Many of us are confused when we first learn about inquiry–the tendency is to turn our inquiry outward, to question about the meaning of life, or our beliefs, in relation to other peoples’. But inquiry really means turning around, and looking at the source of our experience. It takes a while to get the hang of it, because it is completely counter to what society teaches us.
My thirteenth summer, I went to a ranch horse camp in Colorado for two months–delicious fun. Soon after I returned home, my mother called me to her desk, and pointed to the eight letters I had written from camp–a Sunday requirement before we could eat dinner. “Your sentences all begin with ‘I,'” she said. She had circled all the “I”s with dark red pencil. “This is an ugly sign of self-centeredness.”
But how to express the experience I was having at camp without using the personal pronoun? I was dumbfounded–and humiliated–by her judgment.
Fifty years later, when I was introduced to inquiry, the instructions were exactly the opposite from my upbringing. “Look to the source of your experience,” my teacher said. “Stay with yourself. Don’t leave home.”
Initially this was very uncomfortable. I felt my mother–now dead–shaking her head, and her finger, at me. I smile, thinking of all her social training washing quietly down the drain.
© Amrita Skye Blaine, 2013