Self Inquiry, The Foundation of Happiness

Living the Yoga Life

Self Inquiry, The Foundation of Happiness

Raymond Vieussens base of skull illustration 1684
Raymond Vieussens, illustration, base of skull, 1684

Self Inquiry

is the process of turning inward to look at yourself. This is the most important place to turn your attention, because if you can’t find truth within, you won’t find it anywhere. Probably the hardest part of the self inquiry process is getting started.

It can seem much easier to fill our lives with any distraction that keeps us from looking at or spending time with ourselves. This distraction behavior can most easily be seen with smartphones.  It is rare today to see someone sitting quietly without technology and much more common to see people engaged with their smart phones.  In fact, the smart phone is the ultimate distraction machine, always there to occupy our minds and senses.

In order to experience meaningful personal growth we have to, at some point, find the courage to put aside the distractions, take the time to turn inward, and get to know ourselves.

What am I?

A good place to get started with self inquiry is to find a comfortable quiet place and begin pondering the question “what am I?”

I prefer the question “what am I” to “who am I”,  as the question “what am I” allows for a much more expansive answer.

The first thing we encounter through self inquiry is our own egos, or the mind made stories that we think we are or thought we were.  This can be a scary process, often filled with a fear that we won’t like what we find when we turn inward.  The stories we have told ourselves are at best incomplete summaries of who we think we are and at worst self limiting faleshoods.  To undertake the process of maturation and self transformation, we must unravel these stories, which can take time.  The egoic stories are forms of self protection, part of the survival instinct which is trying to protect us from danger and death.

Questioning Our Thoughts

As we question our thoughts, we realize that there is virtually no thought within us that can be guaranteed to be truthful.  In fact there is no thought that we can assume to be the truth.  Our minds tend to fight back at this point, trying harder than ever to assert authority and control over us.  It takes persistent self inquiry to find the truth that lies beyond the mind.  The reward is that it eventually becomes impossible to take your thoughts seriously.  We realize there are no beliefs that can be believed.  Any belief is no more true than its opposite belief.  Get rid of all beliefs.  It is from this point that we can see that truth lies beyond our thoughts.

When you begin to understand what you are, when the haze is lifted and you see the truth, it is beyond description, beyond words, because it is beyond the mind.  The answer to the question “what am I” does not have an intellectual answer, it is an unfolding of awareness that is experienced.

When we begin to grasp the answer to “what am I”, the truth of our reality becomes clear.  At this point the desire to continue seeking disappears as we settle into truth.  This awakening is experienced as a blissful realization of our true nature.  However, this blissful feeling is only part of the process.

Finding Inner Truth and Happiness

When we find inner truth, there is still most likely many stories in the mind.  Stories hat we now recognize as untrue, but that take time to uncover and dissolve.  There are often traumas from youth, that were coped with by creating stories or beliefs that are untrue.  It takes compassion to see these untruths within us, to recognize they are not needed, and to let them go.  This is a pain that can make us feel stuck, but must be faced with compassion and inquiry so that it can dissipate from within us.  If we can not face these places within us, if we try to suppress them or hide them until later, they continue to hold power over us and victimize us again and again.  So yes it may feel scary, but now is the time to find the courage to face our internal untruths, so we can find our way to the beautiful freedom of truth.

Seeing that we have been living by stories and untruths can be a painful and uncomfortable realization.  So the path takes effort and you may encounter fear, but it can also be exhilarating  as you learn to be totally truthful to yourself.  Once we find truth within, it becomes natural to express this truth and honesty externally.  This will have consequences in our lives as we come out from the stories that we have been hiding behind.  But this is the path to truth and freedom.

As you practice self inquiry,  the bad habits and false stories that contributed to your dis-ease and suffering will naturally begin to fall away.  And nothing is more important than this.  The path through self inquiry is challenging, but it is worth the effort as it sets a foundation for lasting happiness in your life.

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Chris Brown

Chris has been practicing both yoga and architecture for over 15 years. He combines them in his Yoga and Design for Conscious Living blog, and believes that the essence of yoga is found in the quality of the relationships we build with ourselves, others, and the world.

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