Three years ago I finished wringing everything I could from my training journals. Having taken time to edit them thoroughly for my blog, I then edited the most suitable ones again and again (and again) for the book. I spent almost five years examining my own detailed reflections from an intense period of learning. It left me wondering where to go next with my development. When I eventually found what I was searching for (in Self Enquiry and the Silent Retreat), I saw that I’d had everything all along. All I needed to do was continue what I had been doing, and see it through to its ultimate conclusion.
Self-enquiry is the logical extension of the work I did with Karaj. Initially it had all been about recognising my conditioning. Karaj helped me to see clearly how the early influences of family, culture and society had played their part in forming who I was. The next step was to transcend that conditioning in order be free of it and create myself anew. The new creation is a vast improvement on all previous ones, but there is still another step to take: transcend the self. Having worked hard on becoming a much better version of myself, further progress requires me to let it all go. (That is why I felt so liberated during the silent retreat.)
The thing is, it’s the same for everyone, at every stage of development. The trick with any learning situation is to distill the specific experience into a general rule which can be applied repeatedly to a variety of situations. That way you are not having to reinvent the wheel each time. The general rule here is to stop searching outside and look inside.
There are a million and one ways to become a better human being. There are methods and models for all aspects of development, and more are being created every day. But you already have everything you need. It is available immediately and always. The problem is that we easily become seduced by stuff which does not serve us. One place to begin, therefore, is to relinquish those aspects of our life which bring us no benefit. And the best way to identify them is to observe and reflect. Look inside.
‘Surely it can’t be that simple?’, you might ask. Why not? Who says it has to be complicated? (By the way, simple does not mean easy. It takes discipline and application, but if you do it regularly it will illuminate your life.) From there, the rest is equally straightforward: Look more closely. Look at your conditioning and see how you came to be who you are. Look deeper. Go beyond the conditioning, beyond even the person you consider yourself to be. Stare into the source of it all, and know that this is your true self. Everything else is a distraction; a mere construction arising out of the infinite.
Each time you are beguiled by the world of distractions, ask ‘To whom is this happening?’ Keep asking and keep looking. One day, in the emptiness, you will discover the answer.