Unfindable Inquiry

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The inquiries in this book are based on actual sessions I’ve had with people. Names have been changed, along with some of the circumstances, to protect the privacy of the individuals involved. In the example inquiry in this chapter, Caleb is trying to find the victim he takes himself to be. I’ve done this inquiry with people on just about every identity you can imagine, from father to CEO to worthless self.

I’ve also done the inquiry with people on the basic belief in being a separate self (ego) without putting any additional label on it, like “worthless self.” It works well either way.

I have to say, though, that the inquiry is most potent when you add a label to it. Just as the word “leaf” doesn’t point to any particular kind of leaf in the forest, the word “self” doesn’t point to anything in particular, but when you name a leaf a “maple leaf,” you know exactly what you are trying to find, and when you add a label to the self (such as “the one who isn’t good enough” or “the victim”), you know exactly what you are trying to find—the identity you take yourself to be.

We all have different stories that we take ourselves to be, and it’s helpful to give a particular label to the content of your story. I think the remaining chapters of the book will make this idea clearer.

It may sound funny to say that you cannot find your self when you try to really look for it, but give the inquiry a try. It may surprise you.

Even though it may feel strange to look for something that seems to be obviously there, it is a powerful inquiry. The self that you try to find is empty when you look for it. “Empty” means “unfindable.”

The Unfindable Inquiry can be used on anything, not just a self. I encourage you to look for anything that you feel exists in a separate, objective, inherent way. You can look for any person, place, or thing that feels objective. For example, you could look for “my crappy life,” “cancer,” “death,” “awakening,” “suffering,” “America,” “the dining room table,” or “my friend Barbara.”

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