Self-Inquiry meditation – how much is too much?!


Self-Inquiry – is it too deep to ask the question ‘who am I?’

As Christmas draws near we often forget to spend some much-needed time on ourselves as we get swept into the busy, frantic Christmas festivities.

The technique of “Self-Inquiry Meditation” can help us stay grounded, calm and present.

The practice of self-inquiry on a regular basis is generally to help us to attain three things:

–        Self-Knowledge

–        self-control

–        self-development

In my research into Self-inquiry mediation two questions are generally asked. The first question is “How am I?” Its aim is to answer eventually the ultimate second question of ‘who am I’ – of course this could take weeks, months years to establish.

As an urban yogi and from personal experience I want to address my own question to this type of meditation.

I ask the question ‘how much should we spend asking the question ‘who am I’?

The reason being is it could take a lifetime as we continually grow and learn along our journey and is there is a danger of getting swept up with this question that we end up losing our sense of being present and spend tireless used up brain energy on a question that is, quite frankly impossible.

For me asking the question ‘who am I’ to yourself on a daily basis is dangerous and I have some personal experience too. I have a close person in my life who used to be so disconnected from themselves that they turned to alcohol and drugs. Years later along their journey of pain and suffering they found meditation. The meditation served them well at first and of course at times still does. They have changed drastically though, a complete 360, and they spend so much time in self – inquiry that their life is focused on ‘me me me’. They have forgotten how to live present. In fact, they have distanced themselves from not just friends but family because they believe too many distractions takes from their mindfulness and path to enlightenment. This person is close to me and I find this very sad, it’s something I have to try and help them with in a tactical manor and I’m still working out how..

They have lost their zest, their charm and when you talk to them they smile a little arrogantly and bow their head. There mannerisms at times show distance and sometimes when this person looks at me, I don’t think they ‘see’ me.

Being a yoga teacher I have met a few characters in the industry so caught up on their spiritual path (including teachers) that their behavior has become selfish and very deep. This shows in their teaching and classes.

Maybe I am wrong and this obsessive ‘me me me’ behavior is the right way to practice self-inquiry?? I mean should we all be ultimately finding out who you are? I write this knowing this is one opinion. What I have experienced though is asking the question ‘who am I’ constantly may lead to destructive and socially isolating behavior if it is not managed correctly. I much prefer the question – ‘How am I today’. Simple and effective and a way to check in with your self to find balance mentally, physically and emotionally.

Asking ‘how am I’ may be more productive use of time.

Positive qualities – We believe we know ourselves quite well, but when we take a deeper look within, we may discover a good many things that we do not know. Perhaps we’re surprised at the existence of some beautiful, positive qualities. As we become more and more aware of these qualities, we find in them a great help for our self, our spiritual development and relationships with fellow beings.

Remember to examine yourself honestly. Have you been anxious, greedy, ambitious, envious, jealous, intolerant, unforgiving, violent tempered, vain, besieged with complexes? Often we’re not at all aware of such characteristics and are of the opinion that we have already overcome them. But sometimes they surface again. These rest in the subconscious as seeds waiting for favorable conditions to sprout. Don’t analyse or ask these honest questions with judgment, ask them with love and kindness. Human beings are not perfect and its ok to identify what we may dislike or want to change about ourselves. This is a positive thing as it helps with goal setting and learning.

My suggestion in a self-inquiry meditative practice.

Ask – ‘how am I today’ – How are you physically, any aches, tightness, stiff areas? How are you mentally? Has it been a busy day, do you have brain fog or perhaps your mind is as clear as a blue sky and your focus has been great that day. Then ask how you are emotionally? How is your heart? Do you feel sad, happy, agitated, excited? If it suits you may ask how are you spiritually?

Then you may ask actually how am I on a regular basis lately? Has it been a good couple of weeks in these 3 or 4 areas of enquiry?

From there you may find an intention for your yoga class, or the rest of your meditation, or a goal for your week.

Know that we change daily. What you may find about yourself today that you didn’t like, you may change tomorrow but checking in regularly ‘how am I’ keeps us grounded and brings great stress relief and/or prevention.

Other benefits to this type of self-inquiry meditation is that you can find relaxation and a sense of letting. You can become present and aware and nourish your mind, body and spirit. It also allows you to identify over time HOW YOU ARE LATELY’ and if your happy with that, bringing about new goals, positive change and self-growth.

This is a pretty mindful thing to do and can allow us to get to know ourselves better in a way that keeps us rooted , with our feet on the ground and aware of the world,  a good person and a positive influence.

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