The Power of Inquiry


Inquiry focuses our attention.

As Goethe said, “We must plunge into experience and then reflect on the meaning of it. All reflection and no plunging drives us mad; all plunging and no reflection, and we are brutes."

Inquiry helps us learn.

As Edward Hubble comments, "Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science."

Inquiry opens us to uncertain outcomes.

Ayya Khema says, "If the whole universe can be found in our own body and mind, this is where we need to make our inquires. We all have the answers within ourselves, we just have not got in touch with them yet. The potential of finding the truth within requires faith in ourselves."

Inquiry asks us to have faith in new answers.

Thomas Merton writes:
"All theology is a kind of birthday
Each one who is born
Comes into the world as a question
For which old answers
Are not sufficient…"

Interestingly, quotes about inquiry are often from religion or science. For me, inquiry is at the heart of what it means to be human. It's like there's a thread running through us that holds everything together. We've gotten used to our unique pattern of loops, knots, and twists. We feel held and safe. Yet we are limited by the very thing that holds us together!

The thread is the self-image. It holds our movement patterns, our emotions, and our choices. If we start to inquire whether those knots really and truly have to be there, something opens up. What was tight becomes slack. What was twisted becomes smooth. Behavior and movement become pliable and spacious. Letting go of inner boundaries means re-threading the self-image into a new, less tangled version with fewer knots.


Dr. Feldenkrais writes that,

"One has to set about learning to learn as is befitting for the most important business in human life; that is, with serenity but without solemnity, with patient objectivity and without compulsive seriousness. Clenching the fists, tensing the eyebrows, tightening the jaw are expressions of impotent effort. It is possible to succeed in spite of these faults only at the expense of truly healthy joy of living. Learning must be undertaken and is really profitable when the whole frame is held in a state where smiling can turn into laughter without interference, naturally, spontaneously."

We all know that old answers follow old, well-worn paths. So where do we get new answers? From new inspiration, new insight, and new connections. This means finding our own process of self-inquiry. All kinds of questions from all kinds of traditions help us stay in a state of learning. Try questions like, "What are you aware of? What do you notice? Where is your attention? Where do you feel light or heavy? Long or short? Which arm is smooth, which is clunky? Which foot is trusting, which foot is hesitating?" And keep asking.