Talking about inquiry


There are many ways to talk about inquiry.


One is to mention some general guidelines for inquiry which we personally, and maybe others, have found helpful. And that seems very appropriate. It gives others a starting point for exploration.

Sharing experiences

It may also be helpful to share some of one’s experiences with inquiry, especially in terms of the process – how it unfolds for oneself, and maybe even in terms of some content – if it can help others explore similar areas for themselves.


Inquiry is always individual and always unfolding. The path of inquiry looks different for each one, although there may also be similarities among these paths. And it is always unfolding, always peeling off new layers, always revealing something new. The content of inquiry is always particular to the phase and the path, always temporary.

So to talk about the content of inquiry may be helpful if it helps others explore similar areas for themselves. But it is relatively meaningless on it’s own. And it is dishonest (and we know it) if it is presented as any final or absolute truth.

[Initial draft: There is an inherent contradiction in talking about inquiry.

Of course, talking about how to do it – some general guidelines and starting points, is often very appropriate and helpful. And sharing one’s own experiences with it may be helpful, if it helps others explore similar areas for themselves.

But to talk about the content of one’s findings may be less helpful. And there is a good reason for this: inquiry is about each person’s own exploration process, what is true for that person in the present. It is a process, unfolding at its own pace and in its own way. And it is always changing, always peeling off new layers. Any statement of one’s findings only reflects one particular phase of one particular process.]

Have to do it, and have to not do it


I facilitated a process work session with a friend tonight, around her sugar addiction.

Process work session

We followed a step-by-step Process Work framework to exploring addiction and addictive tendencies, starting with her imagining eating sugar and experiences the effects of it in her body and otherwise. She got very tired and heavy, and ended up face-down on the floor, feeling a weight on her. I added to the weight to amplify the experience. We then switched roles, I lying on the floor with a weight on me, and she was the weight – relaxed, not pushing down. Again, we switched and I was a relaxed weight on her and she noticed how comforting it was, and how it helped her connect with the body.

At this point, she experienced neck pain and got up abruptly, reporting that she experienced anger. I realized that this too was part of the process, although was not quite sure to do the final step of the framework or go with the anger. I tried to finish up by asking her if she could find a way to arrive at the same experience of comfort and connection with the body that eating sugar gives. She was obviously distracted, although tried to explore it. In a last ditch attempt at following the framework, I said that what came up for me when I explored it for myself was the comfort in just noticing the heaviness of my body.

She got in touch with her anger again, and poured out a quite amazing flow of insights, beginning with anger at how I want her to get rid of the sugar cravings and continuing into how much pressure it has been for her to feel that she has to get rid of it for so many years, how many plans and strategies she has tried to get rid of sugar cravings and/or stop eating sugar and how stressful it has been, how much guilt that comes from it, and so on.

Having to do it, and having to not do it

After this outpouring, she realized the battle between having to do it (the craving) and having to not do it (the should), the tremendous amount of energy she has spent in that dynamic, and that she want to be done with the whole thing completely.

She realized that the problem was never the sugar, but the struggle within her around having to do it, and having to not do it.

This has been her religion the whole time, since her teens, and she realized that she was finally ex-communicated from this religion.

Afterwards, she was glowing with exitement from realizing this, and the freedom it brought her. She said I cannot wait to be ex-communicated from another one of my religions.

She has been doing the Byron Katie inquiries for a while, and the outpouring was a natural and spontaneous explorations of the four questions and the turnarounds – which we both realized at the end.

For me, it was another reminder of how our struggles often (always?) are between two beliefs. There is a belief in what is (in this case the crawing) and a belief taking the form of the should (I shouldn’t eat sugar), and this creates a battle and suffering.

Inquiry & Empathy


One of the outcomes of examining my beliefs is understanding and empathy – with myself and others.

I see that when I believe in any particular thought, it brings about certain outcomes in many areas of my life – all of which amount to variations of suffering. Listening to others doing their own inquiries, and looking at people in general, I see that these patters seem mostly universal, shared by most or all of us and played out in very similar ways – with a certain unique flavoring in each case.

This means that it is often helpful to inquire into any belief, even if I don’t at first recognize from our my life. It is most likely there, in one form or another.

At the very least, it helps me understand how it is to be a human being believing that thought – it opens for more genuine empathy from having walked in those shoes. In most cases, I realize that I have walked in those shoes myself, even if I didn’t see it at first. And at a minimum, I walked in the shoes through inquiry, through living myself into how it would be for me to have that belief.



In working with the Byron Katie inquiries, I find that the more turnarounds the better – including turning it from me (if the initial thought is about me) to others. So whether I work on a thought about myself or someone else, I usually find five or six turnarounds, each one shedding light in different ways.

Here is a classic…

I am a failure.

  1. Yes (It seems true, in certain areas of life.)
  2. No (Cannot know for certain that it is true. It is just an opinion. Also, I cannot know that what has happened is not better in a certain way than what I hoped for and expected.)
  3. Believing in that thought, there is… Shame, for not being more successfull – according to my own or society’s standards. Guilt, for not having made better and fuller use of my opportunities. Want to hide my failures from myself and others. Dishonesty in talking about areas where I feel I am a failure – trying to avoid the topic or present it in a better light. Embarrased, especially when with people I see as not a failure in the same way as myself.

    Trying to present myself – to myself and others, as better or worse than I am. Making up stories which either emphasize my failures (to dig into it) or my successes (to compensate), and if they emphasize my failures do so with the aim of either connecting with others, go into self-pity, show how insightful I am, show my degree of self-acceptance and so on.

    If I believe in the thought I am a failure there will always be an attempt at either show myself as better or worse than someone – others, what I could be, what I can be, and so on.

    All of this creates a sense of separation – from myself, others, existence. It brings a sense of alienation, of not being comfortable, not belonging, of being alone.

  4. Without that thought, I would be OK with what is. OK with myself as I am. There would be a deeper sense of intimacy with myself, others, Existence. There would be no need to hide, no need for shame and guilt.
  5. (a) I am not a failure. (Yes, that is as or more true. First, the idea of failure is always relative – and it also implies that we can fail, that we are really in charge of our own life, that we are capable of not doing our best. Second, there are many areas where I have done well or OK also. Third, compared with many, my life is pretty good – others have many reasons for seeing my life as a success compared with their own.)

    (b) My thoughts are a failure. (Yes, that is as true, in at least two ways. When I believe in them they are always a failure – or more precisely bring a certain failure. Unexamined beliefs bring suffering, however subtly. And my thoughts themselves are a failure, because they are always incomplete and inaccurate representations of what is. They are a map, not the terrain.)

    (c) My thoughts are not a failure. (Yes, that is as true. They do their job wonderfully. They present me with an abstractions of the world, which is invaluable in helping me navigating and operating in the world. Without them, I would be lost – not even able to function in the most basic way. Also, when there is a belief in them, they do their job perfectly. They bring about a good deal of suffering which is a nudge for me to inquire into them, to examine them and thus allowing them to be liberated from beliefs.)

    (d) Others are a failure. (Yes, that is as true. Each one of us is a failure in one or more ways, especially as failure is defined by whatever measuring stick we use, and we can always use one that makes us or anyone or any acomplishment into a failure. Even compared to me and using conventional measures, many others are failures in certain areas of life – such as not living a meaningful life, not uncovering what is meaningful for them, not having spare time, and so on.)

    (e) Others are not a failure. (Yes, that is as true as well. Again, the word failure is relative to an arbitrary measure, and it also implies that we can fail. That we somehow are capable of not doing our best in any given situation. And that we are not perfect and complete as we are, as aspects of a whole beyond and including all polarities.)

Trust :: Basic and Conventional


As with so many things, it seems that trust too occurs at many levels.

In – or even after – an awakening to selflessness, a fundamental trust in existence arises on its own. It is all revealed as the ground forming itself into myriad of phenomena, as consciousness, or as God. There is no Other to distrust here.

But there is still the conditioning of our human self, which brings about a mix of trust and distrust. This is not a problem in the context of selflessness, the distrust and hangups and everything else is also emptiness dancing. At the same time, it is also something to work on, in the context of our development, maturing and evolution at human and soul levels.

Meditation is one way to allow this basic trust to sink in at our human level.

And it seems that the many forms of inquiry do the same.

Process Work unfolds the profound wisdom and healing behind what initially appears as a problem. Byron Katie’s inquiry into beliefs does the same, uncovering the gifts within what appeared as a stressful thought. The Big Mind process shows the profound wisdom behind all the ways the mind functions, on personal and transpersonal levels. And a more free-form inquiry, from innocent curiosity into what is happening, seems to unfold the same.

So in terms of the various levels, there seems to be…

Basic trust

A basic trust in Existence – as nondual, consciousness, the many forms of ground, waves on the ocean, the play of God, emptiness dancing.

A deepening trust in existence at our human level, seeing that there is healing within symptoms (Process Work), clarity within stress (Byron Katie), and wisdom within all the ways the mind functions (Big Mind). This is a process that deepens over time, through experience – over and over – with these and other forms of inquiries.

Both of these forms of trust – the transcendent and personal – are basic, not dependent of the specifics of the situation.

Conventional trust and distrust

And then there is the more conventional level of trust and distrust, the discernment, discriminating wisdom. This too deepens and matures over time, through experience. We learn to trust in certain ways and to be cautious in other ways. We learn to trust certain people in certain situations (maybe most), yet remain some caution in other situations.

Coexistence of basic and conventional trust

The conventional level can quite easily co-exist with the deeper level of trust.

It provides an overlay of conventional trust and distrust arising from the specific situation, on top of basic trust in existence which is there independent on the specifics of the situation.

Conditioned and unconditioned

The basic trust is unconditioned in the sense that it is independent of the specifics of the situation. But it is also conditioned – the transcendent trust on awakening, and the personal trust on inquiry and reconditioning (rewiring at our human level).

The conventional trust is always conditioned on the specific situation.

Split Screen


Over the last few days, the contrast between living without a story and from a story has been quite vivid for me – throughout the day.

A situation comes up, and I can see quite clearly how it will play itself out if I attach to and fuel a story about it, and also how it is if there is no story. It is like a split screen, and the choice is usually not difficult given the two different scenarios.

I have engaged more with the Byron Katie inquiries over the last few days, so that may be why this is coming up so strongly now, in real time.



I have been listening to more audio of Byron Katie facilitating inquiry with a range of people, and am again struck by how clear she is – and the clarity others arrive at through the inquiries.

It is similar to the Big Mind process in that people with little or no background in anything “spiritual” speak like sages – often arriving a deep insights mirroring what is said by gurus, teachers, sages and saints from many traditions and time periods.


I am also struck by something else: finding peace with what is, through seeing through our stories and allowing the belief in them to fall away, is only possible when we discover lila. That it is all the play of God.

Seeing through our stories, and discovering lila, are two sides of the same coin.

And when we see through even one of our stories, allowing the belief in it to fall away, we have a glimpse of lila. Seeing through another story, there is another taste of lila. And seeing through the story of “I” – as a segment of what is, we arrive fully in a realization of lila. There is the realization that what appeared as our business, is God’s business – and always was.

There is only God. There is no mistake.

Fertile Areas of Beliefs


In doing the Byron Katie inquiries, I find three fertile areas of beliefs…

  • The ones aligned with my conscious views (which I really wholeheartedly believe)
  • The ones I can infer from my actions and responses, which I may believe to a certain extent or parts of me believe, but are not aligned with my conscious views (some of these may be residual beliefs from previous worldviews)
  • The ones appearing in the world, that I may see in others

And each of these offer opportunities for rich explorations and inquiry, opening into clarity as well as understanding and compassion for myself and others.

Often, I may inquire into obviously stressful beliefs – the ones I find from situations that really bug me. But other times, it may just be an apparently innocent thought that catches my interest, or thoughts I see create stress for others, and these may reveal and unravel as much as the obviously stressful ones.

It doesn’t matter where the thoughts appear – in me triggering stress or not, or in others triggering stress or not. They always offer something new to explore and clarify.

V for Inquiry


I watched V for Vendetta Sunday, and thought it was worth the time and money – although maybe not too much more. The theme is certainly relevant (governments with totalitarian tendencies playing on fear), although especially the ending was anti-climatic for me – too much of a one-man show and less emphasis on the role of the people in changing regimes.

It is interesting to note that the theme of the movie is pretty much universal – reflecting totalitarian governments at many times in history. Still, many Bush supporters apparently see it as a specific criticism of the current Bush administration. Maybe it hit a little too close to home? Maybe the rhetoric and strategies were a little too similar to that of the Bush administration? Maybe it could be taken as a mirror rather than an attack?

Going to the BK inquiry group last night brought up some things related to the movie.

Fear of death

In the movie, V takes Evey through a process where she finally looses her fear of death. And in our group last night, one of the participants went through another process on her fear of death – arriving at a place of peace with it. The outcome may be very similar, although the process is – on the surface – very different. One is brutal and uses exhaustion, the other skillful means and detailed belief surgery.

Zen and inquiry

Actually, this is not that dissimilar to the relationship between traditional Zen practice and the Byron Katie inquiries. The outcomes may be quite similar, although one can be grueling and exhausting and the other precise and playful. I have a tremendous respect and appreciation for Zen, although also see how the BK inquires offer a more precise approach for unraveling beliefs – in any thought, including that of a separate self.


Noticing the profound effects in myself of inquiry, and in others who have done it for a while – often far longer than I have, I see how it brings people to where Buddhism, Daoism, Hinduism, mysticism and many other traditions try to lead people.

To a place where they see through beliefs at a deep level, and come to the nature of mind – unfiltered by beliefs, thoughts, ideas. To a place of liberation. A place where the natural and inherent compassion and wisdom of the mind can play unhindered.

It is very impressive. And it all comes from each person’s inquiry, guided by a very simple process that even small children can and do use. There are no teachings, only each person’s inquiry – their own truth guiding them to clarity and liberation.