I would like to share a brief, high-level overview of my spiritual journey, not because the story of my journey is important in itself, but because the story highlights how Self-inquiry fits on the spiritual path. This story puts Self-inquiry in its proper perspective. It illustrates Self-inquiry’s value as a key tool used for awakening, a tool that takes us from the phase of spiritual seeker to abiding in genuine Self-realization.
I began my spiritual journey in 2004 as a mystical student of A Course in Miracles (ACIM). By “mystical student,” I mean that I studied the Course alone and learned its meaning from within.
You see, I decided that if the Course’s teachings were true, I could learn their deeper meanings from within. I had confidence from the very beginning that the Inner Teacher resides in all of us, and that it will communicate with us directly if we are genuinely interested in spiritual truth. Maybe it was this faith that led to the experiences I had as I studied the Course. There’s no way to know for sure why my experience was as it was, but shortly after beginning the Course, I started having visions and nighttime dreams, which taught me with clarity about the spiritual principles introduced through ACIM.
When I was about halfway through the Workbook for Students, I had a vision where I saw myself in a dark cavern. The cavern was so dark that I couldn’t see my hand when I held it in front of my face. There were other people in the cavern with me. They wanted to find their way out. There were several passageways that led out of the cavern, but no one could find them because of how dark it was!
In the vision, I stood near the entrance to the passageways. I held an armful of lit candles. When people came up to me, I handed them a candle, and then they would use the light from the candle to find a way out of the cavern.
I wasn’t sure what this vision meant, but it felt like a calling to me. I didn’t want to guess what it meant, because I didn’t want to interpret it myself. So, I asked the Holy Spirit to explain it to me. I received this explanation:
“Teacher of God. That is my Name. I have other names, but they are all the same. They mean Teacher of God. That is what is needed now, and that is what I need you for. You can write for me. You are doing it now. Write, teacher of God, and help me share the Light. There are many who need us. Teach, teacher. That is what you are for. That is why you are here. That is how you will learn. You are the teacher. Don’t be afraid. I am with you always.”
Even though I was told not to be afraid, I was afraid. In spite of the visions and dreams that had come in the last several months, this was my first time hearing the Inner Teacher in this way, and for a reason I can’t explain, it scared me. However, I wanted to accept this calling, so I let go of my fear by focusing on my willingness. The fear passed, and the next day I started learning directly from the Inner Teacher.
The Inner Teacher taught me on a daily basis as I finished my journey through ACIM and the Workbook for Students. Just as I was about to finish the Workbook, another calling came. The Inner Teacher asked me to read the New Testament and let it interpret the New Testament for me. That’s how I became the scribe of The Holy Spirit’s Interpretation of the New Testament (NTI).
It took about 2 years to scribe NTI and get it into a publishable format. When that project was complete, I felt overwhelmed with gratitude for all that I’d learned as the scribe of NTI. I prayed, “Thank you, thank you, thank you for letting me write NTI. But I don’t want this process of awakening to stop now. Please send me something to take me higher into Love.”
Shortly after praying this prayer, I entered about three weeks of high-mystical experiences. Near the end of those three weeks, the Inner Teacher asked me to ask for a period of spiritual purification. I did. The next 18-months were challenging. They were of the type commonly called “a dark night of the soul,” but I emerged from those months significantly freer, abiding in ever-increasing peace. However, egoic thinking would sometimes catch my attention again, and when it did, the suffering caused by it was much more acute than before. This pain increased my desire for complete freedom. The ego could no longer be tolerated, so I said another prayer. I asked the Inner Teacher for something that would take me to the next step on the spiritual path.
That’s when the Inner Teacher, which I had always known as the Holy Spirit, asked me to ask Ramana Maharshi what he had to say to me. I had never studied Ramana Maharshi. I knew nothing about him. However, when I asked what he had to share, he became my new Inner Teacher. Ramana Maharshi came to teach me the next step on the spiritual path, the one that I’d asked for. The next step was Self-Inquiry.
Over the next several months, as I listened to Ramana Maharshi from within, I scribed another book, The Teachings of Inner Ramana (Inner Ramana). As Inner Ramana prepared me for the step of Self-inquiry, he said:
"It’s time to go beyond everything you’ve learned. Everything you’ve learned has been helpful. It’s been helpful toward willingness to take this next step. But without the step that we are taking together now, all that you’ve learned serves no real purpose toward awakening.”
That really caught my attention, because, as you can see from the story I just shared, I had been through a lot of learning up to this point!
To help me see where I was on the spiritual path, where I needed to go, and how I would get there, Inner Ramana taught me about three states of mind: Resistor, Doubter and Abiding.
The Resistor is the state of mind that most humans experience. That is the state of being identified with a body, a name, mental conditioning, and an ongoing thought stream. The Resistor thinks she knows herself, including her history, her values, and her opinions, but in “knowing” all of that, she fully resists the truth of who she is.
The Doubter is the state of mind that is most common on the spiritual path. The doubter is the spiritual seeker, and that was my state of mind when Inner Ramana became my Inner Teacher.
You will probably recognize the Doubter. The Doubter has started questioning her habitual way of thinking. She feels drawn toward spiritual truth, but she doesn’t yet recognize the truth of what she is. She is still more identified with the body-mind than truth. She’s called “Doubter”, because she is beginning to doubt that she is who she always thought she was, but she also doubts that she is eternal reality. You could say that she is on a bridge, crossing from one shore to the other. She is somewhere between spiritual blindness and spiritual awakening, not fully one or the other.
Abiding occurs when one accepts True Reality as what she is. It is the other shore. Abiding is truth realization.
Self-inquiry is the tool Inner Ramana taught me to use in order to move from the doubter (or spiritual seeker stage) to abiding. It’s a powerful tool that helps us look at our reality repeatedly until identification shifts from identifying with the body-mind to identifying with the true Self.
Many people misunderstand Self-inquiry as the question, “Who am I?” or “What am I?” Although those questions may be asked, true Self-inquiry is the practice of shifting attention to the true Self so that you get a direct felt-sense of the Self as what you are. It’s a bit like looking in a mirror and recognizing your Self.
We practice Self-inquiry in an experiential way. We look at the Self in order to recognize it as our reality. However, the interesting thing about looking at the Self is this:
You can’t see the Self in the same way you can see your body’s reflection in a mirror. In order to “see” the Self, you need to look differently. You need to look intuitively, instead of looking with the body’s eyes. The true Self can’t be known with any of the body’s senses. It is as the Tao Te Ching, Chapter 35 says:
“When you look for it, there is nothing to see.
When you listen for it, there is nothing to hear.”
We learn a way of “seeing” the true Self with intuitive seeing, which could also be called “in-seeing.”
In-seeing, or intuitive seeing, is what Jesus of the New Testament referred to when he told the apostles:
“Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there!
For, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”
~Luke 17:21, KJV
Notice how closely Jesus’ teaching fits with Chapter 35 of the Tao Te Ching. The Tao says, “When you look for it, there is nothing to see,” and Jesus points out that no one can say, “Here it is,” or “There it is.”
Both Jesus and the Tao are pointing to a truth that has been challenging spiritual seekers for centuries:
We can’t know the Self with the senses.
And yet, the Self can be known with in-seeing, because the Self is what we are.
I have a series of Awakening Games on Youtube that enable us to look at our Self directly until we see that we are the Self. These games are in-seeing, and if they are played frequently, they can lead to authentic Self-realization.
Regina Dawn Akers is the founder of Awakening Together, a worldwide online spiritual community dedicated to helping people become Self-reliant with inner spiritual wisdom.