Living Inquiry: A Simple Path to Being at Ease in the World
Before I describe the Living Inquires, let me tell you who will be most interested in them. You will definitely want to read on if…
• Your intimate relationship is unfulfilling, lacking intimacy or mired in conflict
• You battle feelings of insecurity, self-doubt or lack of confidence
• You feel alone, abandoned or rejected
• You sometimes feel triggered by your ex, your boss, your body or your checkbook
• You suffer from low self-esteem, including guilt, shame or self-hatred
• You feel like a failure and that you’ll never realize your potential
• Your life is controlled by some compulsion or addiction to things like sweets, smoking or shopping
• You feel overwhelmed by worry, anxiety, fear or panic attacks
• You are seeking enlightenment or awakening and can’t seem to find it
I hope that this short list makes it clear that the Living Inquires meet us exactly where we live. They seek to touch us in the places where we’re most human, vulnerable and frail. If you’re looking for an intellectual or philosophical explanation of spiritual truth, you’ve come to the wrong place. The Living Inquiries are a down-in-the-dirt, real-life investigation of how to be at ease in the world.
So, if that’s what you want—to be at ease in the world, flowing effortlessly with your present experience as it is—then read on. Freedom and peace are just an Inquiry away.
About the Inquires
The single most important thing I’ve learned over many years of working with people is that almost all of us have some version of the “I am inadequate” story running in the background of our lives.
That story can show up in a variety of ways: “I am not good enough,” “I am unwanted,” “I am unloved,” “I don’t matter,” “I am lost,” “I am powerless,” “I am a loser,” “I am a victim,” to name just a few.
These beliefs are called, “core stories of deficiency.” Basically, we believe something is wrong with us. We’re inadequate, incomplete or deficient in some fundamental way. It’s a “wound” that seems to lie at the core of who we are. This deep sense of inner hurt is usually accompanied by some kind of physical contraction as well. In other words, we can feel these core stories in our hearts and in our bodies. This wound gets triggered by things like our relationships, our finances, our appearance, our careers or in anything else from which we derive a sense of self or personal identity.
Like the Wizard of Oz pulling levers and turning knobs from behind the curtain, these core stories of deficiency are behind the “curtain of our awareness,” causing drama and pain in our relationships, as well as addictions and compulsions, self-sabotaging tendencies, anxiety, insecurity, low self-esteem, loneliness, depression and the general sense of dis-ease that too many of us live with every day.
In moments when we are triggered in relationship—our partner, ex, friend or boss says something that stings or does something that sets us off—the fight or flight response becomes activated, along with emotions like fear, anger or sadness. But when we look deeper, the person we’re convinced is the cause of our pain, is merely reflecting back, or mirroring to us, our particular core story of deficiency.
Let’s say you’re dating someone for a couple of weeks and things seem to be going very, very well. But then, without any explanation, this person just disappears. They don’t call and they don’t return your calls. Like Houdini, they’ve disappeared and you’re really upset. In other words, you’re triggered—big time.
Why? Well, if you’ll look with quiet awareness, you’ll discover that, like poking a beehive, their disappearing act poked your core story of being—for sake of discussion—unlovable. Deep down you believe that you are unlovable and that’s the reason you took it so personally. They rejected you.
Now, imagine for a moment that you didn’t have this core story, this identity of being unlovable. How would you react to their disappearing act? Well, you might be confused and even think (as I would) that not being straight with you wasn’t very honorable, but it wouldn’t feel personal. It wouldn’t mean anything about you, as if something is wrong with you. In fact, you might respond, “Great. I’m glad they recognized that we’re not right for each other. Better to know that sooner than later.” And that’s it. No emotional residue. It’s not about you.
But the reason why it does trigger you is because you believe you’re unlovable. It can’t be otherwise. Your “I am unlovable button” was pushed, and consequently, you were triggered, becoming very upset.
Now, is it possible to not take something like that personally, to not make it mean something about you? It is. The Living Inquiry process is a path to such freedom. All you have to do is inquire, which means to question what you assume to be real.
In my experience, any attempt to change the way we live, love or even lead without working directly with these core stories of deficiency is a waste of time, for our lives will always reflect who we believe ourselves to be.
It is for this reason that I entered into an intense training process with spiritual teacher and author, Scott Kiloby. A significant part of his life’s work is helping people identify and see through these core stories of deficiency. He has developed a simple yet profoundly powerful process called “Living Inquiry.” It’s a way of looking directly at, and seeing through, the stories that are ultimately responsible for the pain and misery we experience in life, love or leadership. I am excited to announce that I am now certified to bring this incredible inquiry process to my clients. They’ve changed my life; they continue to change my life; they will change your life as well.
Three Kinds of Inquiry
“Living Inquiry” is the overall name for three particular kinds of Inquiry, each focusing on a particular part of life that trips us up.
There is the (1) Unfindable Inquiry, which is the primary inquiry and it focuses on our core stories of deficiency; (2) the Compulsion Inquiry, which focuses on activities and substances that seem to control us, and (3) the Anxiety Inquiry, which focuses on the stuff that keeps us up at night—feelings of fear, worry, panic, angst and dis-ease. Here’s a brief description of them.
(1) The Unfindable Inquiry
For years, my approach to dealing with core stories in my client’s lives (and mine too, truth be told) was to help them understand where the story came from, how it operated in their lives and how to cope with it. I believed that having insight about the past would allow my clients to better manage the present. It helped a little, but if I’m honest, deep transformation rarely, if ever, happened. We usually got mired in the bottomless pit of self-analysis and blame.
That approach, which is very common, usually doesn’t work because it’s like “putting lipstick on a pig.” The focus is cosmetic and surface-oriented, while the core story is left firmly in tact. The client still believes they’re a pig! And since we always act in accordance with who we believe ourselves to be, real transformation is literally impossible.
But now with the Unfindable Inquiry all that has changed. The Unfindable Inquiry allows a person to see that there really is no wound there at all! The wound is merely thoughts, emotions, and sensations welded or Velcro-ed together, making it seem real.
Using the Unfindable Inquiry, we look at each thought, emotion, and sensation in the story, individually, and ask, “Is this the self?” “Is this the one who is unlovable, unwanted, lost or not good enough?” The wounded self and the entire story is seen to be unfindable. And this unfindability is not an intellectual understanding. It is a direct experience that no amount of self-analysis can reveal. It’s the seeing that there is no self there to be inadequate, incomplete, imperfect, bad, wrong, unloved, or powerless in the first place.
The Unfindable Inquiry process is a gentle, loving conversation where I, as a facilitator, ask you questions and you answer “yes” or “no,” depending on what you find to be true in your experience. It’s simple.
Think of it this way: Let’s say you tell me you have a red pair of shoes in your closet. You’re sure of it. So I say, “Great. Let’s go look for them and see if we can find them.” It’s not that I don’t believe you. It’s just that I want you to discover if what you assume is true actually is true.
As we go into the closet, I begin pointing at things like blouses, pants, belts or black shoes, and as I point at each one of them, I ask, “Is that the red shoes?” You look, and answer. “No, that is a blouse or pants or belts or black shoes. No, that isn’t what we’re looking for.”
Eventually, we’ll go through every item in your closet. If we find the red shoes, then you’re right. You do have red shoes. If we don’t find them, then you’re left with the awareness, “Wow. I really thought I had a pair of red shoes. I can’t find them though. I guess I don’t have red shoes after all.”
That’s what the Unfindable Inquiry process is like. You have a story of being, for example, unlovable. In fact, you have a lot of evidence and reason to believe it’s true. And if it’s true, we should be able to look within and find this person who’s unlovable. So, we’ll look at thoughts, emotions, memories, words, pictures and sensations, and one-by-one, I’ll ask, “Is this thought, emotion, memory, word, picture or sensation the one who’s unlovable?”
If we do this and you actually find the person who’s unlovable, then you’re right. You are unlovable. But if we don’t find “the one who’s unlovable,” then the whole story is seen to be nothing more than an thought. There is no separate self that can be found, there is no person who’s unlovable. As the old sage, Wei Wu Wei, put it:
“Why are you unhappy?
Because 99.9 percent
Of everything you think, and
Of everything you do,
Is for yourself—
And there isn’t one.”
This may sound a little weird. But it cannot be understood or grasped intellectually. I’ve tried my best to explain it and give you a feel for it. But even though I’m a good writer, I can guarantee that I haven’t come close to capturing its power or essence. This process is beyond mind. The mind can’t understand it, because the mind is what’s creating the illusion of a separate, wounded you in the first place.
You have to be facilitated to experience the power of what I’m describing. It’s like the Grand Canyon. If you’ve been there, you know words or even pictures don’t do it justice. Not even close. You have to go there and see it for yourself to really appreciate it. It’s the same with these Inquiries. You have to do the Inquiry with a trained facilitator and personally experience the realization that everything you’ve taken yourself to be isn’t true or findable.
In summary, then, the Unfindable Inquiry is about discovering who you are by seeing who you aren’t.
(2-3) The Compulsion and Anxiety Inquiries
These final two Inquiries work essentially the same way the Unfindable Inquiry does, but instead of looking for a self or an identity that seems to be real, we look for a command, in the case of the Compulsion Inquiry, or a threat, in the case of the Anxiety Inquiry. In both cases, they feel real, solid and true. But when you look from awareness, neither a command nor a threat can be found. They’re unfindable.
Imagine a simple process that releases you from the perceived command to engage in a compulsive activity like gambling, pornography or shopping, or, the joy of being released from the command to use substances like cigarettes, alcohol or sweets! No willpower or self-discipline is necessary. When I facilitate your Inquiry, the command drops away, and the “have-to-do-it” urge drops away too.
Imagine, also, how wonderful it would be to be set free from the worry, fear and anxiety that tortures your soul and keeps you awake at night? All that’s necessary to experience such peace is to actually look for the threat or danger you perceive to be real and discover that it’s unfindable too! It’s just a thought that comes and goes in awareness. When you inquire, the threat is seen through and in its place arises a peace that is “beyond all understanding.”
If these brief descriptions have peeked your curiosity, the next step would be to begin a dialogue with me. I’m sure you have questions. I know I did when I first heard of the inquires. So call me. Let’s talk. No charge to explore. If you choose to allow me to be your facilitator, the actual Inquiries last about an hour and they can be done by phone, Skype or in person. I don’t discuss price here. We’ll do that when we talk. Let me know if I can support you being at ease in the world.
Finally, I’ve included a link to a video in which Scott Kiloby, the creator of “Living Inquiry,” describes the Unfindable Inquiry in detail. I also invite you to join the Facebook page devoted to this work, “Relationship and the Unfindable Self.” On that page, you’ll find many, many people who are inquiring and seeing their lives changed dramatically.
All the best,
Relationship Coach, Author and Fox 35’s Relationship Expert
Certified Living Inquiries Facilitator
Author & Spiritual Teacher