Contemplative Inquiry: Questioning as a Way to Realizing Stillness

Contemplative inquiry allows us to discover a spaciousness within that can be a rich source of joy and resilience. The process of examining one’s mental events or physical circumstances isn’t just about looking into causes and possible solutions, it is a way to end our reliance on deeply ingrained patterns and predispositions. Contemplative questions frame a path to recognizing what causes us pain as well as connecting with what is truly meaningful to us. Surprisingly, a steady gazing into the issues that concern us rather than striving to find answers is most conducive to allowing openness and tolerance to emerge.

Questioning brings into conscious awareness the drive behind our actions and urges. It reveals our need to understand why we suffer and how the search for certainty underlies all our thoughts and activities. The struggle to accomplish and succeed is a cause for impatience and frustration. Contemplative questions permit a sitting with the way things are and illuminate our perpetual quest for resolution and control. Increasing tolerance for disturbance increases the capacity for finding happiness. Contemplative inquiry facilitates the scrutiny of what is discordant and the willingness to face uncertainty and confusion.

contemplative inquiry

Take for instance, sitting with the question, “What is certain?”. This holding in mind is not meant to be an exercise in rumination or for coming up with answers that will fulfill some need. It is meant to be a vantage point from which to view moment to moment experience. Instead of viewing the world from the perspective of our sense of self or through some belief or need, we witness everything through the question. The question becomes our lens and the unknown becomes our platform for observation. We can frame any number of contemplative questions. What is this? What is the known? Where is the observer? And so on. If we happen to come up with a specific, pointed answer, we view that too through the original question. Doing this generates a sense of wonder and lets us look directly at what is limiting and inflexible within us. As living beings, it might be difficult to be free of causes and conditions and their effects, however we can learn to process whatever is unfolding in an open ended fashion. Contemplative inquiry of this kind permits the redirection of stimulus processing to enable happier living and enhanced adaptability.

If you would like, do take a look at a related article by us on how contemplative activities generate well-being.

How Contemplative Activities Generate Wellbeing
Contemplation has been simply defined as regarding steadily. The act of sustaining attention on any mental

The quality of our experience is influenced greatly by our need for variety and novelty. This tendency keeps us in a state of perpetual yearning. The exploration of the nature of our experience and the world with a fresh framework is not only stimulating, it allows us to perceive a vividness in even the most mundane. It becomes possible to access a richness, a completeness that is not dependent on circumstances. The demand for constructing a particular way of existence abates and there is a stilling, a quieting. Realizing stillness becomes possible and we begin to discern a newness in what was previously apprehended as inadequate or even disturbing. We can approach any facet of our life with this kind of contemplative inquiry. Working with contemplative questions magnifies our view and brings into conscious awareness the mechanisms behind fixed patterns and drives.

As mentioned earlier, this form of questioning is not thinking things through or a search for the means to change or improve. It is a way of enhancing our view so that we can recognize the origins of our suffering and our joy. Contrary to popular opinion, this connection with origins is all that is needed to redesign the quality of experience. Appreciation of the workings behind appearances and our activities and expectations lessens the need to engineer outcomes and finding meaning and insight becomes a focus as well as a source of contentment. With such a shift in emphasis, we begin to reevaluate our intentions and motivations and there is a cessation of wasteful tendencies and unnecessary thoughts and actions. This is the beginning of realizing stillness.

contemplative questions

The simple viewing of the reasons behind our actions, thoughts and emphases enlivens our experiences and we start to take joy in contemplative inquiry. Doing so consistently develops our ability to look into what was previously considered unapproachable or beyond reach. Not only do we learn to grow, we learn to appreciate the value of whatever we are endowed with. Exploration of the difficult, the unfamiliar and the unknown begin to appear within our reach and the expansion of our horizons becomes less anxiety provoking. Perhaps, and most importantly, confusion as well as the dread of uncertainty lessens and we begin to find stillness and silence even when in the midst of the discomfort and distractions of everyday life.

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