I did not post my first writing assignment on the forum, but since others were open enough to share them last week, I decided to post this week’s assignment here as well…
“[We can] loosen the hold that the self has on knowledge by [evoking] the joy that comes through inquiry.”
The practice of inquiry is something I treasure in my life, and have treasured for many years. While I am engaged in various forms of inquiry at this time in my life, I was able to dedicate myself to it more fully and passionately when I was younger and in different circumstances – such as when I was living and working in India. At that time, I had the good fortune to study and teach at a Krishnamurti school near Varanasi. I taught a creative writing class several hours a week, and worked a few hours each morning in the library, in exchange for room, board, and huge swaths of time to give to study and self-inquiry.
For a number of months, my primary practice was to take long walks around the study center grounds (along trails Krishnamurti used to walk), attending closely to the movements of thought. I was deeply interested in this exploration, and I found a natural nourishment in this inquiry: insight, interest, and energy formed a reinforcing loop, and I dove into these practices for many hours at a time without tiring. I had learned to attend to thought more as process than in terms of its content, but I still was puzzling over Krishnamurti’s “choiceless awareness” in relation to the ever-present sense of self or the ‘observer.’
One day, this intensive searching seemed to ripen, blossoming in a sense of great, upwelling joy. I had been walking for hours, watching thought and the play of image closely, and eventually I came to rest on a small hill in the middle of a meadow as the sun was setting. Peacocks were gathering and making their way up to the treetops for the night. The mound of warm earth beneath me felt like the comforting lap of a mother. My inward searching and reflection came to a natural rest, and something imperceptibly but profoundly shifted in my awareness. The sense of identification with thought dropped completely; thought began to move in an entirely different orbit, entering awareness and leaving it just like any other perception – birdsong, the movement of leaves, the feel of the sun – without in any way ‘commanding’ attention or claiming the ‘center.’ Awareness was open, balanced, and de-centered (from the thinker or narrative thought). Luminous well-being tinged both body and mind, and as I walked home, I could feel my body arising and vanishing in what seemed like millions of joyful bubbles of energy. This experience lasted through the night, and was with me as well when I awoke the next morning, but eventually faded by the end of the second day.
I tell this particular story because it is one of the clearest examples in my life of the joy of sustained inquiry ‘loosening’ self’s claim to the center, to the central position of ‘owner’ of experience.