Meditative inquiry, the direct questioning of long held beliefs through attempting to answer simple, fundamental existential questions, forms the basis for much of this work. Ramana Maharshi, in his early 20s, gave responses to questions which became the text, “Who Am I?”, one of the most succinct and direct discussions on how this work is to be carried out.
Are there any physical practices that would help you with your inquiry?
A different breathing pattern is normally recommended for meditation. It is useful, many schools would say very important, to breathe predominantly in the belly, or with the diaphragm. This is illustrated by:
By breathing predominantly in the lower abdomen, also called the hara or lower chakras, you will find that the mind is likely to be more still and your attention more focused.
In addition to “Who am I?” there are a number of questions that can be fruitful ground for investigation. These include “Where am I?”, “When am I?”, “What am I?”, “Why am I?”, “Who hears?” etc. Your interest in the particular question chosen should guide your decision. A question that is of little interest to you is of no value in your practice simply because you won’t do it.
In determining THE most useful question, some questions may appear to you to be too philosophical, equivocal, or psychological. Others look to be too obvious or uninteresting. The ones that are most powerful and provide important keys to the doors have a feel, an energy that gives a sense of rightness, of “yes” arising out of your own deep intuition that this is THE question, that it is YOUR question.
Once you have selected your question, work with it with diligence for a significant length of time. You should work on this question intensively for several months before you reject it and select another option. You will find that the mind, anxious to derail this process …will suggest another, and another, and yet another in quick succession. Resist this. Sinking into the question, to the root and feel of it, absorbing yourself so completely in it that it goes on by itself, even while you are asleep, requires single-minded dedication and focus on one question.
Be watchful as to what occurs immediately after you ask your question. Often, immediately after the question is asked the mind will just stop and emptiness and stillness will be there. This is the Presence that you are searching for. Don’t rush past it looking for another answer. There isn’t an answer the mind can come up with. The mind will often panic at not having an answer and not understanding what just happened with the stillness will quickly rush to fill in the blank space with all sorts of other possibilities.When should you do the inquiry?
A critical, and unique aspect of this approach is that meditative inquiry is not confined to the time you have available to spend sitting still in a meditative posture.
To extend the meditation from the defined period of a sitting practice into your daily life, select a daily activity to trigger you to reengage with the question. This reminder, whether it is answering the phone, beginning eating, going to the bathroom, traveling to work, having a cup of tea, every odd numbered hour, etc. will move you back into the depths and immediacy of your inquiry. It is particularly powerful if you use the inquiry as the first thing on waking to establish the tone for the day and the last thing before falling asleep to place it into consciousness so that it will continue during the night.
With inquiry of this intensity, before long, things will begin to change in your life…
You do not suddenly master playing the piano, speaking a foreign language, rock climbing, painting abstract art or doing mathematical equations. You get better and more effortlessly capable as you continue your practice and as your concentration, capacity and understanding develop…so it is with meditative inquiry.What if you get bored? When should you change your practice?
Your practice will at times be unpleasant and feel hard and dry.
You will see parts of your mind and thoughts that may surprise, disappoint, frighten and depress, thoughts that you were never aware of before. Inquiry has not somehow mysteriously created them. They were there all along. With everything else out of the way, they now have a chance to manifest. With persistent inquiry, your thoughts will lose their strength and energy.
They will trouble you less and less.
Don’t lose sight of the fact that enlightenment is about revealing that your real nature, your natural state is stillness, happiness and presence. It is not something you need to go out and manufacture or obtain; it is already there. All that you need to do is get the clouds out of the way.