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The Panorama Inquiry for Seeking

By Scott Kiloby.  

  1. Imagine yourself sitting in the middle of a room, with all the other people and things in your life placed around you in a circle.
  2. Scan around the whole circle.
  3. As you look at each person or thing, notice how it appears to reflect back to you the idea that you are deficient in some way.

In a way, your life is already designed as a circle. All the people, situations, and events you encounter are all around you, feeding you information about who you are. Imagining this circle puts everything and everyone around you into focus. It allows you to see how each person and thing is mirroring back to you some version of the story I am deficient.

Seeking in vain outside the self for what the self seems to lack is an impulse ingrained into the very fabric of the story of self. This impulse is based on one fundamental assumption: I am separate and deficient. We can spend our whole lives believing this basic assumption about ourselves. Until it is questioned, it tends to continue operating, driving much of what we do and how we act toward others.

When the basic assumption of separation and deficiency is undermined and seen through, fruitless seeking naturally relaxes, and we experience a stable sense of completeness with life as it is in the present moment. We can enjoy relationships, create things, express ourselves, follow our interests, and enjoy life in every way. We find that we can still move and fully operate in the world, but now without the belief that something is missing at a fundamental level.

Seeking is happening in our lives in so many ways that it can make our heads spin when we begin to look more closely at it. The Panorama Inquiry works well with useless seeking because it places all the people and things in our lives in a circle around us. By creating the circle, we can see that we are seeking in just about every direction.

Notice that when you rest in the moment, without emphasizing any thought, there is nothing to seek. There’s nowhere to go. Here you are, in the present moment. Your thoughts have relaxed, and you’re at peace. Even as you relax thoughts, you may notice that the energy in your body feels restless. Let that restless energy be as it is. Let it arise and fall without going back into the story of needing to seek something in the future, or from someone else. As the energy is allowed to relax, the mind relaxes with it more and more.

It’s worth repeating that these inquiries are not designed to create another avenue for fruitless seeking. They aren’t designed to get you something that you believe you lack. They’re here to help you see through the self that lacks. That seeing through is always a present seeing. The inquiry brings you right back to where you already are, resting in the present moment. There’s a stable well-being and contentment in presence. That sense of stable well-being and contentment is not based on getting to some later point, or getting something from someone else.

From The Unfindable Inquiry: One Simple Tool to Overcome Feelings of Unworthiness and Find Inner Peace

The Unfindable Inquiry is available on amazon.com

The Scandal of Believing in Objectivity

By Scott Kiloby.  

Much of the disharmony in relationship can be attributed to the belief in objectivity—that is, belief in the notion that we experience other people the way they really are. As we’ve seen, the belief in objectivity tends to arise right along with the belief in being a separate individual. Through my own separate me, I see separate others. Once you’ve made this division in your mind, there’s a tendency for you to believe that you, the subject, can see other people and objects exactly as they are. And in that tendency there’s a kind of mental sleepiness, a blindness to the fact that every time you see anything, what you’re actually doing is thinking. You fail to see that you’re looking through a filter of thought.

When you believe in objectivity, you have difficulty seeing that your words, pictures, and energies paint others in a way that is unique to you. Your words, pictures, and energies make up your entire view of reality. Your views of other people are shaped by your memories, your personal history, your culture, your world view, and your psychological and emotional traits along with various other influences. You don’t see others the way they are. You see them the way you are. The painter is inseparable from the painting.

For a quick experience of this reality, rest for a moment without any thoughts. In the moment of resting without thoughts, you don’t know who or what a person is, precisely because no thoughts are arising in you. Your thoughts inform you of everything you think you know about anyone, including yourself. When thoughts begin to arise in you, notice that they’re coming from your own personal set of memories. Each of your arising thoughts has to do with a particular past experience, one that you interpreted in a personal and particular way. Your view of another person is actually a view of your own memories, as if you were in a relationship with your memories and not with the other person. And as emotions and sensations arise alongside your memories, your image of that person is reinforced.

Notice that this is always the case, no matter whom you encounter. At any given moment, the way you see a particular person—that is, your thoughts about that person—will depend completely on the particular words, pictures, and energies that are arising in you. And what you think about that person will have a lot to do with your education, your upbringing, your fears, your thoughts about yourself, and many influences from your culture that shape your attitudes about who people are or who they should be. This reality can be difficult to see until you begin meeting people freshly in the moment, without dragging your memories into each encounter and using them to interpret others’ words and actions in the present. When you’re not able to see that your thoughts are producing your view of another person, you buy into the belief that you are seeing the other person objectively, exactly as he or she really is. You can’t see that your view of the other person is relative and subjective. You can’t see that your view of that person is limited to what you think, feel, and sense in the moment.

From The Unfindable Inquiry: One Simple Tool to Overcome Feelings of Unworthiness and Find Inner Peace 

The Unfindable Inquiry is available on amazon.com

In Need of Satsang Detox

By Scott Kiloby.  

One reason I moved into the area of addiction treatment at the Kiloby Center was to get away from the satsang circuit. In and of itself, the circuit doesn’t necessarily create a lot of harm. But I remember getting numerous calls, texts or emails from spiritual seekers who had just attended a weekend or week retreat with a teacher. They would say, “The retreat was wonderful – I truly found peace” or something like that. But by Tuesday or Wednesday of the next week, the emails, texts or calls would change. “I’m suffering again right now, what should I do?” I would say, “Investigate for yourself, using the tools you have learned. Awakening is truly an inside job. Going to satsang and expecting to wake up and be free of suffering once you enter back into your normal life is like going to a drug dealer and expecting that temporary high to last forever.” So many times the person would not investigate for themselves. Instead, they would schedule and attend the next satsang or the next three to come to town. Then the cycle would repeat, with the high or peace of satsang replaced by the usual suffering days or weeks later.

I have to admit that I am biased. I never attended satsang back in my seeking days. Sure, I watched a DVD or two of a spiritual teacher giving satsang. But once I extracted some really valuable tools, I put all of that down and began investigating on my own. This made all the difference. When I’m talking to spiritual seekers who are heavily into the satsang world, they often cite “transmission” as the reason they keep going back. The notion behind transmission is that there is some recognition that is transmitted from teacher to student during satsang. I won’t argue with that. Perhaps transmission does happen for some people. However, continuing to go back over and over and over so easily slips into the realm of addiction, treating the teacher kind of like a drug dealer who is doling out the good stuff. In many cases, it stops being about transmission. It becomes all about addictive seeking.

I am not waging a war against satsang. It has value. But I think it is important to point out that investigation using skillful means is of utmost important, to finally put to rest the seeking that leads one back again and again to satsang. Most good spiritual teachers would agree, even the ones who are doing satsang regularly.

At the Kiloby Center, we truly make no distinction between addiction to drugs or alcohol and addiction to spiritual seeking or satsang. They carry many of the same elements: wanting to avoid or escape the past or uncomfortable thoughts and feelings showing up in the present, continuing to go back to the “drug” even after recognizing the cycle of “high” followed by withdrawal, believing that there is something (a drug) or someone (a teacher) outside oneself that has the answers to life’s pain, and chasing certain states and experiences rather than letting all states and experiences come and go freely.

If you are a satsang teacher or someone who goes to a lot of satsang and this writing triggers you, there is probably something to examine. This writing comes with no ill will towards anyone. No trigger. My body is completely calm as I write this. This writing has more to do with feeling great compassion as I watch people look outside themselves repeatedly for what cannot be found outside oneself. I would say the same thing to either a drug dealer continuing to dole out drugs to addicted people and to the addicted people who are enslaved to those dealers. And I’m not saying that all teachers are drug dealers and all seekers are like addicts. This is mainly just a metaphor. There are great teachers out there who emphasize self-investigation. And there are seekers who do a lot of self-investigation. But, if you are triggered by this writing, chances are the shoe here does fit. So maybe take a look. Again, investigate for yourself.

This post is republished from the previous Living Inquiries website

Inquiring Beyond the Non-Dual: How Deep Are You Willing to Go?

By Scott Kiloby.  

It’s easy to recognize non-dual presence and let it go to your head. The concepts start to replace the direct experience.

At about that time, non-duality becomes like a religion, something to defend, a kind of head game where one’s identity gets wrapped up in the concepts that try to prove that one is awakened, reality is all One or that awareness is all there is or something like that. These are all reductionists concepts when it becomes a religion. Even though these concepts purport to point to a grand and final realization, they actually create their own divisions in the mind and body and in relationships with other people. Quite often, this is done as a way to not have to deal with trauma or some underlying, very palpable, human issue that is still running the show on some level – usually in relationships. Something has not been included in the awakening. It has not been embodied. It is not being lived. Awakening is such a fluid, vibrant and ongoing discovery. It is alive in every sense. It cannot be pinned down with any concepts, including what is said here. It is not a state that one reaches, but rather an openness that just keeps on opening.

If one doesn’t remain complacent in these extreme viewpoints and the propensity to bypass these human issues, there is a magnificent opportunity to examine not only the underlying trauma and issues but also the spiritual concepts that act as a cover-up job or over-compensation for these issues. If this examination is done with as much diligence as one questioned the concepts around self or ego before an initial awakening, what is revealed is truly remarkable. There is a deepening that is undeniable. This deepening can’t truly be mapped out with any certainty or science. It is too fluid and so different in how it manifests for each individual. But the people around you will know it as the deepening occurs. You will know it. You will feel it down to your bones, in every fiber of your being. Awakening is not just about recognizing some changeless present space. There are real changes that happen on the level of body and mind and in all relationships.

The Living Inquiries are tailored-made to keep one from landing in these extreme views and overcompensation. They invite us to examine the trauma or issues that lead to these head games. They challenge us to question everything that we think we know, every landing point, every identity, every trauma, every issue. And this is not work. It is a natural act of love, an act that comes about organically just from being aware and open and not shutting oneself off from all possibilities.

Luckily, what is left when the investigation goes that deeply, is not a blank space or an intellectual head game around spirituality. It is very much an openness to all of life, as it shows up – the good, the bad and the neutral. Literally everything is transformed on every level – mind, body, spirit. There is a vulnerability at the heart of experience, where one can no longer hide in all the old escape mechanisms. Bypassing becomes impossible at some point. Relationships harmonize themselves as acceptance becomes the norm, not something we are striving for. Enthusiasm for the work we do in the world, whatever it is, shines through without effort. At that point, you could just as soon talk about your favorite TV show or music as talk about how you know what reality really is or what spirituality is all about. The awakening kicks the shit out of you on every level, in the best possible way. You embrace your humanness as much as you embrace the divine. They are both quite divine. In this way, you can embrace the very unique experience called you and where that leads you in life. Your purpose, if you will.

Those who have taken the inquiries deeply have discovered that, in the end, the awareness that is recognized is quite freeing, open and peaceful. And yet they also recognize that the individual expression of themselves as human beings is perfect just as it is. There is nothing to turn away from anymore, either through the intellect or bypassing. It’s this turning towards experience that holds the real gifts. In this turning towards everything, even the stuff that scares us or that we would like to pretend is not really there, true creativity and potential show up naturally. There is then no need to try to manifest anything, for life lives itself. It manifests abundantly just because we remained open and did not stop looking when we landed halfway up the proverbial mountain.

This post is republished from the previous Living Inquiries website

Letter of Gratitude for Fear

By Scott Kiloby.  

Dear Fear:

Thank you for arising! Thank you for being one of the millions of appearances floating in and out of the vast and infinite space of now. Sometimes you have come hidden within logic, seeming to arise as a thought that needs to take action about the future. You are such a great Thespian, worthy of an Oscar.

You have fooled me into thinking I am just rationally making decisions about the future. When you come disguised in this way, I am blind to you. You hide within the voice of the mind and the deep caverns of the stomach and chest. I cannot see you at all. And yet you are pulling all the strings. I am your puppet in that moment. We make a great team, fooling the consciousness within myself and all others, making everyone think that I am just making clear decisions to protect myself, set appropriate boundaries, build a future . . . or (and here’s the best one) make an intelligent decision.

Through the years, you have been so good at hiding yourself that I have made millions of decisions based on you, without even knowing it. And you have protected me, set boundaries for me, built a future for me and helped me make decisions. You have done all of that and more and I am grateful.

But, thank you, each time you have revealed yourself more consciously to me. In some moments, you have been gracious enough to arise directly in awareness so that I could peek at you, feel you, taste you, know you directly – without the veil of concepts. You could have stayed hidden but you didn’t. You allowed me to see you. And in those moments, you allowed me to see just how much you have been running the show.

In a phone call one day, I found myself responding to someone’s question. I thought I was just responding out of fearless clarity. But you revealed yourself in that moment. You showed me that I was responding out of you. You gave me a chance to meet you directly in that moment and a thousand insights came flooding into my awareness about how so many responses in my life have been a result of you. In a decision with my partner one night, you popped up again directly in awareness and it stopped me in my tracks. I thought I was just protecting myself from him. I thought I was just using my mind to make a decision about the household. But in feeling you directly in that moment, the walls of separation between him and me disappeared and I found no one and nothing to protect. And so I felt more intimately close, inseparable really, from my partner than ever before. You are love disguised as fear.

One day I was looking for a way to fix a problem at work. I thought I was just using my intelligence to decide between several viable options. I was so ignorant and unconscious. Oh how you had fooled me. I noticed you there in my stomach and I sat quietly with you. I gave you as much space to be exactly as you are. I loved you fully. And you revealed that there is nothing to fear. And in that, new options arose that were not based in fear anymore. A great relaxation swept over me and another thousand insights came flooding in, showing me that there is nothing that I need to try to make happen. I am already in the flow of the present moment. I am that flow. As you released that day, you provided me the way to allow work to happen naturally, without the toil and spin of the mind.

Most of all, dear fear, thank you for showing me that I can live without you. Although I am so grateful for the many years of self-protection, ultimately, I see that you were here to show me that there is no self to protect. I appreciate that you come back now and then to reveal this again when it is needed. I am so grateful that you have arisen so often to do exactly what you need to do in any given moment. You are not my enemy. You were only there to protect me at first. And then you became the doorway to freedom. You became my way out of suffering. You are the most loyal friend in that way, letting me dissolve into a great spacious peace and love, but only when I was ready.

Warmly, Scott

This post is republished from the previous Living Inquiries website