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Staying open and curious

Updated: Feb 6, 2023

We need to talk about the importance of being open and curious when it comes to inquiry and shadow work. This is often overlooked, and I would say the number one barrier for people doing this work is doubt which leads to overthinking. By doubt I mean not trusting what comes up for you and getting stuck in analyzing. This is nothing to be ashamed of really since we live in a culture that really reinforces conceptual analysis to the point that we are all completely divorced from our intuition.

Also, if you are on a spiritual path and have done some meditation, you may have been reinforcing the repression of thoughts like I had for many years. Most styles of meditation will teach you to ignore thoughts and just focus on an object like the breath, mantra, visualization, or the senses. If there are thoughts, you ignore them and go back to the object. This is good for building concentration and connecting with spaciousness, but learning to ignore thoughts will reinforce repression and make it more difficult to go within and connect with the shadow.

Here is a a simple experiment to show you the kind of openness I’m referring to. This is what I do with my clients, and it may be difficult to do this in text. But let’s give it a try. If I ask you a simple yes or no question, notice how the answer just pops in.

Read this question to yourself: “Did you eat breakfast today?”

Notice that whatever answer, whether yes or no, just pops right in. You don’t have to go looking for it, debating with yourself, analyzing it to death. You just trusted the answer that came up, right? That’s how you stay open. This is crucial when doing inquiry.

If you have some preconceived notion when asking the question or doubt in your ability to do this, then the answer would not have come up or would have been more difficult to discern. The best way I can describe this is that we need to let the answers or words come to us. We’re so used to put in a lot of effort and willpower into our thinking, but all that effort is unnecessary here. In fact, this gets in the way of doing inquiry and shadow work. So instead, I suggest the view that the words are already here. They are in the body. We do not have to create an answer or figure it out. We just need to learn to listen to a part of us that may have been ignored for years and forgotten about. Its voice may be quiet at first, so staying open and curious is key. Let it come to you.

The words are personal to you, and the hardest part is to connect to the words because we are not used to being open and curious in this way when going within. I will go into more detail in other posts, but one very powerful inquiry we can use when we are triggered is to feel into the body and notice the contraction (front center of your body, like jaw, chest, belly). Then when you feel the contraction, ask yourself "what does this say about me?" and see what words come up. Another one is "what is the deficiency here?" — I want to really stress this: trust the first thing that pops in. Don’t doubt yourself. The answer will usually surprise you because we’re not consciously aware of our shadow, what’s beneath the surface. But we cannot allow what we are not aware of.

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