This morning I went for a long walk to help clear my head before working on lesson plans for my upcoming course. The topic I wanted to explore in today’s notes was self inquiry, and it occurred to me that whilst for some self inquiry might not be daunting, for others just the very thought can unleash a myriad of questions, doubts and fears.
I think often what can happen is that we just don’t know where to begin, and also, we think that it will be overwhelming. But self inquiry can be a very gentle therapeutic process of developing the capacity to witness ourselves without judgement. There is a great picture based on Joseph Campbell’s work called the circle of consciousness. It is a circle with a line through it. The part above the line is what we are consciously aware of, and the part below is our unconscious. To the degree that we are not aware of what’s below the line, is to the degree that it will control us. It is the automatic reactions we have, the flipping into anger, the feelings of not being good enough, the fears that we seem to have no control over, the mood swings and so on.
Self inquiry is all about shining a light on these parts so we become a more enlarged and whole being with an increased capacity to draw on our wisdom. It is shining a light on the places we haven’t been paying attention to, and developing a deeper understanding of who we are. This then has a ripple effect into the world around us, enabling us to have better relationships with others.
One of the important parts of this inquiry is to remember that what lies beneath the line is not personal. I think, and have certainly found through my own journey of self inquiry, that we can carry a lot of shame around the places within. But every single one of us has these reptilian parts, these raw emotions. It’s part of our inheritance, carried down through generations. So when we explore issues such as our own addictions, we see that its not ‘my addiction’ its ‘our addictiveness.’ It’s ‘our anger.’ Of course we express it on an individual level and are responsible for that expression, but its by no means unique to just us.
What happens when we don’t shine a light on the parts within us is that, in a sense, we forget who we really are and become cut off from the awareness that lies beyond any stories we have created. In exploring these parts we can wake up to the truth, and also realise that by including it we can deal with it.
In terms of feeling overwhelmed, I believe we know at some level what we can cope with. If we approach self inquiry from a place of trust, we allow what needs to come up to present itself at the right time. We live moment to moment, only enough for this moment will arise.
Self inquiry will have its painful moments, but if we don’t face whats under there, we will always know at some level there is something we haven’t dealt with. When we do deal with it, we are able to redevelop the sense of innocence we used to have, because we are no longer hiding unseen things.