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Self Inquiry or Self Enquiry: Who Am I?

| Nirmala | Self-Inquiry

Self Inquiry or Self Enquiry: Who Am I?

Published on
07 May 2001

The following is an excerpt about self-inquiry from the book, Nothing Personal, Seeing Beyond the Illusion of a Separate Self  by Nirmala:

Beyond focusing on the content of our experience and even beyond noticing whether we’re expanded or contracted, a wonderful question is: Who or what is experiencing this? This is a variation of the classic self-inquiry question, Who am I?

As I was going through my email the other day, I ran across a quote from A Course in Miracles that essentially said that you’ll never find satisfaction in the world. This assertion is at the core of most spiritual teachings. Spiritual teachings and practices attempt to turn us in another direction, away from the usual places we look for satisfaction. They’re designed to shift our focus from the world of form to Beingness. Self inquiry is one technique for doing that. In self-inquiry, we simply ask, Who am I? or What am I? or a variation on that, Who is having this experience?

When you look to see who is having this experience, you don’t find anyone. There’s nothing there. The Experiencer can’t be experienced, just as the eye can’t see itself. You don’t find any thing, nothing you can touch or see or hear.

Self-inquiryWhen nothing is discovered during self-inquiry, people often keep looking instead for something they think they’re supposed to find. It’s only natural to look somewhere else when you don’t find anything. We don’t expect that nothing is the answer. So we go back to our mind for the answer—we think about it, check in our memory, or imagine a good answer—instead of just staying with the question. But self--nquiry done only with the mind is dry—it lacks juice. After a while, because this experience is not very rich, the mind often gets bored and quits. There isn’t much in self-inquiry for the mind.

Doing self-Inquiry with the whole heart

Another way to ask the self-inquiry question is with your whole Heart. You ask it with everything you’ve got, as if your life depended on it. If you ask the self inquiry question with this kind of passion and intensity, it will bring you beyond what the mind is able to figure out. When you ask it with your whole Heart and you don’t find an answer, you just stay there, not knowing. You just let yourself not know. There’s nothing but that space, and you just stay present to that space, to that sense of there being nothing behind your eyes, nothing behind your thoughts, nothing behind your feelings. Instead of turning back to thing-ness when you don’t find anything, you just stay there in the no-thing-ness and get curious about it. Nothing—what’s that like? 

In looking and finding nothing, what you discover is even more space. Staying with the self inquiry question, Who am I? opens up space. Nothingness is very spacious; there’s a lot of room in it. When you stay in that nothingness, you discover that there’s a lot of stuff in that space, stuff that is real in a way that the stuff in the world has never been real. What moves in that space are true qualities of Being, such as Love, Compassion, Insight, and Strength.

Every time you turn towards Beingness, a different quality shows up. Being has an infinite number of qualities, which show up fresh and different in every moment. These qualities can seem to exist in another dimension, as they have a depth and solidity about them that is more real than physical objects.

These qualities have been there in the nothingness all along, and as you stay with the nothingness, they begin to be apparent. One way of staying with the inward focus is by repeatedly asking the question, Who Am I? Stay with this self- enquiry question even when you experience nothing and have no idea who you are. Just ask, Who or what doesn’t know?

A New Article with More Detailed Instructions for Self-Inquiry

I recently added a new article with much more detailed information about the practice and purpose of self-inquiry.

There are several more articles on this site that explore self-inquiry in more depth:

Inquiry with NirmalaAbout Nirmala: After a lifetime of spiritual seeking, Nirmala met his teacher, Neelam, a devotee of H.W.L. Poonja (Papaji). After experiencing a profound spiritual awakening in India, he has been offering satsang (gatherings for the truth) and Nondual Spiritual Mentoring since 1998. Nirmala offers a unique vision and a gentle, compassionate approach, which adds to this rich tradition of inquiry into our true nature. He is the author of several nondual books, including a free ebook called Living from the Heart. Nirmala points to the natural wisdom within each of us, and fosters each individual’s own inquiry into their full potential for spiritual awakening and enlightenment.  In his mentoring sessions with individuals, Living from the Heart, Nirmala points to the wisdom within each of us and fosters the individual's own self inquiry and exploration of their full potential for realization to the spiritual truth of who we are. 


For a more personalized exploration of self-inquiry, you can book a non-dual spiritual mentoring session with Nirmala.   For a limited time, we are offering a reduced suggested donation of $80 for your first session. Use this button to schedule a sesssion:

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