Yesterday I spent a couple of hours with a friend who lives in Chiang Mai, Thailand. His name is Guy. He was recently ordained as a Buddhist monk. He carries a new vibration now. His heart is open and kind. He did not say anything particularly dazzling, but wisdom was revealed in the utter simplicity of his presence. As we walked along West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz on a sunny Autumn afternoon, he exuded an authentic, subtle force of the kind that is often overlooked or dismissed in our busy American culture.
Following that meeting, an insight came. I realized how I had been closing my heart. It was a conditioned self-protection mechanism. We never want to admit our secret beliefs or realize we have shut down in some way. In a flash the belief goes underground, hidden and uninvestigated, into the realm of conclusion. Conclusions are the way we stay unaware. They are solidified beliefs that become quarantined aspects of ourselves. We close down, thinking we know something is true though actually this brings separation to life. Conclusions happen so quickly that most of the time we don’t even realize it. This is how we cut ourselves off from Reality, from Life.
Inquiry is a way to uncover these hidden crevices, to see underneath the false layers.
A simple inquiry method comes from the spiritual teacher Byron Katie. Her style is very practical and direct. She starts with:
1) Is it true?
2) Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
3) How do you react when you believe that thought?
4) Who would you be without that thought? Then turn the thought around, for example if you are believing that ‘my husband doesn’t love me’, the turn around might be: ‘I don’t love my husband’ or ‘I don’t love me’.
Inquiry requires an authentic yearning for truth and involves isolating a thought stream, a story, an inner dialogue, and bringing it into the open space. At first it involves a disciplined inner exploration, where guidance can be useful, which begins to reveal deeper and deeper layers of false beliefs until the natural state of peace becomes the abiding Reality. It is like the storm clouds have finally moved away revealing the Sun.
Soon this seeing method happens spontaneously, becoming an innate process that helps you discover the joy that is always present behind any kind of suffering. When inquiry becomes alive in you, it operates whenever suffering arises. In this way suffering becomes your friend, a partner that brings you back to the all-consuming Spaciousness.