The Therapy Booth

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Looking a Little More Closely

on August 29, 2012

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?



Do you see how they come and go?


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


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.

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