Self-Inquiry is the technique of investigating our inner self so that we can advance in our personal growth and self-development. Self-inquiry in this sense is not merely inner questioning or an exercise in thought, but is a technique of inner exploration to support the growth of our authenticity. It is done in a meditative state. In my work, self-inquiry is a key tool for uncovering authentic needs and values, and for uncovering the limiting patterns, illusions, and false identifications that hold us in thrall to mass culture and inauthentic living.
Preparing for Self-Inquiry
We can prepare for self-inquiry by reserving some time in our day, safeguarded by some clear and appropriate boundaries that protect this important activity from the demands and intrusions of others. If people respect our need for authenticity then they will respect our need for time alone in self-inquiry. Remove yourself from any distractions, and turn off or mute your phone.
Now sit or lay down so that you are comfortable but alert. The lighting and temperature can be adjusted to your comfort. You can then set your intention for your self-inquiry. This is very important to keep your self-inquiry focused and to draw upon the support of your unconscious mind. For example:
In today’s self-inquiry I intend to direct my attention inwards to discover my authentic needs.
As your body and mind may be stressed or excited prior to beginning self-inquiry, it is helpful to spend a few moments relaxing by letting go of any tension in the body and mind, as well as any thoughts and feelings that are with you. To help with this process, you can focus your attention on your breath, or just the present moment, until your mind begins to still. Should any thoughts or feelings distract your attention, simply bring it back to what you are focusing on, until you can hold a degree of stillness within your mind. This part of your self-inquiry is the practice of mindfulness. At first this may prove challenging, but with practice your ability to still your mind and consciously direct your attention in the present moment will improve.
The purpose of stilling your mind in this way and of being mindful is to promote freedom and clarity of attention so that your attention is not diverted or distorted by thoughts or feelings, or identified with them. By stilling your mind, you stay in control of your attention, rather than lose control to the things that distract, occupy, and limit it your attention. Only then are you in a position to begin effective self-inquiry and to develop your authenticity.
Upon stilling your mind and freeing your attention, you can begin to locate and be deliberately present in your true, authentic self. Your true self is found at the centre of your awareness as the observer. It is a centre of pure consciousness and being. You simply need to inquire: Who am I that does the observing? Who am I that is being? Your attention will eventually shift to your centre of awareness and being. For more on this, see my posts A Meditation to Find Your True Self and Finding Your True Self.
By being present in your true self you not only hold a central, stable perspective of clarity and authenticity, but also remain free from arbitrary bias, reactivity, automatic thinking, and false identifications—all of which hinder self-inquiry. This is a highly resourceful state to be in. How you feel in this state will be your reference point for authenticity, so take note of your experience in this state. Things that keep you in this state or elicit a similar or identical state of being are likely to be authentic and congruent with your true self. Things that diminish this state, or conflict with it, may well be inauthentic and incongruent with your true self.
Once you are present in your authentic centre, the goal of your self-inquiry can be carried out. You can, for instance, begin to contemplate the needs or values that are essential to you in your state of authenticity.
In response to your intention in self-inquiry, ideas may emerge symbolically from the unconscious. For example, the need for inner growth may emerge as a symbolic image of a growing flower or an ascent of a mountain. The need for wholeness may emerge as a symbolic image of a circle. While present in your true self, simply ask: What authentic message does this symbol represent for me?
When exploring your authentic needs in self-inquiry, be open to exploring a wide range of authentic needs that includes undeveloped needs. Such needs should relate to:
- health and wellness
As ideas of your needs or values emerge during self-inquiry—as a result of either symbolic revelation or of a sense of intuition—you then apply the test of authenticity by noticing whether these ideas keep you in your authentic state of being while you are focusing on them and contemplating their meaning. They should add to your sense of truth, authenticity, presence, being, clarity, lightness, vitality, freedom, peace, and unity.
If the ideas do not satisfy you as being authentic, they may well be distortions of authentic needs or values, or ideas or drives masquerading as authentic needs or values.
As well as using self-inquiry for identifying authentic needs and values, it can also be used to identify your limiting or reactive thoughts and feelings, and distortions of perception. This is particularly useful if you are being triggered into reactive states by recent emotional events, but it can also be very useful if old patterns from childhood keep sabotaging your success, or if you find that you are addicted to television or are playing out inauthentic roles manufactured by mass culture and the spectacle of materialism.
To identify limiting or reactive thoughts and feelings, and distortions of perception, set that as your goal for self inquiry. For example:
In today’s self-inquiry I intend to discover how my anger controls me.
In self-inquiry you will then observe the contents of your mind while being centred in your authentic self, so that you become more aware of these contents and not identified with them. These contents can spontaneously arise into awareness or they can be uncovered by reviewing your life, or elicited as a reaction to a trigger such as a thought, feeling, memory, image, or sound. As you focus on these contents, you can learn how they may be connected with each other. You can also trace them back to their origin through age regression (going back in time) or by asking this question of yourself: When was the earliest time that I felt, thought, or behaved in this way?
The purpose of identifying the contents of your mind in self-inquiry is to gain awareness of these contents so that they can be subsequently transformed where necessary and integrated into your personality in a way that supports your authenticity, clears your mind, and releases locked up energy. To learn more how to transform these reactive and limiting, contents of your mind, read my post How to Release Negative Patterns Effectively.
Once your self-inquiry is complete, bring yourself back to your body, open your eyes and write down your experiences. This is very important when authentic needs and values have been uncovered, and is necessary for further processing of the information that has been revealed in self-inquiry.
In my Inner Wellness Programme I help you to develop your self-inquiry, identify and clear your negative patterns, and implement the best strategies for self-development and Inner Wellness. To book a FREE Inner Wellness Session, click here.
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