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Inquiry (Open-Endedness)

Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Inquiry (Open-Endedness)?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Inquiry (Open-Endedness)

Accompanying this Open and Open-Ended Inquiring Attitude is an Impartiality

Objectivity about an experience or situation includes recognizing and understanding our attitudes and reactions to it. We need to inquire into our inquiring consciousness until it is impartial, balanced, unprejudiced, disinterested, motiveless, goalless, fresh, and totally open to finding out whatever is there. Only when our consciousness approaches experience this way can it apprehend objectively. Being objective about an experience means that I’m open to it; I am not trying to make it go one way or another. And this is not because I think that’s the way I ought to approach it, but because I have no vested interest in things going in any particular way. I’m not trying to get something; I am merely curious, I love to find out what is so—that’s all. Accompanying this open and open-ended inquiring attitude is an impartiality, a balance, a fresh attitude and orientation, an objective, inquiring mind. If I approach experience with an aim or a plan, this is bound to interfere with whatever I’m exploring. I won’t know it objectively, for what I come to know will always be mixed with and distorted by my own subjectivity. When we can be objective about our experience—or at least be aware of our subjectivity in the process of our inquiry—then it is possible for us to see things the way they truly are. Hence, learning to inquire includes learning to be objective. The heart is not initially objective, but when it loves the truth in a motiveless way, it is willing to experience things objectively. Real love is objective in this sense: It doesn’t have beliefs and preferences; it doesn’t perceive through structures and lenses; it doesn’t have ideas of how things should be. 

An Open and Open-Ended Inquiry into the Various Elements of Our Experience and Its Patterns

The Diamond Approach is an open and open-ended inquiry into the various elements of our experience and its patterns. When that inquiry is sincere and intelligent, it is bound to encounter the psychological and epistemological barriers against the free unfoldment of the soul. Challenging such barriers by questioning them leads to the insightful and directly felt comprehension of these barriers. In this way, inquiry and understanding penetrate the barriers and open up our soul to the still-unknown possibilities sleeping in its depths. Inquiry not only leads to greater awareness and understanding of ourselves, but also invites Being to disclose its hidden possibilities through the process of unfoldment of experience and insight. This activates our essential presence in its various manifestations in a natural and orderly fashion. In turn, these essential aspects enhance the process of inquiry and understanding, taking both to subtler and deeper dimensions of experience and perception. This means that the activation of the subtle dimensions depends on our understanding, and this understanding reflects our capacity to inquire into our everyday experience. In the Diamond Approach, we don’t mechanically do exercises and practices that activate deep energies that we may not be able to understand or handle. Rather, the activation occurs on its own, in response to one’s capacity for openness, inquiry, and understanding. And the fact that this capacity increases in direct relation to our level of maturity is the best safeguard against going too deep too fast.

An Open-Ended Inquiry Means that the Rigid Patterns in Our Experience Can be Transformed

When inquiry is open and open ended, it discloses the knowledge that is always available within experience. An open-ended inquiry means that the rigid patterns in our experience can be transformed into fluid patternings of a self-organizing flow. Before we enter into the process of questioning and inquiry, our experience is rigidly patterned; it arises in repetitive, compulsive, obsessive patterns. When we look into and challenge what is determining and fixing these patterns, their rigidity dissolves and our experience starts unfolding in new ways. Even with that dissolution, our experience doesn’t lose its sense of pattern, and this is because pattern is the sense and meaning of experience. We still recognize patterns in our experience, but there is a more fluid and fresh patterning to the flow of experience. It has a fluidity and smoothness, a lightness and spontaneity to it. We feel free. When your experience is in rigid patterns, you are in prison. When your experience flows in fluid patterns, you feel the freedom of experience. 

Inquiry is a Dynamic Engagement That Needs to be Open-Ended, Minute to Minute, Instant to Instant

One of the wonderful things about inquiry is that you can inquire into anything, even into inquiry itself. You cannot bind yourself when you are inquiring, you cannot get cornered, for any corner can be inquired into. It is the very nature of inquiry that nothing can escape it. You cannot say that inquiry will push you against the wall and trap you, because the moment you get trapped, you can ask, “What’s making me feel trapped? What is this trap?” You can always ask a question. There are an infinite number of questions because the mystery is inexhaustible. We have seen that inquiry is a dynamic engagement that needs to be open and open ended, minute to minute, instant to instant. This means that in each moment of the inquiry, you cannot approach your experience by trying to alter it. If you do that, it is not inquiry, it is something else. If you want the inquiry into your experience to be effective, you are going to have to leave it as it is—exactly as it is. Otherwise, what you will be inquiring into is not your experience but something that has been manipulated. So inquiry requires this lack of limitation, this openness, not only in terms of an end but in terms of the very process itself. Suppose you are experiencing a certain feeling. If you want to really inquire into it, you cannot do that by trying to change it. For example, if you are angry, you cannot inquire into your anger by wanting or trying to make yourself not angry or less angry or more angry. If you really want to inquire into your anger, you want it to be there just as it is, and then you can investigate it.

Inquiry that is Open-Ended, that is an Expression of the Creative Dynamism of Being is Not Just Any Inquiry

Inquiry that is open ended, that is an expression of the openness, true knowingness, and creative dynamism of Being, is not just any inquiry. It is a matter of actively using the various qualities of our deepest nature. This is a very unusual and rare capacity. It takes some people a long time—in fact many years in this work—before they recognize, “Oh, this is not how I usually inquire. It is not inquiry the way I have always thought of it.” When one first practices the inquiry of the Diamond Approach, it appears very similar to what is commonly done in other forms of inner work: You ask questions, analyze, look at things, experiment, examine defenses and reactions and psychodynamics, and all that. Anybody who has read any book on depth psychology might feel, “Of course, I know how to do that.” However, if these people know how to practice inquiry in the way we do, why don’t they arrive at experiences of Essence and true nature? The differences in methods of inquiry may appear quite subtle; nevertheless, they are profound. We need to recognize these differences in order for inquiry to have any true capacity to bring about the unfoldment of the soul. It is worth looking a little deeper into the confusion that can arise between the type of inquiry I am describing and the analytic exploration you may have been doing. I am not saying that you can never use your mind to do analysis in inquiry—but this is not the method we are using here. We want the inquiry to be a pure act of Being. Analysis might arise as part of the dynamism of Being, but we don’t do it intentionally. As soon as we have a desired end in mind, the inquiry is not coming out of the openness, it’s coming out of a fixed place. When we analyze from a purely open, investigative space instead of trying to get someplace, the source is openness itself.

The More Any Inquiry is Open-Ended, the More Its Power Is Released

Through inquiry, you learn how to navigate through your not-knowing. You will find out where you are going through the unfoldment of your own dynamism: “Where is it taking me? Am I going to become a monk? Am I going to become a householder? Am I going to be a computer analyst, a soldier, a teacher, a lover, a husband or a wife?” The more any inquiry is open ended, the more its power is released. That power is the power of the dynamism of Being itself. This is quite different from the restricted and limited way of using inquiry, which is directed toward a particular result and is determined by an idea in your mind or by something you or somebody else already knows. When I say that inquiry needs to be open ended, I don’t mean that you should never take a perspective. But whatever perspective you take, inquiry can move to open it up and reveal what you are inquiring into. And if you inquire into a particular way of looking at things, you might realize, “Oh, this perspective is good for this, but not good for that.” We are discussing inquiry in a very general way, laying the groundwork for looking more extensively into this fascinating part of our work. But the moment you start understanding inquiry, you forget that it is work. Inquiry brings in a love and a joyfulness; it brings in the very dynamism of Being that is needed for transformation. The way of inquiry is the way of true freedom. If our inquiry is alive and unfolding, we are free—our mind is free, our hearts are free; our souls are free to unfold, and our Being is free to spontaneously manifest what is natural for it to manifest. 

The Self, Described as a Flowing Dynamic Presence, an Organism that Has an Open-Ended Potential for Experience

Two capacities of the self are particularly relevant to the development of narcissism as we understand it. The first is the capacity of the mind to form concepts and structures of concepts in response to experience. The second is the capacity of the self to identify with different aspects of experience, particularly with images in the mind and with habitual emotional and physical states. Herein lies the mechanism for the “fall” of the self into narcissism. In the beginning of this chapter, narcissism was described as the identification with the more superficial structures of the self. We described the self as a flowing, dynamic presence, an organism with mind, feeling and body (but not identical with any of these), that has an open-ended potential for experience. The “fall” into narcissism happens as the self forms concepts and structures of concepts, and then identifies with them at the cost of its awareness of Being. These concepts, which the self comes to identify with and to view the world through, are much more opaque and rigid than the open, free, more natural state of the soul. What we describe as the free, spontaneous state of the soul is not a formless or unstructured state. The experience of the soul in a self-realized state is patterned by the intrinsic qualities of its Being, and by the structure of all dimensions of Being, including physical reality. The state of self-realization allows the soul to remain aware of its essential nature, yet at the same time to remain aware of the world of thought and speech, of social life and physical life, and to function in this world. 

To Be Open-Ended Inquiry Must Not be Orientated Toward Any Ultimate Aim

As we have seen, to be open ended, inquiry must not be oriented toward an ultimate aim. But it must not be oriented toward any intermediate aim either. Inquiry needs to be free from any aim, at any time, at any stage of the journey. As we mentioned before, it must not be oriented toward solving a problem. The Diamond Approach by its very nature is not oriented that way. If you say, “I have this problem—I am depressed (or deficient, or dumb)—and I want to do something about it; I hear the Diamond Approach is a wonderful method; why don’t I try it?” then you’re likely to be disappointed. This does not mean that your need is not valid or not real. We all have problems that we definitely need to deal with. We all had difficulties in our childhood and we have difficulties in our life now that need to be attended to and solved. However, the inquiry of the Diamond Approach is not the right approach for these things. We can definitely use it to address our problems and difficulties, but that is not the most efficient way, nor is it the best application of inquiry. This is because by its very nature, inquiry is most powerful when it is open and open ended. To give it a limited aim restricts its power; it constrains the possibilities of the inquiry. Ultimately, and in the long run, inquiry can reveal all truth, so the source of whatever problems you have will be revealed. But that might take a long time, which means that inquiry is seldom an efficient way to solve problems. If you have an aim—“I want to solve this problem”—you are looking at a particular goal and wanting to point the inquiry in that direction. However, for inquiry to work, it must focus right here, at this moment. It investigates what is going on now. If the problem happens to be what is arising at the moment in your experience, then the problem becomes part of what the inquiry explores—otherwise the inquiry ignores it. 

What You Open Up are Boundaries, Limits, Positions, Beliefs

As we see, whichever way we look into the nature of inquiry, we find that it has to be open. When you inquire into something, you are opening it up, you are revealing it. Ordinary experience comes in a wrapping. To inquire, you open the wrapping, you remove the veils that obscure it to see what is there. So the very nature of inquiry is a process of opening up; and what you open up are boundaries, limits, positions, beliefs—any stand you may be taking about what you are experiencing. In other words, we can say that inquiry is a process of always opening and opening and opening, endlessly and freely. And it opens from any place, from any direction, from any level, from any position. If you really want to go into your adventure with no limitations on how far and how fast you can go, openness has to be total and absolute. The moment you limit the openness, you have limited the amount of energy available for the journey. So the process has to be open ended in every way: in terms of how you go about it, what you inquire into, and where the journey takes you. Every limitation has to be challenged, or at least you have to be willing to challenge it. It is obvious how thrilling inquiry can be if you have the attitude that anything can be challenged. You can take the most mundane experience and open it up. It does not have to be anything special for you to inquire into it. Everything becomes new, disclosing itself in a new light. This opening has a sense of newness, of freshness, of revelation, like a baby just coming into the world. Everything you encounter is seen as if for the first time. 

With Open-Ended Inquiry the Student is Invited to Investigate His Feelings to Discover their Truth Within His Personal Experience

Various religious or spiritual ideas, therapeutic approaches which “explain” one’s emptiness as a lack of gratification in one’s history or relationships—or even more external factors such as new work projects, new relationships, even new possessions—are all too available to fill the hole of meaning in a person’s life. But if this emptiness is filled, even with notions of spirituality, it is not possible to penetrate the emptiness and become available to the arising of one’s true nature. In our work, we approach this—as all questions—with open-ended inquiry, in which the student is invited to investigate his feelings to discover their truth within his personal experience. The teacher guides him only to inquire sincerely and points out his assumptions and defenses regarding his self-awareness. A certain understanding informs this approach: We observe that with an inquiring, empathic but noninterfering support, the individual will move naturally and spontaneously towards the truth of his experience. This allows the meaninglessness, and its underlying emptiness, to become more conscious, revealing that the emptiness is in his self, and not in those external situations. 

You Cannot Take a Position, Adhere to it Rigidly, and Expect Your Inquiry to be Free and Open-Ended

When you are inquiring, you want to be totally open to what is present without any preconceptions, without any preset ideas, without any particular orientation. So you cannot take a position that I may have enunciated at one time or another—or that you got from some teacher or teaching, or even from your own previous experience—adhere to it rigidly, and expect your inquiry to be free and open ended. Your inquiry will be predetermined, set in a particular direction. It will not be free. And it will very likely distort what is going on or obscure the clear perception of what’s truly arising in your experience. This situation points to why a necessary part of our work is the integration of one’s own inner support. For as long as you don’t have your own inner support, you’re going to rely on external supports, and frequently these will be concepts, ideas, and positions taken from the outside. Then, of course, you get yourself in a big knot and begin rebelling against these influences because you don’t like the fact that your mind has become dependent on them. You might feel that you want to be free from external influence, so you try to free yourself by pushing it away, which just does not work. You cannot be free from external influence by pushing it away. What you need to be free from is your mind and its impressionability to external influence. 

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