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Dialogue on the Living Inquiries – Everything You Want to Know about This Work

By Scott Kiloby.  


Q: Scott, eventually I want to get to some more controversial and depthful questions about your work. But let’s start off with some basics. What are the Living Inquiries?

Scott: They are a set of tools developed by me and other facilitators to help question the beliefs, stories and identifications that create suffering. They are designed to help us feel emotions and sensations directly in the body, without the layer of words and pictures (i.e., thoughts) stuck to those emotions and sensations. The Inquiries undo what I call “the Velcro Effect” which is the experience of thoughts being stuck to emotions or sensations. There are three main inquiries – The Unfindable Inquiry (UI), the Anxiety Inquiry (AI) and the Compulsion Inquiry (CI). I first developed the Unfindable Inquiry. The Compulsion Inquiry was later co-created by Colette Kelso and me. The Anxiety Inquiry was developed by Fiona Robertson mainly, with some help from me and Colette in the beginning. But virtually all of the facilitators, especially the Senior Facilitators, have helped in the ongoing development of this work. It’s truly a co-creation in every sense. For more information about the Inquiries, visit www.livinginquiries.com.


Q: Please explain how the Unfindable Inquiry works.

Scott: It works through the process of naming it and then finding it. You start by naming what it is you are looking for. For example, you might look for the self or a more specific version of the self like “the person who isn’t good enough.” Where is it? While resting as and looking from awareness, you bring words, pictures, emotions and sensations (elements) into awareness, examining each of them in isolation, one by one. For example, if you are looking for the person who isn’t good enough, you ask that question towards each element. Let’s say a memory in the form of a picture arises. You look at that picture and ask, “Is this picture me, the person who isn’t good enough?” Instead of answering with the mind, you take note of whether there is any emotion or sensation stuck (or “velcroed”) to the picture. If there is, you answer “yes.” If there isn’t, you answer “no.” If there is a yes, you slowly move to that emotion or sensation and ask the same question towards that emotion or sensation, while feeling it without the picture on it. “Is this emotion, by itself, me, the person who isn’t good enough?” If you are experiencing that emotion without any words or pictures on it, you generally answer “no, that isn’t me” and continue resting and letting the emotion be as it is. If there are any words or pictures stuck to that emotion, you answer “yes.”

Then you slowly move to each set of words and each picture, one by one, asking the question. As you move through the various words, pictures, emotions and sensations, you often begin to notice that you cannot find that person. In not finding it, there is a release or relaxation from identification with that story. The key is to stick with the looking, trying to find it wherever you look, at whatever arises. Another important key is slowing your experience down, truly examining everything in slow motion. Trying to move quickly through an inquiry can result in skipping over important elements that continue to create suffering (i.e., bypassing).

For a demonstration of the Unfindable Inquiry, watch these videos on YouTube:

(demonstration of me doing the UI on myself, looking for the Self) and

 

(here, I am facilitating someone else through the UI).

The video “Understanding the Living Inquiries Before You Inquire” is a good explanation, rather than a demonstration:

Perhaps the best source for understanding how the UI works is in my book, “The Unfindable Inquiry,” which will be released in 2016. If you don’t want to wait for that book to be released, the book, “Living Relationship,” which is available on amazon now, also contains thorough instructions: visit: www.amazon.com. (Note: this is a republished post, the book “Living Relationship” is no longer available via Amazon)


Q: The Compulsion and Anxiety Inquiries work in a similar way?

Scott: Yes, those inquiries are specific adaptations of the Unfindable Inquiry. With the Compulsion Inquiry, the object you are looking for is an urge, desire or command to do something compulsively. The CI can be used not only on addictions but on any compulsive movements e.g., the desire to change your experience or even the urge to be right. With the Anxiety Inquiry, the object you are looking for is the threat, danger or attack that underlies fear or anxiety. The CI and AI work the same way as the UI with the only difference being that you are looking for one of those specific objects, rather than looking for the self. Once you become adept at all three inquiries, you can begin weaving them together, which is very powerful.

Fiona has some great videos explaining how the AI works:

(Introduction to the Anxiety Inquiry) and

(self-facilitation using the AI). She and I are also writing a book on anxiety that will include specific instructions on the AI (to be released in 2016). (Note: this is a republished post, you can find Fiona’s book “The Art of Finding Yourself” by clicking here). The CI is not yet demonstrated in any video. However, my book, “Natural Rest for Addiction” contains specific instructions on it: visit www.amazon.com.


Q: How do you know what to look for with the UI – how to name it?

Scott: Trust your own experience. Who do you think you are? What identity feels really sticky, real or true – or creates suffering? Deficiency stories such as “I’m inadequate,” “I’m unlovable,” or “I’m unsafe” are popular targets for the UI. If you have difficulty naming what to look for, use the Boomerang or Panorama Inquiries (naming tools) to help. Explanations of these tools can be found in the upcoming book, “The Unfindable Inquiry” and also in the book, “Living Relationship.” Essentially, with these naming tools, you are asking what other people or things mirror back to you about who you are. For example, if my father triggers me, I might ask, “What identity is he mirroring back?” Perhaps the answer is, “I’m helpless.” Once I’ve named it, I can then use the UI on that identity. These naming tools work within the mirror of relationship and really help illuminate the root of the suffering. It looks like someone or something outside of myself is the source of the pain. But quite often, the other person is merely triggering a certain identity that is unconscious until I properly name it and then attempt to find it. The UI is not limited to looking for deficiency stories. You could look for anything, such as a table, a bad day, cancer or anything else.


Q: So, the point of these inquiries is to see the unfindability of whatever you are looking for?

Scott: Yes and no. The main purpose of the Inquiries is to allow us to bring into the light of awareness unconscious thoughts, feelings and sensations that create suffering and then to rest and allow them to be as they are. These thoughts, emotions and sensations often fall away naturally just from resting and looking at them. In this way, the Inquiries are providing a natural and deep acceptance of our entire experience. Transformation happens just from that resting, looking and allowing. It also happens through seeing the unfindability of whatever you are looking for. But if people make unfindability the main purpose, as if they are trying to reach an endpoint where they see something as unfindable, they may miss the delicious opportunity that the Inquiries truly provide, which is the experience of allowing everything to be as it is. Essentially, the Inquiries help us change our relationship to thoughts, emotions and sensations, so that we are no longer resisting, trying to change, fighting and/or avoiding whatever arises. Bypassing becomes virtually impossible once you become adept at this kind of inquiry.


Q: Do you suggest that people try the Inquiries on their own or work with a facilitator first?

Scott: Some will be able to read about the Inquiries or watch some videos and then be able to use them skillfully. But in most cases, I suggest people work with a facilitator first. A certified facilitator is trained to help a person spot the identities and other sources of suffering that are largely unconscious and then gently guide them properly through the Inquiries, so that there is no bypassing. Once you become adept at self-facilitating, doing the Inquiries on your own can be incredibly liberating. It’s like having a sword in your arsenal that cuts through suffering like a hot knife through butter. But the key is skillfulness. There are all sorts of pitfalls that people experience when they do not first learn how to properly use this method. This is why working with a facilitator first is so important. Facilitators can be found at www.livinginquiries.com.


Q: I know you did private work online for many years. Do you work with people in groups or one-on-one anymore?

Scott: I only work with clients at the Kiloby Center. It’s a full time job. I no longer work online or in person with people. But there are many, many very good facilitators available for online or in-person work. Occasionally I will do a retreat. But they are few and far between. I am doing weekly podcasts called RUF talks (note: this post is republished, the weekly podcasting has been stopped). They are free. You can listen to them here at www.kiloby.com.


Q: But why have a method? In the nondual community, teachings often say that liberation cannot be realized through a method and that methods often just create more seeking towards the future.

Scott: Some methods do that. But the Living Inquiries are designed to reveal the emptiness of that self that is seeking as well as the object or future state that is being sought. For example, if you really looked for the one who is “unenlightened” and you looked for whatever you are chasing (e.g., enlightenment) you would likely discover that these things are unfindable. You would see that there is no inherent self and no inherent enlightenment. This would relax the seeking and provide a deep rest as present moment awareness and a natural allowing of everything to come and go without identifying with whatever arises.


Q: At the risk of beating a dead horse, I want to stick with this point. All these teachings that shun methods can’t be wrong. Doesn’t the very idea of using a method create the idea of an endpoint that you are trying to reach?

Scott: I’ve already answered that above. But I do understand where your focus behind this question comes from, so I want to honor it. Allow me to elaborate. If someone uses the Inquiries to try and get somewhere (which some do in the beginning until they learn the true purpose of this work) they are missing a key component. They are missing the opportunity to examine the very identity of the seeker and the thing being sought. You can only continue seeking if the identity behind the seeking and the thing being sought are not examined. Again, the main point of the Inquiries is not to reach the point of unfindability. Somewhere along the way, you start to see that the point is to rest and look from and as awareness and let everything be as it is. That’s what enlightenment is really all about. The fact that you can also realize the unfindability of whatever you are looking for is like icing on the cake. The cake is the resting, looking and allowing. The inquiry questions are designed to bring about a more gentle, thorough and directed examination of the elements that make up suffering. They are not intended to make the process heady or overcomplicated. When done skillfully, the questions make looking much easier.


Q: But don’t those Inquiry questions just get in the way? Why not just rest and allow? Isn’t that enough?

Scott: Before the Inquiries were developed, I spoke a lot about the value of just resting and allowing. I still do, as resting and allowing lie at the heart of the Inquiries. The problem is that it just doesn’t go deep enough for many people. Many of us are not consciously feeling emotions and sensations directly as they arise. By directly, I mean feeling them directly in awareness without the veil of thought on them. The Inquiries are designed to help us feel into and rest with whatever arises in the body directly. Our default state is to focus on and identify with thinking. Many teachings focus too much on just watching thoughts or resting as awareness. They do not point people to how to be consciously in their bodies. This is a big miss because so much of our suffering arises in the body. We feel the past and the future in a very visceral way. If you check into your own experience, you will find that you identify with thought mainly when there is an emotion or sensation stuck to it. The stronger the emotion or sensation, the more you believe or identify with the thoughts. The Inquiries help to undo that Velcro between thoughts and the corresponding emotions and sensations. I have noticed that many people who have been involved with nondual teachings for decades are still suffering and seeking some future state, mainly because they haven’t yet developed the skill of truly allowing the emotions and sensations to arise and dissolve without thoughts on them. They wonder why they are still suffering so much and still seeking. But it isn’t rocket science. It’s just that a big part of their experience (the body) remains unconscious. The Inquiries help everything come into the light of awareness. No stone is left unturned. You cannot learn the Inquiries and use them skillfully and continue to suffer and seek.


Q: What do you mean by suffering? Are you saying that the Inquiries eradicate all emotional and psychological pain?

Scott: The trajectory of this work is the natural diminishment or elimination of emotional and psychological pain. But suffering is not the same as temporarily experiencing negative thoughts, emotions and sensations. Suffering means to carry identification over time – to identify with something, believe it, feel pain over it and continue identifying with it for hours, days, weeks, months or even years. Thoughts, emotions and sensations are natural, temporary arisings in our experience. This is not about trying to eradicate them through the force of personal will. It is not about trying to get somewhere, including to a future place where you feel no pain. It is about allowing every arising to be as it is and undoing the velcro that holds the arisings together. It is about seeing that what you perceive to be real and true and to be the source of your suffering is actually unfindable. It is about seeing that thoughts only stick around and make you suffer when you do not notice and fully, gently allow the emotion or sensation stuck to it. As you begin to see this more and more, in the midst of whatever is arising, suffering diminishes or even vanishes. But again, it’s not a seeking game. It’s a game of resting, allowing and asking a few skillful questions to truly face and resolve what makes you suffer.


Q: How deeply can one take the Inquiries? It seems as though someone could use them in only a surface-level way, dealing only with some painful thoughts and emotions. But couldn’t one also take them deeper than that, into seeing that everything is unfindable?

Scott: Yes, this work is influenced by (but different from) the Madhyamaka School of Buddhism, a rarely translated school. I first learned about the teaching of unfindability from my friend and teacher, Greg Goode. In this school, the point is to refute the notion that things exist inherently. Inherent existence makes us suffer because we are constantly misperceiving reality and the people, things and circumstances of our lives as being objective, fixed and permanent. If you take the Inquiries very deeply, you begin to see the emptiness of everything. This is incredibly liberating. If one does not want to take it that far, the Inquires can be used to simply deal with some pesky addictions or anxieties or deficiency stories that create suffering. It’s up to each individual to gauge how deeply he or she wants to go.


Q: Emptiness – a confusing term. In awareness teachings, emptiness is often considered to be the same as awareness. Is this what you mean, that life starts feeling like a big empty space?

Scott: No, even that big empty space is unfindable if you look for it using the UI. Emptiness here means that whatever object you were perceiving to be true, real, objective, fixed and permanent does not exist that way at all. Seeing the emptiness of a thing means that you cannot find it when you look for it. If you then come to rest in what feels like a big, open, empty space called awareness, you can look for that awareness and see that it too is empty and unfindable. This helps from landing on the notion that life is one big void (which can bring about nihilism or dogmatic thinking). The big void is as unfindable as the self or a threat or urge. All things are equally unfindable.


Q: If one takes the Inquiries that deeply, wouldn’t life start feeling meaningless? Everything would seem to be untrue and illusory right?

Scott: As I answer these questions, keep in mind that I am speaking from my own direct experience. I am not assuming that everyone comes to see things as I do. Meaningless only becomes a landing point when you refuse to look at it. Meaningless is unfindable also. Life is full of meaning. Every word I type has meaning. Every story we tell has meaning. The difference is that you see that nothing has inherent meaning. This “means” (see the irony?) that all the stories in life continue showing up but you are not identified with them. You are not grasping and clinging to them anymore. You can play in this world with all of its stories. Tell them. Listen to them. Enjoy them. Argue with them. But you also see the illusory nature of all these stories at the same time. It’s paradoxical. For example, if you looked for the self and didn’t find it, you would still refer to yourself as “Joe” including all the stories that pertain to Joe, but you would do so with a lightness and non-seriousness about it all. Life becomes joyful play, rather than the serious and heavy sense that everything you are thinking about a Joe and about everything else is objectively true and real.


Q: But how does this help the world’s problems? How does this end terrorism, for example?

Scott: It doesn’t, unless terrorists start to inquire into the inherent beliefs that propel them into violence. Inquiry is something you do for yourself. As Michael Jackson sang, start with “the man in the mirror.” You begin to change the world by changing your relationship to thoughts, emotions and sensations. With that investigation, you begin to see the world very differently. Until the terrorists and murderers of the world begin to inquire, we have to look at more conventional ways to address these problems. I’ll leave that to the politicians and I’ll vote for those politicians who are aware of the possibility that even their own beliefs are empty. Inquiry opens the door to more transparent, compassionate, loving and harmonized relationships. Right now, the world is largely involved in a lot of outward pointing. It’s always someone else’s fault. Something or someone else is seen to be the source of pain and suffering. Inquiry encourages us to go deeper into the triggers, beliefs and identifications behind all that outward pointing. It would be amazing to see two world leaders engaged in inquiry about each other or two dogmatic religious people inquiring into their beliefs. But inquiry is very threatening to our most precious beliefs. That fear alone stops many people from taking a deeper look.


Q: Relationships are so challenging, including the relationships between people and between groups, nations, religions and political parties. Is there any hope that we will all begin to investigate our perceptions more thoroughly to help harmonize these relationships?

Scott: We are far from that right now. You don’t see Inquiry on CNN. You don’t hear about it in presidential speeches or debates. You don’t often see couples who are mutually engaged in inquiry instead of reacting from the usual triggers. Part of it is education. Many people don’t even know about the possibility of inquiry. They heve never even heard the word “inquiry.” The more we speak about inquiry and the value of it and demonstrate its effectiveness in our own lives, the more other people will catch on to it. Freedom is very contagious.


Q: Couldn’t inquiry result in someone staying in an abusive relationship instead of taking action to leave or speak up more?

Scott: Not if it is done thoroughly and effectively. Most people find they are able to take clearer action after inquiring. For example, just looking for the “victim” can dissolve the victim identity. And that identity keeps many people in relationships that are harmful or destructive. Inquiring into one’s own suppressed voice or expression can bring about a greater ability to speak up in relationship.


Q: Do people experience a sort of nothingness about themselves after inquiring, such that self-love becomes irrelevant?

Scott: Quite the opposite. Speak to facilitators who have used the Inquiries on the deepest identifications. They will most likely tell you that there is much more self-love and compassion now. That’s another paradox. One might think that the result is just seeing no self or self as like an empty space. But in a very mysterious way, inquiry brings about a compassion, love and acceptance for how we show up in life in any given moment.


Q: How has Inquiry helped you personally?

Scott: The previous deficiency story that ran my life – I’m unlovable – is nowhere on the radar for me. It feels like a faint memory with no velcroed emotion or sensation with it. This allows me to experience more unconditional love towards myself and people with whom I am in relationship. I feel much more comfortable being whoever or whatever I am in any moment. Yet I cannot truly define what or who I am, which allows me to take myself and everything else much less seriously. It has also helped tremendously with trauma, anxiety and addiction. Addiction has virtually been wiped off the map for me. I still indulge in some pleasures, but I don’t feel shackled to them.


Q: What would you say to those readers who are reading your answers here, but who still feel reluctant to learn and use the Inquiries?

Scott: Just try it. What do you have to lose? Even if you have no money to work with a facilitator, there are plenty of free videos explaining how the process works, so that you can try it on your own. If it doesn’t work, you can abandon it. But it is very rare for someone to try it and find that it doesn’t help at all. Mostly what stops people from trying it is fear, close-mindedness or some idea that methods generally don’t work. Some people are just not ready for this work. They need to suffer more. But suffering has a way of leading people to what works. So they may eventually come to the Inquiries after a few more years of suffering. Any resistance one experiences towards this work can be examined through inquiry. For me, life is too short not to have a skillful way of examining the source of my suffering.


Q: Aren’t some people really stuck in their heads around spiritual concepts and not really experiencing what nondual teachings are truly pointing to? How can those people be helped with Inquiry?

Scott: Yes, we call this overcompensation. It is safer to cling to the concepts than to examine them. Overcompensation is a way of avoiding the deeper, more painful emotions and sensations in the body. It’s often a way of masking unresolved trauma. It’s always a question of readiness. Do you want to strengthen your ideas and your knowledge about spirituality or do you want to directly experience freedom? Do you want to continue bypassing and overcompensating or do you want to examine and resolve the pain underneath all of that? For me, the choice is very easy. I know that during times in which I was trying to understand all these spiritual concepts, I was bypassing. I was not ready to examine the deeper pain. But life has a way of showing us how we are not going deep enough. The suffering continues until we open the door to looking more skillfully. That’s when Inquiry can help a lot.


Q: Do you still inquire?

Scott: Much less than I used to. The less suffering there is, the less there is to examine through inquiry. And now I am experimenting at the Kiloby Center with new avenues of exploration, ways that incorporate the basic foundation of the Inquiries but add new elements, especially elements that address deeply rooted contractions and trauma in the body.


Q: What does Scott still need to examine? Is there any suffering left for you?

Scott: No, I don’t carry things over in time. Occasionally, a small trigger will arise, but it is usually seen very quickly, resolving itself on its own. When my mother passed, I felt tremendous waves of grief. But the inquiries helped to remain conscious of the deep pain. They allowed me to see that grief is really just love, disguised as pain. But there was certainly pain there. It resolved itself naturally but the grieving process had to be fully explored. The pain has not been carried over in time. When I think about my mother, I feel only love and compassion. In the last five years, I have focused more on some of the deeper contractions near my spine, remnants of earlier trauma from growing up gay and being bullied. But those have largely released. There is still some energy in small pockets near the spine. They are dissolving naturally through simple rest and occasional inquiry. It’s been quite an amazing process to watch, as previous deficiency stories, addictions and anxieties have fallen away, resulting in the deeper contractions and blocked energies coming into the light of awareness and slowly dissolving. Life is great! There is no end to the depth of freedom. It hasn’t always been easy. I have dealt with a lot of pain through the years. But I feel so blessed to have found this approach. I can’t imagine a life without it. This is why I’m so enthusiastic about this work. This is why I write and speak about it so much. I just want others to know that it is out there and that they don’t have to suffer anymore.

This post is republished from the previous Living Inquiries website

 

Wisdom Is Waiting For You

By Lisa Meuser.

“I realized that it wasn’t my fault that my mother was emotionally unavailable to me.”

“I have been putting on a happy face to cover up my unhappiness for years.”

“I know I am connected to the Cosmos – I’m not alone.”

“I met a reservoir of grief in me that I didn’t know I’d been carrying around.”

“I experienced a Universe that is good.”

 

These are all personal accounts of amazing insight shared with me by clients and friends.

Mostly experienced in safe settings with a safe person, or in retreats where they were out of the usual daily grind, these moments of clarity were profound. The world appears “changed” in these moments, as if cobwebs have cleared, and it often seems as though the newfound clarity will be everlasting because of how radical it feels.

But what happens is usually quite different… unless there is continued connection with the clarity or insight.  If there isn’t a continued exploration, the clarity and insight will lose its potency and not have a sustainable positive impact.  At best, it will a memory fondly remembered. At worst, it will be forgotten, doubted and disbelieved, or it will reinforce/exasperate the initial patterning.

I knew someone who went on retreat and came back with mind- and behavior-altering revelations.

He’d realized that he’d been mistreating others – a friend of mine being one of them – because of his own shame and deficiency stories. He made many amends for the pain he’d caused, and explained that he wanted to live another way. He wanted to be the person he knew he could be when he wasn’t tangled up in fear and shame.

And then… he went on a two-month vacation.

“When I get back I’m going to jump right into continuing to explore all that’s come up,” he shared with her. He was very excited.  So was she. When he returned two months later, however, he was very much the person he’d been prior to his retreat but with even more walls, fear, and separation from love.  He was more violent and more disconnected from himself than ever.  My friend was crushed – she was truly hoping that this time he’d finally changed. Sometimes we still talk about what might have happened if he’d really dug in deep and stayed with what had been unearthed. We think about how much pain and suffering could be averted if only he’d continued to confront his demons instead of running further from them.

This may be an extreme example, but I have clients with somewhat similar experiences.

They will have one session, feel great, and be ready to tackle the world.  But that momentum doesn’t always stick around. The patterning of our behaviors and beliefs is a fascinating brain and neurological phenomenon. Science confirms: it takes time, attention, and a willingness to engage with one’s patternings (neural pathways) for sustainable change to occur.  In other words, the insight or clarity – that Aha! moment – is just the very first step.  Many many many follow-up steps will need to be taken for that insight to make a lasting impression both neurologically and behaviorally.

I think back to a retreat I went on. The retreat leader shared something along the lines of “Okay, you’ve all had some really great insights into your shadows, your patterning, your shame, your darkness, your trauma, as well as into your joy, your wholeness, your light, love and beauty. Now the real work begins.” And he proceeded to hand out a page or two of somatic-based resources to help with follow-up integration. It took only days for us to understand what he meant. Once back home, in our familiar lives, with our familiar people, and our familiar routines, it took dedication and discipline to not fall back into the same old patterning that we’d just had amazing insights into.

Sound familiar?

We all likely remember times when something felt so profound and real, and we knew we had to make and effort to “keep it going.” But more often than not, for whatever reason, we didn’t… and the profundity disappeared. Lots of intense Aha! moments are short-lived as we go back to what is familiar. In addition, the vulnerability that often comes with these insights can sometimes be too uncomfortable or unmanageable to stay with. We could say “The ego/separate sense of “I” wants to stay in control,” or “Egoic patterning won’t go down without a fight.” But I think it’s generally more useful to come back to brain science and neural pathways.

Insights are like newborn babies.

They must be tended to, coddled, fed and nourished. They will die if they are ignored, and require sustained attention and support as they mature and grow into adulthood (as they are embodied). Science explains this to us through the language of neural pathways: it takes anywhere for 18-200 days (with 66 being the average) for a neural pathway to change, so unless the insight is consciously explored – repeatedly – it just fades away. Conversely, if it’s actively engaged with it will become its own neural pathway, thereby forming a lasting impression and new habit or healthy behavior.

The more profound the Aha!, the more it must be tended to, because initially those are the least comfortable as the grooves of the neural pathways are most deeply formed. It isn’t always pleasant to unearth that which has been hiding in the dark, musky corners of our internal basements. We can experience shame and belief systems that have fueled our dysfunctions that we hadn’t previously seen. We can experience parts of ourselves that we’d, quite frankly, like to re-bury. Without staying with that new vulnerability, the ego or separate sense of self could easily come in and cover it back up, and sometimes even retaliate in the wake of said vulnerability. What may seem like a promising and expansive revelation can quickly turn into defensiveness and attack, as the opening may feel too threatening in its newborn baby state.

As anyone who has ever been around an infant knows, it’s not always easy to tend to a newborn. Infants thrive under stable environments, and so do the caregivers. If a person’s lifestyle and choices don’t allow for the sustainability and integration of those Aha! moments, then they will quickly fade. If a person’s sense of ego is too strong, or if there is too much fear, the commitment to follow up will be turned away from. Again, it’s the follow-up integrative work that allows the insight to “take hold” and be embodied.

What exactly is “follow-up?”

First of all, it comes down to the willingness and readiness to really meet what’s been revealed through the insight, how it relates to the everyday life of the person, and a commitment to continue looking and exploring.

Follow-up can be done many different ways, but generally speaking it takes the form of some kind of active engagement or participation that keeps the insight “alive.”  This may look like: finding and then repeating new and useful behaviors as opposed to engaging in old unhealthy habits, reading something which supports the continued exploration of the insight, and/or inquiring deeper into the insight on one’s own using meditation or other mindful body-awareness approach.

Sometimes we need someone who is trained in embodiment/somatic practices to help us flush out the old gunk and give more room to the clarity received so that it can take up more occupancy in our being. Using the previous metaphor, this would be helping the infant insight grow into embodied maturity, until it is no longer just an insight but a fully-actualized and lived reality.

Patterning and habitual behavior are often buried for a reason.

Sometimes it’s become so routine or “normal” that we have been unable to consciously see our dysfunctional ways. Other times we’ve experienced pain or trauma in our lives that have led us to develop walls of protection which keep us from being truly available to the wholeness of life.  Someone who is trained in exploring trauma and pain body will be able to help in the integration process, enabling the insights to move into a sustained way of being.

Insights and clarity – those magnificent Aha! moments – are gifts. Filled with wisdom, they can enrich our lives, creating a life that we feel at home with and a part of.

Here are a few simple ways to extend the shelf life of your Aha! moments:

Pause: Pause what you’re doing, and take in as fully as you can what has come into your conscious attention. Before jumping to analyze it or understand it (or announce it to the world as a facebook post), just pause.  Breathe in the wisdom of the insight – not from your mind, but from your being.  As we know, god/presence/love/etc does not live in our brain or mind. It is Known experientially. So take a few moments to pause, breathe, and feel what is coming in at the level of Being.

Be curious: After you’ve sat with the insight or Aha! moment, and you’ve taken in all that subtle but profound Knowing, grab a pen and some paper.  Science tells us that the act of writing can help us somatically process and integrate information, so take some time to journal or make notes about your experience. Be curious and open to any further insights that might come from your initial Aha! moment.  All sorts of connections may be coming to you now. Learn about yourself. Learn about your habits. Learn about your strengths, and your weaknesses.  Be curious and learn. Write with abandon – don’t worry, no one is looking!

Feel: As you’re curiously connecting to the tendrils of the Aha! moment and writing about it, feel into your body so that you can write from that space of physical awareness. Feel into where it seems to be living in your body. This may feel good,  or this may feel bad. Write about what you’re feeling. Write about the emotions that you’re noticing. Try to maintain curiosity as you do this. If you don’t like writing, try to make some simple notes or just jot a few things down. This isn’t for publication, it’s for your own continued journeying. If you aren’t able to write something, or you just don’t want to, that’s fine. You may want to record a voice memo to capture it. You may even want to call someone – sharing it with yourself or with others after you’ve taken some time to take it in may help you to further connect with the Aha! moment so it can be explored more later on.

Stay with it: What good is an insight if you don’t do anything with it? There are lots of ways you can stay with insights to see where the rabbit hole goes. Keep leaning into it, and keep learning. Keep exploring. You are a vast ocean of remarkable depths. You can do this as a solitary journey, with a professional, or with a group of like-minded individuals. If you need help finding resources, contact me and I’ll do my best to hook you up with something that meets your needs and interests. There are so many resources out there these days when it comes to embodiment practices!

Get support: We’re a tribal species. We’re meant to connect with others. Again, if you’re not sure where to turn, let me know and I’ll try to help you out. Keep going!

Dive in: Keep on pausing, being curious, and feeling with regards to your Aha! moment, and your continued insights. Get intimate with yourself and your history on this planet. Ask your insight for more insight. Ask for clarity. See what comes. Keep going deeper and deeper. Don’t stop until your mind, body, and spirit feel integrated. I meet so many people who think they have to live with their fears, their grief, their lostness, their misery and discontent. There is always another way when you feel stuck. There is always something deeper, underneath pain and suffering, that is waiting to be discovered. Stay with it, and get support.

 

Remember the insights I listed at the very beginning?

Those were just the first steps in these people’s lives. They were not final resting places – they hadn’t magically found peace. Rather, a door had opened up, and the magic was found when they opted to walk through it.  Most of them dove into their Aha! moments with vigor and found a new and thrilling world waiting for them. It wasn’t always easy, or pleasant, but they were able to safely connect with and detach from belief systems that had been keeping them stuck and in suffering.

You are not alone.
Take in the wisdom that found its way to you, and always be ready for more.

 

 

Living Life with an Asterisk

By Paul Galewitz.   So there I was, lying on a gurney, my nose and mouth covered by an oxygen mask, unable to speak, while being subjected to an EKG. While I was in this position, I had a clear view of the treatment room in this small interior of British Columbia hospital. To my left, the nurses and doctor would come into the room occasionally to check on the EKG machine and to see if I was OK. To my right, my wife was sitting with a friend and having a conversation.

What I saw during that interval changed my life.

It was so clear to me as I was lying there, that the nurses and the doctor were acting. It was like a soap opera – their acting was that bad. Nothing they did or said was in any way authentic. It all seemed scripted, and they were doing an unconvincing job of reading their lines.

I was totally amazed and astonished by what I was seeing. I so desperately wanted to ask my wife, “Hey! Are you seeing this the way I am?” But with the oxygen mask over my mouth, I couldn’t speak. I just kept looking at this in wonder.

Meanwhile, to the right of me, my wife and friend were also acting, but they appeared much more genuine, much more convincing in their roles than the actors to the left of me. I could still see through the acting, but I believed them as they played their roles. The contrast was unmistakeable.

This happened almost ten years ago. The vividness of that awareness stayed with me for some weeks, and has shaped how I have looked at life from that point onward. It has allowed me to come to certain conclusions, as I have observed myself and others over the previous ten years.

We are all acting. We are literally giving the performances of our lives.

We are playing a character that has a name, a story, a life along a timeline, but that is not who we truly are. It is a role we are playing.

But this play we are engaged in is so convincing! It seems so real – the thoughts seem real, the feelings, emotions, sensations seem so real, all these other actors seem very real. Our stories are very persuasive in assuring us that the character we are playing is indeed real, has a history, a present, and a future.

Regardless of the degree of authenticity in our acting, and no matter how persuasive our storyline, one thing is certain. We are not the characters we are acting out. We are something far grander, and no words are up to the task of describing it.

That’s where the asterisk comes in.

What do I mean by living life with an asterisk? Whenever we come across an asterisk in whatever work we may be reading, we know that there is more to the story of what that particular sentence or paragraph is expressing. So we find the asterisk at the bottom of the page, and read the additional information that wasn’t expressed in the sentence in question.

In living our lives with an asterisk, the additional information always has the same theme. It reads something like this: *Remember who you really are, which is the Absolute, the I AM, the Oneness, what is beyond description. What your character is going through right now does not touch this Truth. You simply ARE, and the separate self doesn’t even exist here. This field of Oneness is never separate from you, no matter how much turmoil, emotional or physical pain, or seemingly unsolvable dilemmas your character is experiencing. Take a breath, take two or three seconds to rest in that Truth, and then be with whatever you are experiencing. Continue playing your role as best you can, knowing that it is a role, and not the ultimate Truth of who you are.”

Those are my words, but you can ascribe whatever words you want to the asterisk’s appearance. The asterisk doesn’t even need words – it can  be a reminder to simply stop for two or three seconds to remember the I AM, and to feel the total lack of attributes of pure consciousness.

The asterisk can be a reminder of this for you in whatever way works. I carry this asterisk around with me wherever I go and whatever I am doing, and at the very least it reminds me not to take my character too seriously. This isn’t always easy, especially when physical or emotional pain is seemingly present.

At the same time, it is also a reminder to play my role to the best of my ability. My character has been given certain attributes that I can use as I will. I can check in with my body as I go about my day, and see how it is reacting to how I am playing my role. My body will often react with certain sensations which can alert me to the fact that my character needs to pay attention to what is going on, and whether I am playing my role as authentically as possible.

The thoughts and feelings that come up are there to be noticed, and provide ample fodder for inquiry. This inquiring helps to expose the programming and patterns that have ruled our character’s behavior, and reminds us that there is no greater “technique” than simply noticing.

Just last week, I had a session with a fantastic facilitator, and as I watched the video recording of the session, I was taken with how authentic we were both being within the play of the facilitation. But there was a moment when I looked at myself and saw a thoroughly inauthentic reaction to something we were discussing. It was very humbling, and in fact, I even turned my head away from the screen. What terrible acting! My body felt acute embarrassment, and it gave me something to sit with, allow and inquire into.

Our thoughts can be so convincing. We have given them so much weight over the years, that it takes our focus and intent to remember not to buy into them. Where is it written that all our thoughts are to be believed? Where does it say that we are our thoughts? Are the thoughts even our own, or a combination of elements of our programming, or something else entirely? Do you notice how certain thoughts seem to always bring up certain feelings? Does that make those thoughts any more true simply because they produce a feeling? Where is your mind anyway? Can you even find it? (I lost mine about ten years ago.)

These thoughts are simply more variations in the play we find ourselves in. Nothing, not even our thoughts, are true in this play. It is simply a part of the play.

When we are going through a period where thoughts are nagging at us, or are particularly bothersome, remember the *. Let that remind you to take a few moments to stop and be with the I AM, the infinite oneness. (Really, words don’t do it, do they?)

Each time you do, the * can become more and more second nature, and even as you are in the busiest and most turbulent of times, you can just remember the * and know that nothing, nothing, nothing can effect what that points to. All else is part of the play in which you are engaged. Does this make your particular dilemma go away, or make it easier? Maybe, maybe not. But maybe you will be less identified with your circumstances.

Pretty soon it simply becomes automatic that nothing you are going through will be taken at face value, and the I AM will permeate your awareness as you play your part more and more authentically. For me, I don’t live in fear that some uncomfortable emotion will come up that will make my character unhappy or afraid. If and when I do feel that fear, or any other “negative” emotion, I just refer to the asterisk again, and I am reminded of my true home. This doesn’t mean the feelings immediately go away, it just means you can be noticing them from a different place than we are used to.

It is within our power as characters to remember that we are playing a role, and to find our inspiration, our refuge and the Truth of who we are in the field of I AM. Just look over your shoulder and notice the * just sitting there, reminding you of your true nature.

Neither Nor

By Greg Ascue.

Many people do inquiry around the “bad” things in their lives in the hopes that they will “disappear”. Negative identities, threats, addictions etc. This is entirely natural. Who wants to suffer? But in the end, this is only part of the equation. “Good” things can constrain your experience of life too.

Recently, after an inquiry session with a woman I work with, I mentioned that it is useful to look for (in inquiry) opposites. Both possible sides of a subject. Good and bad, presence and lack, existence and non-existence and so on.  In mentioning this I pointed out that many people naturally (perhaps subtly) set up beliefs in the findability of the opposite of what they could not find in inquiry. But the un-findability of one end of a pair of opposites does not imply the findability of the other end of the pair. By looking at both sides you can address such subtle tendencies. No matter how pleasant (or unpleasant) a belief may be, inevitably there is some form of constraint. All things are unfindable.

Neither a “self” nor a “not self” can be found

Neither “something” nor “nothing” can be found

Neither “existence” nor “non-existence” can be found

Neither “duality nor “non-duality” be found

Neither “volitional” nor “non-volitional” can be found

This form of inquiry works equally with any belief or thing (including beliefs and things associated with the inquiries themselves). Taken to their ultimate, these inquiries leave you with no views or concepts to promote or adhere to. Again, all things are unfindable. Simple, spacious, and clear.

The woman’s reaction was one of surprise and she asked what about things like love and intimacy? Without thinking about it I replied “It’s pretty hard to love or be intimate with a story” (to love or be intimate with something unfindable). Understandably, perhaps, she displayed even more surprise. But what underlies this statement is my experience that beliefs surrounding such concepts often tend to create suffering too. Love is “this or that”. And when this “this or that” is not here there is “the lack of love”.

Neither “love” nor “the lack of love” can be found

Neither “intimacy” nor “the lack of intimacy” can be found

What is important here is that in saying “love cannot be found” I am, also, saying “the lack of love cannot be found”. This is why it is useful to look at opposites. There is no promotion of any opposite. Neither a limited, constrained, conditional love nor a cold, unfeeling, nihilism. There are no assertions being made here, no limited beliefs. Whatever this is, it is beyond any such assertions. Such assertions have never been known here. This allows experiencing to be done nakedly without limits or constraint. Oddly, love and intimacy are liberated by their unfindability.

What are the implications of this in how we should live our lives? None whatsoever. Any such implications would be unfindable as well. True freedom. I have been married for over 25 years.  In not finding love nor the lack of love I am not constrained in loving my wife, it gets better with each passing year. I savor these passing years. For someone else this may mean leaving behind some dead relationship. Stepping away from the tyranny of unfulfilled dreams. For someone else none of this may be relevant in any way. The freedom to do what is best is here.

Life is liberated by its unfindability. Unfindability is liberated by its unfindability. This moment is born anew. You are born anew. This world is born anew.

 “All knowledge is bondage” – Shiva Sutras

“All that is heard is non-existent” – Adi Shankara

The Living Inquiries Bee Flower

When We Come Back to Our Senses

By Fiona Robertson.

When we inquire, we come back to our senses. Literally.

When we were young children, we spent virtually all our time in our senses. We moved unselfconsciously, and curiously touched, smelled, and looked as we explored the world around us, as well as ourselves and our own bodies. Gradually, we were taught that it wasn’t always okay to be in our senses in this way. The dictates of society and culture or the unpleasantness of our experiences made us wary about being engrossed in our sensory world, and we began to spend more time in our heads, in our intellects.

As young adults, many of us seek out the means to alter our sensory perceptions. Alcohol and drugs of all kinds take us out of or change our immediate experience in ways that may be exciting, frightening, thought-provoking or numbing. While some of us are able to experiment with no adverse long-term effects, others end up becoming addicted. Perhaps we miss the vividness and wonder of childhood, and use substances in an attempt to alleviate the emptiness or boredom that we feel. Perhaps we can’t deal with emotional or physical pain, and find a substance to numb or dull it instead. Perhaps we view ourselves as more interesting or creative people because we take drugs or drink or smoke.

Of course, it’s not just drugs and alcohol that can be used in this way. We may be using feel-good spiritual or therapeutic techniques in order to change or manage our experience. Ultimately, however, whatever method we choose, there’s usually an unexamined set of assumptions lying behind our attempts to make ourselves feel better:

What I’m experiencing isn’t okay,  is wrong, or is a problem.

I can’t cope or deal with what I’m experiencing.

There’s something better out there somewhere.

There’s nothing wrong with these assumptions in themselves. They’re simply unexamined. My guess is that these beliefs form (consciously or unconsciously) when we’re children by being told that what we’re experiencing or expressing is not okay, and that therefore we should inhibit or suppress aspects of ourselves. These unexamined aspects remain within us until we decide to examine them further.

The Living Inquiries give us the tools to look much more deeply at these aspects and assumptions. To begin, we investigate what it is we’re actually experiencing in each moment. We begin to notice whatever is going on, and to let it all be exactly as it is.

Try it out right now. Take a little time with each sense. Notice what you’re seeing, both with your eyes open and with your eyes closed (whether your eyes are open or closed, it’s likely that you’re seeing internal or mental images, pictures or memories. They can get quite subtle or vague, so as you continue to look you’ll perceive more). Notice what you’re hearing, both externally (I can hear the wind howling, and the hum of the computer, and a car going past) and internally (the spoken voice in the head, or some music, or yesterday’s conversation with someone).

Now become aware of what you’re touching or sensing, both internally and externally. There are immediate physical sensations of sitting or lying down, the touch of clothing on your skin, and the feelings or sensations present inside the body. When we take a little time to really sense into our inner experience, we often find it’s not quite as we’ve assumed it to be. For instance, we may have labelled a familiar feeling as fear or sadness. As we stay with the felt sense, we may find that words or images arise, and that there is a visual component to the feeling itself. Sensations or body energies often have a colour, shape, or some other visible element to them, which can often be overlooked until we investigate more closely. There may even be a smell or taste associated with the sensations that we’re experiencing, or that come with images, memories, or thoughts.

Coming back to our senses in this way takes us out of the usual thought stream, but doesn’t exclude thought. Rather than being caught up in our customary narratives, we notice them for what they are: words or images that we’re seeing or hearing in our mind’s eye. This is not to diminish or dismiss thought, but to see it for what it is. As we inquire, thought tends to lose its primacy; we no longer believe it in the same unquestioning way.

As we come back to our senses, we gradually become a little more balanced, and are more able to be with what’s here. We find that what we’re experiencing isn’t wrong, and that it isn’t ultimately a problem. It’s interesting that we use the phrase taking leave of our senses to indicate irrationality or craziness of some kind. It makes sense, then, that the antidote, as it were, is to come back to our senses as fully as we can.