Inquiry as a Mindfulness Practice
Hard to do with amazing results …….
Hope you enjoy and employ the teaching from my interview with Jeanne Haskel, Enneagram Teacher, Coach and Consultant
Jeanne, at the end of each of our ENNEAGRAM classes, you have us do an inquiry reflecting one of the 9 types we are learning about. I’ve found it powerful on several levels. I’d love to ask you a few questions about the purpose, benefits ….
Can you briefly share what it is?
This is a process of exploring your consciousness, opening to Higher Mind, a way of inquiring into what you come into contact with within yourself in that moment of inquiry. When you simply inquire with your mind, all you’ll get is more mental understanding. If you want to move to the deeper levels of your reality, this process of inquiry helps you to experience the connection between the body, mind, and heart. It’s about being curious about what you find and is not aimed at getting to a certain insight. You turn the flashlight on and you don’t know what it’s going to land on. There is a natural process of unwinding that will begin to happen that can transform us.
We haven’t used feedback yet in our group, but sometimes we take up to five minutes to make a couple of comments, intended to support the speaker in having more understanding. It’s not to facilitate, or analyze, or tell what we think is going on with each other, but rather to talk about the impact on you, as listener.
Where did this technique come from?
My understanding is that it essentially derived from Buddhism. However, A.H. Almaas further developed this particular method of rigorous (self) inquiry in his path of Self-Realization called The Diamond Approach. I first experienced this technique when I was studying to become a certified Enneagram teacher at The Enneagram Institute, whose founders were students of the Diamond Approach. I have since gone on to work with this discipline as well.
How can my readers apply this personally and professionally?
The process of inquiry is structured so that one person speaks, in monologue fashion, while one or more persons listen deeply, in a safe and confidential environment. A question is posed, generally taken from a reading or teaching, like an Enneagram teaching, for instance. One person speaks for a period of time (3 – 20 minutes), specified in advance, letting what arises to come out spontaneously, in as truthful and compassionate a way as possible. The goal is to speak with an open, not closed, mind – not anticipating, not being certain about what’s there already, but allowing oneself to be at that edge where what’s happening inside of you is simply unfolding without preconceptions, fixed ideas. The listeners provide a quiet, non judgmental mirror, listening but not commenting, staying neutral and paying full attention.
When I am the listener, I found it difficult to listen attentively but with no response, verbal or visual. Really hard as I love to reflect and encourage. Why is the “non-Response” so important?
Yes, it’s very hard to resist the temptation to nod or show approval, be natural and not stiff or artificial. However, a nod or show of approval is, to quote my teacher, “an insidious form of our superego telling the person speaking to do more of what you want to hear more of.” In other words, it influences where the speaker is going. By contrast, being an attentive neutral witness is a great gift to the person speaking. It creates a container, holds the speaker, and gives them space to follow their own impulses, threads, etc., allowing the unconscious mind to reveal itself vs. get caught in a “performance” for the listener. There’s something magical that happens when we can communicate what’s going on with us without interference. It develops a kind of intimacy with ourselves and our own process in the presence of others. As a listener you learn a lot about yourself in being a mirror, and get to practice simply being present, vs. interpreting someone else’s experience or trying to improve it in any way; instead you generously offer permission for the other to feel what ever they feel.
When I answer the inquiry, although it’s tough to not get any feedback from the listener, I had some amazing insights even in the few minutes you gave us. Please say any more about this.
I’m so glad to hear you say this, and it’s my experience, too. When we learn how to inquire into our experience in an effective way, illusions tend to open up and reveal what’s deeper. The world of the personality, built on beliefs and convictions, is questioned, opened up so we can see what’s real. There tends to be relief in acknowledging the truth, even when it’s painful; it has it’s own kind of gratification because it’s real, what is happening to me, what is really going on. Our hearts love to be with the truth of our experience. And as we let ourselves deeply inquire into our experience, whatever has ultimate reality will, in time, reveal itself. If we want to wake up, we can respond to the call to take a clear-eyed look.
And, finally, do you have any resources to direct the reader in case they would like to use this technique in her/his practice?
Yes, I highly recommend The Unfolding Now: Realizing Your True Nature through the Practice of Presence, by A.H. Almaas.
Jeanne, thanks for sharing this with us. I can’t wait for the next class – of course, you are a great resource and, if you live in Vermont, I recommend you take one of Jeanne courses. Visit Jeane Haskell.