Unfindable and still there

For people new to inquiry, and the Living Inquiries in particular, a fear may come up: If something is unfindable, does it mean it doesn’t exist? If what I took myself to be is unfindable, who am I? How will I be able to function?

Unfindable doesn’t mean doesn’t exist. And something can be unfindable and still be functional in an ordinary sense.

For instance, take a pen. Look at the word “pen”. Is that word the pen? Look at the pen. Is the colors the pen? Is the outline the pen? Is the texture the pen? Feel it. Is that sensation the pen? Click it. Is that sound the pen? Write with it. Is the lines on the paper the pen? Can you find the pen? Can you find an actual object called a pen?

It may be unfindable. And doesn’t it still write? Can’t you still use it, as before?

That’s how it is with just about anything. We can look for it. See that it’s unfindable, after thorough looking. And it’s still functional. I’ll still answer if someone says my name. I’ll still go to the doctor if my body shows unusual symptoms or is in pain. I’ll still be as good of a steward of my life as I am able to.

My body, hunger, and breakfast may all be unfindable, and I’ll still eat breakfast when I am hungry.

This is the middle way. This is one way the middle way of Buddhism can be understood.

Absent of I

What does “absent of I” mean?

Simply, it means that what I take myself to be is, when I look, unfindable. Whether what I take myself to be is a me or an I, a human self, a body, a deficient or inflated self, a doer, an observer, a soul, awareness, Spirit, or something else.

When I look, I cannot find any of these outside of images, words, or sensations. And those aren’t “it” either.

Unfindable doesn’t mean doesn’t exist. It just means unfindable.

P.S. The URL for this blog is absentofi.org

Unfindable self, unfindable world

In Michael Taft’s book about the history of nonduality, he mentions that some traditions emphasize unfinding the self, and other traditions unfinding the world, and some may include both.

For me, it makes sense to include both, and really anything that’s part of my world that seems real and solid to me. Why leave any stone unturned?

And that’s what the Living Inquiries do. I look for deficient selves. Threats. Compulsions. My body. Other people. Situations. Awareness. Thoughts. Anything at all.

There is a shift when a systematic, thorough and sincere looking shows that something is unfindable. It doesn’t mean that I am “all done”. It’s just a shift. Then there is something else to look at, and for. It’s an ongoing process. And over time, the shift deepens.

Relating to deficient selves

Some ways of relating to deficient selves:

(1) You are welcome here. Thank you for protecting me. Thank you for your love. (I need your strength.)

(2) Notice how it’s made up of images, thoughts, emotions, sensations. For each of these, I see that what I am, fundamentally, as that which doesn’t come and go, is not that.

(3) Inquire into these images and thoughts, see what’s more true for me.

(4) Notice it’s love, it’s devoted to me, there to protect me. (And it’s strategy may be innocently misguided.)

(5) Notice it’s love, awareness, presence. It’s no different from anything else, including any appearances of a me or I it’s happening to or that’s noticing. It’s all happening as awareness, love, presence.

(6) Dialog with it. (i) Ask it for it’s wisdom. What would you like to share with me? How would you like me to relate to you? What can you contribute to my life? (ii) Ask it for it’s fears. What do you fear? (These can be taken to inquiry.)

It’s all about noticing what’s already here. It’s here to protect me. It’s devoted to me. It’s love. It’s strategy may be innocently misguided. It’s made up of images, thoughts, emotions and sensations. What I am – fundamentally, as that which doesn’t come and go – is not this deficient self or it’s components. It has genuine wisdom to share with me. And it has fears to share with me, which can be taken to inquiry to find what’s more true.


Inquiry as medicine, applied more fluidly

Inquiry is an invitation to notice what’s here, and really an invitation for what’s here to notice itself.

Inquiry is also an antidote to, or medicine for, a fixed (stressful, uncomfortable) view, one that’s out of alignment with reality.

It can be applied in a formal way, following a method or system, and this can be very helpful – especially in the beginning, and also when looking at more dense beliefs.

And it can happen in a more fluid and spontaneous way. The more formal systems are really just a reflection of how the mind works when it is more fluid.

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Deficient selves

I am exploring Scott Kiloby’s Unfindable Inquiry, and as part of that identify deficient selves, perceptions of myself as deficient in different ways – surfacing in different situations. Here are some of them:

Lost, adrift, fuzzy, not well, unsafe, unloved, hopeless, helpless, victim, paralyzed, numb, insecure attachment – selves.

The left behind, alone self.

The unsafe self. The insecure self.

The unlovable self. The unloved self. The self that missed out. The self that’s not love.

The one who is not getting what he wants. The one born against his will. The one mistreated by life.

The alone self. The isolated self. The lost self.

The suffering self. The victim self. The hurt self.

Fatalistic self. Powerless self. Victim of circumstances/others/life self. The leaf in a storm self.

The overwhelmed self. The panicked self. The self that wants to check out. The self that wants to be saved by someone else. The self that wants to die.

The sensitive self. The psychic sponge self. The self that’s influenced by others.

The restless self. The needy self. The self that sees what’s not here as better.

The vengeful self. The self that wants others to suffer. The self that wants me to suffer.

The resistant self. The procrastinating self. The negative self. The complaining self.

The spiritual self. The self-improving self. The self trying to do it’s best. The good self. The bad self.

The self that’s afraid of being an adult. The self that’s not measuring up. The self that’s not up to the task.

The self that’s holding back. The paralyzed self. The numb self. The shocked self.

The self that wants others to envy me. The self that wants to be better than others. The self that wants to be admired.

The self that cannot trust life. The self that doesn’t trust God. The self that doesn’t trust others.

The martyr self. The self giving up what feels deeply right.

The drama queen self. The self delighting in drama.

For each of these, I can explore it from a particular situation triggering it, and using a set of very simple questions:

Images & thoughts

Can you find images and thoughts associated with the deficient self? What images and thoughts are there?

Can you see these as images and thoughts?

Are these images and thoughts who you are? Are they who you really are, fundamentally? As that which doesn’t come and go?

And then the same set of questions for emotions, and sensations.

When these deficient selves operate unconsciously or partly consciously, they may seem quite real and substantial, and mind is identified with them. As they are looked into more closely, and what’s really there is more clear, there isn’t so much to identify with anymore. The mind is unable to identify with it in the way it used to.


Unloved by myself, others, women, God/life. Unlovable by myself, others, women, mother/father, God/life.