Journey to the Self

The Practice of Self-Inquiry.

Is there is a stirring within you? A question that asks, "Is this all there is?” or "Where is the meaning in the world?” Do you feel the stillness that exists when all is quiet within? Is there something inside that is ready to be seen and awakened?

Humanity is experiencing what Eckhart Tolle calls global ego consciousness; unprecedented levels of dysfunction, stress, illness, addiction, war and suffering. People are now, in ever larger numbers, becoming aware that we cannot continue searching for fulfillment and happiness, or acknowledgment of who we are, from things outside of ourselves – my car, my money, my story, what I do, what I’ve done, my job, and on and on. We must, as individuals, communities and ultimately the world, become more conscious of our thoughts and choose to live in greater alignment with ourselves, each other and the planet; living with integrity and personal responsibility, as acknowledged by all spiritual teachers from Jesus to Mahatma Gandhi, to Buddha to Eckhart Tolle. The time of transformation on our planet is now – for if not now, when?

What has happened to quietude and days of rest? To contemplation and being with oneself in a more natural way – using the inner guidance that is inherent in everyone since birth and which becomes clouded by external influences of society and its dysfunctions usually by late childhood? It is the natural order to be in stillness, in meditation – which simply means to be aware and present in each moment as it presents itself; completely present, with no expectation and no thought about the past or future. This is being free of ego – which can be defined as identification with thought and form (things). Many terms exist for this shift from ego consciousness: Enlightenment (Hindu), Salvation (Christian), End of Suffering (Buddhist), Self-Actualization (psychologist Abraham Maslow).

Many people now understand that we are not our thoughts; that thoughts are what we think; that there is a thinker behind the thoughts – a watcher of all things. There’s a quiet space within, that is very, very still, the essence that is always present as the seer or observer. When there is space for quietude, we can sense the quiet inner presence awaiting our attention; always present, never judging, wanting us to return Home.

Eckhart Tolle says that, "Thinking without awareness is the main dilemma of human existence.” Our busy minds run rampant in every instance of every day, week to week, year to year, until ultimately, we are exhausted from incessant thinking. It’s time to take a breath – a refreshing breath of a deeper, more meaningful way to be, bringing calm to the mind, rather than seeking, competing and warring. We’re so fortunate to have many and diverse paths to assist in this journey including yoga, prayer and meditation. Self-Inquiry is especially popular in the western world, not only to spiritually and religiously minded people, but also to non-religious intellectuals and agnostics – its popularity evident by the numerous books on this subject.

Ramana Maharshi, Indian sage and guru (1879-1950) is regarded as the foremost teacher of Self-Inquiry in modern times. This practice, generally seen as a form of meditation, does not require an object or mantra on which to meditate; rather the "I” who is meditating becomes the object of its own question: Who Am I? Self-Inquiry means simply to rest in the awareness "I Am” which is the presence behind all thought – the pure, natural existence, the absolute Self.

Each week, dedicated members from the Association in Consciousness from all over Vancouver Island, and ultimately all over the world, meet in meditation. These are participants of one or more programs offered by AHAM (Association of Happiness for All Mankind), a non-profit spiritual educational organization that helps participants to really get Self-Inquiry. AIC meets regularly to deepen the practice of meditation. When meditating, the participants experience being in stillness; going within, to find answers usually sought in the world of people, places and things. The practice of Self-Inquiry brings the inner peace and serenity that comes with acceptance of whatever is happening in our busy lives; learning to let things be as they are, allowing life to unfold naturally. We learn that we are indeed, whole and complete as we are. This particular path is a continual looking within. Self-Inquiry is for those who seek peace, inner knowing and joy – all natural states that have been habitually forgotten.

This practice does not adhere to any particular guru/teacher, religion or spiritual practice. Rather, it recognizes the common truths of all spiritual teachers and/or religions. The AIC group members share their experience as "Being in the Heart.” The practice allows the teachings of spiritual masters like Buddha, Ramana Maharshi and Jesus to be experienced in their purest forms. Participants appreciate the essence of group meditation and the support of community, to continue and deepen the awakening process – which is described by Eckhart Tolle as simply being present in every moment, therefore accepting everything and resisting nothing. We begin to see that the primary cause of unhappiness is not the events that happen, but our thoughts about them. Awareness in the now creates space, clarity and calm that surrounds every potential future action.

People have been introduced to this particular Self-Inquiry training in ways that seem to appear out of nowhere! For example some have been to India and found their way to the Ramana Ashram at the bottom of the holy mountain of Arunachala. They saw, they sat, they stayed. AHAM’s process of Self-Inquiry was first brought to Vancouver Island in 2004 – a kind of miracle really, since the training had always taken place either at the AHAM center in North Carolina or Ramana Ashram in southern India. Of course we who live here know that Vancouver Island’s geography and energy attracts Cultural Creatives, a generational body of people who seek more conscious living, in harmony with nature and others.

Many who practice the I AM meditation feel blessed to have this teaching and feel drawn to meet others at a deeper level. Where prior practices left a yearning, like something was missing, they "knew something was up” with this teaching and paid attention, saying that, "This is an easier way.”

Some of the group who had been to India (at least once), felt drawn to the stillness, to Arunachala and to the simple teachings of holy man Ramana Maharshi. The spiral of self-knowledge continues with the practice of Self-Inquiry in their daily lives. One member says she knew she’d "been got” by this sage’s teachings after many years on the spiritual path. The support and commitment offered by AHAM helps individuals with self-commitment to meditation and to their own spiritual growth.

One member initially discovered the value of meditation in India and after a couple of years was pulled "like a magnet…very powerful” to the meditation training.

"A simple way to get home” was the newest AIC member’s experience with Self-Inquiry in North Carolina. A sign posted at the centre thereΩ is as good as any gentle nudge: "A Kick in the Ass is a Step Forward”. Yes, some of us need a boot in the butt sometimes!

"Looking for the truth” is what brought another AIC participant to this teaching. Yet another member’s initial experience was intensely physical and she felt she "had to really look into this.” She now feels peaceful, feeling no need to seek spiritual fulfillment elsewhere, saying, "This is the biggest gift I ever gave myself.” The group finds AHAM’s method of Self-Inquiry so easy, agreeing that, "The staying point is community.”

Another participant in AIC, seeking and yearning for that "something missing” initially found solace in the photos of respected religious leaders at Ramana Ashram, but now experiences, rather than just believes in, God/Self – as do others who are ready to experience the unifying truths of spirituality without the divisiveness which has plagued religions and spiritual cultures over millennia.

Becoming familiar with the silence within is a way to answer the questions "Where is the meaning in the world” and, "Is this all there is?” Once asked, the answer eventually becomes clear. You are all there is – always have been, always will be, forever and ever. NAMASTE!