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Thoughts on Philosophical Self-Inquiry Discussion
Art Ticknor / Working with Others

1. Philosophy: the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence.

2. Self-inquiry: looking within for answers; looking for the real self among the many selves.

3. Objective: the end of suffering:

  • Gautama Buddha reportedly used the Sanskrit word dukkha, which has various transliterations such as suffering, impermanence, and conditioned states of mind.
  • We yearn for the unconditional: love, truth, certainty, permanence, etc.

4. Focus: finding our true identity.

5. How: going within:

  • Life is a hard lesson.
  • The absolute trust, love, or peace, etc., that we're looking for can only be found within, at the core of our being.
  • It's there, awaiting our discovery.
  • We're there, awaiting our recognition.
  • When we find it, we see the suffering in/of life with a new perspective.

6. Primary technique to facilitate discussion groups: confrontation:

  • Comes from a root meaning of "face to face."
  • A friendly questioning aimed at helping participants see the obstacles in their paths.
  • Each participant has an opportunity to voice a strong opinion or complaint relevant to their life and well-being, followed by questions from others.
    • Monitored by one participant who stays outside the fray.

7. Questioning (98% of the process):

  • Not to solve incidental problems but to remember the focus and objective.
  • Trying to avoid loaded questions (selling our "superior" views), advice, preaching, etc.
  • An exercise in empathy; asking questions to help feel and understand where the other person is "coming from."
  • Helping to challenge and see through faulty identifications (dis-illusionment).
  • This process may rock the boat, threatening our core beliefs, producing angry, defensive reactions when our ego-self is offended.

8. Doing Zen

  • "Zen" comes from the Sanskrit word dhyana meaning concentration or focus.
  • Count your breath silently for 5 minutes.
    • How many did you get to before losing count?
  • If you were consciously watching the counting, you were "doing Zen."
  • The ultimate purpose of Zen is self-realization: knowing our true, present identity with full awareness (to borrow a phrase from Douglas Harding).
  • That's also the purpose of philosophical self-inquiry. Intentional self-inquiry incorporates Zen.
  • To know your present identity, you need to be in the present.
    • Doing Zen or self-inquiry is moving in that direction – by watching the mind and watching the watching. Being in the present brings us back beyond time.

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