But where do we start? Perhaps the reality is that we can only achieve what the context allows us to. In this way are futures are pinned to the context we operate from. Does it not make sense then to really understand the context we are in first, and then decide on a course of action?
What if we think about the self as a context? Transforming the self transforms the context...
Where are you at?
Just stop what you're doing. Just stop and sit and watch what happens. Where does your attention go immediately? What is 10 meters from you to your right? And your left? What can you hear? What are you doing, what mission are you on?
Focus your attention on your breath. What did you notice? How do you feel? How do you feel about how you feel? Does your experience feel like your own? Is it valuable to you?
By giving attention to these things we show ourselves that it is important to us. Indeed, we are attending to ourselves on a very basic level.
Self-Inquiry is the practice of using the personal experience as a lens to contemplate reality. The very idea of this brings up some pretty big questions about what the point of life is at all. Many people will say that self inquiry is a selfish waste of time and achieves nothing. But that is their opinion, and we have the right to our own. Informed opinions are more effective than the opposite, so perhaps we should give it a try and then make up our own minds...
Ongoing practices of self inquiry have many significant effects, a few key ones include: an improved
sense of self worth, and a deepened sense of the relationship between our internal forces and their effects on our life. We learn about these correspondences through direct experience. By extension, our experience changes with this awareness. With effective practice, this effect will be positive and empowering, giving access to deeper personal resources.
There are several major dimensions of the experience of the self, including: thoughts, emotions, sensations and our experience of space and time. All of these are available for contemplation and transformation. Such practice deepens and refines our experience of these dimensions, enriching and transforming us over time. The direction our practice takes us, and the shape we become is determined by what and how we practice.
The basic tool for inquiry is our attention. Training the attention then, is the first point of call in self-inquiry. Inherent in this is the experience of the present moment, because focusing is by its very nature an act of being present. Just like any tool, we get better at using it over time. Another way to say this is that it gets sharper.
As we sharpen our attention, using our selves as the material of practice, we increase and consolidate our consciousness into an ever more present experience of ourselves. We grow in our ability to affect ourselves, inoculating against unwanted outside pressure, and improving our ability to discern the nature of influences on us. In this way we become liberated from the confusion of the many complicated and competing forces of the modern world.
As this process deepens, we will encounter dormant and powerful forces within. We must find a way to transmute these forces through expression and awareness, into the lessons of life that connect us to the sense of meaning that carries us through our challenges. If we have the time to accept these experiences of ourselves, we will have expanded and grown closer to our true nature. As we reach out and share our story, we contribute our thread to the wider weave of the human experience, all the more authentically because of our practice.
By this process of compassion for the full range of our experiences, we develop the ability to appreciate and have empathy for the experiences of others. We learn about the human experience through our own humanity.
Michael Maso Ellis