How to do Self Inquiry

The Dyad Process (Tell me Who you Are)

The self-inquiry intensives at the samadhi center are a rigorous form of Sadhana or spiritual practice designed to create conditions of ‘no escape’ for the egoic mind to bring about the possibility of Samadhi and Awakening to your true nature.

Self-inquiry can be done individually and when it’s done on your own it’s meditation [Music] self-inquiry can be done with a partner in what we call dyads or it can be done with a group where the entire group is focused on one person who is doing the inquiry. The main technique used during the self-inquiry retreat is the dyad.

The Retreat format involves working from early morning 6 a.m until 11 pm at night. The participants are encouraged to enter into a period of continuous practice, continuously inquiring into Who We Are.

For this period of time all distractions are set aside. There are no devices, phones, books or anything to engage the conditioned mind. During the break periods, or while eating, one continues to inquire. This continuous practice creates a strong inner pressure or inner energy.

Energy is diverted from the old condition patterns and starts to build. A sort of alchemy starts to happen. Awakening is an energetic event. There is a flip from the conditioned ‘I’, the sense that you are this character, to the true self, to the unlimited ‘I’.

The self-inquiry Intensive is the most direct way to bring about Awakening that I know of. By Awakening, I mean realizing the true Self beyond name and form. It’s called Kensho in Zen. The word kensho means seeing essence, in Mahayana Buddhism it is prajna paramita, the highest wisdom, the absolute wisdom of our true nature. In Western Traditions, the terms gnosis or apophaticism refer to the realization of our true or divine nature.

For this period of time, we turn attention away from thoughts and sensations away from the outer world of form, towards the self, continuously. If we do this practice continuously, eventually we will awaken from identification with the false self, to our true nature. It’s extremely simple but it’s not easy, because the ego construct which is made up of samskaras or condition patterns, will generate hindrances, just as it does in meditation.

The whirlpool of the mind may generate thoughts, we may experience egoic preferences, the mind may focus on Comfort or discomfort, it may become tired, it may get confused or disoriented. It may find the whole process intolerable and want to give up. It has to give up. The conditioned ‘I’ may think it is already awake, we have to humble the conditioned mind. It is said that one must want to awaken, like a person with their hair on fire wants a pond to jump into. We must proceed with a beginner’s mind, a not knowing mind, a humble mind, a mind that is open mirror-like, alive.

For this process we enter into the cloud of unknowing, we let go of control and connect to a sense of curiosity and investigation. During this process, one remains equ animous with whatever comes up within the mind and senses, having a complete experience of everything arising in the present moment.

We observe everything that is arising, not pushing anything away and yet not getting identified with anything. We come to the true self by realizing all that we are not. We make the unconscious patterns that are in play within the self-structure, conscious. When we inquire into who we are, first, everything that is the false self will come to the forefront. All of our thoughts and blocks, repressed emotions, imprints, and samskaras that are part of the self-structure, will start to come to the surface. By not reacting, by having a complete experience, a purification starts to happen within the self-structure. This practice that leads to samadhi, is cultivating single pointed focus. You become continuously present, observing what is, allowing what is, always becoming aware of subtler and subtler aspects of what is. Gaining sensory clarity, allowing the mind to be open, responsive, without analyzing. When self-inquiry is done with a partner it can be particularly potent. One can’t drift off into the mind, you’re accountable, it’s like meditating with a partner. You have to be present because you’re being witnessed, you’re staring into someone else’s eyes, you can’t wander away.

At these retreats we begin the self-inquiry when we’re in the waking state, but the practice can carry over into dreaming and even deep sleep States

Here I’m going to describe the dyad technique. In this practice, one person is witness, and the other engages in deep inner investigation, inquiring into their true nature. First, decide who will be the witness and who will start doing inquiry. You will switch roles back and forth all day long. If you’re doing this with a large group, you will switch partners, roughly every 40 minutes. Sit across from your partner looking into their eyes. Maintain eye contact in silence. As an introductory exercise, just look into each other’s eyes for about three or four minutes. Allow yourself to see this being across from you. Allow yourself to be seen.

The witness will connect to their intention, to know who this being is, that is in front of them. The witness will say to their partner ‘tell me who you are’. The imperative should come from a place of sincere wanting to know. For the one doing the inquiry, simply allow yourself to be open, to receive the imperative. Inquire into who you are, earnestly, sincerely, penetratingly. Notice how the imperative lands within the self-structure. There may be an impulse to close the eyes, or the eyes may remain open, simply let it land in the deepest part of your being.

Take a moment or several moments to observe the mind, body, the energy, any phenomena that arises within the self-structure. Then simply convey to your partner what has arisen as a result of doing this inquiry. What’s coming up in the present moment, what’s the most real thing happening in this moment.

If there are thoughts or doubts or if there’s a feeling that nothing is happening, just observe the most real thing about this moment. Connect with your I am-ness. Inquire into who you are by being aware of this I am-ness, the sense of existence. Don’t think that there is a right or wrong answer, we’re not looking for an answer on the level of the mind. Don’t think that you have to please someone with your answer, be free, playful. You don’t have to search for an answer, be free in the not knowing.

A Bible passage comes to mind unless, you become like little children you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus said. There was a sense of ‘I’ that you had when you were a little kid, the sense of YOU, the unconditioned you, it was there when you were a teenager, it’s there at every point in one’s life. Feel that sense of ‘I’ right now, that sense of I am. What is that sense of I am. I t has no quality, it doesn’t change. The body changes, the mind changes, the phenomena of life changes. Sensations change, but that sense of ‘I am’ does not change, it has no location.

Tell me who you are’ it is not a question, it is an imperative. One trap people fall into is that they mistake it for a question. It is not about getting the right answer with words, it’s about knowing who is answering. Who is responding. The practice is to report any phenomena that arises within the self-structure to your partner. Explaining as clearly and as truthfully as you can.

There are some rules to this game: Don’t refer to your partner as ‘you’ and don’t refer to anything that your partner may have said in a previous dyad. This is not a conversation. In this practice, we also eliminate words like ‘I’, ‘mine’ or ‘myself’. When we use the word ‘I’ we habitually refer to the ‘false I’, the condition self so we want to communicate whatever comes up without using this dualistic language.

If you know that you are referring to the ‘false I’ then don’t use the word ‘I’ instead of saying I am feeling tired or I am feeling angry, say there is a feeling of tiredness arising, or there is a sense of anger within the self-structure. Is it true that I am tired? Is it the body that is tired? Am I the body, or am I aware of the body? You can start with what is obvious, but don’t miss the subtle. Go into the feeling, the sensory layer, the somatic field. If a feeling comes up, where does it live in the body? How does it move? How does it change through time? If there’s sadness or anger, what do those feel like? Notice any energetic contraction, any holding or resistance within the body, having a complete experience of everything arising in the present moment.

During this process, the witness holds the container of Silence. Witnessing without reaction, without encouragement, the witness maintains a neutral face and lets go of any body language. When witnessing, you disappear, there’s only your partner. Make sure that you’re understanding your partner, following what is being said. Don’t zone out or stare through your partner. If something is said that you don’t understand, you can say ‘clarify that’.

This is the only thing the witness can say. As a witness you may be feeling what the other person is feeling, you may even synch breaths and movements. This happens spontaneously, you don’t have to try to do anything. It’s possible for the witness to enter a samadhi state where there’s no separation from the one being witnessed. Don’t sympathize with the partner. Don’t play into their drama. Be totally neutral. This neutrality allows the freedom of expression to unfold. You are a mirror. A mirror has no opinion, judgment or preference.

At the retreat, the facilitators will come around and use various tools and their own intuition, to point participants beyond their conditioned minds, towards a direct experience of their true nature. The dyad facilitator may come and observe, and may ask you questions. If this happens, stay connected with your partner’s eyes, don’t turn and look at the facilitator, simply answer the question but stay connected to your partner.

Stay awake in the ‘not knowing’. Primordial Awareness is inseparable from Stillness and Presence. It is a stillness and presence beyond the movement and stillness of the limited mind. It is closer than the you that you think you are.

It is neither near nor far, because these are mere concepts. Don’t try to manufacture some answer with the mind or philosophize about who you are. Let the thoughts and experiences come up, observe them and report them, but don’t get caught in their content. We want to objectively report what is coming up within the self-structure. We want to express freely in an inhibited spontaneous way.

Don’t overthink it. This process is incredibly simple, you don’t have to do anything other than observe and report. It is the condition mind responding, trying to answer. But who are you? There is nothing to attain, there is only the dropping of the false identification and realizing the truth of the ‘true I’ Primordial Awareness is so simple and obvious, that the mind misses it. It is always the conditioned mind that looks, that moves.

The conditioned mind is nothing but movement, looking here and there. If you give up that movement, then what remains, who is aware, ever present in the seeing.

The Zen master dogen said: ‘To realize your true nature, is to realize the self. To realize the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things. To be actualized by myriad things, your mind and body as well as the mind and body of others drops off.

When mind and body drop off, there is only direct experience of what is. Samadhi is the dissolving of the illusion between observer and observed experience and experiencer