The Therapy Booth

resting, doodling and holding love signs

What if I don’t offer you anything?

water hands

What if I don’t offer you anything? Really. What if, when you come to me with a problem, I offer no solutions? What if I meet with you for an hour or so and you pour your heart out to me and tell me every thought, every feeling, every fear, and I give you nothing? Will you still make another appointment? Will you have gained something?

In Living Inquiries, I really have nothing to give you. If anything, I might take away from you, but not really. Whatever I take from you, I don’t keep, though sometimes I might ask you to let me have it so that I may set it down. Let all of those words come through, and let’s just set them down to the side for a moment and stay with the sensation. I might say something like that. But do you even get to keep that sensation? Can you make anything stay?

If I’ve done my job right, we both leave empty handed.

A friend asked me tonight what kind of concrete actions come from inquiring like this, and I replied that I don’t know. It’s different for everyone, just depending on how life unfolds. In inquiry, we sort of get out of our own way. The actions happen — or don’t — but we’re not scrambling and stumbling over thoughts and feelings and memories and anticipations in order to scrape our way there. The actions either happen, or they don’t.

Do I give you power? Do I give you charm? Do I give you a better way of looking at yourself? Do you walk away from inquiry sessions with more insights and explanations?

I hope not.

I really want to leave you empty-handed. Where no way of labeling or categorizing will stick. Where no self, nor compulsive command nor threat can be found. Where all that remains is all that remains. Where even these words don’t make any sense, and they don’t need to.

Looking in this way is not what you think. It’s not even what I think.

I can throw out lots of words to try to explain it, but the fact is, I can’t. Each moment, each experience is unique to the one looking. What’s happened before is irrelevant. What will happen after is too. And, we’ll come to find, even the bits that are coming through right now are not who you are. There’s no one here to hold it together. (On the bright side, there’s no one here to come apart, either.)

Words like gentle, compassionate and safe come up for me when describing these inquiries. But in the end, even those words can only point. Come stand over here beside me, and let’s look, together.

Is there anything there?

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Learn more about the Living Inquiries as developed by Scott Kiloby by visiting http://www.thetherapybooth.com/living-inquiries/ . Write to thetherapybooth@gmail.com to schedule a session.

For an upcoming group course, visit http://www.thetherapybooth.com/deepening-courses/.

Visit the Living Inquiries Facebook page for a community of folks looking in this way. Ask questions, hang out and watch for a while, or dive right in. The water’s fine.

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Things Deep in Your Own Heart

moon_girl38

It’s a pity, a gentleman in refined retirement composing poetry:
He models his work on the classic verse of China.
And his poems are elegant, full of fine phrases.
But if you don’t write of things deep in your own heart,
What’s the use of churning out so many words?

– Ryokan (Japan, 1758–1831)

I came across this beautiful passage today from a Zen poet living nearly two hundred years ago in Japan. I’d first come across a different passage from him that touched on the quiet of this day, the laziness of a rainy morning, the comfort in stillness.

I’d woken with a mixture of restlessness and heaviness. A strange combination. The head, foggy, as if I hadn’t had enough sleep or I’d been trying to unplug my nose with a Benadryl (which I hadn’t). Emotions warm and watery, feeling like I could use a good cry — you know the kind. Talking with my housemates last night and setting a date for me to vacate this place where I’ve been harbored for almost a year now. It can lead the mind to tales of aloneness: words like lonely, scared, on my own can come through. A feeling of heaviness across the forehead. A feeling of fatigue.

And still, at the heart of it all, a stillness, a settled quiet, a sense of resting in the midst of it all.

This phase I’m in — sometimes fondly called my mid-life crisis — is woven with ups and downs, joys and fears, departures and arrivals.

And when the river seems to be dammed up, clogged with swirling thoughts and attempts to manage one feeling or another, few things soothe like the flow of expression. Weaving stories from the heart of woe or fear or love or longing or delight or bliss or any other avenue that feels alive in the moment: what joy, what natural relief, what undivided love of life coming through.

This little post on my other blog came out of that warmth (and those beautiful Ryokan lines) today: http://whatamidoingup.tumblr.com/post/44873964742.

Few things comfort me than the true showing of my heart.

I made a little video recently about a few of the things I love about facilitating and practicing Scott Kiloby‘s Living Inquiries. This seems like a good time to share it, since I talk about relaxing (always a favorite topic) and creative expression. And as I leave you with the video, I also leave you with an invitation to do a little expressing yourself today. Throw a little poem to the wind, giving of your heart and its deepest loves and longings. Free to tell, free to let the river flow, free to relax back into the great movement of life, letting the unique expression of the seven billion fingers on the hand of God come through.

Please feel free to share here or write to thethearpybooth@gmail.com.

P.S. In the evening yesterday, I wrote the following note to a friend. I felt to add it here.

It’s been a sweet evening here. The passing of states never fails to amaze me. This morning was so foggy and rainy in my head and heart. I kept getting these glimpses through it, like a door opened a crack, where there was no trace of the emotion at all. I just looked after myself and did what felt good at the time. Fascinated, later in the day, to find no trace of it at all. I love that. To marry the feelings and cuddle up with them somehow has them go on their way. Quiet continues. Love you xxxxx

I love you. And now, here’s the little video:

 

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Looking in a Fresh Way: Individualized Deepening Courses

deer

Deer in a Clearing by Albert Bierstadt

We call these courses Deepening, but we could also call them Clearing. Either way you name it, the Living Inquiries are a fresh way of exploring. For now, let’s drop the words inquiry, deepening and clearing, and let’s talk about the freshness.

Most of the time, when we come to address a problem, we’re thinking of solutions. Or we’ve been trying to think of solutions, but none of the thoughts we’re coming up with are working. I like to imagine that thoughts fall into two categories:

1. I’m okay, and here’s why.

2. I’m not okay, and here’s why.

The former often come with a sense of holding on, a movement of I hope this is right and I’m going to hold it in my mind til it proves out. The latter accompany strong sensations and images (and more thoughts) that seem to give irrefutable proof of their validity. Yes, he does hate me. I’m sure of it. And it’s because I’m disgusting.  

Wow, so much to sort out, so much to believe in, manage and hold onto (or shut off and push away). So much to be done.

Enter the freshness of the Living Inquiries: here, you get to rest. With the assistance of a facilitator, you are liberated of the responsibility of managing all of these thoughts and feelings. You’re given the space to feel and experience them all (nothing at all is negated) without having the added responsibility of making sense, explaining, changing or controlling any of it. You’re given the opportunity to rest and see it all coming and going and find out if there’s something there, in fact, that needs to be managed.

You may be thinking right now, “But if I don’t manage this, something awful will happen.” In a session, that thought is both welcomed and given its space, while also being seen directly as a coming and going of words, sounds, images and feelings. Do those words, inherently, carry truth? Let’s find out.

Even having written lots about the inquires and experiencing hundreds of hours of both facilitating and being facilitated, I find them hard to explain in brief. Letting explanations drop, I’m here to invite you to experience them directly, and, thereby, see more directly into your own experience. I’m offering a fresh approach to whatever you’ve been grappling with. Come meet with me and give yourself over to a new way of seeing (and drop any thought that you have about it now, as that, too, will be seen NOT to be it . . .).

I am now offering individualized deepening courses tailored to whatever’s on your mind. We can look from multiple angles, and, if this is something you’ve been stuck with for a while, I promise we can find something fresh here. A relief, perhaps, that hasn’t been experienced before.

Here are some possible topics for these four-session courses:

– a particular relationship
– work/career
– money
– decision making
– creativity
– your life’s purpose or passion
– physical health
– questions around awakening/enlightenment
– a specific compulsion (anything from substances to people to Facebook)
– fears and anxieties
– “negative” emotions
– women’s health (PMS, menopause, etc.)
– family/parents/children
– procrastination

The topics are endless, as there’s nothing that can’t be brought to inquiry, as you’ll see. If something on this list resonates for you, or if there’s something else that’s been on your mind that you just haven’t been able to sort out with other approaches, consider meeting with me and looking afresh.

Details of the Individual Deepening Courses:

If you’re new to the inquiries, you will receive a thorough introduction and get all of your questions answered. Each participant gets four individual inquiry sessions (held by Skype, phone or in person). I am in Central time zone (CST). Sessions last about an hour (sometimes a little less, sometimes a little more). They can be spread out over a few weeks or a few months, as scheduling and desire permits.

You will receive a copy of Scott Kiloby’s ebook, Living Relationship, that outlines and gives many examples of the inquiries and how they work.

Between sessions, we will stay in touch through email.

Please note that either an individual or group Deepening Course is a required prerequisite to any future facilitator training.

Read up on these inquiries, developed by Scott Kiloby, at http://www.thetherapybooth.com/living-inquiries/.

Contact me at thetherapybooth@gmail.com with questions or to set up a course. Payments can be made through the PayPal button on this site or by check.

For more on Scott Kiloby and Living Inquiries, also see:

www.kiloby.com
www.livingrelationship.org
www.livingrealization.org

I very much look forward to meeting with you and to looking, inquiring, deepening and clearing together.

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Waiting for the Big Bang

This morning I was listening to a recording of a spiritual seeker talking with a teacher, saying that he still hadn’t gotten it. He shared that he was waiting for a great and magnificent unveiling of the eyes, a Big Bang of an experience, proving that he had – at last – reached the final goal.

This final goal is fondly called by many names: enlightenment, awakening, merging with the Beloved, infinite awareness, peace, bliss, love, light . . .

The imagined experiences of it also wear many titles and costumes: rolling on the floor laughing, the earth and sky cracking open and light pouring from the body, or – my favorite – total drooling bliss.

And then there are the imagined “after” pictures: never experiencing pain, no sadness or anger or jealousy, beauty, affection, riches, never being bothered ever again by anything, ultimate kindness and compassion, the living embodiment of beatification.

So, what does all this say about you, me, or anyone who experiences pain or judgmental thoughts, who feels desire or longing or weariness, who is certain this can’t be it?

What we often miss is turning and looking right at what this it is, the one that this isn’t. What is it that we have or haven’t achieved? Is a moment of sitting in front of our teacher laughing and laughing and laughing it? Is a day when language doesn’t come and silence is all that’s needed or desired it? Is having people come to you as a teacher it? If material abundance is appearing as if miraculously, is that it? How about talking in non-dual buzzwords or commenting or a posting on Facebook? How about a YouTube video?

In a way, this is like watching lots of romantic comedy movies and holding out for the perfect Hollywood romance. And, not only holding out for that, but also being convinced that there’s something very wrong if that’s not how our relationships look. So now we have the added not-it of stewing in our wrongness about not having or being it.

Wow, no wonder we’re seeking something different.

For many years on the spiritual path, I had a vague idea of this thing called enlightenment (see total drooling bliss, above). I wanted to go off to India and meet a guru who would bop me on the head and all would be love and rainbows and fireworks and sunshine and . . . well, actually, even that may be more fully formed than what I’d actually imagined I wanted. But I wanted it (whatever it was), and I thought I was supposed to have it — or, at least, I was supposed to be going for it. Eventually I concluded this was never going to happen for me in this lifetime, even though there was still a longing. I thought that it would take twenty years of meditating in a cave, like a glowing baba I met once, to have the shift happen — yonder Big Bang. And so, I sat in longing, still looking at others who seemed to have it, and still thinking there was something wrong with these little comings and goings that signified I hadn’t made it.

big bang

Some years ago,  I came across Eckhart Tolle. I was greatly influenced by reading A New Earth and listening to Eckhart reading The Power of Now on my mp3 player. I could definitely feel something shifting and a recognition of what he seemed to be pointing seemed to happen sometimes, but I still had this sense of I got it/I lost it, or as Scott Kiloby aptly calls it, oscillation. And, I couldn’t call Eckhart on the phone to get pointers when I was going through this and that. I wanted to be like him, and didn’t believe I could, but I got these glimpses . . .

Then I met Scott, and that meeting was a game changer. Not the event of physically coming in contact with Scott but what was being pointed. Scott pointed me directly into seeing that any idea I had of how something was supposed to be was nothing but that, an idea. More specifically: words, images and sensations in the body. And sometimes tucked away thoughts – again, just words – that assign meaning to the moment, like that it means something about me that I’m experiencing X, Y, or Z. Whatever you think is being pointed in non-dual or spiritual awakening conversation is not what you think it is. It can’t be. Trust me, but don’t take my word for it. Look for yourself.

What is it that you don’t have yet? What is it you haven’t done or felt or seen? What is it about this moment right now that indicates awake or asleep? And what is awake and what is asleep?

These are all things we look into in the Living Inquiries, developed by Scott Kiloby, out of his direct experience with the clearing and falling away of ideas about achieving a spiritual goal. We aren’t fighting our ideas, we’re simply turning and looking directly into what we think is going on — usually the thing that seems to be fueling suffering. There is a good amount of suffering from the I got it/I lost it thing. I’ve experienced it and I meet with people all the time who also suffer under the weight of what they think they should be but they aren’t. Of not yet having that Big Bang experience. Or, God forbid, having had it and it didn’t stay.

What if the thing you’re waiting for is already happening, right now, no matter what?

Don’t think about that question. Let the mind rest, and let’s look.

 

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For questions and to schedule an individual session, write to thetherapybooth@gmail.com.
Click here for more on the Living Inquiries. Click here to join a Facebook group supporting the Living Inquiries.

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Messy Morning Bed Hair

It’s important to me to write honestly. As you know, one of my greatest passions is creative freedom and freedom of expression. Starting with the Morning Pages, coloring through the doodles, and all of the areas I haven’t yet touched on in the Free Expression series . . . for me, life is all-inclusive. And that really means all. Nothing can be left out in this sort of freedom.

After I posted a few days ago from my fever bed, my mind churning with upheaval and concern, I worried that I shouldn’t have shared that openly, that I shouldn’t have left my post to be read. What would people think of me? How would my words be interpreted? Would I be seen as a poor representative of the Living Inquiries?

I saw, though, that these fearful thoughts were also just part of life and they didn’t need to be followed or believed, any more than anything else. And, what is The Therapy Booth, if not a place for everyone to have all freedom of expression? What kind of Therapy Booth host would I be if I pretended that I’m only feeling well, happy and inspired? And, what if bearing my heart – however it looks – is inspired?

As a creative person – and I assert we all are – this is something I’ve watched and admired in other artists. It’s what gives me such awe for Joni Mitchell and her song writing. Her utter honesty and clarity of description is what has others relate so deeply with her, and it’s what has me wonder, how can she be knowing my experience so directly that she’s singing about it? It is in the details that we find the universals. We are not as alone as we may think we are with our tender hearts, moving minds and oceanic passions.

I find with all of these courses of expression that unencumbered articulation and declaration leaves me feeling more alert, clear and relaxed. To be able to pour it out on the page or on a phone call with a trusted friend or in my doodle notebook or during an inquiry session is to take the chains off of life and let it run free. And then, the direct experience of anicca (a Pali word meaning impermanence) is known. I’m as awe struck by this as I am by Joni Mitchell’s honest lyrics: that something that feels heavy, true and deep – once expressed – goes on about its way as each wave goes back into the ocean and disappears without a trace.

In the Living Inquiries, we look closely and gently at this movement and find out if any of these comings and goings actually equal “us”. Are any of those words I typed during my flu “me”? Are any of the words your friend says to you on the phone “her”? This is done from a restful position, as opposed to a mental one, and it leaves us in a space where all of the comings and goings are totally free to come and go. Life is going to happen. Happiness, delight, fear, anger, sadness, frustration, love, lust, apathy . . . all of them are so welcome to come and go here in The Therapy Booth. Express yourself! I’m gonna.

Recovering! Writing with messy morning bed hair.

Recovering! Writing with messy morning bed hair.

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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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If you are interested in being facilitated, check out http://www.thetherapybooth.com/living-inquiries/ and email me at thetherapybooth@gmail.com to schedule a session.

You can also meet with a community of folks who are also looking in this way by joining us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/408220892542517.

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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 http://www.thetherapybooth.com/living-inquiries/ to make an appointment.

Also find us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/408220892542517/ to meet other facilitators and join the community conversation.

 

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Looking a Little More Closely

I’ve spent the better part of this year so far deeply engaged in both practicing and facilitating the Living Inquiries, as developed by Scott Kiloby and refined by Scott and his team of facilitators. The further I get into the inquiries, the simpler they become.

We often come to the inquiries because there’s something occurring in our lives and we’re struggling with it, often suffering from what we’re experiencing.

We could suggest that these inquiries help us relax, see through the sense of separation, resolve conflicts, end seeking, etc., but why dangle carrots? What are we actually doing in the inquiries?

This practice is sort of like a non-practice. We’re neither adding nor taking away from our experience. We’re not replacing uncomfortable thoughts with more comfortable ones. We’re not looking into our histories to understand why we feel the way we feel (though sometimes memories of the past come up, and they are met as they come), and we’re not moving to improve ourselves in any way.

I can just hear a voice saying, “So what’s the use?”

To which I’d answer, “I don’t know. Let’s look and find out.”

What has infiltrated my experience these months is a simple closer look. Right here. Right now. Noticing what is presently arising.

The subtleties of the inquiry – and of our current experience – can be awe-striking, when seen. Let me give you an example:

I’ve been living with friends for a few months, and we have different sensibilities about climate control. (Welcome to the world of relationship, Carin!) Sometimes I feel really warm, and I automatically get intensely emotional, with thoughts of I-have-to-get-away and I’m-trapped-and-suffering coming up. I have had multiple inquiry sessions with my fellow facilitators on many angles of this scenario, and, though space has been made for some of the deep-seated emotions to come through, there was still something picking at me.

In the inquiries, we meet with facilitators who help us slow down and relax our experience enough that we can start to see what exactly is happening: thoughts coming in the form of words, thoughts appearing as mental images, and sensations arising in the body; sometimes all seeming to appear at once and often seeming stuck together; and all of them seeming to form a self or an object against which we’re fighting.

And, after doing even a little bit of the inquiries, they begin to take on a life of their own. So after months of them, they pop up in the most curious and enlightening ways.

Back to the story:

I was swimming with some friends a few days ago, just splashing around in the pool and talking about how I suffer because I love my roommates and am under the comforting blanket of their generosity, but I freak out if I get too hot. And I hadn’t been able to put my finger on exactly what was bothering me. My friend suggested it might be either a power thing (feeling like I didn’t have any) or a guilt thing (I should just be thankful). Those both made sense logically, but neither really connected with me deeply. They both seemed kind of heady.

(And this is a key in the Living Inquiries: we don’t look into what we think we’re experiencing. I’ll often advise, “You’ll know what feels right when you feel it in your gut.”)

Splashing around there in the pool, I suddenly saw a picture of our thermostat show up in front of my eyes.

We experience these flickers of images all day long every day, and we rarely notice them. They are more apparent when our eyes are closed, but they happen all the time. If I start writing about elephants and how they are big and grey and sometimes have red flowers painted on their foreheads, you may start to see a faint image of an elephant, even though there’s neither a picture of an elephant on this page, nor – likely – an elephant in the room with you right now. But notice how a mental image of an elephant, like a flash of a memory, appears to your awareness.

That’s what happened to me in the pool that night: I saw a clear picture of this thermostat with the number 83 in its screen. Wow, I thought. There it is. Now, I brought in the boomerang inquiry: what does this reflect back to me about me? What seems to be reflected back to me when I look at that plastic box with the digital number 83 appearing?

Resting with that image there, I saw something deeper than the power or guilt struggle. I saw that I thought this little plastic box with the number 83 meant that I had failed. In fact, that I was fucked, and that this was it. No options, no future relief, just failed and fucked.

I’m smiling as I type this, as I can see that readers might want to jump in and convince me that this isn’t the case, to talk me out of it, to show me all the evidence that proves that I’m not, in fact, fucked and that I haven’t irreparably and finally failed. Which is all fine, and I can appreciate your good cheer and well-wishes, but that’s not quite how we play this particular looking game.

In this game, we rest. Right here, with exactly what is arising. So, if the thought, “I’ve failed completely and I’m just fucked” is coming through, we – I – rest right there. Space for the words to come and go. Space for the picture of the thermostat. And – most directly – space and rest for whatever physical sensations may be appearing along with these thoughts and pictures. Simply noticing the subtleties, our seemingly rigid experience may begin to loosen.

I was able to look to see if the picture of the thermostat was actually saying anything. And, when I got home, I got to pause in front of the actual object and listen to hear if it was saying anything. I may have water in my ears, but I didn’t hear it say anything. Not even, “You’re fucked.” I checked, Is this thermostat me? Is it the one who had failed completely?

And, if it seemed so, I could look a little more closely: what else is happening in my present experience? Is there a sensation of energy in the body? Is that feeling me? Is there another thought? Another picture? Pausing, I could directly look and see.

So now you, too, can relax

 

 

and look into your present experience, a little more closely.

 

What do you notice?

 

Thoughts?

Do you see how they come and go?

Sensations?

Do you notice how the arise and move around without making a sound?

Pictures?

Do you notice how pictures appear like flashes, like flickers of memories of the past or memories of the future?

Pause, right here. Rest, and look, a little more closely.

– – – – –

If you’d like to go further with the Living Inquiries, visit http://www.thetherapybooth.com/living-inquiries/ to make an appointment

or find us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/408220892542517/ to join the community conversation.

 

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