Spiritual Inquiry

Rick and Mary NurrieStearns

 

Introduction:

If we consider ourselves to be on a spiritual path, then we are seekers. The question is, what are we seeking? In part we are seeking answers to questions such as: Who am I really? What is Self realization? What is true happiness? With these kinds of questions, we seek answers and "KNOWING". We want to know the truth. There is also more that we yearn for. We want answers to questions on how to have certain experiences. We want answers on how to be, how to do, on "BEING". How do we have the direct experience of oneness with all that is? How do we experience the peace beyond understanding? How do we live our lives?

These are and will be discussed at length below. Exploring these questions is a sacred process and requires the time and space to do so. That necessitates silence and solitude. True responses to spiritual inquiry questions always come from inner stillness.

Spiritual retreats draw out answers to these questions in a safe and relaxing atmosphere. Our retreats consist of morning and afternoon group meetings, meditation and free time for deep introspection. For more information click here.

Words from wise teachers encourage you to recognize Truth when you hear it. The depth in their words speaks to depth in you, guiding you ever closer to essence and helping you to realize the answers to your questions. Our book, "Soulful Living: The Process of Personal Transformation," is a rich source of wisdom and will support your spiritual inquiry. For more information on our book click here.

Fundamental questions about life.
Inquiring into crucial questions is essential to being truly alive. They help us to discover what is real and alive and what is no longer true. They help us to realize what we need to discard and how to make important decisions. In these ways, the right questions awaken our full potential as human beings. Primarily, however, questions can move us ever closer to recognizing our true nature. The best questions force us to reconsider our lives and who we really are. They remain with us, becoming companions on our inner journey. When we allow the deeper questions to take life within our consciousness, they invoke wisdom and presence, guiding us to live in ways that bring fulfillment and happiness.

Questions such as:
How shall I live, knowing I will die?
Every moment in our life is precious. We are here for only a brief time, what qualities do we wish to cultivate? If we remain conscious about our mortality, we can live less mechanically, and live instead with intention and presence.

What Do I Love?
What we love provides context and texture for our inner and outer lives. How do we recognize real love? How can we bring more of what we love into our lives?

What is life calling of me?
When we listen deeply are we living the life we want? How do we access inner guidance? Whose life are we living?

Who am I?
Underneath our stories of our past, below our wounds and our joys, is our essential nature that is whole and unbroken. We are more than we think. What is this true nature, and how do we find it?Exploring fundamental questions brings clarity, awareness, and a sense of knowing who we are and who we are not. All of us unwittingly think and act in ways that do not reflect that which matters most to us. Letting go of ways of being that no longer serve life frees up energy and gives space for love and the capacity to live fully.

 

How shall I live, knowing I will die? Part 1

 

Knowing that the duration of life is limited, that we are going to die, an important question to ask is “do we want to live habitually, mechanically, automatically, not questioning in many ways being “a chip off the old block?” Carrying old ideas about who we are, the ways we are supposed to be, or not be, drive us to live stale and stagnate lives. We are strongly influenced by family, church, school, community and culture and it is difficult to sort out who we really are versus who we think we are when we try to fit into society. So the question “how shall I live” begins to examine all the unquestioned assumptions that drive or motive our choices and lifestyles. Our acquired personality, the one we arrive into adulthood with, is built around sets of expectations and assumptions about how we are supposed to be as men and women. We can most easily access these subconscious forces by addressing the shoulds of our lives.

If we want freedom and more capacity to be responsive and creative with life, we need to open up the layers of the personality that cover or mask our true nature.

Shoulds, Musts, Ought to’s and Supposed to do’s are internal rules that govern our sense of who we are and how we are to think, feel and act. They come from the past and are internalized aspects of our conditioned mind.

  • They are static and become unconscious.
  • They limit, define, contain, and regulate what we can and cannot think, feel, do, and who we can and cannot be.
  • They repeat and recreate who we were at an earlier stage of life, especially childhood.
  • They become the encapsulated story we convince ourselves that we are. “I am this kind of a person.”

Some—Shoulds, Musts, Ought to's and Supposed to do's.

Be Nice
Be Kind
Be Good
Be Considerate
Be Loving
Be Friendly
Be Polite
Be Patient
Be Helpful
Be Selfless
Be Happy
Be Sociable
Be Pleasant
Be Caring
Be Productive
Be Intelligent
Be Wise
Be Frugal
Be Conservative

Be Attentive
Be Quiet
Be Creative
Be Industrious
Be Fruitful
Be Useful
Be Positive
Be Constructive
Be Practical
Be Beneficial
Be Dynamic
Be Clever
Be Bright
Be Smart
Be Proper
Be Quick
Be Sensible
Be Affectionate
Be Warm

Be Devoted
Be Understanding
Be Sympathetic
Be Thoughtful
Be Compassionate
Be Gentle
Be Modest
Be Respectable
Be Tolerant
Be Decent
Be Courteous
Be Supportive
Be Cheerful
Be Moral
Be Liberal
Be Generous
Be Careful

For Gods sake just be yourself, But:
Don't Look—Don't Stare—Don't Yawn—Don't Fart—Don't Fidget—Don't Smile
and Don't cry or I will really give you something to cry about.

Cutting through the layers of "shoulds" opens us up to:
Aliveness—Spontaneity—Presence —Immediacy of Life—Inner Peace—Stillness—Spaciousness

Beingness—Substantialness—Being Real—Not Knowing—An Ease in Life
Fuller Experience—The Now

Originality—Creativity—Wisdom— Vitality—Appreciation—A Fresh Start
Relief from the Past—Freedom

Energy—Freshness—Uniqueness— Richness—Liberation.

Inquiry:

Inquiring into the fundamental questions of life is essential to being truly alive and awakening our full potential.

When we allow the deeper questions in life to live within our consciousness, they invoke wisdom and presence, giving us the clarity to live in ways that bring fulfillment and happiness.

We allow these questions to enter into our awareness by giving them space and actively engaging to them.

There are several ways to explore inquiry questions:
We can journal our responses to them. We can work with a partner, giving a monologue on our thoughts for 10 minutes while our partner just listens without feedback. Or we can talk out loud to pet or plant.

Inquiry Questions:
What are the "shoulds" of how I live?
What's the effect of living shoulds?
What is not lived when we live from shoulds?
How would I live if I was free from shoulds?

How shall I live, knowing I will die? Part 2

 

The truth is, we are living our dying all the time. We die continuously to who we were yesterday we die to youth, inexperience, career successes, failures, parenting, lifestyles and situations. This ongoing death of external circumstances shows us that what we experience and think are transient and not who we truly are.

Who we think we are may be expressions of the shoulds, expectations, and compiled stories about life that we arrived into adult life with. Often unconscious, these mental constructs motivate how we live and are disconnected to the deeper currents of our essence.

Caught up in the whirl of the outer world, it is easy to forget what is true to who we really are. Life is more alive and fulfilling when we live with awareness of our essential self. When live with connection to our essence self we are more at ease and our lives are transformed in ways that reflect our inner nature we become who we truly are.

The conversation around death helps us to discern what truly matters, what has been lived and not lived and what lives on. A eulogy poignantly brings this into our awareness. A eulogy becomes a spiritual inquiry as the exploration points to that which is more substantial than superficial, that which is unchanging rather than transient, and that which endures rather than is shed.

Inquiry:

Inquiring into the fundamental questions of life is essential to being truly alive and awakening our full potential.

When we allow the deeper questions in life to live within our consciousness, they invoke wisdom and presence, giving us the clarity to live in ways that bring fulfillment and happiness.

We allow these questions to enter into our awareness by giving them space and actively engaging to them.

There are several ways to explore inquiry questions:
We can journal our responses to them. We can work with a partner, giving a monologue on our thoughts for 10 minutes while our partner just listens without feedback. Or we can talk out loud to pet or plant.

Inquiry Questions:
How am I avoiding life?
How do I avoid living? How do I avoid being present?

To further explore and discover what is lived, and unlived in your life, write an honest eulogy of your life.

If you died today, what would you say about your life?
What was complete, what was not complete?
What was lived, what was not lived?
What wanted to be lived?

What lives on
What truly mattered
What was wasted, not fulfilled
How human suffering was met
How love, originality and wisdom were embodied

What do I love? Part 1


What love is
Love is kindness, empathy and compassion
Love is inherent, indwelling in our nature
Love is gratitude, appreciation and recognition
Love exists in presence, not in the future or past
Love is not something we create, it moves within us
Love happens unconditionally
Love comes with a sense of union and connection

Misunderstandings about love
That we can create love
That we can earn love
That love is conditional
That we have to seek for it
That we don't deserve it
That we are unloveable
That we can control, manipulate, portion it out

Inquiry:

Inquiring into the fundamental questions of life is essential to being truly alive and awakening our full potential.

When we allow the deeper questions in life to live within our consciousness, they invoke wisdom and presence, giving us the clarity to live in ways that bring fulfillment and happiness.

We allow these questions to enter into our awareness by giving them space and actively engaging to them.

There are several ways to explore inquiry questions:
We can journal our responses to them.We can work with a partner, giving a monologue on our thoughts for 10 minutes while our partner just listens without feedback.Or we can talk out loud to pet or plant.

Inquiry Questions:
When have I experienced love naturally arising in me?
(ie joy, empathy, compassion, wonder and awe, celebration)

When have I received unconditional love?

What do I do to keep love out, to block love?

What do I do to get love and to prove that I am loveable?

 

What do I Love? Part 2

Vulnerability is:
Sensitivity
Non-defendedness
A welcoming of what is
Being penetrated by life
Intimacy with self and other
An openness to whatever arises
Radical acceptance of “what is”
Having a full human experience
Welcoming what is arising without trying to modify it
A willingness to meet life fully with an openness to wounding
An immediacy of experience, rather than distancing from experience

Forgiveness is:
A deep sense of completion
An organic experience of resolution
A willingness to feel all that is to be felt
Not something we can do; it comes on its own time
A deep sense of understanding and compassion of self and other
A by-product of not resisting love and when all the layers of reactivity is allowed
Not a decision we make, but may be initiated by a decision or desire
Forgiveness is a natural quality of the ground of being

Inquiry:

Inquiring into the fundamental questions of life is essential to being truly alive and awakening our full potential.

When we allow the deeper questions in life to live within our consciousness, they invoke wisdom and presence, giving us the clarity to live in ways that bring fulfillment and happiness.

We allow these questions to enter into our awareness by giving them space and actively engaging to them.

There are several ways to explore inquiry questions:
We can journal our responses to them. We can work with a partner, giving a monologue on our thoughts for 10 minutes while our partner just listens without feedback. Or we can talk out loud to pet or plant.

Inquiry Questions:
How do I protect or defend against vulnerability?

What am I afraid will happen if I don't defend myself against vulnerability?

What have I not forgiven and why?

What am I defending that inhibits forgiveness?
(a story, a position, that I am right etc.)

What is life calling of me? Part 1

In truth, life flows through us, like a river moving toward the sea. It is resistance to the ever present flow of life that causes us to be dissatisfied or frustrated with how life is. When we resist life we shrink from life’s fullness. Therefore, in contemplating the question “What is life calling of me?” we have to consider how we resist and block life.

Another question associated with “What is life calling of me?” is how can “I” get out of my own way? Getting out of our own way, not hindering the flow of life, connects us to aliveness and presence it opens us up to a life of fullness.

It is not that life calls us to do or be someone, it is more that life beckons us to let go into life open to the fullness that is always present. A primary way we struggle with what “is” is through our attachments. Attachments are habits and behaviors that the mind grabs onto as a way to create and support a sense of self.

When we put life energy into attachments or aversions we are attempting to control our experience, which is a means of avoiding what is. Attachments support and defend our habit nature, which in turn makes our living narrow, structured and mechanical. They energetically move us into living through stories, which are stagnant and crystallized ways of being.

Attachments and aversions make our lives heavy and thick, they energetically glob onto our awareness and sidetrack our lives. They take on a life of their own and suck away awareness, vitality and life energy.

Attachments
to life
to safety
to knowing
to comfort
to meaning or purpose
to pleasure
to experience
to understanding
to predictability
to control what we think
to control how we feel
to control others
to good and evil
to right and wrong
to love and hate
to pleasure or pain
to spiritual or material
to solitude or socialization

Aversions
to death
to suffering
to pain or pleasure
to being controlled
to being out of control
to the bad and the good
to wrong and right
to responsibility
to irresponsibility
to solitude or socialization
to unpredictability
to love or hate
to nothingness
to loneliness
to sickness
to suffering
to hunger
to poverty

Inquiring into the fundamental questions of life is essential to being truly alive and awakening our full potential.

When we allow the deeper questions in life to live within our consciousness, they invoke wisdom and presence, giving us the clarity to live in ways that bring fulfillment and happiness.

We allow these questions to enter into our awareness by giving them space and actively engaging to them.

There are several ways to explore inquiry questions:

We can journal our responses to them.

We can work with a partner, giving a monologue on our thoughts for 10 minutes or so while our partner just listens without feedback.

Or we can talk out loud to pet or plant.

Inquiry Questions:

What am I attached to?

What are my attachments?

What do I avoid?

What are my aversions?

What is life calling of me? Part 2

Evolution moves us to be ever more conscious; to know who we are, to know that we are already whole, to know ourselves as expressions of the “all,” to know that our worthiness comes from the very fact of our being alive. Sometimes we get confused about self-esteem, thinking that it is something we acquire or possess, that we have it or do not have it. We think that our good looks, our intelligence, our talents and skills, our accomplishments are ours, a reflection of who we are as an individual identity. Likewise, we think that lack of physical attractiveness, absence of intellectual brilliance and ordinary careers show that we are insufficient, faulted or mediocre at best. The truth is that beauty, intelligence and creativity belong to life itself and are not something our little minds can manufacture. When we recognize that we, as living flesh and bones, are also expressions of the “all,” we realize that we don’t own life and that we can’t claim life as our own. In reality, we come from infinity which is the essence of our true self esteem. We have indwelling worthiness, just because we are. We see that most clearly through the miracle of birth or witnessing a young infant. Once we utterly realize that we belong here, self-esteem is a non issue and life simply is, as it unfolds.

Truth Inquiry:

Self-esteem is not earned.
Self-esteem is innately unassuming.
Self-esteem is inherent; we all come from and are expressions of the same source.
Humility is realizing that we all come from the same place.
Humility is the joyful awareness that “I am a creature of life and so is everybody else.”
Humility is recognizing our basic goodness and recognizing our weaknesses.
Humility is trusting “the all” more than our ego.
Pride sees self as center of the universe.
Pride is an expression of self as separate from others.
Pride has delusional or excessive confidence in personal power.
True security is experiencing the presence of “the all.”
Shame is a misunderstanding of our identity, that “I am a mistake”
Life moves in us, as us, through us, we cannot be separate.

Non Truth
Pride is important.
Self-esteem is a reflection of accomplishment.
Self-esteem is a reflection of mastery and material wealth.
Self-esteem comes from appearance of beauty.
Self-esteem is a reflection of approval by others.
Self-worth comes through comparison and contrast to others.
We have to seek outside of ourselves to know who we are.

Inquiring into the fundamental questions of life is essential to being truly alive and awakening our full potential.

When we allow the deeper questions in life to live within our consciousness, they invoke wisdom and presence, giving us the clarity to live in ways that bring fulfillment and happiness.

We allow these questions to enter into our awareness by giving them space and actively engaging to them.

There are several ways to explore inquiry questions:

We can journal our responses to them.

We can work with a partner, giving a monologue on our thoughts for 10 minutes while our partner just listens without feedback.

Or we can talk out loud to pet or plant.

Inquiry Questions:
What do you do to earn or prove self-worth?
How have you thought that you were insufficient or a mistake?
How do you rate your worthiness based on comparison to others?
How would you be if you knew you were worthy, just because you are?

Who am I? Part 1

 

We are not stories! Yet when we ask the question “Who am I?” we most commonly answer by giving a story, i.e. “I am a good person,” “I am shy,” “I am different than others.”

We are not our attachments! “My relationship gives me meaning,” “My children make my life worthwhile,” “My work gives me purpose,” “I can’t live without you.”

We are not somebody in comparison to someone else! “I am less intelligent than you,” “My life is more interesting than yours,” “You are more talented than I.”

We are not our defenses! “I won’t let you in because you might hurt me,” “I won’t show how much I care because I might cry,” “I can’t bear to feel your heartache,” “I can’t forgive what they did.”

The egoic mind both efforts and delights in labeling, categorizing and judging. From these workings of the mind we develop stories about how things are. We then superimpose identity onto our stories, believing the activity of the mind is who we are. From our focus on the creations of the mind we become distracted from realizing the truth of who we are.

Spiritual inquiry is a way to bring about profound change of heart, it helps us to recognize the attempts of the mind to categorize us as autonomous. Inquiry also helps us to recognize the truth that we are inescapably united to “what is.” Spiritual inquiry helps us to recognize our ultimate identity without the labels that make us distinct.

We know we are alive when we reside in the present moment breathing, feeling, experiencing, allowing, and being intimate with “what is.” The immediacy is here now, as we experience life as it arises, when it arises. Our mind clings to its efforts to define who we are and reacts to immediate experience with thought. Thought orients us to the future and the past. In doing so, it acts as a filter from what is real and diminishes our inner peace.

The mind shrinks from “what is” by comparing it to the past. It notes that life is not as it was a moment or a year ago. It has preferences and likes some experiences better than others. So it screens life experiences as better or worse, compared to what was previously. The very act of the mind doing so disconnects us from “the now” and we lose our experience of contentedness.

The mind draws away from “what is” by contrasting it to some imaginary future. It notes that life is not as it desires it to be. It says “I will be happy when things are the way I want them to be!” In doing so, the mind distances us from “the present.” Identified in egoic stories we are a step ahead (or a step behind) of ourselves in some illusory state of being and are detached from “the present” moment.

Inner peace comes from utterly accepting the movement of life as it flows through us. This includes the radical acceptance of our body sensations, our emotional currents and the events around us. When there is no disconnect there is no mental-made suffering caused by the reactions of the mind. When we see through the mind we become less reactive to life as it is, we remain aware and know who we are.

Inquiry:

Inquiring into the fundamental questions of life is essential to being truly alive and awakening our full potential.

When we allow the deeper questions in life to live within our consciousness, they invoke wisdom and presence, giving us the clarity to live in ways that bring fulfillment and happiness.

We allow these questions to enter into our awareness by giving them space and actively engaging to them.

There are several ways to explore inquiry questions:
We can journal our responses to them. We can work with a partner, giving a monologue on our thoughts for 10 minutes while our partner just listens without feedback. Or we can talk out loud to pet or plant.

Inquiry Questions:
How do I orient to the past and the future?
Which orientation is predominant for me?

 

Who am I? Part 2

 

We are vastly more than who we think we are. Our minds simply can not conceive of our essential nature. As we mature from child to adult we form our sense of self around stories and experiences. During these formative years, these stories become the structure of our identity. The process of identity formation is natural, but unconscious, causing us to wander through life assuming that the core stories we tell ourselves are true. Unwittingly, we believe falsehoods, inaccuracies and lies to be who we are! This is what is referred to as egoic identity, or the false self.

Any story that we create to describe who we are is only a story, not the truth. The ego clings to its stories desperately, presuming, that if it lets go, our lives will collapse into chaos. The ego fears that if we relax the mental structures that control our lives we will fall apart. So the ego clings to the old ways of being that have held life in place.

In reality, when we surrender; letting go of trying to control, letting go of the shoulds, the expectations, the aversions and desires we are left with the essence of being. When we let go of trying to prove ourselves and trying to support the stories of identity, we are liberated from the false sense of self and are left with a felt sense of deep inner peace, kindness and compassion. When we let go of the story of identity we reside in the “now” of reality, feeling aliveness and presence.

Examining the essence of “who we are” and “who we are not” requires courage. The burning, yearning desire to know who we are provides the courage to face the fear that we will disintegrate, die or dissolve. Ironically, it is the same fear that keeps us from living fully in the present. Letting go, at first, usually brings up tremendous anxiety and fear. Breathing and trusting the mystery of life, we find a way to allow fear and surrender into “what is.” When we let go, a change of heart happens and everything becomes profoundly different than it was before, life becomes infused with the experience of freedom and joy.

One of the ways to move toward “letting go” is by inquiry into questions like “Who am I?” One of the easiest ways to approach this question is to explore who we are not.

We are not the core stories we unconsciously form identity around. By making the core stories more conscious something softens and we begin to sense into the presence and spaciousness of who we truly are.

Core stories are developed early in life. They are formed around two themes; Am I loveable? Am I competent? Or, I am “Not quite good enough,” “Not lovable,” “Not worthy,” “Not belonging” as if we are inherently flawed. Believing we are “Not right” we inevitably go about trying to control, contain, prove, earn, master, please, keep safe and attempt to control ourselves and others through our ideas.

Inquiry:

Inquiring into the fundamental questions of life is essential to being truly alive and awakening our full potential.

When we allow the deeper questions in life to live within our consciousness, they invoke wisdom and presence, giving us the clarity to live in ways that bring fulfillment and happiness.

We allow these questions to enter into our awareness by giving them space and actively engaging to them.

There are several ways to explore inquiry questions:
We can journal our responses to them. We can work with a partner, giving a monologue on our thoughts for 10 minutes while our partner just listens without feedback. Or we can talk out loud to pet or plant.

Inquiry Questions:
What is my core story about being a competent or incompetent person?
What is my core story about being lovable or not lovable?