Inquiry #1: simply observing
How should we begin and proceed with the inquiry?
In the beginning, it will take some time to stabilise and merge the attention with the sense of conscious presence – the goal of inquiry. Be willing, at each attempt, to devote twenty or thirty minutes for this work. Start by holding on only to the sense of being or ‘I am-self,’ to the exclusion of other thoughts.
Thoughts and feelings will swim up and the attention will tend to drift off with them. Don’t identify or fight with these tendencies, don’t judge them. Adopt an impersonal attitude, by simply observing their play or movement without involvement, whilst holding onto or remaining as the intuition ‘I am.’ Watch the tendency to lapse into thinking. Hold onto being, only.
However many times the attention wanders off, keep bringing it back to presence. Don’t begin the inquiry as yet. I call this stabilising or taming the wild-horse mind. Gradually, the mind, when denied the food of attention, belief and interest, will begin settling down by itself. There will then arise a feeling of increased space, clarity and peace as the attention stabilises, and the sense of presence becomes more pronounced. This is a state of natural stillness and joy; healthy being.
Inquiry #2: subjective existence
I have arrived at a stage of observation a number of times, but how to make it stable?
The inquiry hasn’t yet begun. This is merely settling the mind and attention down. A good time to begin inquiring, initially, is when strong identification is present and much energy and attention tend to rush towards managing, manipulating or judging. These are the key signs that Presence, which is naturally impersonal, open, formless and clear, has shifted into ego-personality mode.
This shift is a sort of descent into a lower state and is often accompanied by sensations of restlessness in the beingness. Mostly, we have become so accustomed to this state of identification that we accept it as normal.
Now, as I have said earlier, as soon as the attention has merged with the presence ‘I am,’ natural peace and space prevail. Mind is calm. Find if there exists here any separation or difference between this calm and the sense ‘I am,’ the natural feeling of subjective existence.
Observe. Feel. Don’t think.
Now, your question: How to stabilise in this state? Examine this question. Who is making the question? Who is here to stabilise anything and is there something to stabilise? Look and see.
Inquiry #3: don’t form any conclusion
When I try to follow your instructions, what tends to happen is… my attention just flies off. I find it difficult to go deeper.
Yes. What sees the attention flying off? What or who says: “It is difficult to go deeper”? Find out for yourself. It is as though something resists this exploration, isn’t it? Like something does not want to be found out, doesn’t want to be seen or discovered. Forceful distraction comes up at this point, resulting in the attention flying off and mostly landing on trivia.
Gently return to the question each time the attention strays. Don’t fall into: “Oh no! I’ve lost it again!” As well, do not accept any answer the mind gives – such as ‘I am Awareness,’ ‘I am the Witness only.’
It may even seem that the ‘problematic I,’ the ego, suddenly vanishes, leaving a sense of calm and emptiness.
Mistakenly, the inquiry is then prematurely abandoned, leaving a false sense of victory. This being a false peace as often, the mischievous ‘I’ starts up again very quickly.
So the point here is: remain in the sense ‘I am the witness,’ but don’t give any image or identity to this witnessing sense. Watch the sense ‘I,’ without thought. ‘Feel’ it out.
Stay with fixing the attention on this. Do not be hurried or put off the ‘scent’ of the ‘I’ by any distracting thought. Gradually, any personal quality attaching itself to the ‘I’ will begin falling away, leaving only the intuitive and imageless sense ‘I am,’ without the intrusion of the thought-current. Remain in this as this. Don’t form any conclusion in mind. Stay as open, neutral non-objective awareness.
Inquiry #4: confirm yourself
I see that this is easy now, here, with the help of your guidance and presence but when my mind rushes up again and you are not here to guide my attention, the same struggle will arise.
That’s like space having mistakenly identified itself as wind, and then realising it is not wind, but that in which wind moves – and then asking: “I see now, I am space only and not wind, how can I remain as space when the wind comes again?”
You are to remain so fixed in the Self, as to confirm yourself as the Awareness-presence alone, that the thought ‘I am the body-mind-personality’ has no holding ground. When, like this, the consciousness recognises, registers and experiences this truth of itself beyond doubt, the ego with all its limitations is driven off. And it will be so weakened through this direct seeing, that even though it returns through the force of habit, its power is severely reduced each time. Gradually, it perishes in that form, from what I call ‘the lack of oxygen,’ meaning you deny interest and belief. It becomes like a cooked seed, unable to sprout even if planted in the best soil.