Is that image afraid? A simple form of inquiry

Sometimes, in daily life, I find that a very simple form of inquiry can be helpful. The particular form of inquiry varies, and lately it’s been this one.

For instance, I notice what a thought would call “fear”.

Look at the word “fear”. Look at the letters. (Or listen to the sound.) Is that word afraid? Can it be afraid?

Feel the fear. Feel the sensations without the label. Is that sensation afraid?

Is there an image associated with that sensation? Look at that image. Is that image afraid?

Is there another image associated with the fear. Look at the image. Is the image afraid?

This helps me see how the mind creates the experience of fear. It shows me the components of that experience, and that these are not in themselves afraid.

I can do the same with anything that’s here, whether a thought would call it an emotion, discomfort, pain, deficiency or anything else. I can even explore people and objects, and myself, in this way. (Is that image of an apple an actual apple? Can you eat it? Does the image itself have a taste?)

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Finding brokenness

I have had the thought I am broken come up recently, and see that I also have images of myself reflecting this thought.

As I went for my walk this morning, I felt the sensations of brokenness, noticed some of the images, and also the word “broken”.

If there is actual brokenness here, if I am broken, I should be able to find it.

Feel the brokenness. Feel the sensations. Take time with it. See if you can feel it without images and words connected with it. Is that sensation broken?

Look at the image of brokenness. Look at the lines, colors, shapes. Is that image broken? (Is there another image of brokenness, or of you being broken? Look at it. Is that image broken?)

Look at the word “broken”. Is that word broken? (Look at the words “I am broken”. Are those words broken?)

It’s quite amazing to see that neither of these are broken. When I look for brokenness in immediacy, when I look at what seems the most broken, I cannot actually find it.

Finding escape

I find myself doing different forms of mini-inquiries these days.

Waking up, I noticed an impulse to escape some sensations and images that came up. I explored what was here, and a question came to me.

Feel the sensations. Does these sensations want to escape?

Look at the image. Does that image want to escape?

Look at the words. Does those words want to escape?

And so on, with whatever is here. Taking time with each. Slow it down. See what’s really here.

All the sensations that seem associated with avoidance, do they actually want to escape?

If the sensation could speak, what would it say?

What does the sensation want?

The answer now is “to be felt”.

Trying to find the boundary, thinker, observer

I do little “flash” inquiries these days.

For instance, can I find the boundary between me and what I experience?

Where is the apparent boundary between me and this sound?

I see an image of a boundary. Look at that image. Is that image an actual boundary? Can it separate something?

I notice sensations that appear to be a boundary. Feel those sensations. Take your time. Are those sensations a boundary? Can they separate anything?

Look at the word “boundary”. Is it able to separate anything?

Where do I find the apparent thinker?

Look at the word “thinker”. Can the word “thinker” think? Can it produce thoughts?

I see an image of a thinker. Look at that image. Can that image think? Can it produce a thought?

I notice sensations that feels like a thinker. Feel those sensations. Can those sensations think? Can they produce thoughts?

Where do I find the apparent observer?

I see an image of an observer. Can that image observe anything?

I feel sensations that feels like an observer. Can those sensations observe?

Look at the word “observer”. Can those words observe?

And so on. With whatever comes up, take time to look at it (images, words) or feel it (sensations). Be sincere. Really try to find it. Leave no stone unturned.

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Is the image sad?

Here is one form of mini-inquiry that has been helpful for me:

(a) Look at the images, words and sensations making up – or associated with – what I want to explore. It may be an emotion such as anger, sadness, joy or exhilaration. It may be physical or emotional pain. It may be feeling hurt, being trapped, being a victim, or being unloved by life. It may be resistance.

(b.i.) For each image, look at it, and ask is that image angry? Is it sad? Is it annoyed? Is it trapped? Is it a victim? Can it resist anything? Can it suffer? (Or whatever it is that I am exploring.)

(b.ii.) For each word, look at it – or listen to it – and ask the same. Is that word sad? Is it unloved by life?

(b.iii.) For each sensation, feel it, take your time feeling it. And ask the same. Is that sensation sad? Is it angry? Is it in pain? Is it uncomfortable?

Say I have anger come up. I look at the word “anger”. Is that word – those letters – angry? (No.) There is an image of an angry face. Is that image angry? (No.) I see an image of me angry. Is that image angry? (No.) I feel the anger in my body. I feel the sensations labeled anger. Are those sensations angry? (No.)

Through not finding it, and realizing that everything making up anger – the images, words and sensations making up my experience of anger – are not actually angry, there is a release. It feels less heavy, and less real and solid. It’s less of a “thing”.

Right now, I notice sadness. I feel the sadness, the sensations labeled sadness. And ask is that sensation sad? There is a clear “no”. And a sense of lightening and release. The sensations can be here now. They are OK. Even the label “sad” is OK since I see it’s a label, it’s something thoughts came up with to help.

Note: This is one aspect of the Living Inquiries, and one I find helpful as a “flash inquiry” in daily life, at least right now.