The Therapy Booth

resting, doodling and holding love signs

Mama, take this badge off of me

What I Love About the UI (Unfindable Inquiry, from the Living Inquiries), # 16:

Nothing’s added. Nothing. I get to upload, unload, lay down my load, and there’s nothing added to it. Not an interpretation. Not a question about why. Not a suggestion about what to do about it to make me and my circumstances better.

Even though – believe me – I have entered into the inquiry with a desperate hope for betterment on the outside. And that, too, gets placed at the lotus feet of the inquiry itself. Nothing rejected, everything respected, all life accepted.

When it comes down to it, every little bit is honored. It’s a paradox, though: the full honoring of everything married to the total fleeting and empty nature of it all.

How do we talk about these things?

With gratitude, that’s how.

Earlier today I sat on our front porch as the heat of the day came on, steeped in a sense of “rotting in hell.” Yeah, I know it sounds dramatic, but ain’t that just the way sometimes? Ain’t it just . . .

Finally I reached out to myself, not finding a facilitator available right then and knowing that no chat with a friend was going to move into the heart of this, no conversation was going to release this pressure valve.

I came into my room, placed my glass of water, tissues, notebook and dry erase board around me, and I looked  for the one who is rotting in hell.

First I did a Panorama, a way of drawing out every circumstance/person/reminder of the current feelings. I drew a circle of squares surrounding rotting in hell in the center. The circles went on and on until they were three deep with evidence and instigating triggers. Om, says I, as I settled down to look. Man oh man, this seems like an awful lot.

And then I looked, surfing between words scribbled out in blue dry erase marker on my little white board like mad scrawlings on a cell wall and diving down into the body, resting both there and in the space that holds, nurtures and releases it all.

I’d like to share with you some of what I’d scrawled there, but as each sentence, each scream of fear was seen not to be me – the one rotting in hell – I erased it and rested some more.

About an hour later, I emerged from my room, following nature’s call to visit the loo, noticeably clearer, unburdened, dare I say – even – friendly?

A different method from other loves of mine (journaling and Morning Pages), this experience of slowly and patiently taking a look at each little ism that’s arising – from words like I’m afraid everyone’s going to get ahead of me and I’m going to fall behind and be even worse off than I am now, to a visual memory of a scene in my dream last night, to deep and unnameable feelings in my belly – each was gently and thoroughly examined. I looked into heartbreaking memories and flashes of my latest favorite TV show: whatever came. All of it. Looking from that place of rest, held here in its quiet stillness, I looked and asked: Is that me? The one who is rotting in hell?

It’s a super simple process, once learned, and although I do a lot of mini inquiry on my own, I don’t often sit myself down for a full-on on-my-own session. But today simply called for it. There was nothing else to do but to join with all of those uprisings in this space and see what could be seen. Give it all its honor. Adding no debate to it. Neither adding nor taking away.

Have I come to any conclusions? Nope. Not a one. All I know is that I don’t feel like I’m rotting in hell at this moment, nor do the words seem to have any significant home here. It’s like Mooji says: Anyone can stop by; just no sleepovers.

This is such an incredibly worthwhile process, I just had to come here to write about it and share it with you all.

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The Paradox of Freedom

Innocent, by Alexei Harlamov (1842-1923)

It is right it should be so;
Man was made for Joy & Woe;
And when this we rightly know
Thro’ the World we safely go.
Joy & Woe are woven fine,
A Clothing for the Soul divine;
Under every grief & pine
Runs a joy with silken twine.

– William Blake, from “Auguries of Innocence”

Innocence. It’s not what I once thought it was.

My name, Carin, is a Swedish variation on the English name Katherine, whose deep etymological roots are open for debate, but whose more modern (like a few thousand years ago, modern) meaning comes from the Greek kathaors, or pure. One of the possible roots of kathaors, also from Greek, is aikia, meaning torture.

And here we meet the paradox of freedom, the innocence in the darkness, purity in the torture.

When engaging in Living Inquiries with another person, the lines of separation blur. There is a melding of the facilitator and the one being facilitated, often in simple recognition. Every time I talk with someone, I hear something of myself in what they’re sharing, what they’re suffering, what they’re loving. I met with a man today who touched right into the heart of loneliness, just met it straight on and openly. Having been there, I smiled. What a great joy to touch that, with someone else there to relax with you. Not to add anything onto it. Not to take it away. The river flowing, unencumbered.

Also today I met with a woman who said that her emotions are all over the place. She said it’s likely pre-menstrual, but she wasn’t focused on that aspect of it. Just yesterday I wrote a post to our Living Inquiry Facebook group talking about my intense irritability – that was likely hormonal, but that even the description PMS wasn’t sticking to. It was just straight-on feelings.

So here I am, joining with these friends, even coming off of a morning of feeling pretty irritable and grumpy myself, resting together and mutually witnessing the minutiae of direct experience, straight-on feelings. And as I look, together, with them, I see the pure heart of innocence, even amidst what may feel at times like torture.

Not calling the grief by name, not labeling the buzzing physical experience, we come to see that we are not culpable in the way we’ve always suspected or believed we are.

The very first time I ever met Scott Kiloby, my teacher and the author of the Living Inquiries, I was upset about the way I was clinging to my boyfriend, no matter how distant or withdrawn he was from me. I wasn’t feeling or behaving in a way that I thought I should, and I felt morally and mortally awful about it. Scott said to me, “I remember having relationships like that. The more they pulled away, the more I went toward them.” He paused and said, “I never did figure out why I did that.” And, right there, I recognized something radical. This guy wasn’t going to tell me to fix myself or get out of my relationship or look into my parents’ relationship history to diagnose and better me. All he did was point me to my own direct experience. As he talked with me that day, all he saw was innocence. Even amidst the torture.

Sitting with these folks today, it is this familiarity, this recognition, that breeds such empty compassion. By empty I don’t mean lacking or devoid of anything. In fact, it is all-inclusive. In that way, there is an emptiness. A lack of any particular structure, organization or list. There is no registry stating which feelings, thoughts or emotions are acceptable and which are not. That book has been thrown overboard miles back.

And it’s not just facilitating these sessions that has me plainly see this equanimity; it’s experiencing the inquiries first hand. I’ve had many hours of sessions with my fellow facilitators, as well as experiencing the inquiries infiltrating my day to day life. This is a direct route to true compassion: finding out — right in the fiery intense heat of emotion, of grief, of longing, of lust, of manic bliss, of jealousy, of smoldering rage — if there is anything there that isn’t pure innocence.

When I was younger and looked up the meaning of my name and found out that it was derived from a word meaning the pure one, I just thought, “Yeah, right.” I may not have been the wildest child on the block, but I certainly wasn’t the most farm fresh either. I could imagine all sorts of sins that I’d committed by a pretty young age, many of them simply in thoughts or fantasies, that I’m pretty sure canceled out my name’s worth of virtue. Add on another 20+ years with mad forays hither and yon, and I just wouldn’t relate to my name’s origins at all. At least not the “pure” side. As for the “torture” side, although I have experienced my moments in life, I wouldn’t fully relate to that one either. And anyway, who wants a name that means severe pain?

But now, as I put them together, as I inquire, as I watch others inquire, they all meld into an intimacy with life, a joyful reunion of the purity of the pain, the freshness of each moment, no matter what.

I would have thought that innocence meant untouched by drugs, sex, or dramas, unexposed to life’s suffering. And, in a way, it is untouched. As the woman said to me today, in the midst of her stormy weather, there was a thread that ran through it all, a restful space, even as the maelstrom blew roofs off houses and flooded the roadways. We notice and rest in that which is untouched and see that it is all innocent.  Innocence unencumbered by changing moods, thoughts, physical responses or rivers of tears. Purity and torture, seen to be inseparable, and, upon close examination, seen also to be unfindable.

If you have any doubt about this, and you’d like to find out directly, contact me or another Living Inquiries facilitator and we’ll look together.

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If you’d like to go further with the Living Inquiries, visit to make an appointment.

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