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Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

Excerpts about Inquiry

Beginning Inquiry

What is the process by which this occurs? We always begin our inquiry by seeing what is true in our experience. I might recognize, for example, that what is true is that I don’t like the way a friend is ignoring me. By exploring that truth, I might come to see that I don’t like it because it is similar to the way my mother ignored me, which made me feel worthless. So I believe, in relation to this friend, that I am a hurt child and she is my mother. So, we can see in some detail what accounts for our feeling one way or another. The truth we see at first is the truth about what is not true. We recognize the false as false. As I see my self-image and the projection on my friend, it becomes clear that neither is really true. She is not my mother, and I am not that image of a worthless child. I am actually something more alive and immediate, a presence that has inherent value because it is what is real.

Being Aware and Curious About Experience

Inquiry doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re always thinking about things or formulating questions in your mind. You are simply aware and curious; you love to know and feel reality fully and clearly. You’re happy to know reality as deeply and precisely as possible. If experience is not clear, you are simply curious about it. Openness to experience becomes dynamic, challenging experience to reveal its truth. Once in a while, this curiosity might formulate itself into a specific question. You recognize that you don’t understand something, and out of love, you wish to understand it. So questions come on their own when necessary. The ongoing practice is therefore more an awareness of your experience, a recognition of when you are transparent and when you are opaque. Your interest is in understanding, and clarity will itself bring the Diamond Guidance, which will reveal the truth of the experience.

Delving Into the Secrets of Existence

Inquiry is a process of nuzzling into God’s bosom, delving into the secrets of existence. Ego encrustations begin to break up when we start to see images as images, structures as structures, patterns as patterns, and projections as projections. All of these are created and held together by our beliefs that they are reality. The more you see them as they truly are, the less you believe in them and the more they start to break up and dissolve.

Embracing Experience Completely

Inquiry means that we learn to be spiritual not by pushing away our ordinary experience but by embracing and feeling it more completely than we usually do. In fact, being spiritual includes experiencing ourselves and being in touch with our experience as completely as possible because, generally speaking, most of us don’t experience ourselves completely. There are limitations, restrictions, on how we normally experience things and how we experience ourselves, including our thoughts, emotions, sensations, tendencies, desires. If we experience all of these fully, and if we really understand them, then we will see that they are the manifestations of our spiritual nature. They themselves will take us across the great divide; they themselves will become windows and entryways into the primordial ground, into eternity. In our orientation here, we do not throw away anything, we do not push away anything, and we do not try to get rid of anything. We always embrace our experience completely, as completely as possible. Inquiry means being aware of our experience, being present in it, feeling it as completely as possible, and at the same time having a curious mind about it. To inquire is to be interested in not only asking “What am I experiencing?” but also wanting to know “What does it mean? What is it about? Why do I feel this way? What makes me experience this feeling or this emotion or this sensation, or these thoughts? Why am I thinking that way?”

Emergence of Vulnerability

When it is part of a true relationship, inquiry brings out our experience of vulnerability and openness, which tends to bring our true nature, the depth of who we are, into the interaction. At the depth of who we are, there are beautiful qualities: kindness, sweetness, appreciation, gratitude, clarity, brightness, depth, peacefulness, energy, dynamism, power, and so on. Imagine a dynamic in which both of you have a degree of empathy and are open to feel and be affected by each other, and where the relational field includes enjoyment of one another. You are enjoying the other person, you are just enjoying who he is. And if he is sensitive to you, he begins to feel your joy and begins to laugh with you, to become happy with you. That makes you enjoy him even more . . . and the interaction keeps deepening and expanding. After a while you can’t stop laughing together, giggling, bubbling.

Increasing Subtlety in the Inquiry Process

So the primary practice of inquiry attains further wisdom, and our understanding of nondoing also becomes subtler. At the beginning of our nondoing practice, we are simply sitting in stillness and clarity. As the nondoing practice matures, not only are we sitting in effortless tranquility, but also we are abiding in and as Being itself. As we integrate the dynamism of Being and recognize the wisdom of realization, the practice of nondoing fully and effortlessly uses the discriminating intelligence and the discerning clarity of Being to understand the condition of realization. The entire force of the universe focuses with intelligence and energy to discern its own condition, to understand what samadhi is, what nondoing is. The inherent awareness and insight of this condition of nondoing discerns when there is doing. When we see the doing happening, we can recognize the attitude and assumptions that make it happen. This insight helps us to disengage from that activity by revealing what is responsible for the doing. We might see that a certain self-identification or a fear of aloneness or a resistance against emptiness underlies our basic experience of doing. But we don’t only see what our particular issues and obstructions are. The discerning intelligence, in an effortless way, also fills the condition of samadhi with clear understanding and recognition of the condition of samadhi itself. We can’t help but see the characteristics of whatever presence or awareness or realization is happening.

Inquiry Arises in the Midst of Experience

Inquiry is something that arises in the midst of your experience – as part of your experience, not separate from it. In other words there is not a person here inquiring into something over there. The Inquirer has to be within the field of inquiry itself. This is different from inquiry in natural science, where the object of inquiry is outside you and all that is needed is to not interfere with it.

Inquiry Doesn’t Mean that We are Always Asking Ourselves Questions

The practice of inquiry is actively engaged because we are engaged with life. We are living and we are active, and part of our living is the engaged practice of inquiry. Inquiry doesn’t mean that we are always asking ourselves questions. It doesn’t mean that we are always sitting around thinking. Inquiry is the natural and spontaneous flow of our interest in life. When something is not understood, a spontaneous movement and inquiry arises that may not even be formulated as a question. All we know is that something is not understood and, after a while, there is a revelation or a further discernment. The stillness and quietness of our concentration practice helps stabilize the condition of nondoing, which is the base of the practice of inquiry. Concentration and nondoing support and stabilize the realization of presence, the realization of true nature. Inquiry helps to discriminate and integrate this realization as well as to develop it and open it to further possibilities, which are partly a response to our life and its circumstances.

Inquiry Invites Our True Nature to Reveal Itself

The teacher's lack of interest in reaching an outcome also reflects his basic trust in the natural unfolding of the soul when one aligns with its truth. This law of movement in the human soul, and the teacher's trust in it, are both fundamental to the practice of inquiry in the Diamond Approach. Inquiry is not an activity aimed at bringing one to a particular state or capacity. Nor is it a means of discovering what stops one from arriving at a certain outcome. Inquiry is a means of inviting our true nature — which has much greater intelligence and awareness than our conscious mind will ever have — to reveal itself and guide us to a deeper understanding of reality and our own truth. True inquiry does not assume that one outcome, one experience, or one feeling state is better than any other at any given time. Inquiry invites whatever is here to show itself and reveal its truth. And each revelation, if allowed and held with respect and interest, will lead to understanding and revelation—and the further unfoldment of the soul.

Brilliancy, pg. 92

Inquiry Requires Mindfulness Without identification

Inquiry is also intelligent in its application of mindfulness and concentration. Inquiry requires the global awareness of mindfulness without identification so that you can see the entire situation you are working with. As you take on the whole situation, you start recognizing patterns. As you see the patterns, the inquiry starts focusing and concentrating on where all the patterns lead.

Inquiry Spontaneously Happening as the Dynamism of True Nature

We continue to ride the razor’s edge until, at some point, our inquiring, our taking responsibility, and the self-revelation of Being become one thing. The inquiry moves to new ground. Prior to this, our inquiring and the self-revelation of Being might seem like two things, two forces interacting in a dialectic, interacting from varying degrees of proximity or distance until the interaction becomes so subtly and intimately connected that the inquiry is spontaneously happening as the dynamism of true nature revealing its possibilities. This is what I call diamond meditation, which means that we are being the true nature that inquires and reveals its truth. True nature inquires by being open and interested in its own revelation. Its inquiry is an invitation for it to reveal its mysteries. The inquiry and the revelation can become so connected that, at some point, they are one movement. Inquiry becomes a dynamic revelation, a nondoing with a dynamic engagement. In our teaching, this particular maturation of practice is an important reason why we emphasize the nondoing meditation at various stages of the path. In the Diamond Approach, we begin with a concentration meditation and, at some point, we transition to the nondoing practice. We learn concentration by focusing on the Kath point, known as the Hara or Tan-t’ien in other traditions. As concentration is established, we let go of that focus and simply let ourselves be. This is the beginning of nondoing. When we let go and simply be, if the concentration has been sufficiently established, then there is stillness and clarity, and we naturally are that stillness and clarity. This stage of nondoing, in which we are simply still and clear, I call obsidian samadhi.

Knowledge in Action

Inquiry itself is knowledge in action; it uses ordinary knowledge in conjunction with our innate intelligence to open up basic knowledge. It is informed by knowledge, open to knowledge, and invites further knowledge. Knowledge in action is both inquiry and understanding, which is also the unfoldment of Being. We can say that understanding liberates basic knowledge from the rigid patterning of ordinary knowledge, freeing it to unfold according to its own intrinsic patterning, which we experience as inherent discriminating wisdom.
To put it succinctly, ordinary knowledge is carried by thoughts whereas basic knowledge is carried by perception. Ordinary knowledge cannot be separated from thoughts, and basic knowledge cannot be separated from perception. Inquiry is the action of the optimizing thrust of Being's intelligent dynamism that opens up basic knowledge,liberating it from the cramping influence of ordinary knowledge. When basic knowledge is liberated from the filter of ordinary knowledge, it reveals itself as the discriminating awareness of Being, the wisdom of discrimination. In other words, we recognize that this inherent discrimination is the source of discrimination in basic knowledge, and hence in ordinary knowledge.

Movement of Inquiry Toward Brilliancy

When we are inquiring, we are holding the content—the various facets of experience—and then interrelating those elements, seeing relationships, and analyzing and synthesizing. But our consciousness not only holds the whole interrelated field, it also sees through things; it sees through the veils, defenses, and resistances to underlying meanings, to underlying parts of our experience. We notice that our perception not only has a wider vision, but also that it can have a penetrating capacity. The penetrating capacity goes directly to the essence of the matter through brilliant illumination that pierces as it illuminates. Our consciousness is so smooth that it can move through little cracks, into tiny, subtle places. Brilliancy can seep into and penetrate those little subtle cracks and allow our consciousness to see things we wouldn't normally see.

Brilliancy, pg. 109

Openness, Lightness, Curiosity and Love Characterize Inquiry

If we understand that inquiry springs out of the lightness and openness of joyful curiosity, we begin to see that the heaviness and seriousness are not characteristic of inquiry itself. They are only characteristic of some of the content that arises in inquiry and from the beliefs we have about it. So the content can be very happy or very painful, but the attitude of the inquiry itself doesn’t have to be influenced by the content. The inquiry itself is an expression of openness, lightness, curiosity and love.

Questioning in an Organic Way

Inquiry is a dynamic functioning of our consciousness, of our soul, that has to be flexible, responsive, and playful for it to be truly intelligent. It has to be inspired by intelligence and informed by understanding. As you inquire, you need to use your intelligence, and you need to apply whatever understanding you have to the experience of the moment. Inquiry is not a matter of asking a question haphazardly; all questions have to be asked in an organic way. That is what the intelligence is: an organic and appropriate responsiveness to each situation.

Second Guessing Reality

In the Diamond Approach, the central practice of inquiry reveals clearly the pitfalls of practicing with any particular aim. Practicing toward any end already implies that we know what is supposed to happen next. We are second guessing reality about what it is going to present. Having a goal for our practice also assumes that what is happening is not enough, is not sufficient. When we strive toward some end or another, we are rejecting what is actually happening. Aiming for any particular end becomes an obstruction, a subtle veil over our immediate experience. One of the basic principles of inquiry is that we simply stay with wherever we are, we see the truth of the moment, we don’t try to get someplace. Where we are is where we need to practice, without judgment and without a goal. Seeing the truth of the moment develops and unfolds the moment in whatever way it needs to go, independent of our desires and beliefs. In the practice of inquiry, it is vital that we are not trying to orient what is happening, to direct it in one way or another. We don’t inquire, we don’t practice, in order to change where we are. We inquire simply to see what the truth is in that moment—and that might or might not change as we inquire.

Sufficient Energy is Needed to Engage Inquiry

Inquiry takes a lot more energy than doing your job because it takes all of you, all the capacities of your psyche. Even when you’re not tired and not avoiding difficult issues, you still need energy to inquire. You need energy in order to be open and interested enough to remain engaged with such a subtle process, to allow such a subtle capacity as our inner guidance to function. That’s why it is important to practice inquiry when you feel energetic and robust, when you have vitality. That is also why you need to live in such a way that you have sufficient energy for inquiry, just as would be needed for doing any other inner practice. So if you’re really serious about engaging this work, you need to conserve your energy and balance your life so that you can be effective in your inquiry.

The Beauty of Working with Essence

You see, the beauty of working with Essence is that there’s no place that you can get to emotionally that doesn’t turn out to be fine if you just stay with it. When you work with something—in this case, the absence of the needed father—you may lose yourself at any step of the way, and then you have all your emotions about losing yourself. But if you stay with your experience, you realize that even losing yourself is wonderful. You might get to another state, and suddenly you will have a self, and having a self can feel wonderful. It doesn’t matter what steps you go through; Essence manifests in all kinds of ways, and each one of them is fine. So there’s no bad place that you can get to on the essential level. Essence can manifest as self or as no-self, or as neither, and there is really no need to worry which way it is going to go. Inquiry and exploration, if carried deep enough, is bound to manifest Essence in one way or another.

Brilliancy, pg. 244

The Importance to Keep Sensing the Body

Inner support implies that we need to be in touch with our experience. Inquiry is not a mental exercise, disconnected from ordinary reality. We have to be rooted in our everyday personal experience and in touch with our own thoughts, feelings, body, and behavior. Inquiry does not require us to leave our body or try to reach unusual transcended heights of perception—and we will not feel our inner support by doing so. Instead, we need to become more concrete, more down to earth, by delving into our own everyday experience. It is the embodied soul that is the entry to all the treasures of Being. When you are inquiring, it is important to keep sensing your body—to stay in direct touch with its movements and sensations. This includes the numbness, the dullness, or the tensions you may feel. To ground your awareness in your bodily experience is important because your essential qualities are going to arise in the same place where you experience your feelings, emotions, and reactions. They are not going to appear above your head, they are going to arise within you. So your body is actually your entry into the mystery.

There Can be Inquiry Even with Stillness

There can be inquiry even with stillness, when the mind is completely gone. We assume that there is no possibility of inquiry in this state, but that is not true, because inquiry does not have to be verbal. You may think that you have to ask questions with words, but if you say that, you have already put a boundary on how inquiry can proceed. Maybe inquiry can proceed in other ways. Maybe there is curiosity without words, without mind. So even the state of stillness, where there is no mind, can have an inquiring quality to it. There are no limitations. The fact that experience continues shows that there is an infinite possibility for inquiring. Regardless of how deep and enlightened one’s experience is, it is possible to go further, to have experience open up more. When we appreciate this fact, inquiry can bring us an intrinsic energy that has a sense of deep and thrilling freshness, as if your blood were nuclear energy that is moving and bursting with aliveness, bursting with drive. The drive here is not effort but movement—an inexorable, powerful movement, an unfolding. Being is then always opening up with power, with energy, with strength, with intelligence, with gentleness. Sometimes the opening is delicate, sometimes slow, sometimes fast, sometimes bursting, sometimes quiet.

Travelling to Wherever the Journey Leads You

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.

Welcoming Whatever is Present

And so you continue to inquire into your experience. And inquiry does not necessarily mean you have to do something or ask a specific question. It is more like observing with curiosity, “I am feeling thick. I am so thick that I don’t even know what is going on. Who knows what this is? I really don’t like it. I wish I weren’t thick.” All of this is included in the inquiry. So if you recognize that you really don’t like it, that you’d rather feel delicate and fine, you are recognizing some kind of resistance that might be part of the thickness. That is okay, too. Everything needs to be included.
Whatever it is, welcome it, embrace it. And that doesn't mean that you need to love it. It is understandable that you don’t like feeling thick. But not liking it is not the same thing as pushing against it, trying to get rid of it, or judging it.

Where We Are and What We Are

So as we inquire into where we are, experience the truth, and follow the thread of truth, that thread eventually will connect us with the truth of what we are. That is why truth brings more reality. Truth and reality are related; they are two sides of the same thing. The more we see the truth of where we are in the moment, the more we recognize something about the relationship between where we are and what we are. That recognition makes the distance between them shorter, and we feel more real. And that is why when we are real, we tend to see more of the truth of the situation; it works both ways.

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