Inquiry is not ordinary
When we hear a question, we typically use our mind to try to come up with an answer. This is the way that most of us have been trained to approach questions. We are taught that there is a right answer and a wrong answer – we get rewarded for right answers and punished for wrong answers. So we become experts in using our logical left brain to try to “figure out the right answer” and “solve the problem”. There is certainly a place for this “expert mode” but it does not support creativity or nuanced perspectives, and it does not leave much room for wonder and deep discoveries.
Inquire to uncover deep truths
The way of inquiry takes a very different approach. It has little to do with facts or “being right”. It is an open-ended exploration that unfolds by looking deeply into the present moment with curiosity. The process of inquiry means taking a question into the gut and heart and connecting with our inner truth. We don’t have any particular goal in mind and we don’t insist on getting somewhere in particular. We acknowledge that there are things we don’t know, and this “not-knowing” provides the foundation of discovery. By being curious and aware of our inner experience, a whole new level of understanding and insight begins to open up.
“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.“– A. H. Almaas – Spacecruiser Inquiry, pg. 372
Inquiry requires mindfulness
In order to embark on the process of inquiry, we need mindfulness and concentration. But it works the other way around too; inquiry strengthens the power and intensity of our mindfulness. In this way, inquiry and mindfulness go well together and have the potential to deepen each other in a reciprocal way.
“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.“– A. H. Almaas, Spacecruiser Inquiry, pg. 57
There are many forms of inquiry. In this Frame, we are mainly taking inspiration from the method of “Diamond inquiry” from the Ridhwan school and the book “Spacecruiser Inquiry”. While there are no formal instructions to follow, the pointers below may help you get started:
We can inquiry into anything; all it takes is a genuine longing to understand and to know the truth. For this reason, it is helpful to start with an issue that has personal significance. Begin by finding a question that you feel drawn to and that sparks your curiosity.
Next, set aside some time to explore this question. If you do this by yourself, you can do it either verbally (you may find it helpful to do it in front of a mirror, or as a voice recording) or through journaling (write freely in a way that supports spontaneity without caring about grammar or trying to “make sense”). Remember that the inquiry has no fixed destination. Feel into the question and be curious about what comes up. Stay in touch with your body throughout the process. Allow yourself to be surprised by what you find. Do this for 15 minutes.
If you inquire together with a fellow explorer, being by sitting down facing each other. One person begins by asking the question. The person answering shares whatever comes up in the moment. If you are the person answering, see if you can answer before you know what you are going to say. Be spontaneous. There is no need to plan the answer or to come up with a “good answer”. The person who asks the question can simply relax and enjoy the answer. After the response – if there is a period of silence – you can simply ask the same question again. Allow whatever comes up and receive it with a “beginner’s mind”. This process is known as “repeated inquiry”.
From one perspective, inquiry is nothing other than the natural capacity of our consciousness to discover the depth of our present-moment experience. Seen in this way, it has no fixed set of instructions to follow.
My friend Lieven said it well:
I hope you find this helpful and I wish you a joyful exploration! I will leave you with these final words from A. H. Almaas:
“Inquiry is not something special or unusual to do—it is not an esoteric technique or a strange ritual. To practice inquiry as described in this book is to sharpen a skill that human beings already have. We can think of it as a method, as a practice, but it is really the development of a natural capacity that our consciousness inherently possesses. And inquiry doesn’t require any special place, time, or posture; you can do it when you’re quiet or active, when you’re walking, sitting, lying down, or taking a bath. Inquiry is a natural process that our consciousness goes through. When we are committed to the practice of inquiry, it will eventually become a functioning that happens on its own, with its own momentum. The questions will arise on their own, the inquiry will proceed spontaneously, the unfoldment will continue happening. All aspects of our life can become pervaded with this natural exploration—with the attitude of openness and of welcoming our Being to reveal its richness, its possibilities, and its potential. Inquiry is a playful, celebrative kind of engagement, yet its consequences can be quite profound and significant. That’s what is beautiful about this inquiry, and the unfoldment and understanding that come with it. It is fun, and in the nature of discovery; it is an adventure. At the same time, it makes the rest of our life richer and helps us become more effective and capable. The more we understand ourselves, the freer we are and the more our love, our intelligence, and our capacities are liberated to express the fullness of who we are.”
Learn more about the Beginner’s mind:
More quotes and resources about Diamond Inquiry: