of skills can make the difference between suffering for many years and liberating the body from a lot of unconsious material. “Being with” or “sitting with” is often just not enough. Use skillful mining instead.