The book’s working title at the moment is: Simply Notice. It is a different type of book in that it is very, VERY simply written–intended to make some of the main points of nonduality/spirituality accessible to any mainstream reader. Hopefully some excerpts will appear here soon.
In the meantime, here is a post that first appeared last year on stillnessspeaks.com. It was posted on my inner micro-site there, and as you may or may not know, some parts of the stillnessspeaks site are not currently operable, including the microsites.
It seemed worthwhile to reprint the post here, as some may not have seen it originally. If you’ve already seen it, you might enjoy reading it again and “going even further” with it. Part One appears here today, and Part Two will be posted in a couple of days:
To say, “Do a freedom inquiry” sounds like an oxymoron.
Real freedom is just that—free—and doesn’t require or involve inquiry in order to be free. In one sense, inquiry itself even could be said to be a kind of bondage to thought, and a form of separation.
To inquire is to question. And to question is to quest—to seek an answer. Yet the very premise of nonduality is that there is no separate self to seek, to quest, or be a questioner.
So how is “freedom inquiry” meant here?
It is meant as a variation from most traditional forms of inquiry, and that variation is the subject of this post.
First, consider traditional inquiry. Despite what is said above, traditional inquiry is an extremely valuable tool in nonduality—perhaps the most valuable. It could be argued that the very act of thinking and inquiring seems to create a secondary or separate self. Yet the purpose of inquiry is to see through that very notion—that there could be separation of any kind, including a separate inquirer.
Thus inquiry, in its highest form, is designed to make itself obsolete.
Perhaps the “most freeing” inquiry is one that sees through the illusion of time and a past—resulting in the clarity that the very inquiry itself actually never happened!
In nonduality, the traditional use of inquiry is to closely examine the nature of experience.
There are many varieties, and they have been well documented. A few the most well-known are “self-inquiry” as attributed to Ramana Maharshi, which investigates the personal “I-thought.” There also is Krishna Menon’s Atma Darshan which is an inquiry into direct experience. Nisargadatta’s work was in many ways a form of inquiry. There are the Buddhist emptiness teachings, in particular the inquiries of Nagarjuna. And there are more.
This post is not an attempt to elaborate on those—because that has been done already, and by experts.
Notice again however, that in most cases the examination, the inquiry, is directed toward experience.
Usually the inquiry is directed toward what appears to be a form—whether that form be a so-called material object, or a mental object, such as a thought.
The purpose of traditional inquiry is to see through the illusion that there are separate material objects, and it deconstructs “objects” to show they are nothing other than mere thought and sensation, or mentation. Inquiry then goes further to see that not even what seem to be thoughts or sensations exist as separate entities.
What is called “self inquiry” on the other hand is devoted more to examining, and ultimately seeing through, the false notion of there being a separate self, ego, or personal “I.” It results in seeing that there really is no such entity—other than temporary arising thoughts.
In the book, Consciousness Is All, there is an example of inquiry into a so-called material object (an “apple”) in Chap. 13 which shows there is no “apple” as a stand-alone object separate from thought—and then it goes on to discuss what that means. Chap. 14 walks through an inquiry into why “body” and “brain” are not solid, separate objects either. There also is an inquiry into the nature of “I” in Chap. 4, showing that if such a term as “I” is used, it really is pointing back to Infinity—and that the personal-body-sense of “I” is an apparent finitizing of Infinity. Chapters 13 and 4 are free here on Writings page of https://www.consciousnessisall.com/.
If you’ve not had much experience with traditional inquiry, it is suggested that you look into the examples mentioned above, so that inquiry leads to “conscious experience” and unshakeable clarity, rather than staying only on the level of this intellectual description.
Must any of these types of inquiry be practiced by Life Itself? Does Life need to inquire or see through anything before It will be freely alive? Of course not.
However, as long as one still seems to have a body/mind that deals with what appears to be a world—any inquiry that dissolves the seeming sense of separation is useful and valuable. It may take practice—digging and working through questions—but that very practice is what keeps a false sense of separation from taking over (and it’s only a sense). Often there is merely an “intellectual agreement” that there are no objects, nothing separate, because it sounds spiritually correct. But when push comes to shove in daily experience, the sense of separation can rear up and run the show, because it hasn’t been adequately seen through.
The point, and ideally, the result of this traditional form of inquiry is what might be called freedom.
It is a freedom from illusion, misconceptions and false beliefs, and basically what would amount to any kind of so-called physical, mental or emotional bondage.
Another term for this freedom might be called openness—which gets to the point of this post.
If inquiry is something with which you have some familiarity, have you ever “turned it around”?
Instead of inquiring into the apparent, or what is called “experience”—have you ever started with freedom and inquired, “What’s true here?”
What is it to start from, or start as, freedom, and inquire, “What is this?”
It is similar to saying, “What is a pure Presence inquiry, as compared to an experience inquiry? What is a formlessness inquiry, instead of an inquiry into apparent form?
Is there anything that even can be said, or inquired into? Why not find out?
So, again, just what is pure freedom?
Not—“What is freedom to ‘me’ or to my thoughts about freedom.”
Rather, what is freedom to freedom?
What is the nature of freedom itself?
Perhaps in response a thought arises, “Freedom has no nature.”
There you go. You are off and running on your inquiry.
Sometimes this is met with one of those snappy intellectual retorts such as, “Freedom or openness can’t be reduced to inquiry or confined to something knowable. That’s why it’s called freedom or openness. So why try to inquire? If freedom were knowable, that would be getting conceptual—which is not freedom.”
That is precisely the point here.
A freedom inquiry isn’t supposed to lead to more concepts. It is exactly the opposite.
In doing a freedom inquiry, the key is to not answer with thought.
The “taste” itself is the only “answer.”
A freedom inquiry is not even intended to lead to a “deeper realization” or “deeper seeing”—although these are inevitable by-products.
A freedom inquiry keeps one consciously busy or alive as freedom.
Freedom is NOT a mere mental abstraction. Freedom is consciously alive stuff!
As much as we like to say we’re living a nondual life with minimal sense of separation, a lot of that sense often still clings in ways we don’t even realize. A freedom inquiry seems to dissolve a sense of separation in a way different from experience inquiry—because one cannot be consciously functioning as freedom and simultaneously be experiencing separation.
For example, if the net result of traditional inquiry is freedom from a false sense of separation—specifically what is this?
Exactly what is “no separation”?
Not—what is “no separation” when thought about.
Rather, what is “no separation” lived.
Where there is no false sense of separation, what “remains”? Anything?
Seeing through an illusion of separation doesn’t result in non-existence.
Certainly, Life is still alive.
So, what is this, as itself, right here?
Has the visual sense ever seen Life Itself? Has anyone ever touched or smelled or even thought Life? No. Yet here Life is.
What is this?
“Life is alive. It is aliveness,” the response may come. But do not settle for merely that thought. “Taste” it as consciously alive stuff.
As aliveness is being “tasted” or “alive’d” notice how aliveness and its alive-ing cannot be separated.
Stop and notice, taste, feel, be alive as, how this “no separation” of aliveness has also no evidence of borders, no boundaries.
To have borders or boundaries would be separation, or division.
So “no separation” is the same as un-divide-able.
Un-divide-able in this sense does not mean having something that is so big or powerful that it cannot be divided.
Un-divide-able means having no thing there to be divided in the first place!
It equally means there is no one to try to do any dividing.
There is just endless “un-divide-able-ness” as consciously alive stuff.
Once this is clear, rather than repeatedly starting from the apparent and working or seeing that there’s really no separation, no dividing—what is it to start directly as “alive un-divide-able-ness” and taste or be this?
This un-divide-able-ness again, is a kind of alive openness, an alive seamlessness, or freedom.
Can a point be found where the taste of alive un-divide-able-ness ends, and a separate taster begins?
If so, where is the border? What is it made of? Can a border even be found?
Right now, is it possible to divide or separate this alive openness in half, so there are two alive opennesses, two presences?
If so, how far is one from the other? Where is each one located—in order to know one is separate from the other? In fact, is there any physical distance here?
How would one half be distinguished from the other half? What would be its qualities? Can there even be said to be any qualities?
Notice again and see if it is possible to find a point where alive openness ends, and where a separate noticer or taster of alive openness begins? If there is a separation, how far are they from each other?
A lot is said in nonduality about the arising of forms of experience—the arising of transient thoughts, the arising of transient sensations, arising emotions, etc.
Notice closely. Can aliveness, openness, also be said to be an arising?
It may seem as if aliveness “arises” at the instant it is “noticed.” But does this mean that aliveness has suddenly come into existence from non-existence? Can anything come from non-existence? Can there even be such a thing or state as non-existence? If there were, it wouldn’t be non-existent!
Or is it that alive openness was apparently being temporarily “ignored” due to entertaining some sense of separation?
Notice in your experience how this focusing on something that is assumed to be separate instantly is experienced as a constriction, not openness.
Now notice even further. The notion that there was a previous tasting of openness, which then became a constriction—where is all of the evidence for such a thing? Look very closely.
Is there any evidence that such a thing really did happen “back there in time” a few moments ago? Or would the only evidence for all of that be merely a current thought that seems to arise right now for the first time ever? No such thing really occurred “back there” in time. At most it would be just a current thought.
Now what about openness itself? Has openness itself been present before, present the entire “past time” this tasting and constriction supposedly occurred? No!
Not even openness has so much as a split second of prior history—for that notion, too, would be just that—a mere notion, only a current thought, also arising just now for the first time ever!
Openness is completely, totally history-free.
Now that’s free!
Now how about finding a point or place where alive openness itself can be said to begin?
How could it, when openness simply cannot be said to have any prior history of existing?
What else? When “starting as” presently alive openness, can openness be said to have an edge? A center? How far would the edge be from the center?
Or is there just alive, un-divide-able, un-locate-able-ness?
Is alive un-locate-able-ness trying to get anywhere, or get free?
Is it trying to get more of its alive openness? How could it, when it is not a quantity in the first place? In fact, it is not even an “it”!
Does alive un-locate-able-ness have a material border, or even a mental border, where it extends only so far and then ends—thus feeling a need to expand itself?
Just how open is openness?
Again, this is not a thought of openness, but openness.
It’s never a matter of, how open is openness to “my thinking” about openness.
What is it to taste/be openness that is so open it almost “aches”?
In the same way, does alive openness have a bottom? Right now, try to find one.
Does alive openness have anything separate that is underneath openness—such as a floor? What about a planet? Or even an entire so-called universe?
How deep is openness? How wide? Does the notion of depth or width even apply?
Go as deep as you care to. No matter how “deep” one tries to go—one is still always “right here” as location-less openness, un-pin-down-able freedom.
Can alive openness be said to have a separate source or cause?
Will you ever find one? If so, where would it be in relation to alive openness—which itself is un-locateable?
The instant all this inquiring stops—is there any evidence of an inquirer that exists independently and is separate from alive openness? Or even during the inquiry—do the questions/thoughts have their own stand-alone existence “out there” separate from openness?
To alive openness, is there a limited supply of freedom?
Does it have a point where it diminishes, begins to sort of close down or shut off?
Or is this gently present, alive openness un-shut-off-able?
Can it be said that alive openness an extreme state—something that should be avoided for fear of getting out of balance? To whom would it seem that way?
Can alive openness ever have such a thought, or act extremely?
Does openness even act?
Can openness even be pinned down, as if it were a place, a realm—even a “higher state of consciousness”?
Is openness ever saying that there is no self—or that there is a Self?
For that matter, is openness ever saying anything—even that there is openness?!
Be clear that the entire so-called “time” during this type of inquiry, it does nothing to make Life, openness, freedom, more open and free, more alive and un-divide-able.
Please stay tuned for Part Two