Self Inquiry - Immersion

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Day 4: Self Inquiry (Immersion)

The way to live in the present is to remember that ‘This too shall pass.’ When you experience joy, remembering that ‘This too shall pass’ helps you savor the here and now. When you experience pain and sorrow, remembering that ‘This too shall pass’ reminds you that grief, like joy, is only temporary.” Joey Green

By realizing who WE are, the bonds of suffering are broken. Besides this goal, self-inquiry delivers many of the same benefits as other meditation techniques, such as relaxation, enhanced experience of life, greater openness to change, greater creativity, a sense of joy and fulfillment, and so forth.

HISTORY

Self inquiry or atma-vichara is an ancient Indian meditation technique. The word atma means self, spirit or essence, meaning oneself or myself. The word vichara means investigation or examination, and can also mean pondering or consideration, in the sense of thinking of or looking at something carefully and attentively. Thus atma-vichara is the practice of investigating, examining, exploring, inspecting, scrutinizing or attending keenly to our Self, that is, our own essential being, which we always experience as our basic consciousness 'I am'.

Many people misunderstand the self-inquiry technique to mean that we should sit and ask ourselves the question, “Who am I?” over and over. Instead, the questions “Who am I” or “To whom is this thought occurring?” are only used when a thought arises, in order to direct attention back to the feeling of being “me.”

At other times the mind is held in silence. Obviously, in a busy mind we would end up repeating “Who am I” more often than in a still mind. Over time, the gaps in between will increase.

The Practice

If someone said to us, "Investigate what is written in this book", we would not close our eyes and repeat to ourselves 'what is written in this book?' but would open the book and read what is written inside it. Similarly, when we "Investigate who am I", we should not close our eyes and repeat to ourselves 'who am I?' but should turn our attention towards our Self and keenly scrutinize our essential consciousness 'I am' in order to discover what we really are.

How does it feel to be you? How does your inner environment reflect you?

This practice of Self-attention or awareness of the ‘I’-thought is a gentle technique, which bypasses the usual repressive methods of controlling the mind. It is not an exercise in concentration, nor does it aim at suppressing thoughts; it merely invokes awareness of the source from which the mind springs. The method and goal of self-inquiry is to abide in the source of the mind and to be aware of what one really is by withdrawing attention and interest from what one is not.

In the early stages, effort in the form of transferring attention from the thoughts to the thinker is essential, but once awareness of the ‘I’-feeling has been firmly established, from then on, it is more a process of Being than doing, of effortless being rather than an effort to be.

IF YOU HAVE 10 MINUTES TODAY

Focus your attention on the feeling of being “you,” to the exclusion of all other thoughts.

1. Sit in any comfortable meditation posture.

2. Allow your mind and body to settle.

3. Now, let go of any thinking whatsoever.

4. Place your attention on the inner feeling of being “me.”

5. When a thought does arise (and it will), ask yourself to whom this thought is occurring. This returns your attention to the feeling of being “me.”

Continue this for as long as you like. This technique can also be done when going about any other activity.

IF YOU FEEL OVERWHELMED THROUGHOUT YOUR DAY

Close your eyes and ask yourself these questions:

-Who am I?

-How do I feel right now?

-Why do I feel this way? Does feeling this way hinder or help me?

Take a couple of cycles of breath and repeat to yourself

May I continue to look deeply into my mind, my heart and body. May I see things and meet things AS THEY ARE and may this clear and sustained knowing free me FOR THE SAKE OF ALL BEINGS.

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