Hello fellow lovers of wisdom! Today we are talking about self-inquiry. Will we discuss what it is? How is it practised and we will go into the many benefits that come along with practising it. We will also take a look at Ramana Maharishi’s relationship with the practice and how he taught yoga through the practice of self-inquiry. Grab a chai, coffee or your breath and let’s jump into it!
Firstly, what is it?
Self-inquiry is a powerful technique that helps individuals understand and gain insights into their thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. The practice involves a deep examination of one’s inner self, which leads to a better understanding of one’s true nature and ultimately liberation. The technique has been practiced for countless centuries, and in recent years, scientific studies have validated its effectiveness in promoting emotional well-being and personal growth.
How do I do it?
Self-inquiry is a meditative technique that involves asking oneself a series of questions to explore the nature of the self. The practice involves examining the thoughts, emotions, and sensations that arise in the mind and questioning their origins, beliefs, and assumptions. The process involves peeling away the layers of conditioning and beliefs that have shaped one’s self-identity and uncovering the true nature of one’s being.
What are the different ways to practice Self-Inquiry?
Self-inquiry can be practiced in various ways, but the basic process involves asking oneself a series of questions to investigate the nature of one’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. Here are some examples of self-inquiry questions:
- Who am I?
- What is my true nature?
- What are my core beliefs and assumptions about myself and the world?
- What are the sources of my thoughts/emotions?
- How do my thoughts/emotions impact my behaviour and relationships?
- What am I attached to, and what can I let go of?
- Why do I react like that?
- Why does (this*) trigger me?
To practice self-inquiry, find a quiet and comfortable place to sit, close your eyes, and focus on your breath. Once you have achieved a state of calmness, begin to ask yourself the self-inquiry questions. Be open and honest with yourself and allow yourself to explore your thoughts and emotions without judgment.
This can be done in your head as you simply observe the processes of your mind or you can ask yourself the questions and journal the responses. The point is to stay focused on the question and allow yourself to stay present with the thought thread. Picture it as a thread of cotton, follow the thread and the thread will lead you to the answer. Your awareness is always present and it is your awareness that you must guide to the end of the thread and then you will be led to your answer.
Benefits of Self-Inquiry
The benefits of self-inquiry are numerous and can positively impact one’s emotional, mental, and physical well-being. Here are some of the benefits of self-inquiry:
- Increased Self-Awareness: Self-inquiry helps individuals gain a deeper understanding of their thoughts, emotions, and behaviours, which can lead to increased self-awareness and self-acceptance.
- Reduced Stress and Anxiety: By examining the sources of one’s thoughts and emotions, self-inquiry can help individuals identify and release negative thought patterns that lead to stress and anxiety.
- Improved mental health: Self-inquiry can help you develop a more positive and compassionate attitude towards yourself. This, in turn, can improve your mental health by reducing self-criticism and increasing self-esteem.
- Improved Relationships: Self-inquiry can help individuals identify and work through patterns of behaviour that negatively impact their relationships with others.
- Personal Growth: By uncovering and letting go of limiting beliefs and assumptions, self-inquiry can promote personal growth and self-realisation.
- Greater sense of purpose: By understanding your values, goals, and motivations, self-inquiry can help you develop a clearer sense of purpose and direction in life.
While self-inquiry has been practiced for centuries, scientific research on its benefits is still relatively new. However, several studies have shown promising results:
- A study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan found that individuals who practiced self-inquiry had reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety.
- Another study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that self-inquiry can help individuals develop a greater sense of meaning and purpose in life.
- A study conducted by researchers at Harvard Medical School found that mindfulness-based self-inquiry can reduce symptoms of chronic pain in patients with fibromyalgia.
This practice hits so many levels of oneself, from issues on the surface such as our emotions and emotional responses, to untangling the mess of our triggers and deep-rooted beliefs to our conditioning but it can go even deeper than that.
For those of you that don’t know Ramana Maharishi and his story let’s go through a brief introduction. Rama was a self-realised sage who lived in India specifically at Tiruvannamalai from 1879 until his passing in 1950. Rama’s father passed away when he was just a boy and after seeing his father’s body laying lifeless he asked the question if I am not my body, then who am I? Rama asked himself the question tirelessly in pursuit of the truth. At the age of 14, he left home and moved to Arunachala, a holy mountain in Tiruvannamalai where he lived in the caves of the mountain and walked up, down and around the mountain staying focused on the thread of the question, who am I? If I am not my body then there is something else inside me that gives me life that animates the body. I must know what that is. After some time of following the thread, it returned to the source, the self and in that moment Rama was liberated and realised the true nature of the self. After this event, many who were in pursuit of liberation were drawn to visit the mountain and meet Rama who was still in his youth and were compelled to devote themselves to Rama and his meditation. Eventually, his following became so big they rebuilt the abandoned ashram at the base of the mountain for Rama and his devotees although it took years for Rama to leave the caves of Arunachala and live in the ashram permanently. His teachings were silent as he stayed present with the self holding space for others to return home and be liberated from ignorance. When asked how the meditation worked he simply replied that all things originate from the source even the mind and our thoughts, if you ask a question even the mind will be led back to where it first was born but first you must let go of the I that is separate from everything and return to the I of the self.
This was his main and most emphasised practice for enlightenment. Rama cherished the scriptures and the song lines of the Vedas but to truly understand you must experience the source yourself and the only way to do so was to return to the source itself and be present with it. Ramas greatest teacher was silence, giving those who seek the truth as he did the space to come to experience the liberation of God, the source or the Tao!
Lao Tzu states in the Tao de Ching “The Tao that can be spoken is not the true Tao” giving so much merit to how Rama Maharishi shared his teachings of yoga. There was nothing that Rama could say to give us liberation, it was our responsibility to experience it for ourselves and Rama was willing to provide the tool and the space for us to do just that.
In summary, the practice of self-inquiry is as profound as it is simple. This practice can help you to better understand your thought patterns and emotions. Help to realise and release triggers or attachments that are not serving you. Break down false belief systems or seek to gain enlightenment! The sky’s the limit with this practice. No matter what your goal is with this form of meditation, continued practice will increase your quality of life. There is no doubting that.
Thanks for reading, have a great day/night and I will see you on the next one!