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can you truly listen openly without a response?

Inquiry as a Mindfulness Practice

Hard to do with amazing results …….

A republished interview –  the first offering in a new series and project – The Listening Project. Stay tuned.

Hope you enjoy and employ the teaching from my interview with Jeanne Haskel, Enneagram Teacher, Coach and Consultant

What type are you?
The nine Enneagram types

 

Jeanne, at the end of each of our ENNEAGRAM classes, you have us do an inquiry reflecting one of the 9 types we are learning about. I’ve found it powerful on several levels. I’d love to ask you a few questions about the purpose, benefits ….

CAN YOU GIVE US AN OVERVIEW OF WHAT INQUIRY IS?

This is a process of exploring your consciousness, opening to Higher Mind, a way of inquiring into what you come into contact with within yourself in that moment of inquiry. When you simply inquire with your mind, all you’ll get is more mental understanding. If you want to move to the deeper levels, this process of inquiry helps you to experience the connection between the body, mind, and heart. It’s about being curious about what you find. It is not aimed at getting to a certain insight. You turn the flashlight on and you don’t know what it’s going to land on. There is a natural process of unwinding that will begin to happen that can transform us.

We haven’t used feedback yet in our group, but sometimes we take up to five minutes to make a couple of comments, intended to support the speaker in having more understanding. It’s not to facilitate, or analyze, or tell what we think is going on with each other. It’s about about the impact on you, as listener.
 
 

WHERE DID THIS TECHNIQUE ORIGINATE?

My understanding is that it essentially derived from Buddhism. However, A.H. Almaas further developed this particular method of rigorous (self) inquiry in his path of Self-Realization called The Diamond Approach. I first experienced this technique when I was studying to become a certified Enneagram teacher at The Enneagram Institute, whose founders were students of the Diamond Approach. I have since gone on to work with this discipline as well.
 
 
HOW CAN OUR READERS APPLY THIS PERSONALLY AND PROFESSIONALLY?
 
The process of inquiry is structured so that one person speaks, in monologue fashion, while one or more persons listen deeply, in a safe and confidential environment. A question is posed, generally taken from a reading or teaching, like an Enneagram teaching, for instance. One person speaks for a period of time (3 – 20 minutes), specified in advance. The key is to  let what arises to come out spontaneously, in as truthful and compassionate a way as possible. The goal is to speak with an open, not closed, mind – not anticipating, not being certain about what’s there already. But to allow yourself to be at that edge where what’s happening inside of you is simply unfolding without preconceptions, fixed ideas. The listeners provide a quiet, non judgmental mirror, listening but not commenting, staying neutral and paying full attention. This means no head nods or facial expressions.
 
 

WHEN I AM THE LISTENER, I FOUND IT DIFFICULT TO LISTEN ATTENTIVELY. I WANTED TO USE A VISUAL OR VERBAL RESPONSE. REALLY HARD AS I LOVE TO REFLECT AND ENCOURAGES. WHY IS THIS “NON-RESPONSE” SO IMPORTANT.

Yes, it’s very hard to resist the temptation to nod or show approval, be natural and not stiff or artificial. However, a nod or show of approval is, to quote my teacher, “an insidious form of our superego telling the person speaking to do more of what you want to hear more of.” In other words, it influences where the speaker is going. By contrast, being an attentive neutral witness is a great gift to the person speaking. It creates a container, holds the speaker, and gives them space to follow their own impulses, threads, etc., allowing the unconscious mind to reveal itself vs. get caught in a “performance” for the listener. There’s something magical that happens when we can communicate what’s going on with us without interference. It develops a kind of intimacy with ourselves and our own process in the presence of others. As a listener you learn a lot about yourself in being a mirror. You get to practice simply being present, vs. interpreting someone else’s experience or trying to improve it in any way. Instead you generously offer permission for the other to feel what ever they feel.
 
 
WHEN I ANSWER THE INQUIRY,  IT’S TOUGH NOT TO GET FEEDBACK FROM THE LISTENER. YET,  I HAD AMAZING INSIGHTS EVEN IN THE FEW MINUTES YOU GAVE US. PLEASE SAY MORE ABOUT THIS.
 
I’m so glad to hear you say this, and it’s my experience, too. When we learn how to inquire into our experience in an effective way, illusions tend to open up and reveal what’s deeper. The world of the personality, built on beliefs and convictions, is questioned, opened up so we can see what’s real. There tends to be relief in acknowledging the truth, even when it’s painful; it has it’s own kind of gratification because it’s real, what is happening to me, what is really going on. Our hearts love to be with the truth of our experience. And as we let ourselves deeply inquire into our experience, whatever has ultimate reality will, in time, reveal itself. If we want to wake up, we can respond to the call to take a clear-eyed look.
 
AND FINALLY, DO YOU HAVE ANY RESOURCES TO DIRECT OUR READERS IN CASE THEY WOULD LIKE TO USE THIS TECHNIQUE IN THEIR PRACTICE OR PERSONAL LIFE?
 

Yes, I highly recommend The Unfolding Now: Realizing Your True Nature through the Practice of Presence, by A.H. Almaas.

Jeanne, thanks for sharing this with us.  I can’t wait for the next class – of course, you are a great resource and, if you live in Vermont, I recommend you take one of Jeanne courses. Visit Jeane Haskell.

2 thoughts on “Inquiry as a Mindfulness Practice”

  1. Well Janet, I wrote a lot of comments and questions to this article and then realized and laughed – no one is going to respond, because that is the point of the whole article – to communicate to myself. everyone else is just hearing a bunch of words that have no meaning to them. How could I even call that communicating? Would there even be communication? There would be no need for that word in our language.

    1. Tod, That’s a perfect response – it was a true self inquiry with humor. Loved the ah ha moment you shared. Hugs,
      ~ Janet

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