Uncovering Root Inquiries
One pattern that can emerge when people do serious contemplative practice is that very potent questions surface about how to live and how to be. This is a really good sign.
Our deepest questions almost always reflect some aspect of our core wounding. They tend to surface with incredible force in the awakening process. They are burning questions. Root inquires. We simultaneously hate the fact that they arise with such (often inconvenient) force and are tremendously attracted to working on them. In some cases, we hit one that literally seems like the thing we were put on this earth to work on – our life’s koan.
“How do I preserve boundaries and still give all of myself?”
“How do I be assertive without smothering others?”
“How do I be honest and vulnerable when the other person is actively judging and misunderstanding me?”
“How and when do I act on what I want? Particularly when my decisions are connected to the welfare of others around me.”
“When do I take risks around money and survival issues? How do I know when to be practical?”
“How do I work with all of this anger? Is sitting with it enough? Is it ever valid to express it? Are there some situations that actually call for it?”
Before we really start doing inquiry and building trust that wisdom-mind can answer us flawlessly, these kinds of questions tend to be perceived as intractable obstacles. The ego basically perceives them at best as irritating conundrums we can’t solve, and at worst as deep existential threats to the life we have constructed for ourselves.
Because these questions are not fundamentally answerable at the level of the ego (they are above its pay-grade to really engage), all it can really do is enact its familiar strategy of taking a position in order to be safe. We’re always conservative with money (there is no spontaneity). We never eat carbohydrates (they will make us fat). We never let people walk all over us (give them an inch and they will take a mile).
But if we’re interested in freedom, in bringing our patterns to rest, taking mental positions to feel safe doesn’t work. When presence becomes more foreground in our life, there is an invitation to take our obstacles as our path – to take our deepest questions and actually live with them such that the answers can unfold organically from presence, moment-by-moment, situation-by-situation.
These are the questions we actually want to know the answers to! And presence has them!! But the answers are not mental positions. They are not conceptual formulas. They are not templated behavioral strategies.
What they are is spontaneous responses from presence about what is skillful, right now, in this situation, with this person, at this time.
The communication from awareness is specific. It is not an attempt to make some general statement about how reality is, or how other people are, or how you are. It is showing, in this naked instant, where your boundary should be, or whether you should respond, or whether you should walk out, or whether you should hug them, or whether you should be stern.
Our root inquiries are one of the main ways our communication channel with our true nature gets repaired. Why? Because, over many years and decades, we keep asking for guidance in the situations that cause us the most suffering.
As we act on that guidance, slowly we are transformed. And because we do this in our most difficult moments, our trust in our own true nature takes on a pristine, unshakable quality. We are no longer trying to live up to some image of perfection. We are humble. Our intention is simply to listen for what is true and act.
This is real freedom.