Part of the process of healing from our various mental and physical afflictions is learning how to do a 180 degree shift from self-avoidance to self-inquiry. Self-inquiry is a simple process, but at times not easy.
It’s also not as easy to explain the process of self-inquiry because there is a certain feeling to it as you begin to practice. Learning how to get curious about yourself when there’s been a lifetime of habitual disconnection can seem strange at first, but the journey is incredibly rewarding. In A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Bob Stahl and I point out the process of self-inquiry.
“Mindful self-inquiry is an investigation into the nature of one’s own mind and being. In the context of this book, that inquiry looks into physical sensations, emotions, and thoughts that may be contributing to stress and anxiety. In your daily life, you may be so busy doing that you feel you have little or no time for self-reflection. Yet this exploration is extremely worthwhile, as fears often lie beneath the surface of awareness.
When you practice mindful self-inquiry, you bring kind awareness and acknowledgment to any stressed or anxious feelings in the body and mind and simply allow them to be. This means staying with those feelings without analyzing, suppressing, or encouraging them. Although this may seem scary in and of itself, realize that when you allow yourself to feel and acknowledge your worries, irritations, painful memories, and other difficult thoughts and emotions, this often helps them dissipate. By going with what’s happening rather than expending energy fighting or turning away from it, you create the opportunity to gain insight into what’s driving your concerns. When you begin to understand the underlying causes of your apprehension, freedom and a sense of spaciousness naturally emerge. In essence, this is a process of learning to trust and stay with feelings of discomfort rather than trying to escape from or analyze them. This often leads to a remarkable shift; time and again your feelings will show you everything you need to know about them—and something you need to know for your own well-being.”
Give it a shot today when you notice an uncomfortable feeling that’s driving you to distraction or avoidance, whether it’s just to your phone to check your messages or to more destructive habits like drugs or alcohol. Ask yourself, what’s here and see if you can actually feel into it. As if you were Jacque Cousteau exploring a barrier reef for the first time, careful not to disturb the wild life. See what changes.
It sometimes helps to get audio guidance with this and you can get this with a mindfulness-based therapist, going to a mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program in your area, or picking up the book that comes with a number of audio guided practices.
The point is to start making it a practice in your life to move through your fears and start to get unstuck.
As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.
Photo by Matt Riggott, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.
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Last reviewed: 1 Aug 2011