Before working with this Method i highly recommend working with at least one of the Meditation methods here –
Method #1 – http://silenttruth.co.uk/?page_id=2019
Method #2 – http://silenttruth.co.uk/?page_id=2021
Method #3 – http://silenttruth.co.uk/?page_id=2023
These Methods of Meditation will help to give you a greater degree of stillness to make the investigation process easier and more effective.
“Who looks outside dreams, who looks within Awakens” Carl Jung
It is only through introspection which is the act of looking within, that you will be discovered. You cannot be found outside and no issue of yours can be ultimately solved there, it is all finally resolved and found within.
As stated above, the only means to discover our true nature is by looking within. We cannot discover ourselves on the ‘outside,’ and so we need to shift our attention away from the outside to within, to who is actually having the experience which we call ‘life.’ You may have experienced that, in challenging times we tend to look within ourselves, but often when things on the outside are going as planned, we tend not to look within quite so much. It seems almost counter-intuitive to ask this question. What is the point at looking who is there? We know who is there, it is ‘me’ of course, but who or what is ‘me’ exactly? And how established and grounded are we, in who we really are at our core.
We often stop at the ‘me’ answer and never look more deeply for exactly who or what is there. But if we dared to look within and investigate further, we may find that the thing we took for granted, our very idea of our ‘Self,’ is not what we presumed it was, in fact we may realise that it was the presumptions that were the problem all along.
It is all too apparent that there is much suffering in this world, and here I am not speaking of actual physical suffering (although this is also related and caused by what we are speaking of,) I am primarily speaking of the internal suffering that largely goes unnoticed because most people keep it to themselves and have come to believe that this is normal, so many people simply continue to suffer in silence. This is in fact, the suffering of ‘misidentification.’
When we misidentify who we are, we find ourselves trapped in a case of ‘mistaken identity,’ believing ourselves to be something that we are not, and when circumstances and changes affect those ‘mistaken identities,’ which they inevitably do in this world of constant change, we tend to suffer for that also. When we identify with the material objects of the world we become ‘lost’ and then often may be overwhelmed by fear, anxiety, grief, confusion restlessness and other negative states. Then we tend to make erroneous decisions based upon a distorted perception which has a severe negative impact on our life and the lives of those around us. Suffering ultimately equates to unhappiness, but when the suffering is gone, when unhappiness is no longer there, natural happiness and joy appears.
If we wish to truly be free from inner suffering and the distortions of misidentification, then Self-investigation is a ‘direct route’ towards this Inner Freedom and true natural joy, which can only be realised upon the discovery of who you truly are.
What is Self-Investigation?
Self-investigation is a means of discovery and the unveiling of our true nature, thereby freeing ourselves from misidentification. The result of this discovery is the end of suffering and the beginning of total inner-freedom. It is a logical, subtle, experiential and practical means of discerning what we are ‘not’ and a realisation of what we really are.
Self-investigation is also a logical process or tool of exploration and discernment. It is a means of establishing our one true identity through the questioning of our essential reality, asking and discovering who we are and who we are not with utmost honesty and precision.
This methodology was originally made popular by the great Indian sage Ramana Maharshi in the early decades of the 20th century. He was adamant, through his own Self Realisation and discovery process, that we could all come to know ourselves through this process of self-inquiry and that we could find the ‘I’ behind the ‘I,’ as he called it. Ramana said that in all of us there was a true ‘I’ that for most lay hidden behind the false ‘I’ that we believe ourselves to be, and that through self-inquiry we could establish our true identity beyond the false ‘I’ or ego self.
So this is what we will concern ourselves with in our own investigations and explorations, using the following questions as a guide. I will explain how to interpret each question and how you can best contemplate and meditate upon each one.
Once we have established who we are, the process of transcending limiting belief systems will be so much easier. This self-investigative method of discovering our own nature is a direct route to the acceleration of your awakening and self-realisation and should propel you quickly towards the end of your spiritual search.
The Importance of Honesty
As we work through this process of self-investigation and the identification of limiting beliefs, we must be completely honest in our exploration, otherwise we will only end-up denying ourselves the huge potential benefits that are achievable through these inquiries.
Lying to ourselves has often been a massive part of the issue for so many of us and has actually led to much misidentification and to the limiting beliefs that we may have acquired. For example, instead of facing and confronting certain thoughts or judgements about people or a situation, we may often deny them and suppress them. This is gross dishonesty and self-deception.
As we become more aware and awakened, this process begins to work differently, in the sense that when certain thoughts arise we can just let them pass without acknowledging them. This does not therefore elicit any emotion within us, and we are able to simply allow them to pass without further analysis. However, our thoughts often generate an emotion within us and when this occurs and we don’t confront these thoughts and emotions we are being untrue to ourselves and not admitting that something has affected us negatively. These thoughts, beliefs and emotions must then be made conscious and released.
Whenever we do not release them, they linger and create a dense energy field within the body and limit our range of perception and without realising it, we may become unhappy over time. As the unreleased emotions build, they only serve to block our true light and free nature and our expanded consciousness will become more constricted and limited.
So, as we are working with these questions we must be honest about the beliefs we hold and what the true identity is, at our core.
Be aware that with this type of inquiry, thoughts and emotions may arise from time to time that block or try to divert our discovery. Do not pay too much attention to the mind or your emotions when this happens, simply persist with the questions. Or if you feel particularly drained or uneasy, take a break and return to the investigation later. It is only through persistent awareness and asking of the right questions that we will break through the imaginary layers of the mind and recognise the pureness of our true reality.
Self-Investigation (from Transient Nature to the Constant Self)
“To know what you are, find out what you are not” Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
In the self-investigation process, we are essentially seeking the true self, but first we must discover what we are not. Once we establish what we are not, whatever remains will be what we actually are.
The way to see what we are not and eliminate that from our investigation is to search only for that which is constant within us and our life experience, and everything that is transitory and subject to change, may be disregarded. This is essentially not who we are, and that is the key to the process. We are looking for our essential and primary existence that has always been there and this is the one constant in all the experiences that you have ever had and will ever have. Absolute honesty must always prevail.
Regarding the actual investigation, we must take our time, be patient and thorough with our clarifications, and allow ourselves to really sit with what we discover and let it sink in. The purpose of self-investigation is not for the mind or intellect, the questions are not to be answered intellectually, they are there to draw your awareness in a certain direction towards that which is true, untrue and that which you really are. They are ‘experiential’ questions, which can be used time and time again for direct experience of the truth. We must always look with fresh eyes each time and not through past experiences, or what the conditioned mind believes to be the truth. Through the investigation we are attempting to reveal the ‘self,’ through whichever gap may appear and lead us to our core essence. It is important that we do not attempt to ‘rush’ it, as our investigation needs to strike at our very core. It must strike deeply within for us to make any significant progress. What we may find through our investigations is that we experience a number of epiphanies and realisations along the way that shifts our perception in subtle or even very profound ways.
We can ask the initial question, ‘what is the one constant in my life that is not subject to any change?’
The pertinent question is, in all of our life experiences, all the way from birth to now, what has been the one constant in our life and experience of life? This will enable us to eliminate those things that we are certain are not part of our true natures. For example, our clothes, money, car or property? We should firstly begin with the external attributes and slowly work inwards to the root and core of who we are. From external circumstances and possessions to relationships and family, and eventually to body, mind and belief systems etc., it is important that our investigation process is thorough and that we do not just short-circuit it and assume that we already know the answers.
Remember that the questions below are simply a guide for us to investigate life and our own nature and that they are not guaranteed to guide us to our true nature automatically. It is our curiosity, exploration, contemplation, Introspection and persistence that will do this. With each question we must become very still and quiet within and to this end it may help if we do it after meditation practice. This will help to settle the mind, make us more introspective and provide a greater capacity to investigate. As we become more naturally aware and relaxed and meditative more often, we will notice that self-investigation becomes easier and is something that can be practised anywhere, at any time. However, initially we may find it helpful to isolate ourselves for thirty or sixty minutes or so, as we would for our regular mediation practice.
How to ‘Self-Investigate’
Before I lead you through the self-investigation, I would remind you that this investigation and questions on the investigation are not for the mind to solve. Instead, the questions are for the purpose of directing your attention towards the place where the question is pointing to. We are looking for the experiential and not for an intellectual answer, so contemplate the question deeply. Contemplation simply involves moving between thoughts about it into an inner silence, and moving back and forth between mind and no mind. Allow the question to take you wherever it leads to, even if this requires several attempts to achieve.
I am about to lead you through the investigation and explain each question for clarity and afterwards there will be another set of questions to work with yourself. My explanation of the first investigation and set of questions arising is just an example of how to use the questions and what to look for. You may well experience a great inner ‘shift,’ just from this, but I would advise you to work with the rest, alone, in order to go through the process yourself.
So, before we begin it is important to relax and be calm. Let us work with the meditation that we are familiar with from chapter 2 (How to Awaken) of the book on meditation, and that is the ‘I watch the mind… I watch the body,’ meditation.
So find a quiet place where you will be more likely be undisturbed. Sit in an upright position with your back straight and head looking forward at a 45 degree angle from the floor and choose a comfortable, upright position such as the cross-legged sitting position on a cushion or sat in a chair with your feet planted firmly on the ground and your knees at a 90 degree angle…
You can either place your hands one palm on top of the other on your lap, or you can turn the palms of your hands upwards and place them on your knees, whatever feels most comfortable…
Now close your eyes…
As you close your eyes, look towards where the tip of the nose would be if you had your eyes open and allow your gaze to focus on the blackness of the mind…
Now when you are ready, take three medium length breaths in through the nose and out through the nose…
Once you have inhaled and exhaled three times, repeat this internal mantra with the breath…
Say, ‘I watch the mind’ on the inhale…
And ‘I watch the body’ on the exhale…
As you breathe in gently, say to yourself ‘I watch the mind’
As you breathe out gently, say to yourself ‘I watch the body’
As you say the mantra, allow it to gently direct your awareness towards both the body and mind as you breathe. Repeat each mantra at the same time as the inhalation and exhalation of the breath…
If you find that you have become distracted by external noise, then just simply become aware and acknowledge whatever the distraction was and gently return to the inhaling and exhaling of the breath with each internal mantra…
If you find that you becoming lost in thinking or distracted by bodily sensations, then simply acknowledge what you became lost in…Let it go…and return awareness back to the breath and mantras whilst watching the body and mind activity once again.
Each time you become unaware, make a conscious note of it but do not judge yourself or become angry. Simply return to the mantras and breathing…
Allow the practice to turn you into a silent watcher of the body and minds activities, watching and noticing the different movements of thoughts and the different sensations that arise in the body, watch them impartially without judgement.
Continue with this practice for 15 to 30 minutes before you begin the ‘self-investigation’ below. This meditation will also help you to achieve the most appropriate state of consciousness for the ‘transcending limiting beliefs’ method below…
Remember that with all practices and methods, patience and persistence is the key to success…
‘Who am I?’ (Finding the Constant Self)
Firstly begin with the question, ‘Who or what am I?’
Take a moment to become quiet within and contemplate these questions with honesty in order to discover your Constant True Nature as you are led through the Self-investigation.
Are you the objects of the world?
Often when we engage with material objects such as cars, properties, money, clothes and other material possessions, there can be a conscious or unconscious tendency for us to identify with these things. The language we use commonly indicates clearly where our identities lie. For example, most people say ‘I’m going to drive ‘my’ car, or I am going to withdraw ‘my’ money from the bank. This ‘my’ that we use refers to the sense of personal/ego identity that we mistake ourselves to be. It is almost as though we have a ‘shopping cart’ of identities and those things that we see as being a part of us or our personal sense of ‘me,’ are added to this cart.
Most people carry and attach to so many objects of the external world, that they come to have their identity invested within these objects, as if it is a part of who they are. This is where the word ‘possession’ in ‘material possessions’ becomes quite literal. It is as if the ‘entity’ of our ‘identity’ possesses these objects and where we cannot make a clear distinction from what is us and ultimately not us, the lines of our identity seem to become blurred and when this happens, we are often setting-up ourselves for inner suffering. What can also often happen is that what we ‘own’ or possess often ends up owning or possessing us. For example, if we identify strongly with money and how much money we have, then when some of this money is taken away, we will feel a sense of sadness and lack of energy, as if we are losing a part of ourselves. This feeling of loss only ever occurs when we are closely attached-to and identified with an object.
Am I the Body?
We now need to become quiet and still in order to investigate whether or not this body is really us. Ask the question, ‘am I this body?’ Please contemplate all these questions and suggestions below but also remember that they are just guides and you may well have your own examples of the changing forms of the body. Remember also that we are trying to recognise that which is constant and changeless within us…
Are we our names, John… Chris… Nicky… Laura…?
Does a name, a group of letters, really explain who we are…?
Can our name come and go… can it be changed or modified…?
If the name is changed, then surely that name could have never truly been you…?
So let us look at other, smaller aspects of the body. Our finger and toe nails and hair are part of our bodies, but when we cut the nails or hair and those pieces become detached, we soon realise that they cannot be us because we are still here in our entirety…
As the hair and nails grow we trim them and eventually what was once their roots, will eventually rise to the surface and be cut-off. So, we ultimately cannot be our hair or nails. When they have been trimmed and discarded, we can be sure that is not us in the waste bin…
Our body is made of seventy percent water, and as we take-in new fluids our body pushes out the old fluids through urine and sweat to be replaced by brand new fluids until eventually all old fluids are replaced with new fluids. So we cannot be the fluids as they are something that comes and goes while we still remain. When sweat drips from the forehead onto the floor and the urine is expelled, we can certainly say that we are not the water, which makes up more than two thirds of the body. If we say that we were the fluids of the body, then how can that be us when they are gone and yet we still remain…?
Can you be your finger? I had a friend who lost a finger and he seemed no less conscious or complete a person after losing the finger and I am sure that he became aware that he was not that finger when it was no longer attached to his body and disposed of. So, are we our fingers, or are fingers things that may come and go, while we remain…?
If we can agree that one finger is not us, then the same rule must apply to however many fingers are detached from the body. Even if all our fingers are gone ‘we’ were still there to witness their going… and even their returning – if a finger should be stitched back…
And what if a whole hand, arm or leg was removed? Does who we are, essentially still remain…?
When a limb is lost, what is it that still remains and who is aware of its coming and going…?
If we are still there to observe the loss of a body part, then whether it is one limb we lose, or all of them, what is it that remains to observe this loss…?
When we see someone with no limbs, essentially who they are, still remains…
As we spoke about in detail in chapter 2, the whole body and all of its cells are completely replaced within each seven year period. All tissue, cartilage, bones, blood and organs are completely replaced within not simply somewhat changed, or even transformed, but literally, completely replaced. It is similar to getting out of an old car and stepping into a brand new one, so what is it that always remains the same as bodies are constantly replaced…?
If we say we are the body, the body that we now inhabit, then in seven years we would completely disappear as the old body is totally replaced. Who bears witness to the constant changing of the body and what remains the same, as one body is replaced with a whole new body…?
Where did the seven year-old body or the fourteen year-old body go, or the twenty one-year old body go that we believed was us? It completely disappeared, but a ‘constant’ must have remained while the body changed, so what exactly remained? Look and see…
Within the body, we experience sensations and emotions…
When we experience a sensation we call pain, who is there before it occurs and to notice it as it arises…?
Who is there during the pain and after it fades away and disappears…?
Who watches the coming and going of all various sensations…?
Are sensations transitory and what is it in the experience of noticing these sensations that remains constant, before it occurs, as it is present, and when it leaves…?
Sensations arise, but you do not arise. You are always there…
Do emotions come and go? Take anger for instance. During the onset of anger, who observes its growth and who watches the rising intensity of this emotion as it intensifies, remains and eventually dissipates…?
Who watches the ascent and decent of all emotions…?
Who is there long after anger is forgotten…?
If this anger or emotion is you, then should you not be able to find it within you at any and every moment…?
If it is you, then why when you remain, does it not remain always…?
Who remains, prior, during and after all emotions…?
So are you the body? Do not simply look within the mind for an answer, but instead look within your own experience, within this moment. Now, contemplate that question and examine it within your own experience…
Am I the Mind?
Let us look at each aspect of the mind. Have you ever caught yourself day dreaming, been lost in thought, and then suddenly snapped-out of it…?
What does it mean to ‘catch’ yourself daydreaming? It means that you suddenly become aware that you have been deeply engrossed in thinking…
So who is it that catches you thinking, that catches thinking occurring, that is aware of thinking occurring, and can snap-out of thinking…?
Thinking means thoughts, a mental conversation, internal audio and dialogue, a mental commentary of momentarily real external events, remembered or imagined events…
Who witnesses this audio, this mental conversation and who catches the inner dialogue in action as it is occurring…?
Who hears the noisiness of this inner conversation…?
To whom is this inner conversation talking…?
Who sees the images and pictures of the mental movie being played in the mind…?
Who is there still watching after the day dreaming has stopped, who was there before it began and who was observing and involved in the day dreaming while it was happening…?
Can a thought be aware of itself…?
Can a thought notice a thought…?
If a thought did notice a thought, how would it see itself…?
When a memory is being played in the mind, what is it that is watching the playing of memory…?
When the thinking of memory ceases to be played, who remains there noticing the absence of memory and what is it that observes the appearance and disappearance of all memories…?
Who watches the remembering…?
Who is there watching imagination as it is occurring…?
Who watches the mental display of pictures and images…?
So many different thoughts run through the mind each day, each hour and each minute so who watches the passing of all these thoughts? If you are a particular thought, then why do you not come and go when the thought comes and goes…?
What remains as thoughts change…?
If you are not the thinker of thoughts, who watches the thinker and the thoughts…?
If the thinker and thoughts are not you, then what takes place in the space and gaps in-between thoughts and thinking…?
Who is there, watching as the gaps appear in between sequences of thought…?
If gaps and spaces can occur in the mind, then the thinking mind cannot be constant and if the mind is not constant, then what is constant in observing both thought and gaps between thoughts…?
Those that have meditated will know that absence of thought does not mean absence of awareness and that in meditation, as thoughts occur, who is it that perceives these various thoughts…?
Who is Aware of the Mind?
Who bears witness to imagination, memory-pictures and colours in the mind, to ideas, judgements, negative thoughts, mental commentaries or to the noisy mental voice, the constant mental chatter, negative thoughts, positive thoughts and who remains, constantly watching and experiencing all of this mental phenomena…?
What is there to witness fast mind activity, slow mind activity and no-mind at all…?
What resides underneath the mind and what is behind the mind, watching it, peering-in at it…?
Who is it that is aware of dreaming?
When we fall asleep at night, we seem to drift from being conscious into unconsciousness…
But who is it that observes the slipping from consciousness into unconsciousness…?
When we begin dreaming, who is it that notices the dream taking place and who is watching the detail of the dream as it unfolds…?
Where am I?
As you notice a sensation like pain, where are you in relation to this sensation and where do you observe it from…?
Whilst noticing an emotion such as anger, who is it that is aware of anger as it happens…?
Where is the anger observed from…?
When thoughts are witnessed passing through the mind, what sees these thoughts, and where are these thoughts being seen from…?
As imagination, memories, pictures, colours and thoughts are observed, from what location is the observing happening…?
What is the position of the observing…?
When the observing of thought occurs, from what distance is this happening and what is the distance between thought and the watching of thought…?
How many feet, inches or centimetres away is the watching of thought…?
If mind and thought can be observed, then that must mean that thoughts happen in front of us and we are behind them, peering in at them…
Can the one who is aware be aware of itself?
Can the witnessing of thoughts and mind be witnessed itself…?
Can watching itself be watched…?
When silent watching is observed and thinking is observed, what watches both of these…?
Can the one who is having the experience be experienced…?
Can the perceiving of what is perceived, also itself be perceived…?
When am I?
When we notice our own true nature, when does this noticing take place…?
In what moment does observing the observer occur? Check within your own experience…
When we become aware that we are aware, when does this occur…?
Now rest and relax, this is the end of the Investigation.
The above are examples and hints on each question to help you form an idea of how you can contemplate and introspect on these questions. Please continue as often as possible, to work with the guidelines above, to increase your powers of investigation. This will prove very useful in your self-investigation.
Below are the same questions without any external guidance, hints or examples. You should meditate and contemplate on each question thoroughly and as often as possible. Remember that the initial key to discovering your real nature is ‘persistence,’ and do not be disheartened if it seems that your investigation is unfruitful, just continue to ask and investigate whilst remembering that it is not the answers themselves which are important, or at least not in intellectual form, it is the experience and discovery to which it will lead you to with each asking of the questions.
To perform the investigation below, sit somewhere quietly where you will be undisturbed. You may read directly from the book or simply wish to write the questions down on paper and work from there, whichever feels most comfortable for you.
‘Am I this body?’
‘Am I the mind?’
‘Who is aware of the mind?’
‘Who is it that is aware of dreaming?’
‘Where am I?’
‘Can the one who is aware be aware of itself?’
‘When am I?’