Self Inquiry -avoiding the ‘me’ trap

‘The treasury of the heart is the library of God’ (Ibn Arabi – Kernel of the Kernel)

I have just uploaded my 2015 paper on Self Inquiry to the Papers section of this blog. In the paper I explore how self inquiry can be undertaken as a spiritual practice, as a joint enterprise in psychotherapy, and as a qualitative research method in disciplined inquiry.

‘When it is over I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement. I was the bridegroom, taking the world in to my arms’  (Mary Oliver)

The most important thing about self inquiry is to avoid sinking in to an egoic whirlpool of solipsism, narcissism and delusion. Obviously in therapy we all go through this at a phase of the therapy (it is to be welcomed and celebrated, and held gently and lovingly by the therapist) – but for a successful outcome for the therapy we have to overcome it.

In my paper I put it like this

  • In spiritual practice the injunction to keep going and not identify with what you have found in your self on the path – don’t be distracted by yourself, keep going out, or up (or down….) further, further, further…..
  • In psychotherapy the practice of relationship comes to the forefront of the work when the selfness is seen clearly, so that the heart is engaged. As therapists we open ourselves to what arises. We have set up strong ethical injunctions to keep our work adequately supervised and overseen so that we can do this well.
  • In disciplined inquiry we guard against narcissism by adopting rigorous procedures, and clear and conscious criteria for assessing the ‘validity’ of our work – its capacity to touch and to transform for example.

The paper particularly concerns the  qualitative research aspect of Self Inquiry, but spiritual practitioners and psychotherapists might like it as well.


(The image attached to this post is a collage made by my friend Viv Stacey, one of a series of contemporary icons based on the work of d’Osuna)


‘Many Beings in One Being – inside the wheat grain a thousand sheaf stacks – inside the needle’s eye, a turning night of stars……’ (Rumi as per Coleman Barks)

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