Inquiry and meditation

Inquiry and meditation go hand-in-hand.

A more stable attention is helpful in any activity – whether it is meditation, inquiry, prayer or activities in daily life. The simplest way to invite attention to stabilize is to bring attention to the sensations of the breath – for instance at the nostrils – for a few minutes a day and in a relaxed way. How is it to bring attention to the breath in a relaxed way? Can I be as relaxed as if in a hammock a summer’s day watching the leaves moving in the breeze? How is it to bring attention to the breath with interest and curiosity?

Through this practice, I also get to see how easily attention goes to beliefs – to stories and images I take as true or important – and that’s one of the inquiry aspects of inviting attention to stabilize. What happens when I bring attention to the breath? It’s a good way to get more familiar with these dynamics of the mind. Attention is brought to the breath. Attention goes into stories. Something noticed this and attention goes back to the breath. And so on.

When I intentionally allow experience as is – Shikantaza – there can be a softening of identification with stories, and a shift of identification into the field of experience itself. It’s easier for what I am to notice itself. The inquiry aspect here is: What happens when I just sit, when I allow all as is without attention getting caught up in content of stories? What am I? Am I something within content of experience? Am I the field of experience itself?

Here too, I get more familiar with the dynamics of the mind. I get to see how easily attention gets absorbed into stories and images I take as true or important. I get to see the dynamics around the stories I take as true – what happens when I take them as true. I can then either take these beliefs to a more detailed inquiry later on, or I can do it there and then. What happens when I take it as true? Do I know for certain it is true? How would it be if I didn’t have that story? What’s true in the reversals of that story? Some of these inquiries may be initiated by words, or reflected in words, but the main inquiry is often wordless – at the level of seeing, images and feelings.

Inquiry happens in any other practice. Whether I invite a more stable attention, allow experience as is, pray or engage in any other practice, I get more familiar with the dynamics of the mind. I get to see how attention goes into images and stories I see as true or important. And this is an invitation to inquire into these beliefs, either later or in the moment. Is it true? What’s more true for me? What happens when I take the story as true? Who would I be without it? What’s the validity in the reversals? Can I find one more, and one more? How is it to live from one of the more juicy turnarounds?

As mentioned above, this inquiry is in itself a form of meditation or contemplation. It may be initiated by verbal thought, and reflected in verbal thought, and much is wordless – a seeing guided by images, watching and exploring images, noticing shifts in emotions and feelings, and so on.


  • meditation and inquiry
    • meditation
      • (a) stable attention
        • relaxed, stable attention on whatever
        • form a new habit
        • a useful tool, can be used for anything in daily life or spiritual practice
      • (b) just sitting, shikantaza
        • (i) release identification out of thought, easier for what we are to notice itself
        • (ii) get to see thought, beliefs, the dynamics around it, how they function – inquiry there and then, or later
    • inquiry
      • as a form of meditation, contemplation
        • take time, let it sink in, stay with it
        • with curiosity, receptivity
        • return to it, see what’s there
    • mutuality
      • stable attention is a useful tool for just sitting, inquiry, and anything in daily life
      • just sitting (i) soften identification with thoughts and shifts it more into the field, and (ii) helps me notice the dynamics of beliefs
      • inquiry is a form of meditation, or contemplation – with curiosity, receptivity, see what’s there
    • …………

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