Inquiry: the art of checking in
During your private Tantra session you did this exercise that we call ‘inquiry’. You and your partner took turns speaking and listening to each other.
Inquiry allows you to bring your full attention to your experience in the moment, while your partner is witness to your process.
In normal conversations, we mainly talk about what we think. But our thoughts are usually about the future or about the past. We rarely say something about the NOW.
While ‘now’ is the only moment in which you can experience intimacy.
In an inquiry I get closer to myself and also closer to my partner. I hear how he’s doing. What he is enjoying or struggling with. I usually experience more understanding, openness and space for him after our inquiry. I really enjoy our daily ‘check in’ like this together.
Because Jeroen only listens and does not react to my words, he gives me space to follow my own trail. There is attention and space for both of us: I can relax, knowing I will give this same gift to him.
A disclaimer: the practice of inquiry is very simple, but not easy. I think the exercise is powerful even if you’re still figuring out how to say something about your experience in the moment. I keep practicing myself too!
In short, the Rules for Inquiry:
1. Agree in advance how long your inquiry will take: between 2 and 15 minutes per person
2. Set a timer so you don’t have to worry about the time (you both get the same amount of time)
3. One speaks about your experience in the moment, the other just listens and does not respond
4. The listener offers eye contact, but as a speaker you decide whether or not you look (back).
5. In both roles you are curious about every detail of your experience: feelings, physical sensations, thoughts.
6. When the time is up, simply finish your last sentence. Then switch.
In an Inquiry you are totally free. You can keep your eyes open or closed. You can move your body, growl, yawn, stretch, dance, gesticulate: anything that helps you feel and express yourself.
When you speak, try to speak as much as possible about what you are experiencing NOW. And nothing is more NOW than the sensations in your body. So: what do you notice in your body?
From there you describe whatever your attention naturally goes to: thoughts, feelings, physical sensations. Nothing is unimportant.
You probably don’t know where this will lead. Maybe you are wondering about the importance of your experience… but that’s exactly what’s so adventurous about it. It’s like following a thread, so to speak, down the rabbit hole. It helps if you can remain open and curious as much as possible.
Describing your experience
Sometimes it works well to use metaphors to describe your experience. For example: it can feel like molten gold in your body, like an ice landscape or like a splashing mountain stream. You may feel a tightening rubber band around your chest, or an open space in your abdomen… You will probably notice that your experience will change or deepen as you talk about it. Which is one of the essential teachings of Tantra: energy, when you allow it, is always changing.
Your thoughts are a part of your experience
Your thoughts are an important layer of your experience, as are your feelings and your physical sensations. Your thoughts arise in the now, so they have a place in your inquiry. Only, because thoughts are seldom about the now. So the trick is to return to the now, after articulating a thought.
You will notice that your body has a very clear response to every thought that arrises within you. You may feel more space in your body, or more tension. And you can say something about that.
If there is tension; how exactly does it feel? Is there something heavy pressing on your chest? A lump in your throat? Or, if there is more space: where can you feel it? How big is that space? Is this space empty or filled? With a color maybe, or a certain material?
The more details the easier it becomes to return to the now. Sometimes your head wants to ‘help’ you out of the experience, by wanting to understand what you are experiencing. Maybe you say: ‘Geez, my head is working overtime, how I want to understand this… I only feel my head now. My mind spins like a hamster wheel…’ And there you are: back in this moment.
Often, when you acknowledge what is going on inside of you – whether you like your experience or not – more space or relaxation happens. Take all the time to follow the process and find the words to describe it. You may notice that your experience deepens as you talk about it. ‘The wheel spins faster and faster… Oh. Now seems to be dissolving a bit. There is more space around the wheel… a pleasantly quiet and dark space, full of a kind of soft electric tingling…’
The listener can simply relax. That sounds easy, but it is actually quite an art.
Especially when you are inquiring with your lover, you might notice all sorts of tendencies in yourself. In social conversation we are so inclined to ask a question, to fill up an awkward silence, to nod encouragingly, to complement a story, to hum, to start a discussion, to let the other know you understand…
When you listen, you practice just being. Just be, even while your partner moves through things that look difficult. We are so inclined to solve everything for the other! It can be very helpful for your relationship to see that your partner can just do it him or herself. Or to see that it is not a bad thing at all, to let them find out how to do it themselves.
In fact; very nice if that’s allowed, because usually this urge for perfection takes us further away from our relaxation and truth.
Listening like the Buddha
As a listener you might imagine that you are like the Buddha: relaxed and present. As a Buddha, you listen to the words of your loved one, as well as to the responses to those words in your own body.
By the way, you don’t have to put on a poker face. Allow your emotions to flow through you; whether it is a tear rolling down your cheeks or laughter; these are natural responses. My own teacher always says very beautifully: ‘You don’t have to create anything, but you don’t have to push back anything either’.
Sometimes your partner will inquire with eyes closed. Yet still you offer eye contact so that you ‘are there’ when your partner does look back.
If you find yourself wandering off, no problem! Kindly bring your attention back to here and now. You can fully assume that your presence is more than enough. That’s all you need to ‘do’.
In contact with your inner compass
Inquiry helps you to feel what you feel. It also helps you to feel what is really important to you. Most of the time, we tend to do what we think we should be doing, ignoring our body’s signals telling us we’d rather be doing something else.
Inquiry helps you to not only put your thoughts into words, but also to learn to listen (again) to the wisdom of your body. These signals can then start working for you as an inner compass.
That’s not always comfortable, by the way. Do you dare to cancel the appointment with that energy devouring friend, and take good care of yourself? Sometimes it is very pleasant for those around you if you don’t follow your inner compass…
You may discover all kinds of situations in your life where you tend to ignore your body’s signals. Do not worry. Becoming aware of this, in my experience, is the most important step towards a more relaxed and energized life.
Requirements for Inquiry:
- Time. Take anywhere between 2 to 15 minutes, times two.
- A timer. For example the free Insight Timer App with the relaxing sound of a gong at the end.
- A comfortable seat opposite each other. You may sit on the couch, on a meditation cushion, at the kitchen table, in the bath…
I wish you a great time together!