I keep coming back to Katie Byron’s inquiry process. It is simple, effective, mirrors teachings in many of the spiritual traditions, and is a path to liberation and recognizing the nature of mind.
None of the elements in the process are unique. They are all found in other approaches, and I have work with each of them at different times in the past. The difference is how it is put together, and the simplicity and ordinariness of it. Anyone can grasp it sufficiently for it to work, and there is nothing esoteric in how it is presented.
We start with a statement. It could be any statement, but preferably one that draws our attention one way or another – especially in the form of strong attractions/aversions. It is good to phrase it clearly as a judgment, a “should” statement, about ourselves, another person, or the world.
I need to find my path through life.
1. Is it true? It feels true.
2. Can I know that it is really true? No.
Here, we see that our ideas about the world are not the world itself. It is only our ideas. We cannot know if, how or to what degree they are true. Already here, there is a chink in the armor. There is a crack, a small opening, some space.
3. What happens when I believe in this thought? Constriction, everything closing in/down in mind/body. Panic, need to find a solution right away. Despair, from not knowing if I am on the path, or what the path is. Comparing myself with others. Feel inferior to those who seem to have found their path, or a “better” path. Superior to those who are even more off track than I am. Fear, of not finding it or the consequences of not finding it. Paralyzed, from fear and panic. Confusion, from the pressure of having to find the right path and always questioning my choices. I am impatient with myself and others, and blame myself and others.
Here, we see some of the effects of believing in the thought. And they are all pretty unpleasant. We see samsara playing itself out, in our own mind and life. And I am the one doing it…! I cannot blame anyone else for it, no matter how much I want or try to.
4. What/who would I be without the thought? Clarity. Enjoyment of what is. Passion. Sense of direction.
Here we look at what manifests, who we are, when we do not believe in the thought. How would I be in the situation that usually triggers the thought, if I cannot believe in it?
What comes up is really different manifestations of the inherent nature of mind, with its spaciousness, clarity, natural intelligence, fluidity and responsiveness.
5. Turnaround (of the initial statement to me/they, its opposite, my thoughts)
5a. I don’t need to find my path through life. (Yes, is OK as is. My path is this life, as it unfolds, however it unfolds).
5b. I need to find others’ path through life. (Yes, I can help other people to find their path, through support, Breema, guidance, etc).
5c. I don’t need to find others’ path through life. (Yes, it is always up to each individual. And whatever life we are living, is our path).
Each of these statements are as true as the original statement. For me, the second turnaround was the most powerful. I need to find others’ path through life. It reminds me that I can share my gifts, maybe especially through Breema, in a way that supports myself and others. It is not a new insight in itself, but as an answer to my initial statement – it is new and especially beautiful.
Through the turnarounds, we explore many different views and perspectives, each one valid in its own way. We are freed from exclusive attachment to one particular view. Again, there is more inclusiveness, more spaciousness, more richness and choice.
The whole process works through seeing. Through recognizing what is going on. There is no attempt to change anything. No trying involved. We just see, clearly and thoroughly, and the belief drops. We cannot believe in the thought anymore, even if we try.
And as we become more familiar with this process, it takes place spontaneously. We recognize the contractions that come up when we believe a thought, and we know it is not true, that believing in it brings suffering, and what is allowed to manifest when we drop the belief. This can take place instantly in the situation, and we can also work through it more thoroughly later on to see what gifts are in it for us.
Some of the parallels with Buddhism…
- Map vs. terrain
We see clearly the difference between our thoughts/ideas/beliefs and existence itself. And we see the suffering inherent in believing in any abstraction/thought.
We see the suffering inherent in believing thoughts, and that we are the ones creating it. We cannot blame anyone else, no matter how much we would like to.
- Inherent nature of mind
We recognize the inherent nature of mind, as revealed when we drop the belief. Spaciousness, clarity, wisdom, compassion, fluidity, responsiveness.
We recognize and integrate projections, through the turnarounds. And we also see that any one view or perspective is limited and confining in itself, and that recognizing the truth/validity of all views opens for more richness, fluidity and freedom.
The inquiry process gives liberation from believing in a thought, from the suffering that comes with it, and from seeing the solution as “out there” rather than in here.