Recharge Your Practice With a Tried and True Inquiry

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Even if you’ve been meditating for many years, you probably encounter old patterns that seem impervious to your mindful awareness. This is especially true during the holidays when you may be immersed in family dynamics that reignite old patterns you thought were long gone. At times like this you may feel that no amount of meditation can penetrate the mess.

What to do? I suggest bringing out a tried and true inquiry. When you first began meditation practice, you may have engaged the simple practice of asking, “Who am I?” Done correctly, this inquiry penetrates and quiets the analytical mind since there is no logical answer. You access something truer and more immediate. You can also bring this inquiry to your stuck places, the patterns that often feel impenetrable. Here are a couple of inquiry examples: “Who is the one who is anxious?” or “Who is the one reacting?” You’re asking the question here and now, but you’re applying it to a pattern that has likely persisted for a very long time, that has a history and a story. 

This inquiry can momentarily stop the reactive pattern and the attendant thoughts. It’s not designed to bypass, but to create a different vantage point, to dis-identify from a strong and ingrained sense of self that gets entangled in the pattern. Then you have space to experience how the dilemma shows up in present time in the body and emotions. This is the ground of insight. Deep, limiting beliefs may come to light that may have been obscured in the reactivity.

When I engage this inquiry practice, I often feel lighter and less stuck; at other times a deep sadness may arise from witnessing how a pattern has perpetuated itself for so long. But in each case I clearly see how the “I” and “mine” of the narrative have contributed to and further entrapped me in the pattern. Once the entanglement is seen and self-identification released, there is space to respond from a wiser, more compassionate part of myself; I find freedom to act in accordance with my truest values with kindness and insight.

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