Tag Archives: self-enquiry

Meditation on the “Feeling” of Being

A quick Google search of the WWW will quickly reveal just how many types of meditation there are available to practice, each with its own disciplines and techniques. The ultimate goal of each one of them is to go beyond practice and make them “seamless,” then they become your natural state. Seamless meditation is when there is no differentiation or separation between the meditative state and day to day life.

Most people begin meditating by learning to still their mind and make it peaceful, and this is good. Once their mind is still, they can become aware of what they feel. Feelings will then be recognized to exist within a hierarchy. At the top of this hierarchy are the most profound feelings; those of joy, love, bliss and happiness. By meditating on your feelings, a deeper sense of well-being gradually develops and transforms the lower, superficial feelings, like fear, anger, boredom, loneliness etc. into the feelings of love, bliss and deep joy.

Once the whole array of human feelings are available, sit quietly and meditate, focusing on the feeling of being. It’s obvious that you most certainly do exist. You might question exactly who or what you are, but that you do indeed exist, there can be no doubt. So remain sitting and contemplate on this fact that you exist. You’ll soon see that you don’t need to think to exist, you don’t even need to be awake to exist. Neither do you need to be aware of anything to exist. Therefore, gradually let go of everything else so that all that’s left is this feeling of existing, the feeling of “being.” Assume an attitude of indifferent to everything; lose interest in everything during this meditation, apart from that most basic feeling of simply being or existing. Resist the temptation to see yourself as being “something” and just stay with simply being. If it helps, you can ask “do I need this (or that) to exist?” If the answer is no, then immediately let it go. Gradually, silently and even without thoughts, feel what it is to simply be.

When you can relax your attention, releasing everything and letting your attention return to its very source, you’ll notice that as soon as you stop giving your attention to anything, there is no longer an awareness of any “thing.” Then you can simply rest in your “beingness,” just as you are. This feeling of “being” is always, already there, way before it became modified and diminished into lesser feelings such as those we experience in everyday life; i.e.; excitement, disappointment, satisfaction, frustration, lust, revulsion, certainty, doubt, interest, boredom, energetic, lazy, fear, anticipation, joy, sorrow, tenderness, anger, etc. the list could go on forever, but you get the idea. That most basic feeling, before any other feeling can arise, is the feeling of being. Relax your attention so that all you are aware of is this feeling of being, make it seamless, at least for the time. You will then realize that you’re abiding in the very source of yourself, the point where your existence originated – the Self.

Another way of approach is the Vedantic practice of Vichara or Self-Enquiry, which is to ask, “Who am I?” In the beginning you might try to answer this intellectually, but eventually and with persistent practice, you can feel the answer, and it comes from the heart rather than the head. So initially think about the question, then move on to feeling the answer and finally become the answer. This question will lead you to discover the sense of  “I Am” that we all have. Not “I am this” or “I am that” but simply “I am” without distinction or qualification. If and when we can feel beyond this ego-self, we can let go of the feeling of “I” and feel the mere “Am-ness” behind the “I am”. Resting in that “Am-ness,” all sense of separate identity evaporates and you are present as the feeling of being.

This may lead to a swoon of bliss and light. This light is the light of higher awareness and is the light by which all objects (and all lesser lights) are seen and known. It is through this light that feelings, the mind and all thought is known.

During our normal waking hours it is mostly our verbal, thinking mind that we identify with, without any sense of our original, inherent, true, happy, blissful and loving identity, the one that lies within, beyond and behind it. Once we are able to engage meditation on the feeling if being, our perspective will have been changed forever.

Of related interest, click on:  The Importance of Meditation to Yoga Practice

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500.

Practicing Self-Enquiry in Daily Life

About Self-Enquiry…

The practice of Self-enquiry (“Atma-vichara” in Sanskrit) is the most important meditation practice in the Advaita-Vedanta tradition. It is the primary practice of the yoga of knowledge (Jnana Yoga), which is traditionally regarded as the highest of the yogas because it is the most direct method of attaining liberation through Self-realization. This is how the realization of our true nature (beyond the mind and the body) is achieved.

Self-enquiry is the culminating practice through which Self-realization (the realization of our true nature beyond mind and body) can be achieved. It is emphasized in the entire Vedantic tradition since the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. Many texts of Advaita (non-dualistic Vedanta) describe it in detail, particularly the works of Shankaracharya, but also Ashtavakra Samhita, Avadhuta Gita, Yoga Vasishta and Adhyatma Ramayana.

Self-enquiry is known today mainly through the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi (1878-1950) The Maharshi made this direct approach available to the general public, offering it as his main teaching to any individual who was capable of receiving the teaching.

The Actual Practice…

You may wonder… how do I put Self-enquiry into constant practice? There is only one way, by turning your attention inwards, to the sense of “I am” and that which is aware of the “I am.”

Simply put; turn your attention to the source of the ‘I’ thought.

Your hand doesn’t tell you it’s yours, you feel it is. There’s no part of the body that tells you it’s yours, not even the breath or heartbeats, yet you feel they are all yours. Thoughts keep appearing in the mind, they don’t tell you they are yours, but you believe that they are – that you’re the one who is thinking. From where does your sense of I, me, mine arise?

The objective is to discover your true self; therefore your practice begins with an enquiry into your real self by simply asking, “Who am I?”

Begin by setting aside some time for quiet reflection, preferably every day. To start, just ponder this question, “if I keep referring to everything, including body, senses, thoughts and mind as mine, then who am I? What is the source of this sense of “I, me and mine?” Where does this sense of ‘I’ arise from?

Ignore intruding thoughts and everything else that distracts you; keep your attention on this ‘I’ thought, remain intent on finding the very source from where it arises. If you keep paying attention in this manner, you’ll find that all other perceptions will start fading away.

If you get distracted, you can turn inwards again by asking; ‘I got distracted, but where did this feeling of ‘I’ arise from?

Soon you’ll find that you can keep this attention on your Self (the sense of ‘I’) by asking at any time during your normal daily routine; “Who is experiencing all this? Who is aware of all this?” Follow this by paying attention to where the sense of where ‘I’ arises from. It helps if you de-focus your eyes as you enquire, de-focusing will automatically draw your attention away from all other thoughts and objects in your perception.

Take a deep breath, pausing for a moment. Pay attention to the feeling/being when the lungs are full and the breath has stopped then stay with that feeling. Focus your attention on that ‘I am’ when the breath has stopped. Now, breathe out and pause for a moment, again noting the feeling/being when the breath has stopped and stay with that feeling.

You’ll begin to notice that this feeling is the same whenever the breath has stopped, whether after breathing in or breathing out.

Continue, but do not focus on the breathing itself, and notice how that being/feeling stays in the background even while the breath is going in and out. Now put your attention entirely on this feeling/being instead of the breath. As you do this, abide in that feeling/being as it appears in the gaps, do not focus on the breathing. If your mind wanders occasionally (and it will), bring your attention back to the pause (gap) between the breath and then keep paying attention to that. Abide in the pure awareness of your “being,” for as long as you can.

Eventually, you’ll be able to continue being aware of your being even during your normal daily activities. When walking, remain with the awareness that appears before each step is taken and after, and notice how this awareness stays with you in between the steps as well.

If when meditating using a name or mantra in your mind, be aware of the being/feeling in the gap between the repetitions until you stay with that; and then ignore the chanting.

When your mind seems extremely active (cluttered with too many thoughts), remind yourself to turn your attention to the pause between the breath as outlined above.

Remember to focus not on the objects that you see, but your awareness of the seeing (or hearing, smelling, touching, etc). Continue to remind yourself that all objects in your sensory perception merely prove that you are aware; meaning you turn your focus away from the objects themselves and into the awareness that you are aware.

Be aware of your being whenever and wherever possible and abide in that awareness, know that you are only awareness, not any object that you perceive, including your body, senses, thoughts or your mind. This is not an intellectual exercise, and these guiding, reminding thoughts should be kept to a minimum, always returning to abiding in the feeling of being.

*Note: If you wish to learn more about the subtleties of Ramana Maharshi’s teachings, the following books are recommended reading: “Be As You Are” by David Godman, “The Path of Sri Ramana Part One” by Sadhu Om, and Sayings from Sri Muruganar’s “The Garland of Guru’s (Sri Ramana Maharshi’s) Sayings”(click on title to read these e-books).

“The only true and full awareness is awareness of awareness. Till awareness is awareness of itself, it knows no peace at all”…Sri Muruganar

The Five Niyamas (Part 4 – Svadhyaya)

This article is the fourth of a five part series based on this post:  The Eight Limbs of Yoga (Part 2 – Niyama)

The Five Niyamas (Part 4 – Svadhyaya)


The fourth of the five Niyamas is Svadhyaya – a compound Sanskrit word literally translated sva, meaning “one’s own”, and adhyaya, “study”; therefore Svadhyaya would mean study of one’s self. Svadhyaya also is interpreted as studying the Vedas, Yoga Sutras and other scriptures, basically the source materials of yoga practice.

Self-study is very important for students and practitioners of Patanjali’s “classical” Yoga (Raja Yoga) and it would include reflection on sacred texts. Patanjali says of Svadhyaya: “From self-study and reflection on sacred words (svadhyaya), one attains contact, communion, or concert with that underlying natural reality or force.” (Yoga sutra 2.44 – svadhyayat ishta samprayogah).

Through deep inquiry into the self, comes an acknowledgment of the oneness of that self with all that is arises naturally. In other words, when practicing Svadhyaya our boundaries begin to melt and the illusion of separateness we feel from ourselves, those around us, and our world begins to dissolve. To practice Svadhyaya is to find the Divine appearing in us (and as us) at this very moment.

Yogis throughout the ages have practiced Svadhyaya by asking the simple question, “Who am I.”  Sri Ramana Maharishi often spoke of self-enquiry as the “direct path” meaning it was the fastest path to moksha (liberation from Maya [illusion] and samskara [the cycle of death and rebirth] including all of the suffering and limitation of worldly existence).

Svadhyaya is purposefully preceded by Tapas (fiery discipline) because it takes an enormous amount of discipline to move beyond the material world that defines, binds and shrouds us in Maya (ignorance). In the practice of Svadhyaya, prayers, mantras, japa, meditation, purposeful intent and other devotional practices, including ancient yogic methods are used to strip away the ego and unveil truth, layer by layer. In the study of one’s self, the student becomes the witness of their thoughts, emotions, actions and life.  During this witnessing process the distance between the real and unreal is unveiled.  The incessantly chattering mind, unsettled emotions and physical limitations of the body are no longer seen as the “Self”, but instead are viewed as an experience of Self. In this recognition and realization of Truth, the practice of Svadhyaya brings a resounding peace.

In yoga practice, Svadhyaya has most traditionally been concerned with the study of various scriptures. But in truth, any practice that brings us to the point of recognizing our interconnection with all that is, is Svadhyaya. Svadhyaya could be studying Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, practicing asana, chanting, or even reading this blog.

In the study of Svadhyaya, as with all of our sadhanas, there is a natural, organic movement towards becoming more and more present.  Along with this movement, there is an automatic falling away of fear.  A sense of peace emerges along with the knowledge that love (presence) permeates all that is and ever was.  Through the recognition of our inherent goodness and divinity, we realize that everything occurs for both the good of the individual and the good whole. In this state there are no random events,  in fact, it would appear as if from your very first breath you were meant to find that you are loved far more than you could ever possibly imagine.

Final thoughts: Incorporating the practice of Svadhyaya into your everyday life is an effective way to experience life more fully. It’s about getting to know yourself better. And as we begin to truly understand who we are, we identify with the connectedness (union) that yoga is really all about.

The next article will continue this series with: The Five Niyamas (Part 5 – Ishvara Pranidhana)