The Magic of Self-Inquiry and How to Practice It
I’m sure you’ve asked yourself a question before like “what do I want to eat?”
But, outside of figuring how you want to satisfy your hunger, the practice of asking yourself questions to ideally find an answer is an age-old practice and one that can deepen your life experience.
Asking questions helps to either explore or provide greater clarity on something. And there are countless things you may want clarity on. Here’s where the practice of self-inquiry enters the chat.
From your day-to-day to your spiritual practice, self-inquiry brings you closer to your truth at every turn. This practice has helped to transform my life beyond what I could imagine, so I felt it necessary to share it with you, too.
What is Self-Inquiry?
Self-inquiry (in-query) is the practice of turning your awareness within to self-reflect and experience your inner nature.
It’s where you ask yourself the big questions like “Who am I”?, “What am I?”, or “What is my purpose?”
These questions alone can leave you feeling a range of emotions. Yet, no matter what feelings drudge up for you, it’s the initial inquiry that marks the beginning of an awareness journey within.
Life can make you feel like you have to know it all, that everything has to be planned, and that if you don’t have it all figured out already, then you’re useless.
Lucky for you, that’s false.
When you’re constantly told who you have to be, what you have to do, and how you have to show up to be accepted into a society, it creates a false sense of identity and purpose.
So, if you step back to ask yourself “Who am I?” or “What do I actually want?” and the thoughts that come to mind induce some sort of an identity crisis, you’re not wrong or crazy. You’re breaching the programming. You’re allowing yourself to experience the you beneath the external noise.
Self-Inquiry in Practice
The point of self-inquiry is to ask yourself the hard-hitting questions. The ones that make you challenge your most fundamental beliefs, behaviors, and perspectives.
You might feel liberated or even ousted or ashamed as realizations come to pass. Yet, this isn’t the space to shame, blame, or ignore these parts of your current reality. Instead, this is where you allow your awareness of them to take place. This is where the magic unfolds.
Often, we can tie our sense of self to certain beliefs, behaviors, and perspectives — at least that’s what many of us were taught to do. Yet, it’s not about pressuring yourself to know or attaching yourself to any one concept, question, or answer when practicing self-inquiry.
The point of self-inquiry is to allow yourself to explore your beliefs and discover your inner truth, which can transform your perspectives on life for the better. Through it, you begin to uncover the perspective of the “I” — one that is honest, intuitive, and authentic, that provides more clarity, and/or helps you realize a need for redirection.
I often ask myself and others the question — “what do you really want?” — and I mean really. Not want your guardians told you, not what the random person on the internet told you. I mean you — the innocent you beneath all the chatter, external influence, and mental distractions.
This question can stump people, understandably so. This is where I say, “Sit with this question, and see what comes up for you. Tell me later.”
Even if a specific question, like “what do I really want?”, doesn't breach every layer of external influence or belief, it is the action of allowing yourself to explore these beliefs from the “I” perspective that matters.
The “I” allows you to be you;
- Not identify as your perspective or behaviors
- Not identify as your thoughts or your body
- Not identify as your habits or beliefs
- Not identify as your emotions and feelings
- Not identify as what someone else told you to be
Those are all things that can a part of your experience but are not the defining features of your true self.
From there, you may begin to realize that the answers that arise from these self-directed questions exhibit the current beliefs you hold of yourself or others. Once they are brought to your awareness, this is where the deconstruction, dismissal, and/or replacement of them can begin as needed.
Curious about how to get started? Keep reading!
3 Tips for Practicing Self-Inquiry
If any realizations from self-directed questioning bring up trauma that’s hard to deal with on your own, I recommend speaking with a mental health professional who can help you navigate your thoughts and feelings. From in-person to online, there are many options.
1. Grab a journal.
There’s nothing like a pen to paper or fingertips to a keyboard that can help declutter a crowded mind. Write down your question(s) and free-write any thoughts, feelings, or realizations that come up. You can ask more self-directed questions to impart clarity on anything that came up or save that for another day.
Take a deep breath, sit with them in silence for a few moments (no longer than 5–10 minutes). Close your journal, and repeat a mantra that helps you feel centered and worthy.
One could be: “I am free from my past. I am free from the pain. I am free to be me.” (repeat 5x)
Incorporate this into your daily schedule.
2. Remember that you are the “I”
The “I” is the observer, the creator, the manifestor, the being, the one that goes beyond the mind, the body, space, and time.
The “I” is the I am.
Allow yourself to be the “I” and to see from that divine perspective. Remember that you are the “I” even when the mind or body wants to identify otherwise.
See how I didn’t say partner, friend, or a hard worker. Beneath all of those identities is the ultimate “I” — meaning the “I” (that is your true essence) allows these identities to be a part of your experience.
This may sound confusing at first, but the philosophy behind self-inquiry is rooted in you deconstructing the ideas that you have about yourself until there is nothing left but you in your purest form.
Check out this guided meditation to practice the concept of being empty or no-thing as a means to help you deconstruct yourself to experience the Self or the inner “I”.
3. Incorporate silence into your daily routine
The outside world can keep you stimulated endlessly. But, too much of that can cloud your judgment, slow you down, frustrate you, or take your focus away from what matters most.
Even if it’s a few minutes, give yourself space and time to be with yourself in silence. Listen to your heartbeat, feel the temperature of your breath, notice your chest rising and falling, or watch your thoughts like clouds passing in the sky.
When you allow yourself to step back and detox from the outside world, you allow yourself to commune with the real you — the “I”, the innocence within.
Some Questions to Start With
Of the vast questions you could ask yourself, here are a few that may be great starting points:
- What am I feeling right now? Where in my body am I feeling it?
- How do I want to feel?
- Is this my belief or someone else’s?
- What is my truth?
- What do I really want? Why?
- How can I support myself?
- How do I want to be cared for? How does the younger version of myself want to be cared for?
- Where should I direct my focus/energy?
- Does [insert thing, action, thought, etc.] add to my peace?
- What brings me joy? Does this [thing, action, or thought] align with my joy?
- What do I like to do?
- Where do I want to be?
- Who am I? What am I?
- What invites more peace into my life?