The phases of self-inquiry

I am doing the fifth phase of the distance course from Center for Sacred Sciences, and it includes a specific form of self-inquiry as the featured practice. When I explore it for myself, I find three phases…

What changes

First, I look at what changes. Sensations come and go. Thoughts come and go. Sounds come and go. Sights come and go. Smells and tastes come and go. Although there may be times that I temporarily identify with sensations and thoughts, I see that I am not really either of those. They come and go. They live their own life. They are all finite in space and time. Change is inherent in any content, in anything arising, in anything happening.

And yet, something does not change.

What does not change

Then, I notice that which does not change. It is not content. It is not finite in time or space. It is this awake clarity, not defined by any characteristics such as color, extent, location, beginning, end, and so on. As Douglas Harding says, it is the capacity for the world, that which allows it all to unfold and live its own life. It is the awake emptiness which allows the fullness of the world. This is what does not change, and I am that.

Not different

Finally, there is the seeing of content as not different from this awake clarity. Where does the seeing end and the seen begin? Where does awareness end and its content begin? I cannot find this boundary anywhere. The content of awareness does not seem any different from awareness itself. It is revealed as form and emptiness. Seeing and seen has the same Ground, the same nature of awake clarity.


It is a practice that unfolds over time. At any time engaging in this form of inquiry, I may have a clear taste of each of these three phases. Yet, it is not a clear or full seeing, so there may be temporary identification with content again. There is the cycle of taste of clear seeing, then temporary identification with content. Gradually, there is an increased familiarity with this clear seeing, a shifting of the center of gravity to this clear seeing. This sets the stage for it to pop, for the Ground to shift into the foreground, revealing it all as inherently absent of any I anywhere.

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